This post comes from contributor Kristen Hedges.
Four weeks ago, we began searching for sweet little moments in the morning, eyes still full of dreams, and a mug of hot coffee cupped between cold palms. We spent some time in the kitchen, out on the town, and under wool blankets and a sheet of snow in the wintertime. We have discovered that everything, when done mindfully & with care, can become a meditation.
And now, our breathing slows. Our shoulders fall away from our ears and the day begins to unravel at the seams and loosen after ten hours of light. The sun becomes tired of entertaining the clouds in the sky, and it slips back down behind some trees on the horizon.
There are a few moments here, after the sun has moved on to another part of the world and the sky isn’t quite dark, that the night seems to be holding its breath. The sunset, like a great inhale, is finally released in a sigh of pink and red and dark blue. Rest in this moment. Fall in love with the fact that you will never again see a sunset exactly like the last.
Then, within the blackness, something winks. A flicker here, and there, over to the East! The West! Above you, stars wake up and come out to pepper the sky in light. Bill Watterson once said, “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” And I imagine that this is true. For five minutes, crane your neck or rest your ear on someone’s shoulder, climb to the top of your roof, lie out flat on the Earth, and watch the sky. Count the stars and guess their age, make wishes on the ones that fall, tell the giants in the Heavens a secret and feel small and big all at the same time.
The song of the evening is very different from the rest of the day. It’s slower, and quiet, and all together beautiful. Wherever you are, perk your ears up and listen. Open your window and let the night roll in. Hear a cricket’s hum, the quiet space between the chirps. Notice the footsteps and the distant laughter and car sounds in the city. Try to hear the clouds shifting overhead. So often we seem to shut off our ears entirely – in the evening, open them up and allow the night to lull you to sleep.
If you’re feeling restless, like your body still needs to move and stretch in order to quiet down for bedtime, try practicing gentle yoga. Pile up blankets and use props if you have them. Ease yourself into each asana. Move with your breath. Focus on the center of your chest, and with each movement, become more and more relaxed.
Before bed, we often like to wash up and wipe the day from the soft skin on our face. To make your evening just a little bit sweeter, try scrubbing with raw honey, or using warm oil to massage out the worry lines and delicate creases near your eyes. Soak a clean cloth in warm water and press it to your face. Breathe in. Sigh. Wipe your face clean, and enjoy the feeling of fresh, naked skin.
Bring a cup of milk (or a milk alternative) to a simmer on the stovetop and toss in a pinch of ground cardamom. Sip slowly before bed, after you’ve tucked yourself in and before you close your eyes. Cradle the cup in both hands, feeling the warmth spread to your fingertips and into your belly. The combination of calming spice and heated milk is a traditional Ayurvedic drink that has been used for centuries to relax the body and induce sleep.
Close up your day with a story. Crack the spine of an old book, wipe off the dust with your sleeve, and dive into a world that’s quite different from you own. Try reading one short story each evening – read Bradbury, and Robbins, and the early work of Elizabeth Gilbert. Fall in love with a character before you close your eyes, and perhaps you’ll meet them in your dreams.
In the morning, you might scribble down intentions and goals for your day between the lines of a journal. Now that the sun has set, it’s time to reflect. Press pen to paper and allow your day to unroll itself like old yarn in words and poems and stories. Find gratitude in five things, and write them all down, noticing how you feel as you bring attention to each one.
Tuck yourself in. Wrap your shoulders in a blanket and pull the cloth up to your chin. Breathe in the clean cotton, the worn wool, the woven blankets that have been with you from one apartment, to the next. Allow your knees to reach for your chest, and enjoy the subtle curve in your back. Dig deep. Get comfortable.
While you’re waiting for sleep to come, it helps to practice body awareness. Begin at your toes. Thank them for keeping you up all day. Feel a tingle, a warmth, a soft spreading of relaxation from the very tip of each, through to your soles, up your ankle, your calf, and on through your entire body until you reach the crown of your head. Don’t rush – there’s nowhere to be, and there’s no prize for finishing first. Simply notice each bit of your body, and relax.
Soon, it will be time to start again. Your eyes open. You stretch. You live another day. I think that the most wonderful thing we can do in life is to find a little beauty in everything. To find stillness in even the most tumultuous moments. That, in my opinion, is meditation. That is happiness.
So – where do you find the most sweetness in your day?
More from the 10 sweet little moments series!