Monthly Archives: July 2008

Across the Universe

First thoughts on the World Wide Telescope…




Looking up and out through the night sky, we encounter the entire universe as it is now and as it was – closer and closer to the beginning of spacetime. Past Earth’s moon, a mere 240 thousand miles away, the orbit of Neptune, 4.46 billion miles from the Sun, to the nearest stars, which are light-years away, to distant galaxies that stretch our vision hundreds, thousands, and millions of light years toward the zone where the big bang radiation begins nearly 14 billion years ago – we gaze simultaneously through time and space.

Recalling so many years at the lenses of binoculars, open-tube reflector scopes, and my trusty Celestron 8 telescope, I nearly froze my fingers during the coldest clearest winter nights to catch a glimpse of Saturn’s rings or the Orion Nebula. I recall as well the ecstasy of feeling my direct connection to the universe at large.

And now, knowing what I know, aware that I am witnessing the infinite becoming of the entire universe within the instant of an eternal present – in which I am not simply the watcher but also the watched – I am moved to point a finger toward the final ineffable source of all that is true and beautiful in Nature. Join me in this journey. The whole astonishing universe is who and what you are!

WWT in an interactive whiteboard

Roy Gould on WWT at TED


Download – World Wide Telescope

Image: Microsoft World Wide Telescope, composite image, 2008 by TFD

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Across the Youniverse

Recently we have been on an extended tour of inner space. For those who have been along for the ride, during the past several months we have experienced the vast emptiness and also the astounding fullness of our centered awareness and contemplative states of mind.

We have seen the infinity within, experienced the astonishing and unlimited potential of a clear uncluttered mind, and witnessed endless cycles of thought, feeling, and sensory impression swirling throughout our inner selves.

Being more in touch with what we bring to the world brings us more in touch with the world itself. We feel more connected – more an integral part of things. We know better what it means to participate in all the miracles of life. Now that we know the unity of inner experience, we can better appreciate the unified field of external reality as well.


Moving outward now, in expanding spheres of awareness, it is time to embrace the universe as a whole. There is no empty space here, there, or anywhere. There is simply relative density. The universe is filled with matter and energy and our bodies are continuously in contact with all of that. The universe of contemporary science has no center and no edge. Space-time forms a continuum and we are simply a part of the stream. We are in it. We are of it. It is what we are. It is who we are.

You may hold some fictional view that you are a separate entity, but there are no such things as separate entities anywhere in the cosmos. There is only the continuous universe. You are in it. You are of it. It is what you are. It is who you are.

Let’s take a look:

Powers of 10 – Video created by Charles and Ray Eames

“Eventually, everything connects.”—Charles Eames

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Are You Who You Think You Are?

That’s how it began for me. It was a question that came to me in childhood.
It was sort of a “Who am I?” type of thought. And it occurred to me I was the one who was thinking this thought.
That answered the question.

Who am I?
I am the one who is thinking this thought.

That didn’t seem good enough, even though it seemed to be totally true and the final word on the subject. The reason it didn’t seem good enough was that the thoughts I was thinking were mostly nonsense.

So, it followed that “I am mostly nonsense.”

Given this state of affairs, I sought to improve my “self” by improving my thoughts – or to work on myself by working on my thoughts.

I take the time to point this out because it was a very practical and realistic idea that initiated a study of physics, biology, psychology, philosophy, and even religion. That’s where the relevant texts are. I’m interested in these fields of study because they tell me about who I am.


Is it possible that I am not who is thinking this thought?
Is there a more essential “me” that is not necessarily connected to the thoughts in my mind? It turns out there is. And that is a tremendous relief!

Thinking is constant. Individual thoughts are brief and impermanent.

The impulse to think in this impermanent and endless way is motivated by some sort of restlessness or dissatisfaction with what is present and the craving for something else – something more permanent and satisfying.

This desire is endless; it is the cause of the continuing restlessness and dissatisfaction.

These thoughts can end.

There are ways to put an end to the incessant thinking, craving, restlessness, and dissatisfaction.

Such insights are a common result of meta-thinking – i.e., thinking about thinking. They are encountered in the notes and statements of thinkers from all traditions and are essentially the same thoughts Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, encountered. They are referred to as the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha’s codification of the Four Noble Truths serves as a description of his enlightenment.

Applied to life in general, with thought as its paradigm, they are described in various ways because the original Four Noble Truths are very brief and utilize difficult to translate language-specific words:


(From The Four Noble Truths (


The First Noble Truth

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by; we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

The Second Noble Truth

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

The Third Noble Truth

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

The Fourth Noble Truth

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering – a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely “wandering on the wheel of becoming”, because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

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Effortlessly, you return

With greatest ease – almost effortlessly now – you return to this calm, focused, and powerful state of awareness any time you decide to do it.
You awaken from this state by simply reacting to any external stimulus.

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