powers of the universe

Powers of the Universe

Visionary cosmologist Brian Swimme has devoted his life to exploring our cosmological origins and envisioning how we, as humans, can live fully within the vast powers and capacities that are as much a part of us as they are the atoms and molecules, the planets, stars and galaxies. He has articulated 10 ‘Powers of the Universe’ to help us understand how we can personally embody these cosmic dynamics, combining contemporary scientific terminology with metaphor and imaginative imagery to bring to life his deep revelatory experiences of the ways in which the creativity of the universe is alive moment by moment. As yoga practitioners, we can use the postures as entryways into these dynamics and allow the poses to expand our consciousness to the far reaches of the universe.


As Brian is fundamentally a non-dual scientist, he introduces the powers of the universe with a scientists perspective on the formless or eternal ground of being which he calls Seamlessness. This is his term for the underlying unity in which all dimensions of the universe have a common ground. It is a “divisionless domain replete with subtle connections.” Some scientists refer to this as the quantum vacuum of elementry particle physics. Discovered in the 1940′s, this is an all pervasive realm where an incessant stream of particles spontaneously emerge from and dissolve back into the background seamlessness of the universe. It is the source of all powers, all creativity. Quantum physicist David Bohm, famous for his dialogues with Krishnamurti, refers to this ground of being as ‘the implicate order’. In Vedanta it is Atman/Brahman. Deepak Chopra calls it the ‘realm of pure potentiality’.


How does the universe act as a whole? Centration is the continuous urge of the universe to give birth to more and more centers of activity. At the very beginning, with the Great Flaring Forth 13.7 billion years ago, the creation billowed out from an infinitesimally small center point into a vast expanding cloud of particles and energy. It could have remained just a big cloud, but because of various asymmetries in the expanding structure, the cloud split into millions separate mini clouds, the proto galaxies, centers of their own dynamic activity. And each of these galactic clouds split into billions of mini-mini clouds, the first stars, which became centers of their own activity. Universe is omni-centric!

Universe activity is driven by the nature of the four cosmic interactions. In the early stages, gravity dominates, but as we follow the unfolding of evolution and the emergence of more complex atoms created in the stellar furnaces, we find the other interactions becoming more prominent. With the coming of more complex molecules and finally life, we find more and more centers of cosmic activity. The original oceans on earth were like the early cosmic cloud. A vast complex sea of molecules, movements and transformations ultimately bursts into multiple centers of activity, cells. Membrane and catalysts. Catalysts accelerate processes. Membranes allow a unique center to emerge.

Being centered on particular tasks that insure survival of the individual and future generations. How do we as humans participate in this centering? Remove obstacles. What are they? Modern industrial consciousness blocks our participation in centering. (Boxed universe , its a place, with a big clock and we are inside of it. the whole isn’t real!) Einstein saw through this! Not a box! The observer affects the universe! The universe is organized to provide meaning to all individuals. Jung calls this synchronicity.

What does it mean to be centered? To find your Center. Center as place of balance. How do we contact the universe, nature,  below language, before language, not impeded by modern consciousness, by thought. Longing to find center, timelessness, seamlessness.  Humans get to participate consciously in creation, rooting in energies that go back to the beginning of time.. What kinds of people are engaged in centration? Ones with depth of confidence, people unafraid to be original, to step outside of group think, joy at being a center of activity, of being the whole. Focus, meditation. Centration in immature form: intense narcissism, based on the inability to imagine another perspective. What do other species see? Grandiosity, self absorption

Allurement:  Allurement is the power of attraction, of how the whole universe holds itself together. In the macro-phase level, it is gravity that drives the dynamics of the galaxies, stars and solar system. At the molecular level, it is electro-magnetism that allows atoms and molecules to arise, to come together, to come together in a multiplicity of ways. What attracts you! What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy forms of attraction?

Emergence: The universe is not a static place. The creativity of the universe did not just happen at the beginning of time and then stop. The universe is an on-going creative event with newness bursting out moment by moment everywhere. Every being is an expression of this emergence. Suzuki Roshi’s famous book, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind introduces emergence as the heart of Zen meditation practice. Every moment is new, alive, pregnant with new possibilities, if only we are awake if only we see and understand the nature of reality.

