I remember once hearing a spiritual teacher say: “All those problems you think you have? Go shout them to the stars, and see if they care…” He didn’t say it to be mean. His point was that when we gaze up into the night sky, and into the vastness of the universe, something happens to the mind. It begins to quiet, and our perspective shifts.
If you have ever lain down on a blanket, eyes taking in the dome of a night sky above, then you will be familiar with this sensation of wonder and peace. It is as if we are in meditation.
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Perhaps it is the stillness. While the galaxies and solar systems we are peering out into are vastly alive (some 275 million stars in our observable universe are collapsing or being born every day, and countless asteroids are hurtling through space at incredible speeds) from our place on a blanket on the grass, we see only a static screen of indefinable pinpricks of light. Therefore, for the mind, there is nothing for it to grasp onto. There are no distractions, and so it has nothing else to do but let itself be absorbed by the stillness.
Maybe it is the incredible vastness that leaves the mind “blown”? When we begin to contemplate time and space, the numbers just become too big to comprehend. There are a billion trillion stars in our observable universe, and the nearest to our solar system is 20 trillion miles away and almost 5 billion years old. In our contemplation, we realize just how little we understand. Our mind begins to loosen its rigid opinions and moves into a place of unknowing—allowing us to be filled from a place beyond thought.
There is also an overwhelming sense of humility that leaves the mind speechless when we contemplate the universe and our place within it. A photo was taken by spacecraft Voyager 1 as it was about to leave our solar system after a 12-year mission, and it showed our planet to be just a distant pale speck, floating in a sunbeam. This humbling view of Earth caused astrophysicist Carl Sagan (who encouraged NASA to take the photo) to say in his book, Pale Blue Dot, “it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known.”
We can’t help but feel the comfort of connection when we turn our attention skywards, not just to the mysterious fabric of life, but also to every person that ever looked up in search of answers. The names of the constellations and the stories that accompany them have been handed down to us over thousands of years. We feel our human history and the thread that ties us all together.
Finally, there is a sense of childlike wonder that can bring peace to our busy minds when we realize we are part of a much larger play; a play over which we have no control, and whose beauty our minds could never conjure up. Who could possibly imagine a shooting star or the rotation of celestial bodies that would give us a solar eclipse where we can see the stars in the middle of the day? Even the birds fall silent.
Like meditation, the vastness of the universe can take us to a place far beyond the mind to discover our true nature and the vastness of our hearts. So at least one night every now and again, let’s switch our cushion indoors for a blanket outside, shout our problems to the stars and see if they care.
Photo Credit: Luna Naranja/iStock