Visiting with Mindfulness during the Cycle of the Annular Solar Eclipse

By Denyce White, BEP Partnerships Manager

Soon enough we will be in the path of the Annular Solar Eclipse, Jóhonaa’éí daaztsą́ which loosely translates as ‘the death of the sun’ in dinékeji (the “navajo” language). We will soon experience and be in the moon’s shadow. This phenomenon has so many conditions that have been created over time in order for it to occur and we have had no control over those conditions. Personally, when I reflect on this, it is a time for myself to practice Diné traditions during an eclipse to honor and be in reverence with myself, and to honor and practice reverence with mother earth, the sky, the sun, the sun, the elements, the universe, etc. It is a way to practice respect for such an auspicious occurrence especially in the time of the Diné new year; it is a reminder of conditions that are beyond us, such as positions and orbits of planets in the universe, as sacred. 

Okay, now circling back to conditions of the Annular Solar Eclipse being beyond us and not having any control of those conditions, well I think it is safe to say that this is true. What I would like to bring to light is the conditions that we do have control of, which is our presence and our mindfulness. When traveling, we spend time thinking about what to pack for our trip. We are being present and being mindful of essentials like: food, mileage, booking hotel rooms, finding camping sites, cost of gas–for those with electric vehicles, where am I going to charge–making sure to have enough water, etcetera, etcetera. That practice is addressing impact and intent, ‘how will my actions determine and affect my travel logistics and visitation?’ So, where I am going with this is our presence, mindfulness, paying attention to our thoughts, words, and actions can be practiced when we visit areas of the path of the Annular Solar Eclipse. It is especially important when visiting an area whose communities, Indigenous communities, have their own respected cultural and spiritual practices in relation to eclipses–the Navajo Nation is closing their Navajo Tribal Parks during the eclipse, two of them being Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Four Corners Monument Tribal Park–and also an area, like Bears Ears National Monument, that embeds cultural and spiritual value and significance to Indigenous communities.

I ask that when visiting the area of Southeastern Utah to practice mindfulness during your visitation. If you can practice mindfulness and intention with travel logistics, I would encourage practicing it while visiting the landscape in Southeastern Utah–it does not end when you get on the road to your destination and at the arrival of the destination. A few ways to practice: practice being aware of where camp is set up, where you drive your vehicle especially on the dirt roads and to stay on designated roads, signs that are posted in local communities in regards to the solar eclipse, businesses that are closed and places that are closed off from the general public, make sure to not disturb cryptobiotic soil because there is deep belief that the landscape is living and breathing–the landscape is living and breathing is stated in The Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation–notice how the landscape and shadows change during the eclipse, make note of how you feel, feel the breeze and dirt, take in the smell of the landscape, watch the clouds as they pass by, share friendly reminders to others of how to Visit With Respect to lower the impact on the landscape. Contemplate, what does it mean to lower impact on the landscape? 

We all care about the landscape near-in-and-around Bears Ears National Monument and the concern of “loving a place to death” is very real for many of us. So please, practice Visit With Respect. We are lucky enough to have people who care deeply–the team at Bears Ears Partnership to name one of many–who have been working for months to prepare for the massive influx of visitation due to the Annular Solar Eclipse and we are lucky to have guidelines that address ways to ‘Visit With Respect’ and to practice ‘Visit With Respect.’ It would be a good idea to peruse the guidelines and take a few minutes to look over it. From there it is up to you, myself, us, and others, with diligence (T'áá hwó' ají t'éego) on how to Visit With Respect. 

Ahxéhee’la – Tog’oiak – With gratitude