It's very nice to feel. You're nothing. You're just nothing when you're near a volcano.
- Katia Krafft
Our problems are the biggest problems in the world.
Well...not really. But they sure seem that way a lot of times.
It's only natural. We can feel the gravity of our own problems fully. But the problems of others? Not so much. Most of us find it pretty difficult to feel the same for others and their problems as we do for us and our own. After all, feeling the same for others emotionally as we do ourselves is not something we're naturally equipped to do.
In fact, many of us don't even take more than a few seconds on any given day to think about someone else's problems other than our own.
We're so immersed in our ourselves all the time. No wonder we feel our hardships and difficulties so intensely.
And then when something actually does happen? It never turns out as bad as we thought it would in our head.
It's this self-centered mindset that is the cause of much of our suffering. Many of our misconceptions about the way that the world works, how to find happiness, and how to become successful are caused by this self-centered mindset.
If we'd only take a second to step back and look around, at the BIG picture, we might feel differently.
Meditating on the Cosmos
I can't remember the first time I did this exercise, but I've used it a few times over the past couple of years when life really seemed to be coming at me from all sides.
I say exercise, but this is really a mindset. Just as being self-centered is a mindset, there is a universal mindset. By transforming your self-centered mindset into a universal mindset you become aware of your connection to everything.
When you have this mindset you're aware that the matter which makes up your body is not yours at all. This matter existed in other things before you, such as stars which exploded billions of light years away from the planet you stand on today. And it will continue to exist in another form when you pass.
You could view this in a way that's specific to your religion, in a spiritual sense, or strictly in a scientific sense. However you view it and whatever you call it, it's the same. There is no difference. We're all a part of the same great big cosmic family. It's because of this that we are large. We are infinite. But our problems are not.
Have you ever seen those people who draw on grains of rice? It's pretty cool. Our problems are like the writing on those grains of rice. No- if someone wrote letters inside of the letters on the grain of rice then that would be the real size of our problems compared to the rest of the world.
But they feel so real.
And they can be so overwhelming.
How do we begin to experience this cosmic mindset, this universal mindset, and loosen the mental bind they put us in? By looking to the cosmos.
Tonight, go out and sit under the stars. If you live in a city make it a trip- go just outside the city to somewhere peaceful where the light and the smog of the city isn't blocking your view of space.
And just sit there, looking up. Don't think about anything. Don't think about your problems, don't think about your hardships, and don't think about yourself. Forget about yourself- stop thinking and stop moving. Lose yourself completely in the deep, mysterious, and unimaginably vast universe.
Contemplate on the universe in mindfulness for 20-30 minutes (or as long as you'd like). Be mindful of the stars, of the sky, of the universe. But most of all contemplate the size of the universe.
- There are at least 200 BILLION galaxies in our universe.
- There are at least 100-200 BILLION planets in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way.
- That means there is at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one septillion) planets in the universe...
Now look down. If there are people around you become mindful of them. See them walking, driving, running around in different directions and doing different things. Understand that each one of them is also focused on themselves and their own problems. In fact, many of them are probably thinking about them right now.
See how trivial most of our problems really are. See how so many of us are so steeped in ourselves that we have no idea life isn't nearly as bad as we make it seem. And then look at yourself. Reflect on your own problems and your life as a whole. Feel your problems shrink.
Do all of this while staying in your universal mindset. Take another few minutes to look up at the sky if you'd like. Imagine how big this universe really is. And you are a part of it. But your problems....are not.
So...now how big do your problems feel?
You will never find people who truly grasp the cosmic perspective ... leading nations into battle. No, that doesn't happen. When you have a cosmic perspective there's this little speck called Earth and you say, "You're going to what? You're on this side of a line in the sand and you want to kill people for what? Oh, to pull oil out of the ground, what? WHAT?" ... Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson