The Incredible Mind Altering Meditation of Sky Gazing and How To Do It

Sky Gazing

There is a meditation practice within Tibetan Buddhism called Sky Gazing it comes from the Meditation tradition of Dzogchen – which strongly emphasises resting in a natural state free from conceptual elaborations. This natural state is wide open, clear and lucid; it neither rejects anything or clings to anything and is sometimes referred to as spontaneous awareness. It is spontaneous because nothing has manufactured or created it, like having to meditate or having to be calm.  It always has been there and therefore is also called primordial awareness.

The clear blue sky is the closest external example of what this natural state is like. The clear sky is also a metaphor for the natural states indestructibility. Just like the sky is not affected by the passing weather neither is our natural state stained by thoughts or emotions no matter how strong they may be. This is a liberating view in the field of meditation. No longer do you have the idea that you have to purify and remove all the negative states of mind, now there is a teaching that directly points to an aspect of yourself which is your essential nature.

This nature is pure right from the beginning and accessing that awareness is what sky gazing skilfully aims to do.

Another important things to understand is that the sky like nature of your mind is always there, it is permanent. All other mental states come and go. This is the reason enlightenment is possible. If disturbing and negative states where permanent or fundamental to the mind they could not be removed, but because all negative states are impermanent and not an essential nature of the mind they can be removed. This is great news.

Sky gazing is apart of the Dzogchen tradition which is considered the highest spiritual path within Tibetan Buddhism and has been kept secret and only given to the most devout students, but as one Meditation Master has said in these times of strong materialism, chaos and disturbing emotions there needs to be an equally strong practice that can counter those negative forces and sky gazing is a practice that can do just that.

“Sky gazing is a way to feel release from the narrow confines of the personality or ego. It connects a person to the vast, expansive, clear, open, space of awareness that is their authentic nature. It brings relaxation, peace, joy, and a fresh, crisp sense of connecting to reality; the natural state of things.”

Before I explain how to do it I would like to include here the psychology of why it’s so powerful. My Buddhist teacher always emphasised how the mind is clear like water and whatever you focus on colours that clear awareness. By it’s very nature the awareness is clear and pure but gets muddied and coloured by focusing our attention on negative thoughts and disturbing emotions. In fact just like water becomes muddied our mind becomes the same as what we focus on. If we focus on anger our minds become anger, if we focus on our ego our minds become the ego. In this way what you focus on is like cordial and your mind is like water, once they are mixed together they become almost inseparable. This is where sky gazing comes in. By gazing into the clear sky you can experience the purity of awareness without it being coloured by thoughts and emotions, this is an amazing discovery, which you can realise for yourself, it does not require belief it requires practice.

Your awareness becomes clear and open too like the sky and this becomes an access point for the clear and lucid spontaneous awareness of the natural state itself.

The key to the natural state is that it is both empty, without boundaries like the sky but it is also lucid and cognizant, the realisation of these two inseparable things, emptiness and awareness, as your true nature is your enlightened nature which does not need to be created because it’s always there –  it needs to be discovered.

This meditation unlike others has the eyes wide open and this is also a great way to train because it does not shut anything out but opens up to all things. This can have a profound effect on the mind to keep the eyes open while in a meditative state. A great Dzogchen Master Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche explains:

“Present awareness is empty, open, and luminous; not a concrete substance, yet not nothing. Empty, yet it is perfectly cognizant, lucid, aware.”

sky gazing

I have practiced sky gazing and I must say it is by far the most direct path to an enlightened experience. I have so far been technical in my explanation but the experience is nothing less than poetic and magical. An open expansive state beyond the bounds of normal thinking, its clarity is only surpassed by its indescribable quality, any only people who have sat on a high mountain and gazed out at the eternal nothingness have probably had a glimpse of what I am trying to put into words.

Open, naked, enormous and all engulfing. A moment of timeless unity where all things seem so vivid yet so incredibly insignificant.

As I mentioned Dzogchen or sustaining the natural state of non-conceptual awareness  is literally the highest and most advanced practice of all of Tibetan Buddhism. It is something that can take you to full awakening of enlightenment in a few short years and is also been called Tibetan Zen for its similarities to the cutting simplicity of Zen Buddhism. The enlightened Master Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche says this about the meditation tradition:

“…. the heart of all practices is included here, in simply sustaining the luminous nature of this present awareness….If you search elsewhere for something better, a Buddha superior to this present awareness, you are deluding yourself.”

How To Practice Sky Gazing

Method 1:
1. Find a high place with a good view of an expansive clear sky. (You can also lie on your back outside and try it)
2. Sit comfortably and for a few moments calm your mind with long deep slow breaths.
3. With a good posture tilt your head slightly upward and with a noble disposition gaze without distraction or dullness into the clear expansive blue sky (best done on non cloudy days).
4. Let go of all thoughts allowing them to pass by like clouds and encourage your awareness to slowly merge with the expansive blue sky
5. Notice how inner thoughts evaporate into your inner sky like awareness like clouds evaporating in the sky.
6. Recognise that this open and expansive experience is actually the most fundamental and natural state of your being.
7. Sustain this recognition of an open and expansive state as being for as long as possible and return to it when you get distracted.

