The universe changes second by second, whether we like it or not. The forward march of time touches everyone and everything. Galaxies are created, exist for a period of time, and then die. Stars and planets come and go. Some systems last only for a short time while others last for long stretches.
Geologists tell us that our world, the Earth, has gone though many changes. The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Although molten at first, the outer layers cooled to form a solid crust as water began accumulating in the atmosphere. Outgassing and volcanic activity originally produced a lethal (to life) toxic atmosphere. Comets and other solar objects readily bombarded the earth.
Some of the oldest rocks on the Earth are meteorites found in the Greenstone Belt, in the southern coast of Hudson Bay Canada, dating back 4.28 billion years (Sm-Nd dating method). The Allende carbonaceous chondrite meteorite may be the oldest rock yet discovered in the solar system, dating back 4.567 billion years (Rb-Sr dating method).
History of the Earth:
4.5 billion years ago » formation of the Earth
3.8 billion years ago » first evidence of life
3.0 billion years ago » first land masses
2.0 billion years ago » first multicelled organisms
0. 5 billion years ago » first land plants; life diversified on land, fresh water and the air
0.4 billion years ago » most continents were clustered in the southern hemisphere
0.25 billion years ago » age of reptiles (dinosaurs)
0.0 » present day
Continental drift has been taking place for almost a billion years. That’s because land masses sit on tectonic plates (80 – 400 km thick) that move around over the Earth’s lower mantle. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is where the Americas and Europe/Africa are currently moving apart. Although it is at the slow rate of only 3 centimeters per year, and it takes about 34,000 years to push the continents apart by another kilometer, compounding that movement over millions of years causes continents to move around quite nicely.
There have already been several rounds of super continents breaking apart, only to recombining again. That seems to be the current state of affairs. The first super continent (Rodinia) formed about 750 million years ago. After its brake up the continents drifted until they recombined again to form (Pannotia) about 580 million years ago. Next was Pangaea, which broke apart about 180 million years ago; the continents are now halfway through the current cycle.
Right now there are seven continents:
» North America
» South America
The Siberian basalt plateaus were formed by volcanic activity during the Permian Period, about 250 million years ago. They originally covered over 5 million square kilometers. Due to erosion about half of that exists today.
These eruptions were a contributing cause of the Great Permian Extinction Event. More than 90% of all life forms were wiped out; organisms like trilobites, brachiopods, bryozoans, and many more. The “survivors” evolved into the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era.
The Caribbean Plate sea floor is a huge; 2 million square kilometer undersea plateau formed when a portion of the Pacific Plate passed over the actual Galapagos hot spot, some 100 Million years ago, thus separating North and South America from its former positions.
The Cretaceous Tertiary extinction event, 65 million years ago, wiped out about 50% of all known species. This may have been due to the impact of a large meteorite in the Caribbean Sea.
About 10 million years ago the Antarctic ice sheet began to develop. Repeated cycles of glaciation occur every 40 – 100 thousand years. The last ice age period ended about 10,000 years ago. Recently preserved Columbian Mastodons were found in Colorado, dating back about 15,000 years to the last ice age. The Great Lakes in North America were formed during this last event.
Yellowstone Nation Park (USA) is termed a geological volcanic caldera; a cauldron-like volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The last eruption occurred about 640,000 years ago. An eruption before that occurred about 1.3 million years ago. The largest eruption in that area occurred about 2.2 million years ago. Ash coming from those eruptions has been found in sediments as far away as Nebraska, in meter thick strata full of mammal fossils which died of suffocation.
Iceland is the largest volcanic island in the world. Its volcanic activity comes from the conjunction of being on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and a “hot spot” about 200 km in diameter located just below its lithosphere (upper ridged mantle and Oceanic/Continental crust). The Asthenosphere is part of the upper mantle and exhibits plastic properties.
Navigating the sea of change in human life can be a challenge. The following verse from the Isha Upanishad relays advice on how best to do it:
Isha Upanishad 11, “Avidyaya mityu tirtva vidyaya amitam ashnute.”
Through Avidya (ignorance) you cross beyond mortality, beyond death, beyond change; through Vidya (knowledge) you taste immortality.
