Waiting for the Sun: Happy Solstice!

There she’ll be: in green sun, on blue earth under warm running water.
–”Martha” Paul Kantner

Happy birthday baby Sun!  Tomorrow will be the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Tonight is the longest night.  For some pagans, this time represents when the slain god is about to be reborn from the goddess in the form of the Sun.

There are many deities, both god and goddess, associated with the Sun.  The Japanese have the goddess Amaterasu, the Celts have Lugh and Brigid, the Greeks have Helios and Apollo, the Egyptians have Ra, and the Aztecs and Incas have a long history of giving human blood and suffering to their solar deities.

Sun worship is nothing new.  Our early ancestors recognized the importance of the Sun and the gifts that it gave them.  It was a natural extension to worship it and the energies attached to it.  Even today, we worship the Sun by tanning our bodies.  Some people even gaze at the Sun.  While many members of this growing practice would probably not say that they are worshipping the Sun, the amount of time that they spend looking at and meditating upon the Sun borders on worship.  Sun gazing is nothing new either.  Many ancients practiced it in conjunction with Sun worship.

I first became aware of sungazing several months ago when I caught the last half of the movie “Eat the Sun” on the Documentary Channel. 
Eat the Sun
My interest was peaked.  When I was finally able to catch the whole movie, and I became fascinated by the practice.  The movie’s really good too.  I started out thinking that these folks were idiots.  Then I became engrossed with the idea.  I almost became convinced that it was a good idea when the movie visited the optometrist.  Now, I’m torn between wanting to sungaze but not wanting to ruin my eyes.
The modern Sungazing movement owes its impetus to this man:
Hira Ratan Manek (HRM), of the Solar Healing Center, is how many people became involved in Sungazing.  For a time, and maybe still, he held workshops and conferences all over the West Coast of the US.  He has a very strict protocol that he wants folks to follow.  His claim to fame, so to speak, is that he claims that sungazing helps lower your appetite to the point that you no longer want to eat and that the sun provides all the nutrients that you need so you no longer need to eat.  Unfortunately, he’s been somewhat discredited.  I’ve never contacted the man, although perhaps I should.  He just strikes me as being very haughty.
Mason Dwinell

Mason Dwinell, on the other hand, I have emailed twice, and I’ve never received a response.  I don’t know if he’s tired of being interviewed, if he finds my blog socially inappropriate (as some Sungazers have), or if he’s dead. I just don’t know.  Mason was the subject of the documentary Eat The Sun.  According to the documentary, Sungazing has really altered his life.  It broke up a relationship he was in, it caused his appetite to be greatly diminished, it caused him to feel isolated somewhat, and it damaged his eyes.  On the other hand, according to his website, it seems to have brought him some spiritual satisfaction as well. 
Mason’s instructions for sungazing, which are based off of HRM’s protocol are as follows:
Depending on the weather and the level of commitment this is only a nine month to a year practice. Once you reach 44 minutes of sungazing you are finished. You should not have the need to stare at the sun any longer, your sungazing is complete. Sungazing is to be practiced standing bare footed on bare earth. Without shoes you can stand on sand, gravel, mud, or bare earth. Your bare feet should be in contact with the bare earth. Try to avoid standing on tar, concrete, granite, stone or even on grass (the grass absorbs the solar energy).  If you happen to stand on any other surfaces, that is fine, the results may simply be a bit different or arrive a bit slower.
While the sun is low on the horizon the intensity of the rays will be at a minimum. During this time, the sun’s rays are tolerable, and the UV radiation is lower, so the potential of harming your eyes is lower. Use common sense within these parameters, if the sun is too bright and it feels as though it may be burning your eyes, don’t stare at it. The best time to learn about your limits is right as the sun rises or a minute or so before it sets.  According to HRM the sunrise holds more energy, vitamins and minerals then the sunset. Go figure. Personally I recommend the sunrise, energetically it is a beautiful balance of yin and yang. You only need the sunrise or the sunset, both may be a bit much. By rushing about you will not find what you are looking for any faster.  Be careful and always listen to your body.
To Begin As the sun rises over the horizon simply gaze at the whole glowing ball of light for 10 seconds only. The key is to be relaxed, just like in mediation, let go of all thoughts and become immersed in the moment. Simply, look at it. No stress or strain on the face, facial muscles or eyes. Relax your jaw. Stand at peace, knees bent with your arms at your sides.  Let go.

