Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, the Vulcan Salute, Jewish Priestly Blessing and Shefa Tal

I was sad to hear that Leonard Nimoy died. Although he wrestled with the fact that people saw him only as Spock, I believe that it was Nimoy's vital human spirit that was shining through and illuminated the character of Spock. This is why I discovered a childhood hero in Spock.

Do you know the origin of the Vulcan salute invented by Leonard Nimoy? Consider first that he was born in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union (now Ukraine).

Nimoy witnessed the Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim (Raising of the Hands) when he was a young boy. At the time Nimoy did fully understand what he saw, but the hand gestures (Shefa Tal) used during the blessing stuck in his memory. It is the Shefa Tal that he remembered years later when he came up with the idea for a Vulcan salute. 

I first came across the Priestly Blessing and the Shefa Tal years ago in my research on Kabbalah, the Tetragrammaton and Shekinah.

Look closely at the drawing of the Shefa Tal below. Do you see the four letters written across the wrists of the two hands? Do you recognize these four letters as the Tetragrammaton?






Leonard Nimoy on the Jewish Story Behind the Vulcan Salute:

YouTube Video Interview of Nimoy (in only 5 min. Nimoy tells the entire story):
Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character

YouTube Video:
Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim, Raising of the Hands: Shefa Tal

Wiki article Priestly Blessing (excellent general information):

Wiki article Vulcan Salute:

In his autobiography I Am Not Spock, Nimoy wrote that he based it on the Priestly Blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the salute. The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty (God)", as well as for Shekinah and Shalom. Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

The symbol became so well-known that in June 2014 it was added to version 7 of the Unicode standard as U+1F596 (raised hand with part between middle and ring fingers), and the White House referenced it directly in its statement on Leonard Nimoy's death, calling it "the universal sign for 'Live long and prosper.'" NASA astronaut Terry W. Virts posted the salute without commentary on his Twitter feed from the International Space Station with the Earth as the background. 

Washington Post article The touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy from space:

On Saturday, American astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this photo while aboard the International Space Station:



The simple Vulcan salute, flashed back at earth from so many miles away, speaks to the impact that Nimoy and "Star Trek" had on American space exploration.

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague."

Rest In Peace Leonard Nimoy

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Newly Hatched Praying Mantis - Teaching Patience

Newly Hatched Praying Mantis

I encountered another Praying Mantis Sunday night (4/27/14). It was a newly hatched praying mantis on my front porch stucco wall. Smaller than a dime, this little guy is already on the hunt. 

This is the second year in a row that I have found multiple juvenile Praying Mantis on my front porch. They grab moths attracted to my porch light. 

He was a challenge to photograph, even at this young age he was very much aware of his environment and the possible threat that I represented. He dodged my macro camera lens for awhile. I lost him several times. Eventually, he settled down and I got this close-up shot.

FUN FACT: unlike most of other insects, mantises have stereoscopic vision (the ability to perceive the world in three dimensions). See more at: Praying mantises get extra-tiny 3D glasses to test their vision

Lastly, I believe that it is of symbolic importance when we encounter certain animals. A friend of mine gave me a reading regarding the Praying Mantis. She was very accurate and the reading was very helpful to me. Essentially, the reading was very similar to the following web page excerpt:

Praying Mantis Meanings in the Realms of Animal Symbolism


The mantis comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. Usually the mantis makes an appearance when we've flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us because of the external din we've created.

After observing this creature for any length of time you can see why the symbolism of the praying mantis deals with stillness and patience. The mantis takes her time, and lives her life at her own silent pace.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Question Of Ego: Who Am I If Not Ego?

If the Ego's greatest act of deception is to get oneself to believe that the Ego is who we are, then who are we?

Stated another way:
If I am not who I think I am, then who am I?
Good question. It is a matter of perspective. Ego is the mistaken perspective that we are an independently existing, singular self. We actually are a collection of experiences loosely tied together. All these experiences depend on a large number of causes and conditions. In truth, the ego is an illusion; there is no singular, separately existing, independent self.

Following is an image of the Buddhist deity Manjushri. Manjushri has the ability to see the nature of reality as it is. Manjushri is seen holding the flaming sword of Discriminating Wisdom with his right hand and a book called Prajñāpāramitā with his left hand. Prajñāpāramitā in Buddhism, means "the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom." The word Prajñāpāramitā combines the Sanskrit words prajñā ("wisdom") with pāramitā ("perfection"). The Prajñāpāramitā sūtras suggest that all things including oneself, appear as thoughtforms (conceptual constructs).

Inline image 1

Our stream of consciousness is composed of five senses, feelings/emotions, and higher intellect/reasoning. What we perceive becomes the reality of ego and ego is at the center of all this experience. One moment we are focused on listening to music, the next moment we feel a chill, the next moment is lost in a memory, the next moment the cat catches our eye, etc. From this stream of discontinuous experiences that involve various different perceptions and mental events we deduce that an ego or self exists. We feel that a separately existing self resides at the center of these perceptual/mental events. 

We experience the illusion of "self-awareness" in the midst of a seemingly objectively existing external world. We feel as if we are separate from others and an entire universe of separately existing objects, as small as atoms and as large as galaxies. The truth is that all things are temporary and inter-dependently existing. No-thing exists separate from any other thing. There is no external, objective reality. There are no separate, independently existing "selves" at all. There are no separately existing things at all. 

