Planet Soul

A Guided Meditation for Connecting to the Cosmos

One of the most amazing things about outer space is that we’re already there

Summer, Eastern Oregon. Photo courtesy of the author.

Do you think about space as someplace out there? As something in the future, somewhere you will never go? One of the most amazing things about outer space is that we’re already there. In this guided meditation, I’d like to invite you to experience the interconnections of your everyday life with outer space, the interbeing of our lives in the cosmos.

You might want to start by getting comfortable, in a chair or on a cushion, anywhere you won’t be disturbed. You can sit in a meditation position with your back upright and shoulders relaxed, scanning through your body and easing each part that you can, while remaining alert and in the most stable posture for you. You might want to set your hands in your lap or rest them on your thighs. And before you start reading, take a few breaths. Maybe you’d also like to invite a bell or chime to ring and breathe with that bell. As you breathe in, just recognize the simple reality that you are breathing in. As you breathe out, just recognize that you are breathing out. There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be. I hope you will enjoy this contemplation on cosmic interbeing.

May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos. Even in the darkest spots, living beings are able to hear it clearly, so that all suffering in them ceases, understanding comes to their heart, and they transcend the path of sorrow and death. — Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh

As you sit and breathe, open yourself up to the idea that outer space is already an intimate part of your everyday life. Breathe in deeply, fill your lungs with air, deep into your stomach. Feel the air flowing past your nose or into your mouth, down into your lungs, and then back out again. Follow this breath as it travels the course into you and out of you. Breathing in, know that you are breathing in. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out.

Start by imagining the world around you shifting back in time, to the deep history of our planet. As you stay still, time travels backward all around you. Unwinding, returning you to the wonders of the early life of planet Earth.

You are watching the seas of our ancestor planet. Massive plumes of phytoplankton are blooming in ancient oceans. Billions of these microscopic organisms (bacteria, plants, protists) are swirling in the sea. You see them using chlorophyl to soak in and absorb radiation from our star, from the sunlight. They are breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen, increasing the oxygen in the atmosphere. They are building the atmosphere as we know it now, making it less toxic for future life. As they bloom, they are making it possible for our distant evolutionary ancestors to eventually leave the sea for the first time, grow, and even walk onto the land, while wearing space suit-like bodies filled with ocean water.

Blooms of phytoplankton. Photo: NASA/U. S. Geological Survey/Norman Kuring/Kathryn Hansen

Returning now to the present day, notice that as you inhale Earth’s atmosphere you are breathing with all the plants and other photosynthesizers. Those everywhere, those near you. Maybe those indoors with you, those just outside, in the cities, parks, forests, in the deserts, on the tops of mountains — all around the planet, they are still breathing with us. We breathe together in our shared biosphere made possible by the bright warm radiation from a star. As you feel this intimacy of the breath with our plant ancestors and with the plants today, feel in your breathing how we live and die with the stars, on a solar-powered world.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in with the plants. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out with the plants.

We live with all the life of this planet Earth. We all live together on a thin layer of mineral and organic material covering the surface of the planet. Life is born from this layer of material, life returns to this layer of material and then reemerges again in a new form. The water of the clouds falls into this living layer, flows through it, evaporates into the sky, falls as rain. The water goes into our bodies, comes out again, and flows through the earth, rises again, returns to the clouds, falls again. Feel this in your body, the way you are made out of so much water, as you sit here. You have carried the ocean with you onto the land, and just as the water circulates through the biological and mineral layers of the surface of the Earth, the water also circulates through your body. The water in you was once a cloud, was in a deer, in a slug, a whale, a fly, a mushroom, in bacteria, in other humans. The water in you was once a river. The water in you carved great canyons, froze into snowflakes, reshaped the landscape as glaciers sliding across continents. The water in us reminds us all life on Earth is part of us.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in with the water of the rivers and clouds and seas. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out with the water of the rain and the ice.

