Thursday was one of my favourite days of the year. The sun rose here in my hometown of Oxted at 4.45am and set again at 9.18pm, making it the day in the year with the most hours of daylight. The Summer Solstice.
I love this day. The appreciation of light and the sun. I love that luxurious feeling that although it’s called ‘midsummer’, we still have most of the summer still ahead of us.
For me, the summer solstice also highlights one of many key ideas in mindfulness; that nothing lasts forever. Everything is impermanent. The summer solstice is a celebration of sunlight and the beginning of summer, and yet the paradox is, that immediately after it, the days begin to lengthen again. Each day gets gradually darker, as we slowly move towards the colder months of the year. Today, 5 days after the solstice, 3 minutes of darkness have already been added. We are simultaneously leaning into the long, lazy summer months, whilst nature is already moving us towards winter.
Embracing the idea that everything is temporary can make such a difference. It can be so reassuring to realise that whatever we’re experiencing won’t last: those uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences will end at some point. Those feelings of stress, shame, anxiety will pass, even if that passing takes a while.
Positive experiences are also only temporary, which can be harder to accept. We sometimes cling onto good experiences or feelings, in the hope that we can make them last a little bit longer. Maybe you’ve had ‘end of holiday blues’ with those yearning feelings that the holiday keeps on going. I certainly have; even sitting in airports with what feels like reasonable wishes for the cancellation of all flights home for another week… Sometimes our resistance to accepting that pleasant experiences end can be so strong, that we can end up tarnishing the actual experience.
Recognising that everything is temporary, enables us to watch experiences come and go. We can learn to appreciate them and moments as they arise.
For me, the summer solstice and the days around it serve as a reminder of this. The summer with it’s magical, light evenings doesn’t last forever and neither does the darkness of winter. They are passing phases. The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). On the longest day, the seasonal movement of the sun comes to a stop before reversing its direction. Perhaps we can, like the sun, stand still for a moment. Perhaps from this still place, we can invite ourselves to recognise that everything is temporary. And, instead of resisting inevitable changes, appreciate each moment as it comes and for what it is. I think life is more beautiful then.