CAUTION: this is not the same as nihilism. This is not a negation of existence. This is a reinterpretation of our knowledge gained through experience. We are simply arriving at a greater truth derived from higher order reasoning. 

The truth is that existence is a collection of experiences tied loosely together. Reality is consciousness only. The mystery of the nature of human consciousness is revealed through meditation on the temporary nature of all things and the truth of selflessness. The Buddhists call this sunyata or emptiness. That is, experience is in actuality empty of separate, independently existing things and consciousness is empty of a self. 

No self is required to explain phenomena. Occam's Razor states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The assumption of the existence of a self is unnecessary and should be discarded due to succinct reasoning.

We go through life in a fairly successful manner and make okay decisions even while under the false assumption based on the existence of an ego. We go through challenges, illness, periods of doubt, depression, pain and even mental anguish. Eventually we get to the end of our life and wonder what it was all about. Of course, waiting until we die to face the meaning of life is not the best strategy. Having to face death while clinging to an ego results in fear and mental anguish is not a good way to go.

If we are blessed with curiosity, a sense of wonder, or a sharp intellect, then we may explore alternative explanations for life's experiences even before we are faced with illness, pain and death. During moments of introspection and philosophical query we question the nature of what we are. The person seeking answers to life's mysteries may find that we exist on a wholly different level of reality than what is commonly held as actual reality.

To seek truth and meaning while facing the challenges of mundane existence is a spiritual warrior's path. It is a very difficult path, but it ultimately yields the greatest rewards. The spiritual warrior focuses the mind inward and sharpens their mental focus and inner calm. The spiritual warrior wields the flaming sword of Discriminating Wisdom to cut down falsely held beliefs, dispel the illusion of ego and clear a path to greater happiness and peace of mind.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Consciousness Only / Yogacara / Emptiness

A lot of what we seek as spiritual explorers can be satisfied with an understanding of the nature of consciousness. I gather that this is why we question the nature of mind and reality. We seek a level of understanding beyond the mundane. For many of us this becomes a thirst and hunger for esoteric knowledge or jnana (as it is known in Sanskrit).

One of the challenges to realize a deep understanding of the nature of consciousness is to heighten our awareness beyond our senses and beyond our mental and conceptual activity. This is required because reality can be treated as consciousness-only. Reality is perception and mental activity. Once we achieve an awareness not bound by perception and mental activity, we clearly see both the nature of reality and the nature of consciousness. To fully realize this nature we need jnana's perception.

In Tibetan Buddhism, jnana refers to pure awareness that is free of conceptual encumbrances. The Uttaratantra Shastra is a profound teaching on Buddha-nature attributed by the Tibetans to Maitreya, the future Buddha. To realize our Buddha-nature is to gain enlightenment and achieve awareness of the true nature of reality, or Tathatā.



From the Uttaratantra by Maitreya, a treatise on Buddha-Essence -
The Sangha - The Third Vajra Point - The Salutation
I bow down to those whose mind is no longer obscured,
the deeply realized who have jnana's perception,
awareness of the total purity present in limitless beings.
As the true nature of mind is lucid clarity,
they see the defilements to be without essence
and truly realize ultimate no-self -- 
peace within all beings. Thus they know
the all-pervading presence of perfect Buddhahood
in each and every one of them.

This salutation to the enlightened Sangha also reveals what might be called the web-like nature of universal love, "truly realize ultimate no-self peace within all beings." It is wonderful how the text provides a definition of unconditional love.

I have studied the nature of mind, consciousness, compassion, love and emptiness since I was a teenager. However, my milestone achievement was when I took the empowerment for the Progressive Stages of Mediation on Emptiness from Khenpo Tsultrum Gyamtso Rinpoche at KTD Monastery in Woodstock, NY. This is in my experience the most profound path of wisdom leading directly to peace, love, happiness and enlightenment.
In this teaching Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche presents the main schools of Buddhist philosophy with their progressively more subtle and refined views of reality. However, it is not just a teaching on the view but a presentation providing the student the means to realize it through meditation practice. The idea of a series of meditation practices on a particular aspect of the Buddha's teachings is that by beginning with one's first rather coarse commonsense understanding, one progresses through increasingly subtle and more refined stages until one arrives at complete and perfect understanding. Each stage in the process prepares the mind for the next in so far as each step is fully integrated into one's understanding through the meditation process.

Here is another book that is worthy of investigation, but only for the truly dedicated:
The Three Texts on Consciousness Only is a commentary on the Indian Buddhist monk Vasubandhu's Triṃśikā-vijñaptimātratā (Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only) and gives an exposition of the Yogācāra (Mind-Only) school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Triṃśikā-vijñaptimātratā was composed in the 4th century CE and became one of the core texts for the Yogācāra school.

In Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness Stage 5, Emptiness-Of-Other (Shengtong Approach) is the same as the Yogacara Mind-Only school as explained in Three Texts on Consciousness Only. In this way, a study of both texts take the seeker on a deep dive into the heart of the Buddhist understanding of the nature of consciousness and the nature of reality.

Please keep in mind that ultimately, it is our attainment of a direct experience of emptiness through the diligent practice of meditation that provides us with jnana's perception. One must put down the books and spend regular intervals of time in meditation to gain progress.

