For a long time, I was seeing posts all over the internet saying things like “We are all made of starstuff” and motivational, inspirational sayings that compare us humans to the beauty of the stars and galaxies.
It seemed to me like the sole purpose of those posts were to make people feel special. While I now know that those sayings are actually, in fact, totally true, it seemed at the time like just a way to make us all feel a little better about ourselves. I thought to myself that I’m clearly a human made of skin and bones and muscle and fat while the universe is made of beautiful stars and planets and giant balls of fire and amazing lights.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that we are all actually made of the same elements that make up those beautiful stars. Matter can never be created and destroyed, so the atoms in our bodies were all once floating around somewhere in the universe forming a star or within an amazing galaxy. The hard part is trying to compare one single human being to the entirety of the infinite universe. It’s a comparison that’s impossible to conceptualize, much less understand.
Then one day, while I was searching for a new guided meditation on YouTube, I found the perfect one with a soothing voice and background sounds that I didn’t find distracting. It started out fairly normal, if there is such a thing in meditation. It had me imagine a small ball rolling along my body and massaging away any tension or pain I was feeling. I became totally aware of my entire body all at once that I couldn’t really even differentiate between a feeling in my foot and a feeling in my arm. I laid there with a hand resting across my stomach and when I went to adjust it, I was utterly confused at the feeling on the skin of my stomach because I know that I just felt my hand move across my stomach, yet I couldn’t tell where my stomach was or where I felt it. I felt myself become a part of the bed I laid in and the pillows and blankets and the walls and the room around me.
I don’t remember exactly at what point the meditation took a turn, and I don’t even remember how long it was. It could’ve been ten minutes, but it also could’ve been an hour. Eventually, though, the voice started telling me to picture the universe. It told me to picture my ceiling opening up to reveal the night sky with the moon and all the stars and imagine that I am up there. Picturing the universe is harder than it sounds and it already sounds difficult enough. There’s nothing you can compare it to because it’s insane and infinite and ever-expanding and completely beyond human comprehension. But I pictured the universe anyway. It told me to imagine traveling through the universe, going through the stars, passing galaxies and planets and suns, which is difficult when your only idea of what the universe looks like is from looking at the sky at night and seeing movies set in space. My eyes were closed and my imagination took over my senses. I felt like I was really out in space and exploring parts of the universe and existence that I could never possibly see. For all I knew, I could’ve been.
The thing that makes meditation so indescribable and crazy to me is that it’s almost like dreaming. I lay there with my eyes closed while my brain takes over my visuals because all I’m really looking at physically is the darkness of the back of my eyelids while I’m thinking about my the expanding and contracting of my lungs or the blood pumping from my heart throughout my body or somehow traveling through the universe. So I see everything vividly just like in a dream and it all seems real. I get to see these wonderful things and it’s the sort of stuff you see in dreams that seems really crazy and you can’t explain it and you know it’s not possible, except you’re awake and instead just in a calmed state of consciousness. It’s like the voice guiding the meditation tells me what to picture so my brain just conjures it up for me to see. It’s almost like a lucid dream. I know it’s not real and that I’m really laying in bed and that what I’m seeing is not at all true, yet it’s real to me and I can interact with it however I want.
If you think about it, it is real. Just because it’s not what’s in front of you physically when your eyes are open doesn’t have to mean it’s not real. Just because someone else can’t see the same thing doesn’t make it false. Your whole life and your whole reality is basically just what you sense. Whatever you see and feel is your experience within the universe. If you see something from a different perspective than someone else, it doesn’t mean that one of you is wrong. Neither of you are seeing the “real” thing and neither of you are seeing something that isn’t “real.” Whatever you see or feel is real even if it doesn’t exist to someone else. Your perception creates your reality and everyone has a totally unique perception, so everyone has a unique reality. We all live within one same universe but we also all live within our own universes (our lives) with our own ideas and perceptions of the universe. Every person has a unique perception and reality, and everyone’s realities (lives) collide with each other and overlap in certain places, yet no two people could ever possibly have the same reality or the same life.
So this meditation brought me to a place in my mind from which to view the entire universe or at least a small section of it. It brought me to a state of mind where I was completely calmed and aware of my entire body. I was equally aware of my big toe touching my next toe as I was of my chest rising and falling or my head resting on my pillow. Then the voice in the meditation told me to picture that I am the universe. It said to picture that I am no longer a human in a body, but rather that I was the infinite universe. You don’t have to tell me how crazy that sounds. Just become the universe, just picture that you are the ever-expanding, infinite universe and all its galaxies and black holes and who knows what else are out there millions and billions of light years away. So I did. Because in that meditative, totally calmed and open state of mind, it didn’t seem like an outrageous request. Just become the universe. Okay, if you say so.
Obviously, I am a human. I am not the entire universe. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the entire universe is also within me. I am a very small human on a very small planet in a small solar system in a small galaxy in the gigantic, never ending universe. Yet somehow, as I pictured the universe and I pictured that I was the universe, it was almost like my body floated away and I was just left with my soul. I was no longer aware of the feeling of my toes touching or my chest rising and falling or my head on my pillow. I felt like I went on forever and I had no real form or shape. I felt nothing at all. I pictured that I was the universe and I expanded in every direction and I went on forever and ever and ever. So this is what I saw. My eyes were closed but as I thought about it and pictured it, my brain easily provided my visuals and made it real, creating this new reality right in front of me and all around me, except there was really no “me.” I wasn’t just picturing it, I was actually seeing it. My reality became the universe. I had no sense of my life or my body or any other thoughts or feelings. Everything I ever knew or felt just kind of floated away and I forgot that it had ever existed to begin with.
When I came back to my worldly self, although I don’t remember exactly how, I thought to myself, “I became the universe. I am the universe.” I woke up with a totally different perspective about the world, and the more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense. While my body is limited to the physical world, my soul is not limited by my body. My mind and spirit are not limited by my physical body or the physical world. Even just writing about my experience and trying to picture what I saw and felt is almost like experiencing it again. Almost. It’s mind blowing to even think about it and to see my whole world and my whole reality in a totally different perspective and realize that there are no boundaries to my potential.
Right now, I’m in my bed with my laptop on my thighs. I have a knitted blanket around my shoulders, and even though I’m looking at my laptop screen and can feel my fingers typing on the keyboard, I can see the walls of my room, the orange sheets underneath me and the light coming from the desk lamp on my dresser. This is my reality at the moment. For all I know, the entire universe might not even exist outside of the confines of the room I am currently in. But as soon as I walk out the door to the kitchen or leave the apartment to take a walk, my reality will expand to those places. Everywhere I go and everything I experience expands my reality to another place or another point of view.
While our universe is supposedly expanding, so are each of our realities, and there’s never any possible endpoint. Our minds and lives expand infinitely throughout our lives with every new person we meet, every new place we visit, or every new idea we are introduced to.
Author: Janelle McCarth
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Image: Flickr/Christian Reimer