There are so many ways to live closer to nature. “Greeting the Day” is one thing I’ve done for many years now. It has deepened my sense of connection with nature, and added a richness to my life. On mornings when I’m already distracted when I roll out of bed, it is a reminder to pull my attention back and to center my life in connection with the rest of nature.
Cultures worldwide have done this for eons. I never thought about doing it myself until I read Byrd Baylor’s beautiful book, The Way to Start a Day. This is one of those “children’s books” that is really for everyone (as are all of her wonderful books). It honors how people all over the world greet the sun each morning in song, or prayer, or chant, or motion, or gift. It was inspiring.
Why do a “Greet the Day” ritual? Several reasons. Ritual is a wonderful way to bring meaning and a sense of wholeness and stability to our lives. Rituals are empowering tools for healing in all arenas–including our relationship with nature.
Dolores LaChappelle, in her classic book Sacred Land. Sacred Sex, summarizes research by Erikson on the importance of daily greeting rituals between mother and baby. These simple but profound greeting rituals may include the mother saying the child’s name, smiling, holding, cooing, and touching the child. The baby responds with it’s own smiling, looking, laughing, gurgling, and movements. These sounds, movements and gestures help create a strong bond between mother and child, and give both a sense of continuity, order, and security.
LaChappelle then takes the human-to-human behavior into the realm of human/nature relationships. All traditional cultures knew and practiced these kinds of greeting rituals. If we see this planet literally or symbolically as our “mother”, then greeting rituals take on a whole new meaning.
Greeting the new day, in whatever form we choose, helps us stay grounded. lf we literally greet the sun, there is an acknowledgement on some level that we are dependent on it for our lives, and that we are intricately inter-related with other animals, plants, and rocks. Green plants capture sunlight and convert it to a very usable form themselves and for the rest of us in the animal kingdom. Some of this is for food, some of it for fuel. Without the sun, and the other plant and animal and rock beings, we humans would perish.
And, of course, greeting the sun is a reminder that we are living on and in a planet. The sun is not rising; we are turning. That is a humbling, awe-inspiring thought to center ourselves on.
What do some of these greeting rituals look like?
In one culture, it is the custom to kiss the ground when you wake up in the morning, to apologize for walking on her. Other cultures greet the directions or the great beings that live in each direction. All the world over, ancient peoples have danced, chanted, sung, drummed, and prayed in the new day.
We can look to these indigenous peoples for clues when creating our own greet the day rituals. Or, we can simply express something from our hearts. Here are a few ideas:
- Sing a song to the sun!
- Say a prayer of thanks for a new day.
- Do a morning ritual of sitting outside to watch the sun rise. Even if the sun is not visible, we can watch the rest of nature react to the light. We can learn to see the more subtle signs of day coming in.
- Make a morning “pilgrimage” to a nearby “sacred spot”.
- Thank the sun for all the gifts it gives us each day!
- Meditate at sunrise.
- Watch and track the shifting positions of the rising sun. Where is it at Winter Solstice? Spring Equinox? Summer Solstice? Watch the qualities of the light change as well.
- Re-frame the sun rising as what it actually is: the Earth turning. How does that change how you feel about the sun? The Earth? : Yourself?
One of my own greeting rituals has been very simple, and a little silly. I make a point to say hello to the sun each morning, and then I sing the Beatles song “Good Day Sunshine.” Sometimes I sing it to myself, other times out loud (the key word here is LOUDI). And since I don’t really know all the words, all I sing is “Good Day Sunshine…Good Day Sunshine”! Then I usually laugh, telling the sun that I still don’t know the rest of the words! Laughing starts my day off on a good note. Then I head outside to watch the morning come in.
I recently spoke on ways to live closer to nature, and shared the idea of greeting the day. A woman came up to me after, excited and grateful that I had mentioned it, as it had brought back happy memories of her oldest child. “Every morning, she would rush into my room and say, ‘Mommy, Mommy! it’s a brand new day! It’s so exciting!”
To greet each new day like that, as it really is, an opportunity for more joy, more connection to life…that’s a truly great way to greet the day!