Here is an excerpt from Three Texts on Consciousness Only, Chapter 1: Demonstration of Consciousness Only.

... the ultimate reality that is revealed by emptiness (sunyata)
and absence of self exists, does not exist, both exists and does not
exist, and neither exists nor does not exist. It demolishes the processes
of thought and language and is neither the same as dharmas,
nor different from them, etc. It is the true principle of dharmas,
hence it is called the "true nature of dharmas." It is called "space"
because it is free of all impediments. It is called "cessation resulting
from discrimination" because through the power of discrimination
it ends various impurities and one understands thoroughly.
Or, as a result of being revealed by the absence of conditions, it is
called "cessation resulting from the absence of conditions." Feelings
of pleasure and pain are removed, so it is called "immovable."
It is called "cessation of thought and feeling" (samjna-vedita-nirodha)
because thought and feeling are not active. These five unconditioned
dharmas are provisionally established on the basis of ultimate reality.
But "ultimate reality" itself is merely a provisionally granted name.
To refute the idea that it does not exist, it is said to exist.
To refute the idea that it does exist, it is said to be empty.
But it must not be thought to be empty and illusory, so it is
said to be real. Because this principle is not false or erroneous, it is
said to be the ultimate nature of everything. It is also called the 
"ultimate nature of everything" because it is not the same as the
real, eternal dharma called "ultimate nature of everything" apart
from form, mind, etc., of other schools. Thus none of the above
unconditioned dharmas really exists.

Dharmas grasped by non-Buddhist schools and other schools
of Buddhism do not really exist apart from mind and mental
activities, because they are grasped in the same way that mind and
mental activities are grasped by mind itself. The apprehension
that grasps them does not have them as objects, because it grasps,
like the apprehension that takes as an object this same intellect.
Also, because mind and its activities arise in mutual dependence,
they do not really exist, just as magical illusions do not. In order to
refute the false attachment to a really existing realm exterior to
mind and its activities, we teach that there is nothing but
consciousness (vijñaptimātratā). But if one believes that consciousness
only really exists, this is no different from attachment to external
objects, and it remains attachment to dharmas.

This is one page from this 450 page book. Definitely not light reading, however from this one page you can perhaps obtain a glimpse of jnana's perception of the true nature of reality, dharmatā, suchness, thusness, or Tathatā.

Thusly and Lovingly,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Black Lotus Tibetan Double-Terminated Smoky Enhydro Quartz Generator Wand

This is a fun story with magical elements. It is one of my longer blog posts, but I hope you enjoy it.

I had been feeling the need to get out for a hike in the mountains. So we drove to the Jemez Mountains last Saturday, September 21, 2013. This story starts off with a hike around Battleship Rock chasing purple dragonflys.

Of course, I took my camera with me. We hiked along the bank of a stream under the cover of a dense pine forest. It seems that everywhere I looked there was a magical visual waiting to be captured. But it was the purple dragonflys that really caught my eye.

I first caught a twinkle of metallic purple flash in a sunny spot along the bank. Then I saw more purple flashes. I discovered the purple flashes were caused by dragonflys playing around the stream. I pursued them with my macro lens trying to get a close-up photo of these magical beings.

It took several attempts to get close enough and have the dragonfly not fly away. My macro lens finally succeeded in capturing a dragonfly as it settled down on top of a moss covered rock in the sun.


After the hike we had lunch at the Los Ojos Restaurant & Saloon. Then we strolled through Jemez Springs and visited the shops. One of the shops had a few crystals for sale, but nothing that really excited me. The store owner said that I should talk to John who is selling crystals on the side of the road. 

I found a collection of crystals spread out on some fold-up tables in front of a truck with a camper shell. John came out of his camper, stood behind his crystals and said hello. I told John I was looking for a healing crystal. 

This is where the story gets a little weird. Without looking down at the table his right hand seemed to move of its own accord. John's wandering hand took hold of a crystal before I could finish my sentence. John picked up the crystal and held it like a dear pet. All this time John was looking directly at me.

Somehow I had the feeling that this crystal had chosen me. It was if the crystal had commanded John's hand to bring it forth. John didn't even seem to notice that he had picked it up. He began to talk about his collection of Tibetan enhydro crystals and his trusted source for the crystals. All the while John was talking about his collection, he was holding this stunning double-terminated smokey quartz crystal.

John offered to bring out some flats of crystals to show me. I asked him, "What about the crystal in your hand?" John gave me the crystal. As soon as I held the crystal I knew it was perfect for me.

This photo shows me holding the crystal. You can see the size and shape in my hand. I have not seen another double-terminated quartz that is so perfectly sized and well-balanced. This is completely natural, not polished. I found a stone like this on eBay for $150, but I paid John $25. You may also see a black spherical inclusion just right of the center of the crystal, next to my ring finger.


This next photo shows a closeup view of the unique, black, spherical inclusion. I do not know what it is composed of, but it is roughly spherical in shape and centered within the body. It is surrounded by a halo of whitish quartz. 

Back home I meditated with the crystal holding it and bathing it in incense to cleanse it. While meditating and peering into the crystal the name Black Lotus came to me. The black spherical inclusion appeared to me like a Black Lotus rising up from the murky waters into the clear light, sending out rays of pure white healing light. 


The term "Black Lotus" was completely unknown to me before this name appeared in my mind during meditation with the crystal. I have never imagined or even read about a Black Lotus prior to this vision. But the name stuck in my mind and I decided that the crystal should be called the Black Lotus.

After meditation I did some research to see if a Black Lotus exists elsewhere. It turns out that Black Lotus has several interesting meanings. 

I grow lotus flowers in a small pond in my backyard so I am quite familiar with many different types of lotus, but I never came across a Black Lotus in any of my readings. After having the vision of a Black Lotus while peering into the crystal, of course I had to Google it. Turns out that the Black Lotus is a very special metaphysical entity.

According to Wikipedia, Black lotus may refer to:

People
  • Black Lotus, a nickname of ISKCON spiritual leader Bhakti Tirtha Swami, and the title of his biography
Music
  • Black Lotus, a demo album of the Sonic Syndicate
  • Black Lotus Records, an independent record label based in Greece
Fiction
  • Black lotus, a narcotic flower in the fantasy world of Conan the Barbarian as described in Red Nails
  • Black Lotus, a member of the Marvel Universe group the Femizons
  • *Black Lotus, the most valuable Magic: The Gathering (MTG) card ever to be released, one of the Power Nine
  • Black Lotus, a Chinese criminal syndicate from the Sherlock episode "The Blind Banker"
  • Black Lotus, a character in Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour
*Curiosity got the best of me and I had to search for Black Lotus, the most valuable Magic: The Gathering (MTG) card ever to be released. I found it currently for sale on eBay for $100,000 !! See http://r.ebay.com/3TrOJK

MTG MAGIC THE GATHERING BETA BLACK LOTUS BGS 10 > THE HIGHEST GRADED!
Price: US $100,000.00
This Is The Single Highest Graded Black Lotus In Existence ….. The Only BGS-10.
It Cannot Be Under-Estimated How Difficult It Is For A Card To Achieve This High Of A Grade. 


$100,000 Seem Extravagant?  Perhaps, But Perhaps Not.
Let's Look At Some Of The Top Items For Other Key Collectibles:
Comics:
Action Comics #1 - The highest existing copy sold for  $2,161,000 !!! 
Amazing Fantasy #15 (1st appearance of Spider-man) a 9.4 sold for $240,000. But, the HIGHEST graded 9.6 just sold for a whopping $1,100,000 !!
Incredible Hulk #181 (1st Wolverine)  9.8 goes for around $17,000. But, the only 9.9 in existance just sold for $150,000 !!!
Baseball Cards:
Honus Wagner Rookie - The Highest Existing Copy Sold For Well Over $1 Million Dollars

Okay, that was a big diversion looking into references to Black Lotus and the Black Lotus playing card worth $100,000. However, it does demonstrate the power of a metaphor. A visual metaphor may be so powerful that it can gather importance and gain the attributions of significant wealth in the mundane world. 

The Black Lotus metaphor has definitely impacted me in extraordinary and unforeseen ways. My intuition tuned into this metaphor and channeled a powerful Black Lotus entity living in this crystal.

Now more about this wonderful crystal.

Tibetan Double-Terminated Smoky Enhydro Quartz Generator Wand

Enhydro means "water within" and can apply to minerals other than quartz. Other names: Bubble Quartz

Features of my crystal:

This is a Generator Crystal, having six evenly spaced top faces - in both ends. It is naturally terminated all around, meaning that is has not been cut or polished in any way, this is exactly as nature made it.

The crystal has some Rainbow Irises. These are different from rainbow veils which were caused by an impact to the crystal and are obvious and easily seen. Rainbow Irises were created when oils or gasses became trapped inside the crystal as it grew, and they are much harder to spot. They often are hidden and need play of light to reveal them, even change in temperatures may cause them to appear or disappear.

There are several Keys on this crystal (Keys are where other small crystals were attached to this crystal). The rough looking Key is not a damaged area, it simply is a rough surfaced Key, instead of one having smooth walls, like they usually have. The side walls have faint striations (side to side lines), etchings, and steps.

There is a triangular indent on the flat of a broad face. It equidistant from the center of the crystal opposite the Black Lotus. This signifies this is a Recordkeeper Crystal. 

The Metaphysical Meanings Of The Features Of This Crystal

Quartz: Quartz is used the world over due to the fact that it one of the most amazing substances on the planet. All peoples have found out that - it works! Quartz is believed to: Bring health, good fortune, and prosperity. Extensive use in meditation and spiritual development. Enhances instincts, imagination, dream perception and telepathy. Balances emotions. Brings love and harmony. Encourages perseverance and patience. Imparts psychic vision and illumination. Aids in concentration, meeting and conquering challenges. Receives, activates, stores, transmits, and amplifies energy. Stimulates thought forms. Attracts like qualities, enables one to receive. Keeps brother and journey safe. Eases melancholy. Provides restful sleep.

Enhydro crystal: Helps bring forth the Great Masters. Heightens spiritual awareness. Bestows greater wisdom and abundance. Aids in meditation. Calms nerves. Provides safe astral travel. Restores energy and physical balance. Aids in healing work.