If you choose to get up with the chickens, and try gazing at the rising sun. Stay relaxed and receptive for greater assimilation of the beneficial aspects of the sun’s rays. Try to become aware of what your body is feeling, how is your mental, emotional and physical state as the sun fills every atom, every electron, and every cell in your body.  Feel every tissue filled with the regenerative and healing properties that the sunlight imparts on your body. You may notice an amazing increase in your overall energy as well as your physical stamina and positivism. Be aware of how the sunlight actually cleanses and rebuilds the whole of your being, your mind and thoughts, your feelings and your physical body; total rejuvenation. By completely surrendering to the suns greater power, and as the minutes of sungazing increase, the awareness of your energetic being may heighten dramatically. 

There is no need to maintain an unblinking, stare. Blink as and when it naturally happens, sort of like watching television. For the first few moments you look into the sun it may be very bright, after about 3-7 seconds of continuous gazing all the brightness generally goes away and you are left staring into a soft ball of pure white light; a beautiful pulsing orb. Don’t squint.  If you feel yourself squinting, relax the muscles in your face and eyes.  Let the light in.  The more open and relaxed the muscles are in your body the more oxygen and energy is able to flow within your cells, and then more light will be allowed in.
You have at your disposal an incredible amount of electricity to make things happen in your world. With the aid of sunlight, you can recharge each cell and atom to its full potential. 

Increase the time you gaze at the sun by a few seconds each day – say by 5 seconds or so per day, until you are comfortable and relaxed with the entire concept of staring into the sun. Once you are comfortable with the concept of sungazing feel free to increase gazing time at a constant rate of 10 seconds per day. You may find it helpful to get a watch or employ a friend to keep tabs on your staring time.   Subtle slow increments of time are important for allowing for the rods and cones within the anatomical structure of the eye to adapt to the intense levels light.
Increase the sungazing time by 10 seconds each day until you have reached 44 minutes, at which point you should be fully charged.   At 44 minutes you are finished with the HRM’s method of sungazing.  Depending on weather this may only take nine or ten months.

According to Mason, “Sungazing can be used as a tool for tapping into your human potential. Some change will occur to reach these peaks; your perceptions may alter circumstances, you may begin to change from the inside out.  Change can be uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, when we release our physical and emotional energetic blockages these changes will become trivial relative to the incredible expansiveness of the universe.   If at least three months are committed to the sungazing practice (reaching 15 minutes of staring time) some sort of change of your perception of your world will occur.  We are all energetic beings, vibrating at different frequencies, so we should be comfortable with the concept that all of us are different. There may be many different reactions, sensations and experiences.  Remember, whatever happens to you is perfect. It is yours and yours only.  At every turn there are lessons to be learned.  It may be helpful to become objective in your approach to life, awareness may prove to be an essential ingredient.  Be positive and open-minded; feel all there is to feel.”