Method 2.
1. Find a high place with a good view of an expansive clear sky. (You can also lie on your back outside and try it)
2. Sit comfortably and for a few moments calm your mind with long deep slow breaths.
3. With a good posture tilt your head slightly upward and with a noble disposition gaze without distraction or dullness into the clear expansive blue sky (best done on non cloudy days).
4. Fully concentrate on your breath going in and out without getting distracted or becoming dull.
5. Follow the breath out with your awareness and notice or imagine how it dissolves into the sky in front of you.
6. Follow the breath in with your awareness and notice or imagine how it dissolves into the inner space of your sky like awareness.
7. Keep following the breath in and out noticing it dissolve into outer space and inner space repeatedly.
8. Notice and fully recognise that the outer sky is exactly the same as the inner sky like mind and allow yourself to dwell in this non dual realisation without distraction and without dullness- The inner space is one with outer space.

NOTE:
Whilst this meditation is meant to be done on a high up place it also can be done right now at your computer. There is always space in front of you that you can merge with and recognise as your true and authentic natural state. Even the space between you and the computer can be used to shift your attention from objects to clear open space. Try it now.

Written by Chad Foreman

Cyborg Soldiers, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotic Mass Surveillance May be Here Sooner Than You Think

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Straight out of the science fiction film The Terminator, a 72-page Pentagon document lays out their plan for the future of combat and war, which will utilize artificial intelligence (or AI), robotics, information technology as well as biotechnology.

Proponents of advanced technology — such as robot soldiers and artificial intelligence — argue both can be made ethically superior to humans, where issues of rape, pillaging or the destroying of towns in fits of rage would be drastically reduced, if not eliminated. Many in the science community are casting a weary eye toward this technology, however, warning that it can easily surpass human control, leading to unpredictable — and even catastrophic — consequences.

Defense Innovation Initiative — The Future of War

The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the United States will be entering a brave new world of automated combat in a little over a decade, where wars will be completely fought using advanced weaponized robotic systems. We’ve already had a glimpse of what’s to come with the use of drones. But, according to the DoD, we haven’t seen anything yet.

In a quest to establish “military-technological superiority”, the Pentagon ultimately has its sights set on monopolizing “transformational advances” in robotics, artificial intelligence and information technology — otherwise known as the Defense Innovation Initiative, a plan to identify and develop pioneering technological breakthroughs for use in the military.

Disturbingly, a new study from the National Defense University — a higher education institution funded by the Pentagon — has urged the DoD to take drastic action in order to avoid the downfall of US military might, even though the report also warns that accelerating technological advances will “flatten the world economically, socially, politically, and militarily, it could also increase wealth inequality and social stress.”

The NDU report explores several areas where technological advances could benefit the military — one of which is mass collection of data from social media platforms that is then analyzed by artificial intelligence instead of humans. Another is “embedded systems [in] automobiles, factories, infrastructure, appliances and homes, pets, and potentially, inside human beings, [where] the line between conventional robotics and intelligent everyday devices will become increasingly blurred.” These systems will help the government to monitor individuals and the population and “will provide detection and predictive analytics.”

Armies of “Kill Bots that can autonomously wage war” are also a real possibility as unmanned robotic systems are becoming increasingly intelligent and less expensive to manufacture. These robots could be placed in civilian life as well, to execute “surveillance, infrastructure monitoring, police telepresence, and homeland security applications.”

To counteract public outcry about autonomous robots having the capacity to kill on their own, the authors recommend the Pentagon should be “highly proactive” in establishing “it is not perceived as creating weapons systems without a ‘human in the loop.’”

Strong AI, which simulates human cognition — including self-awareness, sentience and consciousness — is just on the horizon, some say as early as the 2020s.

But not everyone is over the moon about these advances, especially where AI is concerned. Leaders in the field of technology, journalists and inventors are all sounding the alarm about the devastating consequences of AI technology that’s allowed to flourish unchecked.

AI Technology — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

As the DoD charges ahead with its plan to dominate the military and surveillance sphere with unbridled advances in technology, many are questioning the serious ramifications of such a path.

Journalist R. Michael Warren writes:

“I’m with Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) promises great benefits. But it also has a dark side. And those rushing to create robots smarter than humans seem oblivious to the consequences.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, predicts that by 2029 computers will be able to outsmart even the most intelligent humans. They will understand multiple languages and learn from experience.

Once they can do that, we face two serious issues.

First, how do we teach these creatures to tell right from wrong — in our own self defense?

Second, robots will self-improve faster than we slow evolving humans. That means outstripping us intellectually with unpredictable outcomes.” [source]

During a conference of AI experts in 1999, a poll was given as to when they thought the Turing test (where computers surpass humans in intelligence) would occur. The general thought was about 100 years. Many believed it could never be achieved. Today, Kurzweil thinks we are already at the brink of intellectually superior computers.

 

British theoretical physicist and Cambridge University professor Stephen Hawking doesn’t mince words about the dangers of artificial intelligence:

“I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Hawking told the BBC. “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on it’s own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate.” He adds, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

At the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October 2015, Tesla founder Elon Musk issued a stark warning about unregulated development of AI:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

Furthermore, in a tweet posted by Musk in 2014, he thinks “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” In the same year, he said on CNBC that he believes the possibility of a Terminatorlike scenario could actually come to pass.

