Monday, December 29, 2014

One Year Vision: The New Year's Anti-Resolution

Are you like me?  Do you avoid New Year’s resolutions because they have an unpleasant “uphill” kind of feeling?   Would you like to have another way of approaching the coming year that creates a sense of hope and optimism?   A few years ago,  I learned a better alternative to resolutions called the “One Year Vision” that is not only effective, but very fun!   At first, this practice seems like a new year’s resolution, but it is completely different.   Here is how you do it:
  1. Imagine that you discovered a single page from your journal written one year in the future.  It has been the perfect year for you, and in this entry you wrote down the pleasant feelings you are having about your life, and maybe even some incredible blessings that that have come to you.   You didn’t write how you got them- no methods, no goals – just the blessings and descriptions of how you feel.   
  2. Write this vision down as a paragraph, then tuck this away and read it again every month or so. 

That’s it!   It’s a low risk activity, and it seems way too simple and easy, but curiously powerful.  In the years I've done this, I’ve observed for myself that revisiting the vision guided me to the work and opportunities that made the vision itself a reality. 

I think this works because writing the vision and reading the vision are joyful experiences.  I don’t have to “make” myself do it because reading this positive narrative is enjoyable all by itself.  Contrast this with resolutions which are heavy and unpleasant and involve willpower.  I've noticed that I usually drop a resolution after a month, but a One Year Vision is kept all year.   In fact, I look forward to the end of the year when I get to compare the vision with what actually happened.  Also, by focusing on a genuine vision, my mind is dwelling on the positive aspects of the future, so I am subconsciously attracted to the very things that will make the vision happen.     
Regardless of my theories of how it works, I can say for sure that the practice is way more enjoyable than the resolution process and also more productive.     

Still reading?  Want to try your own One Year Vision?   Great!  Here are a few pointers:
  • Focus only on desires; do not to include methods or goals because those things drag down your spirit.   Writing methods also limits genius and creativity.   You might think you’ll get in shape by visiting the gym (standard resolution), but maybe you’ll go on a two-week hiking adventure in the Grand Canyon that you did not anticipate.    If you are focused on the gym, you might miss this adventure, but if you are focused on the desire of being in shape, you will be open to what flows to you. 
  • Let yourself dream.  Drop any feelings of unworthiness, or feelings that you don’t “deserve” a blessing.  The truth is that nobody deserves anything they get.   God is the kind of being who likes to give and give and give and would gladly give more to you if you would only open yourself up to receive it. So,  when you think about the perfect year ahead, make it an amazingly perfect year.  Dream big!
  • Make sure it is what you really want.    It is easy to say in your vision "I made a million dollars!"  But is a million dollars what you really want?  No, the money is only a method to achieve something else, such as  a beautiful painting, an extension to your home, or an education.   Even these things could be means for something deeper, such as peace, comfort, health, love, etc.    If you include feelings with your vision, it will help you discard methods and focus on what is really desired.   
  • Allow creativity to flow.  Sometimes an idea will come that seems crazy, maybe even scary.  Don’t let the fear rule you- write it down!   Maybe you really will publish a book, or get elected to the state senate, or discover a cure for cancer.   This process isn’t just a wish- it is also revelation.

So, what does a One Year Vision look like?   Well, here is an example of what someone might write down:

Dec 29, 2015.  What an amazing year! I can hardly believe the wonderful things that have come into my life!    I am so happy with my job- I come in work every day excited and feeling like I am making a difference for people.    My stress over money as evaporated and I have the pleasant feeling of having the things I want and need.  Best of all, I found a very special person in my life and we have begun building a beautiful relationship with mutual trust and support.  We let our guard down with each other and feel relaxed and happy together

Notice how there are no to-do’s in this paragraph.  I can’t see here how the job got better, how the money situation was resolved, or how that special someone came around. The how’s will resolve themselves as the year advances. My job is just to let the vision have a place in my mind. Which brings me to the next pointer:

What are some ideas for revisiting this vision? For me, I schedule it as a monthly recurring meeting in my Outlook calendar. Here are some other random ideas:
  • Tape it up on a mirror or other surface you walk by every day.
  • Use it as your regular bookmark.
  • Tape it to different packages of food in your pantry.
  • Put it in a frame and place it in your cleaning supplies cupboard.
  • Tape it to the lid of your washing machine.

