The Pale Blue Dot Meditation Tactic
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
Carl Sagan, famed astronomer and astrophysicist, coined the term "Pale Blue Dot" while looking at the photo below. Earth is seemingly 'suspended' in the sunbeam farthest to the right, just above the middle of the picture.
The photo was taken as the Voyager 1 was leaving the solar system, and NASA, at Carl Sagan's request, maneuvered it to turn around its camera and take a final photograph of Earth. Voyager was launched in 1977 and this photograph was taken in 1990 - just some frame of reference for how long it takes to leave the solar system.
Carl Sagan then wrote a book inspired by this photograph also called Pale Blue Dot.
The significance of the photo is profound and Carl Sagan captures it beautifully in the quote below. You can also hear him say this.
On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
So how does this concept and picture weave its way into meditative thought? Well, personally every time I begin to get aggravated by something I think about the Pale Blue Dot. I think about the image of the vastness of space juxtaposed to the tiny speck of all we've ever known about humanity. And I think "the person or thing that is aggravating me right now - the inane 'problem' that is presenting itself to me right now - is really just a very minor blip in the entire history of space and time."
While this knowledge may sound intuitive or has been preached in numerous other ways, it really clicked together for me when I started actually visualizing the above photograph. Visualizing Earth as such a tiny speck enveloped by space and then, realizing that whatever tiny problem or irritating instance you're having at this very moment is taking place on that EXTREMELY tiny Pale Blue Dot, is effectively a fast track to liberating yourself from that irritating thing. Trust me, the visualizing makes it that much more effective.
Next time you're annoyed and in line at the grocery store, or some idiot is igniting your road rage, I encourage you to visualize the Pale Blue Dot image, remember that the problem is happening on that tiny dot, and then soak up the pleasure and humor in knowing that the problem is so minuscule that it is borderline laughable.
Pair this post with this episode of the podcast interviewing Liz Plank where we talk about life and mindfulness and boundaries.
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