Metaphysical uses for Enhydro Quartz include:
  • Bringing an energy of "I know I can" to the user.
  • Connecting friends and companions.
  • Allowing one to flow with changes.
  • Increasing a sense of empathy and understanding.
  • Inspiring spiritual receptivity.
A Generator Crystal: has six evenly spaced top faces. Sometimes also called a Merlin Crystal. It is believed to generate, ampligy, store, and transmit energy. Used as a connector between members of a group and a high powered transmitter amongst them.

Key Crystal: The key is where another crystal was attached to this crystal. It is believed that the Key crystal can be used to unlock the doors to healing. Access hidden information and help answer difficult questions and, solve problems.

Rainbow Crystal: is believed that Rainbow Crystals create the closest manifestation of Pure White Light that can be witnessed on the Physical Plane. They are used in meditation to escort us into the realm of the Pure White Light.

Recordkeeper Crystal: has pyramid-shaped or triangular shaped natural formations that are either engraved into or raised on a Crystal's face/s. Often you need to search for the Recordkeepers by looking at the Crystal in a bright light an viewing it from varying angles. It is believed that the Recordkeeper Crystal is one the most Sacred Crystals because it holds the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Universe.This ancient Knowledge is readily made available for a person, who has an open mind and a pure heart, and is properly attuned to a Recordkeeper Crystal. Recordkeepers are believed to contain profound secrets and esoteric knowledge of the Higher Awareness.

Clarity: The first impression of quality or value of natural crystal is usually judged by the clarity. The clarity ranges from milky white to glass clear that sparkles like a cut diamond. Most crystal is milky white at the base and gradually clears to the tip. The milky white crystal is said to represent the yin or feminine qualities of love, communication, negotiation and receptivity. The clear crystal represents the yang or masculine qualities of power, force, strength and creativity. A crystal with both is believed to promote a balance of the masculine and feminine enegy on both physical and mental levels. Large, water-clear crystal points with smooth sides are quite rare and consequently, more valuable.

Smokey Quartz Crystal: Brings good luck. Repels Evil Eye. Activates survival instinct. Helps overcome obstacles. Provides better understanding and increased intuition for meeting challenges and responsibilities. Brings confidence, creativity, abundance, and wealth. Encourages joy in living, personal pride, and kindness. Stimulates dream awareness. Attracts astral forces and aids access to astral plane. Promotes clairvoyance. Facilitates mental clarity. Keeps friend safe. Eases depression. Brings relaxation, has mild sedative effect. Smokey quartz has great healing properties.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

So You Want to Go to Mars

There are a lot of billionaires, major corporations, resources and technologies aligning right now to make Mars colonization possible within our lifetime. The opportunity is becoming real. The risk is still very great, but the rewards are unimaginable. The Martians colonists will be the start of a completely new human society based on sustainable principles. All of the estimates are that significant steps will be made and a human may step foot on Mars in the next 20 years. Now that is exciting!

SpaceX
SpaceX founder unveils plan to send 80,000 people to Mars

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, has announced an ambitious plan to colonize Mars by shuttling 80,000 pioneers to the Red Planet at a cost of $500,000 a trip. The first phase of the program, which is contingent on the development of reusable rocket that can take off and land vertically, would start off modestly with only a handful of explorers leaving Earth at a time. But in short order, the self-sustaining population could grow into something far greater.
  • "At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big," - Elon Musk
The announcement was made by the billionaire Musk to an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on November 16, 2012. He was there to talk about his business plans and to receive the Society's gold medal for helping to advance the commercial space industry.
SpaceX is the world's fastest-growing provider of launch services. With nearly 50 launches on its manifest, representing more than $4 billion in contracts, SpaceX continues to push the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft.
At 9:34 a.m. PDT on March 26, 2013, SpaceX's Dragon returned safely from its second official resupply mission to the International Space Station, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about 200 miles off the coast of southern California. The spacecraft brought back nearly 3,200 lbs of station cargo and packaging, including space station hardware, supplies and scientific samples. Dragon is the only spacecraft capable of returning a payload of this size to Earth.
SpaceX founder looking for 'colonists', must love space travel


MARS ONE


The mission, a private venture by the Dutch non-profit organization Mars One, aims to send a crew to the Red Planet in 2022
  • More than 78,000 people want to go to Mars -- forever.
  • The non-profit group "Mars One" says it is getting flooded with applications to help them set-up a colony on the red planet.
  • Only four people will actually get to go.
  • You have to send in a one-minute video if you'd like to be considered.
  • Take a look at some of the applicants so far at Mars-One.com.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged explores a dystopian United States where many of society's most productive citizens refuse to be exploited by increasing taxation and government regulations and disappear, shutting down their vital industries. The disappearances evoke the imagery of what would happen if the mythological Atlas refused to continue to hold up the sky.
The theme of Atlas Shrugged, as Rand described it, is "the role of man's mind in existence". The book explores a number of philosophical themes from which Rand would subsequently develop Objectivism. In doing so, it expresses the advocacy of reason, individualism, capitalism, and the failures of governmental coercion.
  • My question, "WHAT IF SOCIETY'S MOST PRODUCTIVE CITIZENS LEFT EARTH AND STARTED A COLONY ON MARS?"
Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration by Buzz Aldrin 
Sixty-six years after the Wright Brothers made history at Kitty Hawk, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the moon. From that pivotal moment on, Aldrin has advocated for continued and expanded space exploration. Now, he argues that 66 years after the Eagle landed at Tranquility Base, Americans should establish a presence on Mars.
And not just for a single trip or a moment in history. In Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, Aldrin calls for systematic investment to establish a cycle of transportation and sustained, permanent settlements on the Red Planet.

