Spiritual practices are an avenue to experiences of awe. Awe is our emotional response to things perceived as so vast and overwhelming that the experience alters the way we understand the world. It is a way to gain perspective, a sense of our own lives in relation to the greater whole. Cultivating awe helps us feel more satisfied with our lives and have a more expansive sense of time. As Unitarian Universalists we celebrate the mystery; experiences of the universe remind us of just how much true magnificence and mystery surrounds our planet. Contemplating the wonders of the universe is a core practice for contemporary Unitarians as it brings together the results of scientific exploration and spiritual reverence.
The final Lectio Universum uses classical music and images from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field to pull us into the infinite universe. Without words, this meditation video by youtuber Jakub Barabas provides a glimpse of the astonishing beauty of the universe, at a scale that is almost incomprehensible. Watch this video in a quiet place in a dimly lit room.
Lectio Universum is a spiritual practice of this century. It has only been in the last fifty years that we have been able to look back at the earth from space and see far into the depths of the universe. The universe is astounding, amazing, truly awesome in every sense of the world. Contemplating the vastness of this mystery which surrounds us helps us place our own lives in proportion. There is something both humbling and inspiring in being reminded of our relation to one another and the planet. This video begins with the image of the earth – a pale blue dot – taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it left our solar system in 1990. Astronomer Carl Sagan asked that this image be taken, his reflections on the image narrate the video. Sagan’s words have inspired several videos, but this is my favourite.
Take some time to sit in silence, breathing deeply, both before and after watching this video.
(Warning, the video may begin with an ad so start with the sound off.)
The spiritual practice of lectio universum speaks to our first and fifth sources. The first source is Wonder: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder…. and the fifth is Reason: Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science…. This video by Max Schlickenmeyer captures the deep wonder that can be found in scientific knowledge.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist who speaks eloquently on science, the universe, and everything. His words frame this beautiful video meditation about our connection to the greater whole.
Please find a quiet place to watch and take some time to sit afterwards in contemplation.
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Awe awakens us to the world. It heightens our sensitivity to the greater whole which encompasses all life. In November, our spiritual practice is lectio universum, or contemplating the universe. The universe we live in is an ever unfolding mystery, staggeringly beautiful and astonishingly large. To look at the night sky and understand that each tiny point of light is a blazing sun humbles and amazes me, I am struck by wonder every time.
This month, I will be posting videos and readings about the glory of the universe. This week’s offering is The Known Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History. Created from a four dimensional atlas of the observable universe, its perspective moves out from the Himalayas to the edge of the universe.
I suggest the following steps in watching will help shape this as a spiritual practice; please adapt to your own needs.
Watch the video in a quiet place with no distractions. Sit for a moment and breathe deeply before starting the video.
Sit and consider your response to the video. Go for a walk, wash the dishes, fold the laundry – do something with your body and let your mind sift through images and feelings. You may also sit in silence, eyes closed, for a minute or two.
Journal your reflections, noting feelings as well as thoughts. Or, if you watched with someone else, share your responses.