Practice of the Week
Expand Your Reality
Expand Your Reality
Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.
adapted from Rebecca James Hecking, The Sustainable Soul
What are you made of? Mostly empty space. The atoms – that make molecules that make cells that make tissues that make you -- are mostly nothing. If the nucleus of an atom were a grain of rice lying in the middle of Times Square, the rest of Times Square represents the space in which the electrons of that atom exist.
Our perception of ourselves as solid discrete entities is an illusion. At the atomic level, there is no boundary, no division between you and the rest of the universe.
Physicists now believe that this open space isn't entirely empty. It's frothing with energy and virtual particles that flit into and out of existence constantly. This luminous void exists within each of us, all the time.
The implications of our new understanding of reality both at the subatomic and intergalactic scales are overflowing with majesty and wonder. Some might call it Holy, Sacred Mystery. This Mystery transcends religious boundaries and human divisions, including the divide between those who call themselves religious and those who do not.
Mystery itself seems to be built into the fabric of the universe. Werner Heisenberg discovered it is impossible to know both the velocity and location of a particle with any precision. Knowing one changes the other. There is always an unknown. Even more bizarre is the fact that the observer affects the existence of the observed. If all this isn't enough for you, toss in the possibility of multiple universes, eleven (or more) dimensions on top of the four we experience, the curvature of space time, and a little relativity just for fun. Are you not boggled?
1. Unity Visualization. Sit comfortably in a place where you will be undisturbed for fifteen minutes or so. Start out looking at your hand. See the texture of your skin. Imagine that you are looking at it through a microscope, closer and closer, deeper into the layers. At this point, close your eyes. Visualize seeing your skin in close detail, and slowly increase the magnification of your imaginary microscope. Now you can see your cells. Going closer, you can see the nucleus and all the organelles working in harmony. Zooming in on the nucleus, you can see your chromosomes and then your DNA. Closer still, you see the twisted ladder of the double helix. Go closer. You see open space, and the tiny nucleus of an individual atom. Imagine this space filled with virtual particles flitting into and out of existence. Moving closer, you see the protons and neutrons of the nucleus. As you observe them, you notice them slowly changing, and a star takes their place. Backing out a bit, you now see a galaxy, then another. Stay here for a while. See the harmony of it all, the beauty. When you are ready, come back to the present, and slowly open your eyes. Reflect on your experience in your journal.
2. The Unknowable Path. First, do the “Many Paths and Possibilities" practice (HERE). Looking at what you wrote and reviewing the paths you didn't take, reflect on the idea that the outcomes you presume from any given path are unknowable. As you look back at your outcomes, imagine a different one. How else might it have gone? Try to picture several scenarios. It might have been better or worse than you envisioned, but it is an unknowable mystery. With a spirit of gentleness toward yourself, release all the possibilities, let go of any regrets, and spend some time writing about the unknowns in your own life.
3. Shape of the Unknown. Consider the mysterious virtual particles and mysterious energies that physicists believe exist in the open spaces within an atom. How do you imagine them? Do they hold any meaning for you? Using any media that you like—sculpture, painting, or even dance-create your vision of this unknown, yet oddly intimate aspect of your world. Call to mind the fact that all this Mystery resides within you at this very moment.
Unity Visualization. Try the “Unity Visualization," described above, with a few enhancements for your group. Begin the session by playing some soft, relaxing music that can play through the entire session if desired. Allow participants to settle in, slowly breathe, and relax for several minutes before beginning. The leader should then slowly guide the group through the visualization, allowing time at each new level of imagining. Afterward, gently guide the group back to the present moment. Pause, and then allow participants to stretch and move a little before sharing their perceptions of the experience with each other.
Questions for Group Conversation:
- The subatomic and macroscopic worlds exist simultaneously. How do they differ? How does what we call reality depend on what world is being considered?
- How does our middle-sized world relate to the others? Do the problems we perceive in the everyday world have any relevance or meaning at these other levels of reality?
- How do the implications of modern physics fit together—or not--with religious traditions and ways of understanding the world? Do some traditions blend with these implications more easily than others? How so?
- At the atomic level and beyond the division between you and what is not you falls away. Only a continuum of particles exists. Does this change how you perceive and relate to your world and others in it? How?