meditation and spiritual growth

When the first artificial satellite (named Sputnik) was launched into orbit in 1957 the world awoke to a new reality.  Long bound to the Earth’s surface by the irresistible force of gravity, mankind was finally able to break those chains.

Today man is also trapped by the incessant rambling of the mind.  One thought after another seems to spring up on its own, hardly ever giving us a moment of peace.

To leave the Earth’s surface and open ourselves up to new and exciting vistas, we need to travel at faster and faster speeds.  But to unfold our full human potential we need to do the opposite; travel slower and slower (less thought but more refined).  When the mind is completely stilled in meditation, we are eternally free from the binding influence of thought, obsession, and suffering.

What is escape velocity?  It’s the speed that an object needs to travel in order to escape a planetary bodies surface, due to gravitational pull.

We can throw a baseball up into the sky, but it will come back down.  We can fire a cannon ball into the blue and it will ascend to even greater heights, but it will also come back down.

In the famous book “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne, his story describes the building of a projectile at Stone Hill, how it is outfitted for passengers, and how 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton was used to launch the capsule into space.  Centered around a personal romantic plot, this is also Verne’s story of how to exceed escape velocity and travel into space.

When the human race was in its infancy we developed the art of throwing rocks and other hard objects to incapacitate and eventually capture prey.  Bows, arrows and spears kept us feed.

After some time we learned the principle of the “lever,” and how we could multiply force to hurl objects ever greater distances.  The catapult, onager, trebuchet, and ballista were developed more for warfare than for catching prey, but these devices do represent advancement in aerial ballistics.

Trebuchet – Castelnaud France

This early siege weapon first appeared on the battlefield in the 4th Century BCE.  The Greeks and the Chinese used an early version of it, which was man powered.

A Trebuchet using counterweights instead of human muscle made its debut in the Mediterranean area circa 12th century AD.  It was very popular and became an invaluable weapon until the invention of gunpowder in the 13th century.

The first artillery pieces were tubes cast in iron or bronze.  Buy the early 1420’s artillery became powerful enough to destroy fortress walls.  Joan of Arc found her forces up against gunpowder weaponry when she led the French against the English at the Battle of Tourelles, in 1430.

The “bombard” and other forms of cannon subsequently developed (1453).  The combination of shot and powder into a single cartridge occurred in the 1620’s.  By 1650 the first artillery manual was written and artillery engineers became a part of the army squadron.   World War II saw the introduction and use of the howitzer, mortar, field gun, and rocket artillery.  Today elaborate computer operated firing mechanisms can launch GPS guided munitions.

If you have ever played soccer, football or baseball you are already familiar with the concepts of trajectory.

When playing football the quarterback looks for an open receiver and then throws the ball, upward as well as downrange, to reach the player.  A good quarterback needs to judge not only where the ball catching receiver will be in a few seconds as he continues his run, as well as how high and with what force to throw the ball.  He is well aware of the fact that the ball, once thrown, will follow an arching pattern.  In mathematics we describe that trajectory path as a parabola.

To gain maximum downrange distance, the ball is thrown at a 45 degree angle to the ground.  The angle of incidence and the initial velocity of the ball determine how far it will travel before hitting the ground.

Projectile distance depends upon its initial speed and angle of incidence

Galileo Galilei was first to correctly analyze and accurately describe a projectile’s motion.  He conducted many experiments involving dropping and propelling objects from the top of a tower.  He reasoned that the path of a projectile was influenced by two forces; gravity (vertical up-down motion) and the forward momentum (horizontal motion) as determined by the speed and drag (wind) of the object.  He precisely described the path as parabolic, the mathematical model developed by the Greeks.

The motion that acts vertically is the force of gravity, and this pulls an object towards the earth at 9.8 meters per second squared.