Likewise, British inventor Clive Sinclair believes artificial intelligence will be the downfall of mankind:

“Once you start to make machines that are rivaling and surpassing humans with intelligence, it’s going to be very difficult for us to survive,” he told the BBC. “It’s just an inevitability.”

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates agrees.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” he says. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

That said, Gates’ Microsoft Research has designated “over a quarter of all attention and resources” to artificial intelligence development, whereas Musk has invested in AI companies in order to “keep an eye on where the technology is headed”.

Related reading: AI Building AI – Is Humanity Losing Control Over Artificial Intelligence?

Article sources:

Recommended articles by Carolanne Wright:

About the author:

Carolanne enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years

Through her website Thrive-Living.net she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. Follow Carolanne on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

Marigold. Image source: Pixabay.com

Written by: Patrick Shelley

There is absolutely nothing like having fresh medicinal plants that you can pick and use right on the spot, when you need them.

Plus, you can dry them, and then use a mortise and pestle to grind them and encapsulate your own medicinal plants. You know they were never sprayed with pesticides. And you know all about the nutrients that were fed to them.

You can grow them in decorative planters in the kitchen if you have the lighting for it.

Many people set up a multi-tiered rack that allows planter pots to be set at a forward-facing angle. This allows you to put the back of it against a wall, and the plants grow at a forward-facing angle.

Other people like to use wire hangers and hang the pots from a wall in rows or a pattern. If you’re going to do this, then test the strength of your wall.

If you have a sunroom or a sunroom-like area, these make great growing spaces, too.

Here are seven of the best medicinal plants you can grow indoors:

1. St John’s Wort. This plant will grow year-round with a grow light in the morning or evening to extend the growing hours of the day. If you find that it’s not flowering, then it may need longer hours of light.

7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

St. John’s Wort. Image source: Pixabay.com

It’s a great-looking plant with attractive yellow flowers and can really brighten up a home.

Benefits:

  • May be as effective as some prescription medication for treating depression1.
  • Helps alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menopause2.
  • May help with the symptoms of ADD (attention deficit disorder)2.

2. Thyme. This is a hearty plant that can be used in cooking, as it’s one of the most popular herbs around. It’s hearty, grows pretty easily and doesn’t require much care at all.

Benefits:

  • Thyme has been shown to aid in the relief of chest and respiratory problems, including coughs, bronchitis and chest congestion3.
  • Thyme has been shown to have a strong antimicrobial activity, neutralizing such bacteria and fungi as Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei4.

3. Sage. Its genus name, Salvia, means “to heal.” As long as you give it light, adequate water and good soil, you almost can’t kill it. Sage is one of the herbs that makes everyone look like they’ve got a green thumb.

7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

Sage. Image source: Pixabay.com

Benefits:

  • May lessen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s 5.
  • Has been shown to lower both blood glucose and cholesterol5.

4. Parsley. Too many people think of parsley as a garnish on their plate. But parsley is one of the best green foods around.

It grows rather easily, and you shouldn’t have a problem so long as you keep its soil damp.

Benefits:

  • Can help with bad breath6.
  • Can help detoxify the brain of ammonia, thereby reducing the feelings of a hangover.
  • May be a potent anticancer agent and has been shown to be chemo-protective7.

5. Marigold. A truly unique and beautiful flowing medicinal, marigold will grow with only just a little bit of TLC needed.

Benefits:

  • The flowers have long been touted to posses near legendary anti-inflammatory properties that have shown to fight eczema and allergic reactions.
  • Relieves pain of arthritis.
  • Can be made into tinctures and ointments that have shown to sooth rashes, bed sores, diaper rash, sun burns and other types of burns.

6. Lavender. This is one of the most fragrant medicinal plants you can grow in your home. Lavender is a little more work to grow inside and it needs a little more space.

Benefits:

  • Put lavender in your pillow to have a restful sleep and avoid insomnia8.
  • Helps with nervousness, headache, stomach nerves, restlessness and stress8.
7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

Image source: Pixabay.com

7. Echinacea. Here you have the granddaddy of all medicinal plants. It grows easily, as long as you give it a grow light.

Benefits:

  • Several studies show that Echinacea helps boost the immune10.
  • Echinacea has shown to be very promising in treating most any kind of infection, from sinusitis to vaginal yeast infections to ear infections10.
  • Shows promise in treating colon cancer and athlete’s foot10.

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm
  2. https://draxe.com/st-johns-wort-uses/
  3. Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, DeWitt DL. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. 2000. PMID:12240.
  4. Bagamboula CF, Uyttendaeleand M, Debevere J. Inhibitory effect of thyme and basil essential oils, carvacrol, thymol, estragol, linalool and p-cymene towards Shigella sonnei and S. flexneri. Food Microbio 2004 Feb;21 (1):33-42. 2004.
  5. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266480.php
  6. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-parsley.html
  7. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf00013a020
  8. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender
  9. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/echinacea