Right now feel what it’s like to know you are sitting on the surface of a planet in space. Our home planet, this Earth, is already in space. You are traveling on a living, hybrid organic-inorganic spaceship, with a life-support system more complex than anything humans have created, a complex environmental system that keeps us and all life thriving, breathing, continuing. You can even feel this massive planetary ship humming with life and movement and weather and energy as it soars through the vastness of space. Bring your attention to where you are right now on the planet. Feel your body grounded now on the Earth, feel the points of contact your body is making with the chair, the floor, or the cushion you are sitting on. When we sit like this anywhere on the Earth, we’re being held gently on the surface of a planet by the vast life-support system of a planetary ecology.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in with the Earth. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out with the ecosystem of the Earth.

As you sit here on the surface of the Earth, there is only one direction: outward and inward are the same. Space is in every direction. Spaciousness is out there and inside us. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, underground or high in a building, the sky is around you, above you, even below you. Whether you go left or right, climb higher or lower, every time you see the sky, every time you breathe, you are looking out into space, touching space.

You are breathing because of the radiation from our star, and you are protected from that star by a planetary force field. As the solar wind rushes out of the Sun in every direction it reaches Earth also, but our planet’s magnetic field creates a soft cushion all around us. As the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field collide, the friction ignites the aurora fires in our skies. These cosmic sky-fires have reminded humans, since the dawn of our species, that we are already living in outer space. That we are protected by the Earth. That we are safe. As you sit here now, breathing with the Earth, you are protected by the Earth.

Artist’s visualization of Earth’s magnetosphere. Image: Conceptual Image Lab, NASA/GSFC

Right now, you are not only on the Earth but inside our entire solar system. The Sun, our moon, all the planets and their moons — we are all enveloped inside an even bigger force field created by our sun, the heliosphere, an even larger bubble pushing back against the interstellar winds just as Earth’s magnetic field repels the solar wind from our star.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in with the Earth’s magnetosphere. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out with the heliosphere as the solar winds mingle with interstellar winds at the edge of our solar system.

As we ride through space on the surface of this planet, embraced by the atmosphere, breathing with the plants and animals and other people, the body flowing with the water of the clouds and rivers, grounded by gravity, think about Earth’s trajectory, consider our path as we travel through outer space.

As the Earth rotates and night turns to dawn, and day darkens to sunset, and the skies full of stars are revealed at night again and again all over the planet, we are also moving around the Sun, circling our star at the heart of our solar system every year. As we rotate and circle the Sun, our entire solar system is also in motion, moving around the center of the Milky Way galaxy along with all the other planets, stars, and systems in our galaxy. And our galaxy is, in turn, moving as part of an almost unimaginably vast river of galaxies, inside one filament of the massive galactic superclusters, all these streams filled with countless galaxies, surging together along cosmic threads of gravitational flow like rivers across the continents flowing to the sea.

The Laniakea supercluster and location of our Milky Way galaxy. Image: “Nature” 513, 71–73, 2014

We are spinning, circling, rotating, spiraling, and flowing across the universe inside rivers made of clusters of galaxies, clusters composed of individual galaxies, which are made up of billions of solar systems, which are made up of billions of planets.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in with the enormous slow turning of the entire Milky Way galaxy. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out with flowing rivers of galaxies, streams of galactic superclusters, reaching across the universe.

This is how we go through space together, as a river. Together, we breathe with the plants and animals, we flow with the water, we are embraced by the planet, we circle the sun, we are held and protected by the magnetic fields of the Earth and the solar winds, we circumnavigate the galaxy, we flow in rivers of galaxies, we breathe, drink, walk, speak, and flow with the cosmos.

You are on the Earth, you are of the Earth.

You are in the solar system, you are of the solar system.

You are traveling around the galaxy, you are of the galaxy.

You are crossing the universe, you are of the universe.

You are moving in space, space is moving in you.

The cosmos is interbeing, interbeing is the cosmos.

You are the cosmos, the cosmos is you.

We are cosmic interbeing.

Student of life, the universe, and everything. patreon.com/SpaceFutures