Carl Sagan ~ Look at that dot

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan

Music: Ludovico Einaudi with a track titled, very fittingly, “The Earth Prelude”
Initial clip collection: Levi Mills. Ending scene: The intro from “Contact”, the motion picture based on Carl Sagan’s novel by the same name

Adyashanti ~ The Art of Listening

During one of his silent meditation days, Adyashanti leads this guided meditation that focuses on stillness, listening, and using your breath as a guide. By sitting down for meditation, you are accepting the commitment to just be still. As you rest into your being and your body rests into stillness, your mind can adjust to this new environment and relax into its true nature. From this depth of stillness and deep listening, your natural state of awareness is recognized as always available. Adyashanti invites you into this state of deep availability to notice the already existing stillness that underscores every moment.


The Loss of the Sacred and a Prayer for the Earth

By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Working with Oneness


When an individual loses contact with the light of their soul, when its embers are covered, almost extinguished, that person loses the opportunity for spiritual evolution. They remain imprisoned in their patterns of behavior, in their own ego or instinctual self. Life continues, but an essential ingredient that gives meaning is lost. And what happens to an individual could also happen to the whole planet, if we lose touch with what is sacred, if we no longer care for the planet with the love and prayers it needs, with the rituals known to our ancestors. Traditionally the individual is the microcosm of the whole, the lesser Adam to the greater Adam of the whole Earth. And just as we are called to look after our own soul, our own sacred self, so life calls us to be guardians of the sacred within creation. But for centuries we have been ignoring this calling, until our present time when we can hardly hear the cry of the Earth in its time of need.

And so the world is dying, dying both from our industrial exploitation, the toxins of our culture, the loss of species, and also dying from the loss of the sacred. This inner and outer devastation walk hand in hand into the abyss we are facing, even as we continue to forget. And while we can see the signs of our environmental plundering, the inner ravages of the soul and the world soul, the anima mundi, go unnoticed. We have forgotten how to read the signs—we have forgotten the language of the soul.

So I am left with the question that keeps haunting me: what will it take for us to awaken, and more important, what will it take for the world to awaken, for the song of creation to be heard once again? In that song all of life becomes alive in a new way, joy and meaning can return to the ravaged landscapes of the soul.

My own journey has taken me across many seas, to shores of light, landscapes of love. There mystery, beauty, and the sacred are part of what is natural, what is fully alive. Yet always I return to the physical world, to the ground under my feet. And I find myself with the simple question: how can we reclaim its wonder, this sense of the sacred? What pathways do we need to walk, what sacrifices do we need to make, to find again what is so essential? What is the prayer that is a real response to the cry of the Earth? If we can hear the cry of the Earth, feel this grief in our soul, then something in our heart opens. We are not separate from the Earth, her loss is our loss, her cry our cry. Our heart becomes the Earth’s prayer that calls, and love the response to that call. We are drawn back to the simple human values of love and care—love and care for the Earth and its myriad inhabitants. More and more I believe that small things with love are what are needed—acts rooted in loving kindness—because it is in these qualities that the soul is present, and only when the soul is present can miracles happen, can magic come alive, and prayers be answered.[2] And love is the greatest force in creation.

Only our love for the Earth can heal what we have devastated, redeem the inner and outer wasteland we have made through our greed and forgetfulness. It may seem too simple and idealistic, an inadequate response to the realities of ecological devastation. But love and prayer can reawaken the sacred within creation, make the ground under our feet both whole and holy. We cannot heal what we have ravaged only through science and technology, though they can help.[3] But first we need to remember and return to what is sacred, to the hidden music of creation—the heartbeat of the world. Only then will our actions be in harmony with all of life, its interconnected web, and so help both humanity and the planet return into balance. Then the Earth can reawaken as the living, spiritual being it really is, and begin the work of healing itself. It can share with us its deep wisdom. We will learn to work together with the forces within nature and life’s deepest purpose.

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Working with Oneness


Richard Rohr ~ Christianity and Nonduality

Richard Rohr, as a Catholic priest and Franciscan Friar, will offer a concise history of how Western Christianity once had, soon lost, tried to retrieve, and now is roundly rediscovering its own traditional understanding of unitive consciousness (which was our word for non-dual thinking). The Christian contemplative mind was usually a subtext, and yet it was always clearly there too, and much closer to the surface, but only for those exposed to the mystical base that was revealed in the Gospel of John, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the Celtic and monastic traditions, and what was generally referred to as the apophatic or wisdom stream of Christianity. These were our many saints and mystics. This possibility was brought to the fore by Thomas Merton in the middle of the last century, and is now flowing in many positive directions. It is now our task to rediscover the pre-Enlightenment Christianity that reveled in “the cloud of unknowing”, what some called “learned ignorance”, and the very notion of Mystery itself. Only when we got into competition with rationalism and secularism, did we adopt this rather recent mania for certitude and a very limited kind of scientific knowing. Almost the entire history of Protestantism emerged in this period, and thus the contemplative mind is an utterly new revelation for them, and frankly for all of us, as we again learn to be comfortable living on the edge of both the knowable and the unknown.

Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized. Fr. Richard is the author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.