I hope you find this article useful.   The One Year Vision is truly fun.  Try it out, you have nothing to lose!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Seeing God Through Physics

I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to physics news, but physics world has been abuzz the last couple of days because scientists working at the South Pole released the results of an experiment to measure light polarization in the background radiation that pervades the universe:

The science is a little involved, but the short of it is that this result is a strong argument in favor of the theory of Cosmic Inflation, which has been steadily gaining support over the last few decades.    One of the things I love about this theory is that it gives a stunning twist to this passage from the Book of Moses:

Moses1: 4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

 5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

 9 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

 10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

First a little background:   Inflation is a theory proposed in 1980 to explain why the universe is so homogeneous.    Imagine an ice-cold, shallow swimming pool with highly accurate temperature sensors placed every few inches.  You dump a pot of hot water into the pool, and just a few seconds later you take temperature readings and discover that everywhere you measure, the temperature is exactly 37.0001 degrees with a variation of just a few millionths of a degree.    That’s a crazy result.   How did the heat spread out over such a large area so perfectly so fast?    This is pretty much what astronomers see when they look out into space.  Everywhere they look, the sky is filled with light (radio waves) that is exactly the same temperature with very tiny variations.  It’s a mystery.  How do we explain it?

So, a physicist named Alan Guth came up with a radical proposal.   The big bang theory already suggested the universe was once incredibly tiny.  Alan suggested that the early universe was able to reach a common temperature quickly because it was so tiny, but it must have gotten very big very fast in order to spread out the temperature evenly.   People thought this was too crazy to be true at first, but several predictions were made from this theory and every one that has been tested has been experimentally verified (so far), and the latest result of the past few days is a very strong confirmation of the theory. 

Anyway, the term “inflation” is a rather innocuous word to describe something that is truly mind-boggling and astonishing.   The rate of this expansion would have been enormously exponential.  The theory says that in 10-32 seconds, the universe expanded by 50 orders of magnitude!   That is such huge rate that it is beyond any useful analogy to describe.   But just try to imagine it.  Imagine a tiny atom exploding into a ball the size of a galaxy in a billionth of a second.  Now multiply that rate by a trillion trillion trillion.  That number would still be too small.   It is a flabbergastingly large number. 

But I haven’t even gotten to the crazy part yet.

This inflating universe would have been extremely hot: 1022 degrees.  Of course, it eventually cooled down into what we can see now.  We would call this a “bubble” in the fiery hot expanding soup.   When we look out at the sky and see all those galaxies that stretch for billions of light years, we are looking at just a portion of this bubble.   What we are able to see is defined by the age of the universe and the speed of light.   Since light has a limited speed we can only see the parts of the universe that have had enough time for the light to reach us.  The universe of galaxies, planets, and stars is much, much larger than what we can possibly see, because all of those objects are so far away that their light hasn’t reached us yet.    Based on measurements of the cosmic background radiation, physicists have determined a lower bound for this number: 196 Billion light years.    The diameter of the volume that we can see is 26 billion light years.  That’s less than 1% of the minimum size of that bubble I mentioned earlier- the minimum size -  Some physicists think the bubble is millions and millions of times larger than that minimum size.

But I still haven’t gotten to the crazy part.

In recent decades, Cosmic Inflation theory has pointed in the direction of a concept called “Eternal Inflation”.    The idea of this is that the rate of inflation is much faster than the rate of cooling, so there is always a part of the universe that is inflating, far beyond the cooled boundaries of the part we live in.  And remember, the rate of this inflation is that huge unfathomable number!   Every second that passes, this inflating portion of the universe is growing by that amazing rate.   And in that inflating portion, parts of it are condensing all the time into other bubble universes like our own.    The implication is that there would be a vast number of isolated bubble universes, separated by a rapidly inflating see of hot material that can make yet more universes at an exponentially increasing rate.  

I think of poor Moses, who probably thought the universe consisted of the earth, and maybe a sphere of stars around it… if he went from that to seeing the kind of universe that is coming into view now… no wonder he fell over.   It fills me with awe to imagine that these are the works of God’s hands.