Global warming: Solved.

It’s nice to know there is something that mankind can do to stop global warming, besides freak out that we are dependent on an energy system that we can’t change (or reverse) in the way needed to prevent catastrophes.

Thinking along these lines provides me with hope for the future–that is, that it is possible to reduce the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere directly by increasing the uptake of carbon by plants–and that it is possible to do this using simple methods, albeit implemented on a very large scale.

Not that this takes the burden off of humanity to stop pulling carbon out of the depths of the earth and throwing it directly into the atmosphere. If we don’t stop using fossil fuels, their use will continue to damage our lungs from breathing polluted air, local environments from chemical and oil spills and the side effects of drilling and refining, and the global environment through global warming.

I’ve long known that fossil fuels are a bad thing in general, but have felt powerless in changing the ways of billions of oil consumers. Thankfully there are solutions to this problem, and gradual progress is being made all around us.

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Observation: Meditating vs Not meditating

What happens when I stop meditating during the last month of the semester?

Disaster. Well, not a complete disaster, but nearly.

Last semester, during the month of October, I stopped meditating completely. Up until then, I had the top grades in my two courses and was making steady progress in my research work, in addition to preparing for the physics GRE, swimming and working out consistently, and enjoying nature on the weekends.

I broke up with my girlfriend, whom I was living with at the time, and moved into my mom’s living room for several weeks while I searched for a new place. The disruption of all of this ended my meditation practice when it was the very time that I needed to keep meditating–afterall it is most beneficial during times of stress. I was emotionally stressed by the breakup, and stressed for time to find a new apartment and move all of my stuff.

Though I found an apartment and finished moving in, I didn’t attain the peace of mind needed to begin making rational decisions until after final exams were over. So, for about 2 weeks before finals, I did zero studying and zero research. Instead I very inefficiently completed applications to PhD’s, often writing late at night, letting my essays meander all over the place. Most of what I wrote was irrelevant to the application, but was instead a reflection of my stressed, scattered state of mind. My solid A’s in my two courses fell to A-; my research adviser became frustrated, unsure what to say on her letters of recommendation since I had turned from making steady research progress to doing nothing. I was frantic, unable to sit still, unable to see through my state and take control. The procrastination felt like a deep, black cave that I was unable to climb out of.

While taking time off during the winter break/holiday week, I began to see more clearly again. I realized how crucial my meditation practice is to maintaining stability of mind and to living my life fully. Without meditation I am nearly crippled.

Crucially, I saw clearly that meditation needed to remain a priority in my life, and re-committed to the practice. My commitment began with choosing to attend sittings every morning at 6:30, which I have stuck to for the past week, and intend to continue for the rest of the semester. I am also attending all evening sittings. The first two days of meditation at 6:30 in the morning, I asked several members of my zen group to call me and make sure I woke up on time. Asking for help in this way doesn’t come naturally to me, and so this was an important step; knowing that I needed help, and then reaching out for it.

Though my renewed practice has only been in effect for a week, the changes are noticeable. I have become more patient, more content, more sociable. I cleaned and organized my office. I have started my research again. I am working more efficiently on my application essays. I am more willing to make realistic compromises. I find it easier to say no to caffeine, sugary candies, and distracting emails and news articles. The knot in my stomach is gradually dissipating into a feeling of warmth and comfort. In short, I have greater control over myself, and as a result I am getting my life back.

Minding physics

This is a blog initiated as my outlet for discoveries and thoughts occurring in my experiments with minding and physics. By minding, I mean the process of thought, observation, and the meditative practices used to clarify this process; and by physics I mean the application of mathematics and other familiar academic pursuits in describing and expanding our awareness of the natural world.

As made clear through the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics, the observer is not independent of the observed. But what is the observer?

Zen philosophy and practice focuses on this important aspect of the human experience: that the observer is also the observed. Yet the lens of observation is, roughly, what we have labeled “the self” or “me.” Therefore one should probably learn a bit about ones optical system before using it to claim understanding of the object of investigation (i.e. everything outside of the mind, although “outside the mind” is only a convenient use of words).

With that, welcome to my mind, and welcome to my blog.