PLANETARY RESOURCES
What if the greatest discovery of natural resources didn't take place on Earth?
There are near-limitless numbers of asteroids and more being discovered every year. More than 1,500 are as easy to reach as the Moon and are in similar orbits as Earth. Asteroids are filled with precious resources, everything from water to platinum. Harnessing valuable minerals from a practically infinite source will provide stability on Earth, increase humanity's prosperity, and help establish and maintain human presence in space.  Check out the YouTube video: http://youtu.be/7fYYPN0BdBw 
ONE ASTEROID MAY CONTAIN MORE PLATINUM THAN HAS BEEN MINED IN ALL OF HISTORY.
WATER SOURCED FROM ASTEROIDS WILL GREATLY ENABLE THE LARGE-SCALE EXPLORATION OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM.
Peter H. Diamandis, M.D.
Planetary Resources Co-Founder, Co-Chairman
Dr. Diamandis is an international pioneer in the commercial space arena, having founded and run many of the leading entrepreneurial companies in the sector. He is Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight. He is also the Executive Chairman of Singularity University based in Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

How To Talk To A Stone

Saturday was a beautiful day to go hiking so I put my camera in my backpack and headed to the Petroglyph National Monument not far from my house. The dramatic volcanic landscape offers an abundance of textures for the lens to capture.

Side note: Buddhists often compare the quality of consciousness with texture. For example, the smooth mind of the Bodhisattva is compared to the finest silk. What is the quality of consciousness that I will find among the rough volcanic rock?

I also placed in my backpack a book that I am studying. It is titled "Three Texts On Consciousness Only" by Vasubandhu, an Indian Buddhist scholar monk of the fourth century. "Consciousness Only" is a Buddhist school of philosophical thought. It teaches a method to gain enlightenment, freedom and peace. 
Walking in this volcanic landscape I contemplate what it must be like to realize the truth of this teaching. 

Can I be present in the moment without being fooled by my own projections of what I believe to be objectively real and external?



Is the volcanic rock objectively real? Is it as real as my self? Does the stone have a consciousness? If so, does it have a voice that can be heard? 

The natural smoothness of this particular stone seems to hide its true nature. It remains silent to me. Is that because it desires not to interact with me? Or do I choose to ignore the intelligence of this stone and not listen to it? 



I move on down the trail. I meet a different rock that seems more friendly. I sense that this rock does have a story to tell me, so I stop, observe and listen. The stone asks that I slow down my thoughts and listen more closely. I get a glimpse of the stone's deep intelligence. 

I practice patience and slow my thoughts down using meditation on my breath. Now I clearly hear the stone sing a song of its long journey. The song reveals how it came to this place to be here with me. 

As I listen, the stone's story connects me to the warm heart of the Earth, the radiance of the Sun, the openness of the Sky, the strength of the Waters and the vibrant activity of all living creatures. The song refreshes and energizes me.

Oh look, there are chipmunks playing among the stones.



Ancient humans long ago have responded to the stone's song in the unique way that humans know how; with tools and symbols. 

Even though I vibrate at a different frequency than the stone, I realize that the stone is not different than my self. The stone and I are interdependent, we are not separate entities. We travel a common path. 

A bird walks quickly across the stone. The stone travels slowly, but no less deliberately.

The trail of the bird becomes a part of a shared story between human and stone.



The human carving the stone is sometimes aware that the stone is listening to the human. What a great gift to be able to talk to a stone. 

Or is this carving a deception? Are we really just talking to our self? Is the song of the stone only imagined? 



The act of carving symbols into the stone itself becomes symbolic of the fact that human nature is quite special. 

The tools that humans make and wield, our control over animals and plants, and our ability to create symbols all mark humans as unique, separate and superior to this simple stone. 



Instead of talking with stones humans have turned their attention to the symbols they have carved onto the stone. The symbols themselves have become a source of fascination. Are not the symbols just as real as stone? 

Perhaps the concepts that cross the human mind are even more real than the symbols that cross the stone. 

Humans act as if their ability to conceptualize is more precious than even the rarest stone. 

No longer does the song of the stone bring humans joy. The stones fall silent.

The stone has become an object separate from the human observer. It exists externally as the representation of a class of mineral resulting from a series of physical processes over time. Humans have replaced the song of the stone with the story that science has written.  



Humans live, breathe, reproduce, think and create. We mine stones for their raw materials.

Silicon is the most plentiful element on earth it is found in sand. When wind and water carve patterns in stone they create sand.

Silicon is used to create computer chips. Humans create crucibles as hot as a volcano to melt silicon into pure ingots. The ingots are sliced thin into silicon wafers. Humans etch (carve) extremely small patterns onto the silicon wafers to create silicon chips. The small patterns of lines and rectangles are carved into the silicon chip using light and chemicals. The silicon chips become the brains of computers, communication devices and cell phones.

Humans imbed silicon computer chips into just about everything now. Humans call this adding intelligence to a device. In reality, humans have added tiny stones they have carved with light and chemicals to control the device.