Modern artillery takes several forces into account in order to correctly target where/when a projectile will land.  These include:

• Gravity – acceleration and decelerating of the vertical motion • Drag – air resistance decelerates the projectile with a force proportional to the square of the velocity • Wind speed and direction – affects both the vertical and horizontal motion • Coriolis/Eotvos drift – caused by the affect of the Earth’s rotation • Atmospheric pressure – thinner air at higher elevations offers less drag • Movement of the launch vehicle – as in projectile fired from a moving tank

• Launch vehicle position (latitude) on the Earth – as the gravitational constant g varies (between 9.78 and 9.82 m/s2) since the Earth’s shape is not an exact sphere

Formulas for projectile motion:

Vy = Vyo – gt     The vertical velocity is equal to the initial vertical velocity minus gravity times time

Vx = Vyo t  – ½gt2      The vertical distance is equal to the initial vertical velocity times time, minus one half gravity times the time squared.

g (gravity) = 9.8 m/sec2

Projectile motion

Now when we throw an object directly up, how high it travels before it stops and comes back down due to gravity depends upon its initial velocity.  The faster we can throw it, the higher it will go before returning back to the Earth’s surface.  So we can hypothesize that there must a velocity at which we can throw the ball such that it escapes the downward pull of gravity, and eventually goes off into space.  That speed is called the Escape Velocity.

Since that velocity depends upon the strength of gravity (g), and gravity being dependent upon mass, it stands to reason that escape velocity would vary for each of the different planets and satellites in our solar system.

Reference and location Escape velocity
To escape the planet Mercury, from its surface 4.3 km/sec
To escape the planet Venus, from its surface 10.3 km/sec
To escape the Earth, from its surface 11.2 km/sec
To escape the Sun, our solar system, from Earth 42.1 km/sec
To escape the Moon, from its surface 2.4 km/sec
To escape the planet Mars, from its surface 5.0 km/sec
To escape the planet Jupiter, from its surface 59.5 km/sec
To escape the planet Saturn, from its surface 35.6 km/sec
To escape the planet Uranus, from its surface 21.2 km/sec
To escape the planet Neptune, from its surface 23.6 km/sec
To escape the Milky Way galaxy, from our solar system 525 km/sec

A spacecraft leaving the surface of Earth needs to be going 7 miles per second, or nearly 25,000 miles per hour, to enter orbit.

Three spacecraft (Voyager 1 & 2 and Pioneer 10) are currently traveling the outer reaches of our solar system.

Voyager 1 – March 1976 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Distance from the Sun (as of June 8, 2011) was 117.3 AU, 17,424,901,500 km, traveling at 17.26 km/sec.

Flew by Jupiter and Saturn before continuing on toward interstellar space.

(Note: 1 AU = 1 Astronomical Unit; the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, 149,597,870.7 kilometers)

Voyager 2

Distance from the Sun (as of June 8, 2011) was 95.56 AU, 14,295,661,600 km

Flew by Jupiter and Saturn and went on to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets.


Pioneer 10

Distance from the Sun (as of April 1, 2011) was 103.017 AU, traveling at 12.51 km/sec, or .000041 the speed of light.

Pioneer 10 is heading in the direction of the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus at approximately 2.6 AU per year. If Aldebaran had zero relative velocity, it would take Pioneer 10 approximately 2 million years to reach the star.


Escaping the binding influence of thought does not involve thinking more, or faster.  Instead it requires just the opposite, the complete cessation of mental activity during meditation.  The escape velocity of thought is zero.

For centuries sages have described a state of consciousness where the mind is free from thought.  During that period of inner silence they experience timelessness and the realization that their true nature is unbounded.  They recognize that their small self (ego) is just localized infinite awareness.

But today, shrouded by the influence of the mind and immersed in the field of time/space/causation, we are performing as actors on the stage of life.

After hearing about this wondrous phenomenon some people got the wrong idea about how to attain that state.  All manner of practices were developed.

It’s important to understand that the silent mind (no thought) is a natural condition of an enlightened person in meditation.   Their physiology supports that experience.  They are THAT, through and through to the very core.  Embedded within their DNA is only the possibility of right action to enliven all values of life.  They take one breath after another, beyond the sphere of suffering, immersed in the eternal bliss of the absolute life.