We are hereby reminded that while living in ignorance of our true eternal nature (Avidya), we can employ the same technique that cloaks us (action) to now make us free. Skill in action involves turning the tables in our favor.
If we don’t meditate action has a binding influence on us. The objects of perception dominate the mind. Our true nature is overshadowed and replaced by the object. The Self is lost and only the material (object) remains.
But through the practice of meditation our experience of inner silence grows, and action stabilizes that experience in the world and makes it more real. From day to day, consciousness grows and inner silence integrates into our life.
There are many forms of meditation, and the choice off which one to practice is often dependent upon many personal factors. What led you to your particular practice?
I categorize meditation practices based upon their technique, purpose and benefit:
» Body, breath, or heartbeat awareness
» Mind control
» Purposeful focus
» Kriya Yoga
» Silent listening
Brain waves recorded during these practices (concentration and/or active cognitive thinking) are typically in the gamma frequency (20-50 Hz).
Research indicates that concentration techniques may sharpen mental focusing.
» Contemplation on a particular topic
» Loving kindness
» Mindfulness, Vipassana and ZaZen
» Nature’s connection to the earth
» Qi Gong
» Stimulation of imagination
» Tai Chi
» Walking meditation
Brain waves recorded during these “mindfulness” type practices give rise to frontal theta (4-8 Hz) frequencies. These EEG patterns are commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts.
Mindfulness and non-judgmental practices develop greater personal stability, and even-mindedness in daily life. Some studies point to a reduction in negative thoughts, and better pain management.
Advanced Buddhist monks practicing “loving kindness and compassion” spontaneously exhibit those attributes and greater synchronous gamma activity in the left prefrontal cortex, signifying more powerful focus.
» Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Brain waves recorded for this category’s practice is frontal alpha coherence associated with a distinct state of relaxed, inner wakefulness.
Studies show that the deep rest settles the sympathetic nervous system and restores physiological balance. Lower high blood pressure, less chronic anxiety, and reducing stress hormones such as cortisol have been observed.
Always seek a qualified meditation teacher and practice under his/her guidance. There is no substitute for personal instruction.
Our subjective nature (level of consciousness) passes beyond the reach of change when Enlightenment dawns. Our objective nature (body) remains under the influence of change (we age) so long as our current human condition exits.
Scientists continue to unravel the mystery of space/time/change.
Recently, an international group of scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) were able to “trap” or hold anti particles for the very first time. This breakthrough is very significant. The physicists “held” thirty eight anti-hydrogen atoms for a short period of time. The current creation theory, starting with a “Big Bang” 13.7 billion years ago, also postulates that an equal amount of matter (has mass and takes up space) and anti-mater was created at that time. However, anti-mater is now nowhere to be found. If it did exist, a first encounter with a matter particle would cause it to be annihilated in a burst of energy. This discovery will allow scientists to hold and study ant-particles for periods of time. This will lead to our better understanding of anti-particles and the structure/history of the universe.
Anti-hydrogen » is composed of a negatively charged anti-proton and a positively charged positron.
Positive thinking can serve as a wonderful adjunct to our meditation practice. This often helps to culture and sensitize the human heart.
The Zen Loving Kindness affirmation is best repeated softly, out-loud to yourself, in a quiet and settled environment. Take your time during the practice.
Recite the following lines softly …
May I be free from suffering
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be at peace
For the second round, substitute “I” for the name of a Loved One. For example, if you love Peter, you would say …
May Peter be free from suffering
May Peter be happy
May Peter be healthy
May Peter be at peace
There are three more rounds. Substitute “I” for the name of an Acquaintance, then for the name of a Difficult Person in your life, and then with “All Sentient Beings.”
So there are five rounds, preceding from self “I” to “All Sentient Beings.”
1 – Self
2 – Loved One
3 – Acquaintance
4 – Difficult Person
5 – All Sentient Beings
Part of keeping the winds of change (the environments wearing down effect) at bay involves eating proper and healthy foods. Developing an appreciation for this gift is life supporting.
Zen Reflections before eating:
This food is a gift of the whole universe; the earth, the sky and much mindful work.
May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy of it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation
May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.
Meditate every day to rise above the influence of change, though the establishment of bliss eternal cosmic consciousness. Enjoy all that life has to offer.