Why is it that humans believe stones are dead and dumb, but when humans add a tiny silicon chip to something, then we call it smart?


Phones were invented so humans could talk with other humans. Phones were dumb devices. Lately, humans have added silicon chips to phones and they are now called smart phones.

Humans no longer have the patience to talk to stones. Instead humans love to talk and text on their cell phones. 


The stone still exists. It is just no longer alive to us. Humans define what is dead and what is alive and stones have been deemed rightfully dead.

The stone fits into a conceptual box that humans use to segregate and categorize all dead things. Humans believe that they are completely separate entities from the stone.


Humans conceptualize, and with symbols, create complex tools. The computer is one of the most complex tools. The computer is much better at recording thoughts than stone carvings.

The power of the human mind, mathematics, scientific formulas and computers is very great. Humans have designed an awesome array of tools to extract raw materials from the earth and create machines, cars, computers, smart phones and cities.

Tools are dead things, but some humans believe that one day the computer will evolve into a living, conscious entitty. If humans can carve the right pattern into a small enough space on a silicon chip, they believe the silicon will gain consciousness.

Although humans believe that stones are dead and do not have intelligence, some stones are ground, refined and melted to make computer chips. Perhaps humans of the future can breathe life into these computer chips and stones will attain sentience. Then humans can talk to stones at the frequency of vibration they are comfortable with.

When I meet other humans in the city, sometimes they ask me what I do for a living. I talk, I conceptualize and I write symbols. I record my thoughts on computers and tablets made from silicon chips.

Sometimes I slow my thoughts down, I practice patience, I vibrate at a higher frequency and then I am able to talk with stones.


Life in the city can be stressful. Every now and then I take a trip outside of the city to be with nature. I find that it is a good stress reliever to re-connect with nature. 

I recently took a trip to the Petroglyph National Monument to see how primitive people carved records of their thoughts on stones.


"Consciousness Only" is a Buddhist school of philosophical thought. It teaches a method to gain enlightenment, freedom and peace.

Three Texts On Consciousness Only was written by Vasubandhu, an Indian Buddhist scholar monk of the fourth century. These texts propound the idea that all things believed by the ordinary person to be objective realities outside mind are in truth mere mental constructs. These teachings include the doctrine of emptiness. The texts explain how the cognition of things becomes distorted in humans through the process of conceptualization, false imagination, and discrimination. The texts provide instruction on how to restore the mind to its innate purity and clarity, once more capable of seeing things as they truly are, undistorted by delusion and error.

With Buddhist teachings I have learned how to talk with stones.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter Lotus Leaf

After an early morning rain shower the sun was just coming out from behind the clouds. I went to the backyard to breath the newly cleansed fresh air. I noticed in my small pond the rain had formed beautiful beads on top of the aging lotus leaves. The morning sun was reflected and refracted from the almost perfect globes of water. The surface of the miraculous lotus leaf still is capable of repelling water even in a state of decay.
 
I took out my camera with a macro lens and photographed the following close-up scenes. Editing the photos revealed highly textured and contrasting miniature landscapes. The glistening and polished rain droplets almost seem to hover above the rough surface of the lotus leaf. The macro lens with high resolution images further reveals a magnfied scene within each tiny rain drop.
 
Enjoy!
 
 













 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wearing the Sun Mask: Giving and Receiving Meditation

A friend recently shared with me difficulties with working in the family business. It felt futile to try to make improvements in order to achieve prosperity. The chaotic family dynamics present  a seemingly insurmountable challenge. How is it possible to attain the focus required to rise above the situation? The tendency to fall into negative patterns constantly inhibits the ability to move forward and achieve the dream of prosperity.

The quest for prosperity is fickle even under the best circumstances. Sometimes it appears very possible, other times it seems impossible. Accepting the chaos is not easy. Even after achieving acceptance, learning how to effectively live within the chaos is more difficult still.

This story reminded me of the "Theater of the Absurd", the existentialist plays and poetry. Have you read some of the plays by Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre? The genre embraces tragic (but somehow comical) studies of characters stuck in chaotic life situations; stuck in samsara. The play "No Exit" epitomizes the condition of suffering. 

The satirists do not provide the instruction on how to exit chaos. It is Buddhism that teaches us that the only escape from samsara is enlightenment.

When we are stuck in chaotic circumstances we feel weighed down by the gravity of our situation. Gravity is all embracing. It is a type of nostalgia for becoming spherical; returning to the womb. But we do not see it as spherical, we perceive it as horizontal. Life is two-dimensional. We are flatlanders and cannot see beyond the horizon.

Succumbing to gravity is a condition of cycling, orbiting and localization. We can think of it as being stuck in a pattern of cyclic existence. The Buddhists call this samsara. We feel as if there is movement, and there is, but there is a lot of going around in circles. We cannot escape from the surface.

Escaping gravity is to be radiant and expand beyond the surface of our situation. It is not easy to rise above and escape the pull of flatland thinking. We must look to the heavens. Our intention must be to focus upward and outward from the surface.

Bucky Fuller said, "Horizontal is to die, vertical is to live."

Rising above the horizontal gravitation-ally challenged existence requires building up a great deal of potential energy. Like a rocket that requires a tremendous fuel supply to reach escape velocity, we must find a source of energy and fuel ourselves for this great vertical journey. 

