The evening can be a tough time. It might be a time we reevaluate the entire day and realize we did about 2 percent of our to-do list. Which makes us incredibly frustrated and angry with ourselves. Which awakens our roaring, hungry inner critic. It might be a time we worry about the next day, about everything we’re struggling with. Lack of time. Lack of money. All-over exhaustion. A conflict. An error. A missed opportunity.

Naturally, as we’re supposed to be winding down, what we really feel is our blood boiling (so to speak). For those kinds of evenings, it can help to have peaceful, meditative practices to turn to. Below are five such excerpts from the new book A Mindful Evening: Complete Each Day with a Calm Mind and Open Heart by David Dillard-Wright, Ph.D, an author and professor who teaches philosophy, religion and ethics at the University of South Carolina, Aiken.

Get rooted.

Sit or lie down. “Feel gravity rooting you to the earth, giving you a sense of security and comfort. Imagine gravity not just pulling down on your body but also pulling down on the troubling thoughts, taking them right out of your consciousness. Just be aware for a few minutes of that gentle, familiar tug that roots you in place.”

Become aware of your body. 

“This evening, as you close your eyes in meditation, let the interior dialogue melt into close observation of the body and its states. Move your awareness down the spinal axis, from the crown of the head to the sacrum, very slowly and deliberately, surveying each sensation along the way. Then move back up the spinal axis again, allowing your awareness to rest at the heart center or between the eyes. As you breathe in, picture the breath entering the bottom of the spine. As you breathe out, picture the breath flowing  out of the crown of your head…”

Glimpse the world.

Pause, and try to “catch a glimpse of the moonlight outside. Listen for the sound of crickets. See the streetlights outside, people walking their dogs. These little observations, these glimpsed routines, root us to our places, to our lives. It helps to glimpse the world outside of our own minds for a few seconds, to stop thinking so much about our own plans.”

Your heart’s desire. 

Walk through your home this evening. “Look for the little clues all around you about your heart’s desire. You may see evidence of places you want to visit, subjects you would like to study, old friends whom you miss, and the like. Hold these sacred yearnings in your mind and heart as you do your evening meditation. Then take a few small action steps that will bring your vision into reality.”

Simply be. 

“As the evening light silhouettes the tree limbs against the darkening sky and the day’s chores are finished, allow your mind to sync with your surroundings. You have done enough work today. Bring your mind to bear on this moment, the only time that you really have. Stay with whatever is happening right around you. Do not escape into fantasy. Do not plot or plan. Simply be here with this place and time. Breathe deeply into this present: receive the gift of this hour.”

The above mindful practices are a wonderful way to take compassionate care of ourselves. If they don’t exactly resonate with you, think about other ways you can cultivate calm and savor a soothing hour or two. Think about what you need, what you yearn for in the evenings. How can you give this to yourself?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop.