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Path of Totality

The time is 3:22pm on April 8, 2024, and I’m enjoying an enthusiastic electronic group chat regarding The Eclipse when, two minutes past its peak, someone chimes in: “Is that it?”


I sense disappointment, and I understand.  When my husband arrives home at 3:55pm and I trade my homemade cereal box viewer for his Eclipse Glasses, The Eclipse is past its prime but becomes interesting for nine, maybe ten, seconds.  Previous to that, my view of The Eclipse had smelled like Raisin Bran and was as tiny as a freckle, or one of those odd-but-evenly-edged moles we aren’t supposed to worry about.  


Of course, I recognize that other parts of the country—and those who journeyed for the occasion— had dramatically different views, thrilling views.  Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the excitement around today’s eclipse as much as The Eclipse itself: even if we saw it differently, those of us who were looking shared an all-too-rare-these-days community spirit.  


Some of you may recall another solar eclipse, back in 2017.  That one also produced across-the-board enthusiasm, being notable as the first total solar eclipse in the U.S. since 1970 as well as the first in 99 years whose path would span the entire continental U.S.  For me, however, the 2017 eclipse was not memorable for such astronomical reasons, but rather because I watched it with my two sons.  Aged 16 and 20 at the time, their interests were unpredictable, and their willingness to spend otherwise free time with their mother was virtually non-existent.  So, when they did ride with me to a nearby field brimming with yellow buttercups, share a blanket, and peek at the sky, I was both surprised and happy.  To me, their presence was as remarkable as the solar system itself—and more immediately important.


Though my sons and I were not in the path of totality, that zone from which Earth’s observers can see the moon align perfectly to cover 100% of the sun, the occasion seemed total to me.  I can still recall a distinct and palpable sensation of peacefulness: the vista, the companionship, and the stunning science at play… my body, heart, and mind formed their own celestial alignment and rested together, in one place, at one time.  


This feeling, along with the gratitude I have in remembering it, is an example of what the ancient author Patanjali calls santoshaSantosha roughly translates into “contentment.”  It is one of the niyamas, or personal observances, that Patanjali enjoins us to cultivate in our daily lives.  Cultivating santosha is not as hard as it may seem—contentment gets easier once we recognize that the path of totality is strikingly narrow.  That is to say, once we admit that we mostly live outside the zone where external things line up perfectly, we are free to get creative about what might line up perfectly inside of us.  Here’s a tip: the greatest shortcut to santosha is gratitude.  Regardless of what’s happening outside, if you orient yourself internally around something (anything) for which you honestly, authentically feel grateful, contentment naturally follows, clear as the corona of the sun. 


After today’s total solar eclipse, the next possibility of observing this skyward miracle in the U.S. doesn’t arise until 2044.  And then, only folks in Montana and North Dakota will be in the path of totality.  In the meantime, we practice santosha closer to home, making good use of Yoga class, meditation—anything that serves as pole star to our wandering—in order to locate the here-and-now, and more importantly, an ability to rest sincerely, contentedly in it.

photo courtesy of Gretchen's niece in Texas, 2024.


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Apr 12

It was like an Eclipse Sangha - we were all rooting for the same team on Monday 🌞🌑

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