The answer is in the sky above

One of the activities that I enjoy most doing in a pitch dark night is stargazing. The reasons why I do this are many; stars look like tiny sparks of light shining in the otherwise empty-looking black sky. They also form constellations. It is very exciting to sit outside blanketed by the darkness of the night sky and find those shapes and characters that ancient civilizations also observed in the sky, therefore naming groups of stars after the shapes they seemed to form. It is also exciting to see the shiniest spots of light in the dark sky, and figuring whether what I am seeing is a star or a neighbouring planet. There are literally millions of celestial bodies to be observed in a good night, assuming there is little or no light pollution in the surroundings.

stars-521894_1280Looking at the stars, however, is more than just admiring their beauty and figuring the shapes they form together. Our ancestors studied the relationship between our human lives, our world, and the universe they could see from Earth. For centuries, sages dedicated their lives to stargaze and find not only beauty in the sky above, but also finding answers and meanings to whatever they observed in the sky, and the impacts that those relationships had in humans and our everyday lives. As such, they developed profound studies in various sciences like physics and astronomy, and in other mystical fields of study like astrology. The kind of knowledge they acquired through their studies was not only impressive, but lasting enough that most of it has been transmitted throughout generation, and is still appreciated and studies in our times.

Thanks to the studies that ancient and contemporary sages performed about the night sky, we have today a much better understanding of what we are actually looking at whenever we stargaze at night. We understand that there are not thousands or millions, but billions of stars in the observable universe around us. We also understand that there are there are constant physical and chemical reactions among the heavenly bodies that take place every second; yet, some of them are so large and so distant that we cannot live long enough to truly appreciate their ultimate impact in both our lives and in the course of the universe as a whole. Stars, constellations, galaxies, planets, clouds and other bodies are in constant motion, shaping and reshaping astronomical knowledge as we know it.

Most of us, however, are normal mortals without a deep understanding of the forces that move the universe. Most people do not have a deep understanding of physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrology, nor any of the other sciences that rule the relationship among celestial bodies. Yet this does not imply that average people, like you or me, cannot appreciate in great awe the beauty and greatness of the universe that surrounds us. At the end of the day, every single person, animal, object and phenomenon that we could ever fathom is intrinsically related to the universe that we were formed from – whose fate is linked to ours.

Our relationship to the universe is not only physical. While it is true that each of the atoms that form our body can be traced back to some distant relative in the universe (that is, a star, a planet, a quasar or whatever not), our links to the vast infinity of the universe go well beyond merely that. Our minds are also deeply related to it. As a result, our thoughts, emotions and moods are also related to the greatness of the universe, and whatever phenomena happens in there can potentially have an effect in our personae. Our mindset is not necessarily ruled directly by the cosmos above, however there is a fine link whereby we can be affected by  cosmic forces in a multidimensional fashion.

Appreciating the universe that surrounds us, therefore, can have some benefits in ourselves. First of all, it can help us realize that we are really small as compared to the enormous cosmic reality, and our existence is therefore very limited. This, however, does not imply that our lives are meaningless and not worth maximizing – in fact, all the opposite: We should, and must, ensure that we make the best out of our limited time we are to spend in this great universal puzzle. However, it should also help us realize that mankind, as a species, is but a blip in the universe, and as such we should perhaps spend less time hating among ourselves and invest more effort in realizing that we are, after all, allies in this cosmic reality – and our mission as a species is a common one.

The universe around is very vast, and stargazing during a good, dark night, allows us to appreciate only a small fraction of the universe that lies beyond us. More importantly, it helps us to understand an undeniable fact about ourselves: We, as individuals, are small. Very small. We are tiny when compared to the enormous cosmos around us. And if we are this small, is it worth to worry excessively about our everyday issues? Are we powerful enough that we can equate ourselves to the power of the universe? We might understand our roles in our jobs, in our communities, but what exactly is our role at large, when considering the universe as a whole?

The answers might not be obvious or readily available to us. However, spending a good hour stargazing and meditating upon the celestial bodies we observe on a nice dark night can give us a hint of the answers we are looking for. The beauty of the cosmos around us is infinite, but if we commit a good portion of our time to decipher how it is related to us and we can meditate upon how the cosmos affects our lives, we will be able to find answers to both our most profound and most mundane questions we can reflect upon. Guaranteed.

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Meditating upon the size of the Universe – and our place in it

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) created few years ago a video to help viewers visualize the size of the known Universe. As the video states in the first few seconds, it features every star, planet, moon and galaxy, among other celestial bodies, that are known to date. In only 6 minutes and 30 seconds, it puts the Universe and our space within it in a breathtaking perspective.

I find this to be one of the most amazing videos ever produced, not only for the extraordinary scientific value it provides. From a spiritual perspective, it provides a very useful context to meditate upon. Realizing that we are so small, limited and remote in the big Universal scale is fascinating. Knowing this, can we decipher what’s the role we are playing in this Universe? What are we, humans, collectively pursuing during our existence in this vast, unknown region to us? What is our link to all this trillions of other celestial bodies that inhabit this indescribably extensive space?

I invite you to watch the video, and to meditate on it afterwards. I sincerely hope you find it as useful as I have for your meditation purposes.

Miracles

When we think of miracles, most of us would normally think of supernatural phenomena that affect positively our lives – or that of others. We may even think of the forces of the Universe acting together in the benefit of a certain individual, or a group of people – in ways that are beyond the human power.

In that regard, for example, we could think that if a person gets unexpectedly cured from a specific rare ailment – that constitutes a miracle. If an individual drives their car recklessly on the highway, crashes but escapes the incident unharmed – that is a miracle. If an athlete gets badly injured, but then they participate in a competition where their performance is better than what was expected of them and come out as a winner – that, also, is a miracle.

