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On most nights, it’s possible to look up and see one of the moon’s many faces. From harvest moon to blood moon, from crescent to quarter to full, the moon remains a familiar presence in the sky.
The moon is probably one of the first celestial bodies you learned to recognize. Many people consider its light somewhat special, since it has the power to brighten the darkest corners of the night. Is it any wonder, then, that cultures around the world revere the moon as sacred — even magical?
The moon plays an important role in Earth’s tides, and its phases help people keep track of passing months and seasons. There are also plenty of myths and legends about the moon’s power, though science has yet to find support for the more mystical among them.
Still, exposure to moonlight can lead to feelings of awe and peace, along with a greater sense of connection to the universe.
Moon gazing meditation aims to harness these benefits and weave them into regular meditation for a more powerful practice. Keep reading to get the basics on this unique approach and learn how to try it for yourself.
Moon gazing isn’t anything new. Trataka (steady gazing) meditation, a key yogic technique, often involves a candle flame; however, some practitioners focus their gaze on other objects, including the moon.
When incorporated into meditation — a practice known to relieve stress and calm the mind — moon gazing may prove even more relaxing. Moonbathing, or soaking in the light of the moon, also figures into Ayurveda, a long-standing approach to medicine in India.
Potential wellness benefits aside, many people find moonlight soothing. Staring up into the hills and craters outlined in the moon’s glowing face might inspire feelings of wonder or fill you with a sense of calm and peace.
Sadie Bingham, a longtime meditator and clinical social worker specializing in anxiety in Gig Harbor, Washington, explains she was first drawn to the moon as a benevolent source of light in the nighttime hours. Intrigued, she began to explore the potential effects of the moon on mood and well-being.
“A budding appreciation for the moon led me to research its power and try moon meditations,” Bingham says.
Unless you practice near a window (which is perfectly OK), moon gazing takes you out into the natural world. And time in nature can offer plenty of benefits, even at night.
Research from 2016 suggests that regular stargazers often report increased happiness, relaxation, and peace. Looking up at celestial bodies such as the moon may prompt:
- feelings of awe
- oneness with the universe
- a deeper sense of the greater meaning of existence
You might even, as Bingham does, skip the traditional seated meditation in favor of standing with your bare feet on the ground.
“This enhances my meditation by reminding me of my connection to Earth and the cosmos,” she explains. “That’s a vital reminder, when most of our lifestyles involve being inside, staring at screens, surrounded by manufactured material.”
In short, moon gazing meditation can promote feelings of deeper connection to the universe and all things living within it.
If you’ve looked into moon gazing before, you’ve probably encountered plenty of suggestions about what the moon’s power can do. The moon is traditionally associated with fertility and new growth, for example.
In Ayurvedic medicine, moonlight is believed to help heal and soothe the body.
The moon gently energizes, in contrast with the sun’s sharp brightness. Moonlight exposure is thought to also relieve anxiety and stress and improve relaxation by prompting the natural release of melatonin.
Ayurveda holds that moonbathing (or moon gazing) may have particular benefit for females, since the moon is thought to help increase fertility and lead to more regular menstrual cycles.
Other suggested benefits include:
To date, no scientific studies have explored the effects of moon gazing meditation, so there’s no conclusive support for these benefits.
Some research does support benefits of Trataka meditation, however. For example:
Research from 2014suggests it seemed to help improve cognitive function in older adults.
- A small 2014 study of 30 young adults suggests it may help relieve anxiety.
Trataka practitioners believe that steady gazing can help promote:
- eye strength
- visualization abilities
- improved emotional awareness
General meditation can do a lot for you, no matter where you practice — even if that happens to be outside, gazing up at the luminous moon.
Moon gazing meditation is fairly straightforward, particularly if you’re already familiar with standard meditation.
There’s no single correct way to moon gaze. What matters most is what feels right to you.
“I recommend individuals follow their intuition,” Bingham says. “If you see the moon and she is calling, go outside to connect, communicate, and gaze.”
Here’s a simple step-by-step approach:
- Get comfortable outside, in a safe spot where you have a clear view of the moon. Make sure to dress for the weather. Feeling too warm or cold can distract you from your meditation.
- If you can’t get outside, find a window that lets you see the moon. Turn off any other lights so moonlight becomes the only source of illumination.
- Begin by closing your eyes and slowing your breath. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 3 seconds. Hold your breath for the same length of time, then slowly release it.
- As you exhale, imagine the moonlight washing over your body along with your breath. Visualize it brightening up and slowly easing any internal “darkness,” such as tension or distressing thoughts.
- Continue breathing slowly and steadily as you open your eyes and gaze at the moon. Note its current phase and specific details that interest you: the color, the light, or the shape of any visible features.
- Acknowledge any feelings that come up, like awe, delight, peace, or even a slight lightheadedness at the scale of the universe.
- Gaze at the moon, allowing your thoughts to flow in and out as they will. Accept these thoughts and let them pass without attempting to chase them down or pick them apart. Remember, the goal of meditation is increased mindfulness and inner calm, not self-criticism.
- For a more Trataka-aligned moon gazing experience, carefully relax your focus so you can stare at the moon steadily without blinking. Once your eyes begin to water, close them gently, then — with your eyes still closed — “look up” toward the space between your eyebrows. An internal image of the moon should appear. Focus on this until it fades from your mind’s eye.
- Continue for anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes. Beginners may want to start with shorter sessions, while experienced meditators may opt for longer ones.
- Open your eyes and consider how you feel. Peaceful? Energized? Ready to sleep? You may not notice any immediate differences, but keep in mind that the benefits of meditation tend to increase over time.
Moon gazing is a low-risk way to enhance meditation, so there’s no harm in giving it a try.
Looking at the moon won’t damage your eyes the same way looking at the sun will. The moon simply isn’t bright enough to cause harm. That said, if your eyes do begin to sting or water uncomfortably, it’s probably best to take a break or blink more regularly as you gaze.
If you’re concerned about nighttime safety, take a flashlight and let a roommate or family member know you’re stepping outside.
While meditation is generally recognized as one way to improve sleep, looking at a bright, full moon just before bed could potentially delay the onset of sleep. If you struggle to fall asleep after moon gazing, consider shifting your meditation practice to earlier in the evening.
Plenty of people find moon gazing restful and healing. Making a regular habit of watching the moon can boost awareness of the natural world, and add a level of wonder and peace that transcends what you might achieve with more typical meditation.
Moonlight may not impart any mystic powers upon you, but it can still promote internal peace and calm anxious thoughts — and what’s more powerful than that?
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.