Do not confuse an attribute of the enlightened condition (no thought) with the goal itself.

You cannot gain enlightenment through the practice of cessation of thought. Closing the eyes and trying to prevent thought only dulls the mind.  It fosters disconnection between mind and body, and is unhealthy.

Observing thought and the thought process is fine; just don’t purposely try to prevent thought.

On the other hand, meditation techniques that naturally allow the mind to settle down through the release of stress foster a human physiology that supports greater and deeper states of silence.  Thought experienced outside of meditation is then more dynamic and intelligent.  The mind becomes less “cluttered” with useless and disturbing thoughts.  Mental wondering occurs less frequently.  Thoughts and regrets that used to haunt you about past experiences come up less often, and when they do they seem to be not as dramatic or life threatening as they once were.  The events of life no longer grip the mind with such ferocity.  Bad habits naturally fall away.  New possibilities abound.  We can see events and the beautiful sweet Earth more clearly.

The Enlightened person does have thought during the day, but thoughts come at the right time to support positive action in the environment.

As an interesting exercise let’s compare two forms of meditation to see how they handle thought.

Vipassana is a classical Buddhist meditation practice.  It starts by sitting quietly and becoming aware of the breath.  As if serving as a sentry on duty, become aware of the incoming and outgoing breath at the nostrils (nose).  Or as an alternate method, become aware of the rising and falling of the abdomen with each breath.

While you are attentive to the breath, random thoughts naturally occur and begin to flood the mind.  You may think “later I will need to prepare dinner,” or “my back still hurts,” or “I’m sorry about what I said to my best friend this morning.”  The mind just goes on and on.  Then suddenly we are released from the flow of thought and realize, “I have been thinking.”  So now at that point we classify that stream of thought as “planning,” or “hurting” or “sad.”  Then back to sentry duty watching the breath again.

Vipassana process is: 1) awareness of breath 2) random thoughts naturally occurring 3) realization that I was thinking (release from the stream of thought) 4) classification of the thought

5) back to … awareness of breath

The process of transcending meditation is similar, yet very different.

Transcending process is: 1) thinking the mantra 2) random thoughts naturally occurring 3) realization that I was thinking (release from the stream of thought)

4) back to … thinking the mantra

In both practices (step 2) the mind once again begins its incessant march.  In transcending meditation this stream of thought is the “by product” of the release of stress.  As the mind settles down with the mantra the corresponding affect on the body is physical rest.  That physical rest causes stress and strain to be released from the nervous system.  That little increase of physical activity initiates though as its counterpart in the mind.  The intimate relationship between body and mind expresses itself.

In Vipassana meditation, step 2 is the result of the natural wondering of the mind on the surface conscious level (normal waking state), and the byproduct of the release of stress to the extent that deeper rest was achieved by mind/body.

The major difference between the two practices is the last step for each.  In Vipassana meditation one returns back to breath sentry duty – awareness is shifted for the mind (inwardly) back to the physical world (outwardly).  Whereas in transcending practices – awareness is shifted back to the mantra (inwardly) for deeper dives into finer realms of consciousness (more inwardly).

In both cases the goal is to develop that natural state where thoughts do not occur during mediation and awareness is experienced to be unbounded and eternal.

Both forms of meditation have their place, and are extremely valuable as tools for human development.

“This Immutable is never seen, but is the witness; It is never heard, but is the hearer; It is never thought about, but is the thinker; It is never known, but is the knower.  There is no other witness but this, no other hearer but this, no other thinker but this, no other knower but this.  By this Immutable is the (unmanifested) ether pervaded”
(Brihadaranyaka Up., Ill, VIII, 2).

More people are discovering that through the regular practice of meditation the mind naturally becomes more silent and peaceful.  Continue your practice each day to step beyond the realm of thought (escape velocity zero) into the realization that life is infinitely beautiful.