So we meditate and gather our strength and store up the fuel in our tanks. We do nothing other than sit and breathe; watching our breath go in and out.

Meditation is a subversive method of planning our escape. I say "subversive" in a good way. We subvert our tendency to move sideways, scuttling around the surface like a nervous crab. Instead, we connect with the emptiness of our efforts to find prosperity in this flatland, within samsara. Once we realize the truth of this emptiness we can sit perfectly still and put our mind at rest, abandoning our quest for prosperity.

What, did I say? Abandon our quest for prosperity? This is indeed a subversive thought. However, there is great joy in abandoning prosperity. Through meditation we embrace the simple, profound truth of finding ultimate meaning in the simple act of sitting up straight, breathing in and out. The joy and boundless energy of the cosmos washes over us. We are free of gravity and become a source of radiant energy ourselves. Focused on the single task of breathing in and out we discover an infinite store of radiant energy.

This is the essence of the meditation practice of "Tonglen", the Tibetan Buddhist practice of "Giving and Receiving". We breath in and receive the suffering of all beings trapped in samsara. We breath out and transmit radiant joy and happiness to all beings with the intent to alleviate their suffering. 

Breath in and feel the gravity of all beings' situation. Use the gravity to pull in all the suffering of all beings into a critical mass in the center of your heart. Like our Sun pulls in all surrounding matter and fuses the very atoms together releasing profound life-giving radiant energy, we convert this mass of suffering into boundless joy and radiate positive energy throughout the surrounding universe.

Sun mask sculpture, "Tamanuitera" by James Webster,
a Maori multimedia artist working with wood sculpture,
stone, bone, painting and mural creations.
He comments that his work is
"Art as a passion in life and a journey of discovery."
Pasted from <http://www.carving.co.nz/webster.php>
 

We become a living-breathing Sun God. We put on the Sun Mask and shine our light throughout the world. The Sun is the ultimate victor over gravity, using gravity to fuse cold, dark, life-less matter into radiant life-giving energy, the source of fuel for all life in the cosmos. 

Would you like to know how the Sun performs this miracle of giving and receiving? Breath in and breath out, give and receive.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Spheriphor = Tetrahelix + Triskele + Trimurti + Jewel in the Lotus

I created the geometry for the Spheriphor digital art work as an investigation into spherical spirals, but this figure has also led me down deep into multiple levels of insight meditation. If you have been following my blog, you may know that I believe that the root essence of existence is the spiral. I talked about this with my Maori artist collaborator Kura Puke (for I. She also believes spirals to be at the heart of all things.
 
Just recently, during a Vipassana meditation session, I had an insight that emerged from contemplation of the tetrahelix (spiral based on the tetrahedron). I visualized the tetrahelix emerging from a set of 3 vectors that propagate through space. These 3 vectors are the primary (active) system of all phenomena. There is a set of 3 complementary vectors that are secondary (reactive), and together with the primary set of 3 vectors, the tetrahedron (minimum system of Universe) is formed (as per Bucky's Synergetics).
 
Then, I arrived at an internal visualization of the relationships between the 3 primary vectors. This visualization involved a spiraling propagation through space based on 3 parameters: length, angle and twist. I could see that these 3 parameters were the true 3 dimensions of Universe (as opposed to width, height and depth). I made a mental note to create an mathematical computer generated visualization based on this concept.
 
Then all of a sudden the visualization shifted to the Hindu Trimurti. My mental energy shifted from left hemisphere to right hemisphere; the wonders of the corpus callosum.
 
From Wikipedia:
The Trimurti (English: 'three forms') is a concept in Hinduism in which the cosmic functions of  creation   maintenance  , and  transformation  are personified by the forms of Brahmāthe maintainer or preserver Vishnu the creator and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer. These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or the "Great Trinity", often addressed as "Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara."

Next came the realization of the equivalence of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist trinities:
  1. Vishnu = Sunyata
  2. Brahma = Amitabha
  3. Shiva = Chenrezig
 
The visualization then shifted again. This time the triad transformed into the Mani; the most beneficial mantra, "Om Mani Padme Hum". I saw the following: 
  1. the clear light of creation (Om) radiating from within 
  2. the jewel maintaining (Mani) all phenomena
  3. sitting on a lotus transforming (Padme) all dualistic views
  4. within my human heart (Hum) the most fortunate of all incarnations
In this meditation I attained the most in-depth understanding of the Mani that I have ever realized.
The visualization which emerged from my contemplation of the tetrahelix now circled back to my 4 colored, Triskele version of the Spheriphor. The Spheriphor contains both the 3-way symmetry of the Trimurti and the 4-colored aspects of the Mani. The Spheriphor is truly an all-encompassing spherical-metaphor that represents the complete Hindu-Buddhist psycho-cosmology. 

 
Spheriphor by Tom Greenbaum
 
You can view my Spheriphor study at http://karmatetra.com/ISDE5/spheriphor_study03.htm
Also on the Spheriphor Study 03 page are alternative views of the figure based on a spherical octahedron. The 3 views are based on vertex, face-centered and edge centered perspectives:
 
I would love to make this figure out of glass. I have thought of possible ways to make it out of glass, but it would be a major challenge.