Exercise 40

EXERCISE 40: The Mystery of Consciousness – 3


We continue to explore the subject of this strange reality that exploded on the scene of the universe’s unfolding not too long ago: self-consciousness.

Quiet yourself, then slowly read the following text with your imagination. Let the awe and wonder of this material fill you.

Hydrogen and helium were created almost at the very beginning of the history of the universe. All those atoms are still in existence today. No new matter is ever created. New forms and combinations, but no new matter. All the matter that ever was still exists and will continue to exist (as long as it is not converted into energy).

It took six billion years for the first stars to begin to age and collapse on themselves, thereby fusing the heavier elements out of which we are made: carbon, oxygen, and the metals. All the heavier elements in the universe originated in those supernova furnaces. Nowhere else.

Your body is made up of atoms – lots of hydrogen, but also plenty of carbon and oxygen and heavier atoms. All the atoms out of which your body is made have been around at least five billion years.

You live out of borrowed atoms! After you die, the atoms from your body will become something else, and something else again, for as long as the universe exists.

Some of the matter of which you are made is 13.7 billion years old. The heavier atoms are at least five billion years old.

Look at your skin: you think it’s young and fresh, there for the first time, your very own… Wrong. Your body is old. 13.7 billion years old.

In the end, ‘I’ have ‘borrowed’ these atoms to make up my body. I am simply a temporary arrangement of ‘eternal’ elements, which become something else when I am finished with them.

Moreover since most of the cells of my body are replaced at various rates, the ‘constant’ of my being is something other than my physical being.

So, who am ‘I’? What is this constant I keep referring to when everything in me is borrowed and changing?

Death signals the end of the organizing principle that holds all the pieces together, and they each proceed on their own, resulting in decay.

What is the ‘organizing principle’ that holds you together?

What is ‘life’? Your life?

See if you can ponder these mysteries with awe and wonder…

Record the fruits of your meditation in your journal.