Are the situations in the examples miracles? Indeed they are. The individuals in the situations explained obtained unexpected good outcomes of their own particular circumstances, against all odds. With the help of nature, and under poorly understood (rather unknown) conditions, their seemingly bleak situation worked out in their favour.

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Now, if we think of our day to day lives, and the circumstances that we face on our everyday – from the moment that we wake up, experience the world outside our house, do our daily activities, interact with people, come back home to share time with those we love most, until the moment we tuck ourselves in bed and sleep -, do we get to realize the circumstances that allow us to make it through our routines? Do we appreciate the marvels of the world that surround us?

When we realize that every day we wake up to another day where forces beyond our human power interact in our benefit, our perception of what miracles are changes. If we consider that every day we wake up to another day enlightened and warmed up by the Sun, that we get to breath fresh air cleaned by photosynthesis performed by plants, that we get to eat fresh and nutritious food grown from rich grounds of the Earth, that we are able to utilize resources provided by nature in order to accomplish our goals… do we realize that all of those are here not because our human will made them happen, but because the Universe has made the circumstances turn in our favour?

If we consider that the very fact that we were born to experience the Universe, do we get to realize that our birth is a fortunate situation that worked in our favour? When we get to experience feelings like love, happiness, pleasure, even sadness… do we realize that experiencing such emotions, at the very root, is a process that we did not plan, but which the Universe has made possible for our full experiencing of life? Indeed, we experience miracles all the time. We, ourselves, as well as all the creatures of the world, are also miracles.

Whether we are aware of it every moment or not, we are continuously experiencing miracles. Every day and every night, every hour and every minute, there are phenomena happening within us and around us, over which we don’t have any control but they still yield positive outcomes for us. Our very existence in this life itself is a big miracle that we should have present day by day, and admire as we would do when witnessing any other miracle.

Meteors and reality checks: Our Universe is very vast, and very humbling

The news of asteroid 2012 DA14 expected to approach Earth closer than any celestial object recorded ever by NASA would have been enough, but the Universe had prepared for us a much more powerful reminder of our fragility as a species: A meteor crashing against our planet. An event that even the most seasoned astronomers at NASA and ESA did not foresee, and one that therefore caught mankind by surprise. But really, is there anything we could have done to prevent it? The answer is likely a resounding no. Is there anything we can do to prevent this from happening in the future? Perhaps not, although there is indeed room to improve ourselves and our species from the lessons learned out of this phenomenon.

Analyzed from a strictly social point of view, the event is tragic and its painful impact is noted: Thousands of people resulted injured as a result of the crash of the meteor in the nearby city of Chelyabinsk, in Russia, where damages were calculated in over $33 million dollars. And all that we humans could do about it was to sit, watch, and repair the damages after the event.

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Photo: Tumblr

This rare event, however, is more than an isolated astronomical incident. If we go a step further and put the incident in a philosophical perspective, we will discover that the message is much more powerful that the only impact of the meteor itself: It is a powerful, direct, and clear reminder that there is a Universe out there. But that Universe is not an empty space unrelated to us, and we are not rulers over the Universe. All the opposite: We are part of this powerful Universe, a magnificent Universe with the ability to damage us or even make us vanish in a whim.

The sudden crash of this meteor offers a great wake-up call for us to reconsider our lives from both a personal and civilization-level perspective. What is our role in this Universe? What do we want to achieve during our relatively short existence here? What are we doing to make ourselves better?

There is another important message to take away from this event: This meteor came to remind us that Earth is just a planet, perhaps a vulnerable one, yet our protective home. Are we respecting Earth as such, or are we too busy abusing it for the sake of money and egoism? Are we working together as a species for the shared well being of mankind, or are we a rather fragmented civilization thirsty for power and dominance over other humans? What, exactly, are we looking for as a species?

Before taking on the massive task of finding our goal as a species, it will certainly take some time for each of us to think about our own personal roles in society, and to discover our potential to become better individuals – not with the intent of being better than others, but to be better towards our fellow humans. Hopefully that way, someday, our societal mindset will focus on the single goal of making of mankind and Earth better places. Who knows, maybe that is our reason to exist in this powerful Universe.

Our egoism has no place in the Universe

In our pursuit of happiness, we become blind. We forget that we are just a piece of the puzzle, and not the puzzle as a whole. We are just a part of the Universe, and not the Universe as a whole.

Is it possible that we are here only to serve our egoism and pride?

Is it possible that we are here only to serve our own illusions and inventions?

We were created in this world, with magnificent attributes, with unprecedented consciousness,

We were blessed with every component of intelligence to connect with the Universe that surround us,

We were created as one – as a single species, in charge of caring for a whole world.

What have we done for it? Have we made it prey of our own inventions and desires?

Money for the sake of money. Wealth for the sake of wealth. Power for the sake of being better than other fellow humans, for the sake of displaying individual dominance over them and over the world that was given to us. Is that our idea of success? Is that out idea of happiness?

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If we were visited by other inhabitants from the Universe, we would be none but their laughingstock. We are prey of our own inventions, of our own desires, of our own self-created idea of wealth. We do not value our world as our home – we value it for the economic wealth we can exploit from it, from the personal riches that we can acquire by abusing it… our own home. Our only one. And as we rape our home, we wonder whether there are other places in the Universe where we can thrive as a species – but not with the intention to flourish and make of them better places, but with the very and only intention of continuing the exploitation for the very sake of profits and financial wealth – a product of our minds.

Meanwhile, a whole Universe looks upon us… perhaps we are the missing link that will help the Universe as a whole to complete its mission. Or perhaps we are not. If we only were able to forget about our own egoism in the first place, and look upon the well being of our species as a species, and not as individuals, we would maybe find out…