I would imagine that some sort of change in perception would occur.  Any time that you open yourself up, things tend to happen, for good or bad.  Mason’s website mentions aliens dancing on his bed (as well as a book he’s written about Sungazing).  HRM says that you’ll no longer need to eat.  Dan G. says that it improved his eye sight.  The optometrist on ”Eat the Sun” says that holes will be burned into your retinas. If there are such negatives associated with sungazing, why do people do it?  What kind of spiritual benefit (or other benefits) do people get from gazing at the sun and stimulating their pineal gland that makes it all worth while?  Will your “body battery” constantly be charged?  Will your libido increase?  Will you be a better energy manipulator?
  I have Sungazed a few times, perhaps against my better judgement, and I’m not sure that the practice is for me.  I like standing outside barefoot, digging my toes into the dirt while I watch the sun set, but the worry that I’m hurting my eyes usually ruins the moment.  I’m not sure why it should though.  I don’t worry what will happen to my body when I ingest a hallucinogen.  I don’t worry what my flesh will look like after doing fire play or being flogged (or at least not enough to ruin the mood!).  So why should I worry about damaging my eyes if the act of sungazing could hold so much promise for unlocking spiritual and metabolic doors?  Should the potential damage just be viewed as a sacrifice for spiritual enlightenment?  A gift given to the solar deities?
As with other potentially dangerous spiritual practices, there are a fairly large and international community of Sungazers.  There are Yahoo groups, web forums, blogs, chat rooms, and Facebook pages all dedicated to the act of Sungazing.  Sungazers come from all walks of life, all different countries, all different religions, and all different ages.  Some are even nudists!  There seems to be two main camps in the community: those that follow HRM’s protocol and those that do their own thing.  Many of the gazers gaze for both spiritual and health benefits.
  For this blog, I joined the Yahoo groups In the Suns Rays, moderated by Dan G. and Sungazing,
 moderated by Vinny Pinto. I also solicited interviews and advice from Dan G. and the members of the two groups.  Dan G. was very helpful.  He suggests that gazers who are having difficulties with Sungazing use what is called the Bates’ Swinging Method.  “In a swing movement, the eyesight focus point swings between two different objects or targets. Brushing on the space between the two markers, the eyes are exercising.
Let’s say you pick as a target a tree or an electric pole on one side of the sun and another one on the other side of the son. The two targets are low intensity light.  If you “swing ” between the two targets, brushing over the sun, the eyes have to adjust from the low intensity of one target, to the high intensity of the sun and again to the low intensity of the second target.  The “travel” between the two target should be about 1-2 second long at the beginning, later can be slowed down as desired and as it feels comfortable. The exercise can  be of 10-15 minutes or more, as desired.  The exercise can be done anytime of the day, as relaxed as possible.
My opinion is that this type of exercise should be a “must” before starting sungazing, and it is only too bad that it is not recommended before “parking” the eyes and staring at the sun.”  
I tried this method of Sungazing, but for only 10 seconds, and it did help my eyes not to water uncontrollably from the amount of light being poured into my retinas.  Ten seconds, so far, is my gazing limit.  The time that I tried it for longer, I had spots that stayed for longer than I really wished them too.  According to Dan, there shouldn’t be any after images after gazing.  “Any after image is a sign that the retina cells are overloaded.
If one relaxes the eyes right away, the afterimage or the spots  will not be lasting, but if the sungazing continues, the overloading might be of a longer term.  For example, after a sungazing pause of a few months, when I restart, I get a reddish or a yellowish big spot in the visual field. If I stop and relaxes, the spot goes away after a few seconds, if continue sungazing it might take minutes to go away.  If I stop and try again next day, the eye are already trained, no more spots.  Not all the persons are the same, I am giving you this info just as a reference.  Normally, if the eyes are in good shape, there should be no afterimage.
The idea is that a trained eye, adjusts instantaneously both to the strong sunlight and to the dark.
An additional comment : If the spots LAST  after sungazing is different from the spots APPEARING a little time after sungazing. The later might be a case for concern, the former is only an afterimage.”
Some of my regular readers may be wondering how Sungazing connects with the theme of this blog, which is gritty spiritual practices, or with the current series of blogs, ‘Blessed Be Thy Feet’.  Well, as I stated above, Sungazing can be dangerous.  And if you slogged through Mason’s directions for Sungazing, Sungazing is typically done barefoot. 
According to Dan G., Sungazing does fit into a typical ritual format.  “Being started and driven by notorious nonscientific people, sungazing is very likely to become ritual driven. The barefoot walking is one of those aspects. Scientifically speaking, I would relate the barefoot walking requirement to the light massage and the stimulation of the soles of the feet, and through the nervous connections to the rest of the body. (see also Reflexology) The ten second exposure increment value is also empirical and ritualistic, and probably unnecessary. Ten seconds is the duration of the prayer, the timing of the rituals through prayer is a tradition.”   
This correlates perfectly with what one Sungazer wrote me: “I practice sungazing to stimulate the pineal gland and also simply, to energize my overall being.  I do it very briefly each morning, followed by closing my eyes to “lock in” the energy I’ve taken in from the sun.  My practice is entirely intuitively guided and I have not experienced any major health benefits other than perhaps enhanced mental clarity and physical energy, improved overall mood.  For me, it is a form of prayer that helps me to feel connected to the cosmos.” 
Real life Sungazers on a commune somewhere in the US
Another person that I interviewed for this blog is Zarrin.  Zarrin has been Sungazing periodically for four years, usually in short minute to five minute bursts.  He doesn’t follow a protocol.  He uses Sungazing as a way to stay connected to the Earth since he’s no longer a farmer, but a college student.
                                                                         Zarrin’s Story
I have become increasingly inventive with the practice as time has gone on.  I learned of “shooting the sun” which is where you blink open your eyes to look at a bright midday sun which you cannot look at continuously.  After ten or fifteen minutes of this, it becomes possible to have your eyes open wider for longer.  Then, this past summer in Iowa, I sungazed in the middle of the day near the
summer solstice while standing on my head.  I found I could stare directly into the sun without blinking.  Then I did a bit of gazing while lying down and it was a bit easier to not blink.  While
standing, I had to blink much more.  However, as a result of this I gained a blurry spot in the center of my vision which has still not totally resolved.  I believe this also caused some perturbations to my
energy body as well, as I cannot see as clearly as I used to. Previously, I had excellent long-distance vision and I could steadily gaze into the distance.  This is rare for people today who mostly look
at books, computers, and things within the range of indoors distances. Our ancestors would have gazed and searched Nature more often. 
I feel my sungazing times as well as working outside on farms had brought me these visual and physical benefits of stillness, clarity, and centeredness.  Much of that has changed for me since this past summer, due to the sungazing mishap and other reasons which were the reason I did such a self-destructive sungazing session in the first place.  There was no need for it except that I was emotionally distraught and sought anything to rescue me from me karma there, but such rescue was not possible.  In times of difficulty, it can require great surrender to put up and shut up.  At that time, I faltered and suffered damage to remind me of my mishap, although I don’t feel that there was any “purpose” for the event.  It just happens to remind me now of the need for surrender; in another situation or person, such damage may not have the same effect.

In the months of September and a bit in October, after I had returned to the lakes of upstate New York, I found my favorite practice of sungazing to date.  I would float, mostly on my back, in the
lake–therefore totally grounded–and look all around the sun.  Not directly at it, but above it, to the sides, and below it.  And I would look around it at different distances to the above, sides, and below.
This allows the light to enter my vision at an angle instead of directly through the focused center.I always prefer to gaze, then look at the sky away from the sun for a bit, then relax with closed eyes for a period of time.  If I gaze for too long, I might end up with a tension headache, perhaps from too
much light.

And, I always look around at other parts of the sky after I finish gazing.  I also like to look at the earth’s landscape in far-off vistas–for example, across the lake but below the sky, which I also
look at–after sungazing.

I determine the requisite time by my inner guidance/impatience.  And I often wish for more patience and love which produces patience, stillness, and happiness with choosing either way to gaze or not,
when, and for how long.  Sometimes, sungazing seems to help thoughts to slow and quiet.  When they start back up again, or when calm interest gives way to a feelingof willful force to continue, is often when my body and mind and inner guidance know it is time for the practice to stop for the moment or

 Although Zarrin has suffered some eye damage from Sungazing, he says that he will still continue doing it since he believes it has helped stave off diseases, it helps to keep him grounded and connected with Nature, and it helps him to acclaimate to new places and stave off jetlag.

Sungazing sounds very Pagan, doesn’t it?  Maybe the Druids did it.  A brief look at the rising Sun on the morning of the Winter Solstice could be a very powerful tool for meditation and energy work.  In theory, it could energize you for the coming year. What better way to welcome the infant Lord (if you’re following a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan belief about the Sun’s death and rebirth at the Solstice) than to gaze lovingly upon it?