Celebrating the Summer Solstice: Six Practices for the Longest Day of the Year

While it seems like summer has just begun, this Sunday marks the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere—when the sun reaches its highest altitude and there are more hours of light than on any other day of the year.

Along with the sun, prana (life-force energy) is at its zenith, according to Micah Mortali, Director of Outdoor Education and Programming at Kripalu, and Dean and Founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. While winter is traditionally a time of dormancy, dreaming, and healing, Micah says, summer is all about expansion, action, and expression.

“It’s a time of movement, growth, and cleansing after the digestion and integration of winter,” he says. “We’re invited to take our practice of awareness and extend it out into the landscape in a fully embodied way.”

Here are six practices to do on the Summer Solstice—or any day of the season!

Do a walking meditation with bare feet. Ditch the shoes and experience the sensations of your skin on the earth—the softness of the grass, the warmth or coolness of the dirt beneath your feet. Bring awareness to each step and to the many muscles that are working to lift and place each foot, again and again. Walking meditation is an opportunity to slow down and luxuriate in the smallest detail of a process that we usually take for granted.

Meditate on the sound of birdsong. During the warm months, Micah likes to do an outdoor sitting meditation for 20 minutes or so between 4:30 and 7:30 am, using the early-morning bird chorus as a point of focus. Read about birding, mindfulness, and self-compassion.

Connect with the water element. Besides being the best way to cool off when the sun is high, swimming or wading—even just dipping your feet in the water—can actually make you happier, according to scientists. Researchers say that spending time in or near lakes, rivers, the ocean, and other “blue spaces” reduces stress and has a positive impact on well-being.

Do yoga outdoors. Take advantage of the season to roll out your mat on the grass, so you can experience all the gifts of the practice within the nurturing embrace of sunshine, wind, water, and earth. For some people, summer can be a great time to expand into a more vigorous yoga practice, Micah says, channeling the vibrant energy of the season into movement. Read about the benefits of practicing yoga in nature.

Reestablish your sense of place. “Many people these days are dealing with ‘place blindness’—feeling cut off from their natural environment and their sense of place in the world because of all the time they spend inside, at their job or in their car,” says Micah. To reconnect to that sense of place, Micah suggests spending a few mindful moments every day in your yard (or at an open window or in a local park if you don’t have a yard) and taking in the sights, sounds, scents, and signs of life around you.

Make earth mandalas. Collect flowers, sticks, stones, bark, and other natural materials to craft your own mandala design on a patch of protected ground. “Making mandalas is a way to express gratitude and create sacred space,” Micah says. “You’re honoring the season by using the materials that are available now, and then you can watch the mandala evolve and change over time.”

Attuning to the richness of summer not only allows us to experience it more fully, it also helps us move more gracefully into fall and winter when they come around. “We’re aligning with the seasons and the cycle of nature," Micah says, "which deepens our connection with ourselves and our world, and makes it easier to transition into the next phase.”