Homeostasis: Homeostasis is the way the great accomplishments of the universe are maintained through time. First expressed as the capacity of living organisms to maintain the delicate inner environment that allows the life processes to continue and thrive, here we have expanded the meaning to all ways that the universe holds onto what is valuable. Four billion years after the first cell appeared on the planet, life forms still are cellular. When the chlorophyl molecule first appeared, the early cells used it to covert the solar energy to  food. But this molecule also became the precurser of the retinol molecule and thus the capacity to see was born. all of us with vision share a depth of gratitude to chlorophyl and the capacity of the universe to maintain its power through time.

Cataclysm: destruction, entropy, breakdowns, Shiva/Kali

Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships

Transmutation: power of self change, discliplines and constraints

Transformation: Power to change the whole, communion

Interrelatedness: power of care, response to other

Radiance: Radiance is a direct expression of the second law of thermodynamic which essentially states that and body or system with energy will give it away to its surrounding. As Brian says, “Even the coldest group on the tiniest hydrogen atoms in the darkest night of intergalactic space are happily giving birth to and releasing, photons of light instant after instant.” We all know of the power of the sun and how its radiance allows there to be life on earth. But we all have the capacity, the possibility, of being ever more radiant in our own lives. The great saints such as St. Philomena are often represented as having a halo of light surrounding them. Plants and animals, as living beings, have a radiance that can be seen by shamans and visionaries. The whole universe is radiant!


(“Dr. Brian Swimme is a mathematical cosmologist on the graduate faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. (1978) from the University of Oregon specializing in gravitational dynamics, mathematical cosmology and singularity theory. Swimme was a faculty member in the Dept. of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington from 1978-1981. He was a member of the faculty at the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland, California from 1983-1989.

Brian Swimme’s primary field of research is the nature of the evolutionary dynamics of the Universe. Swimme brings us a meaningful interpretation of the human as an emergent being within the Universe and Earth. His central concern is the role of the human within the Earth community. Toward this goal, in 1989, Swimme founded the Center for the Story of the Universe, a production and distribution affiliate of the California Institute of Integral Studies.

His published work includes The Universe is a Green Dragon (Bear and Company, 1984), The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992) written with Thomas Berry, and The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Orbis, 1996). Swimme’s books have been translated into eight different languages.

Swimme was featured in the television series Soul of the Universe (The BBC, 1991) and The Sacred Balance produced by David Suzuki (CBC and PBS, 2003). He is the producer of a twelve-part dvd series Canticle to the Cosmos which has been distributed worldwide. Other dvd programs featuring Swimme’s ideas include The Earth’s Imagination and The Powers of the Universe.”)





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Micro-Cosmic Orbit: Pt 2

Exploring and Embodying Three Dimensions

In the previous post we explored the micro-cosmic orbit as a means to refine our focal attention (samadhi) through bringing our attention to specific points along the orbit and linking these points into lines, arcs and circles. As we work more deeply this way, we may discover that we can find these points at three levels. The first is out beyond the confines of the skin, in an ‘orbit’ in the energy field around the body. The second is directly on the skin, where an acupuncturist or shiatsu practitioner would apply needles or pressure. The third is in the interior of the body along the planes of fascia interwoven through the organs, blood vessels and nerves. When we can feel all three of these levels simultaneously, we are inhabiting our spherical energy field and can begin to fully realize the possibilities of having three dimensional/spatial sensitivity, perception and consciousness.

images-5The girdle vessel (Dai Mai,) the fourth vessel we use, is a latitude line and is essential in finding our three dimensional perceptual field. This yang vessel pairs with the yin ‘thrusting vessel, the vertical center axis, creating horizontal stability, and allowing us to rotate/twist. Rotation inherently builds the third dimension of depth ( A circle has length and width. To create a sphere you add depth. ) and is the gateway to cosmic awareness as well as a more vibrant embodied presence.

Rotation drives the whole manifest universe. In our solar system, the planets spiral around milky_waythe sun. In our Milky Way galaxy, the stars, including our sun, spiral around a center (probably a giant black hole! If you can find Sagittarius in the night sky, and you will probably have to wait until next summer, look through and imagine 26,000 light years off in the distance.) The earth rotates on its own axis creating weather patterns as well as a sense of day and night.

The spinning top (one of the oldest toys known to humans, found in archeological sites all over the world) demonstrates the cosmic principle in physics we are embodying. The faster it rotates, the more stable the vertical line. When the top slows down it starts to wobble and when it stops spinning, it falls over. To keep the rotation, you need to keep feeding it with energy. The bicycle uses this same principle, flipped 90 degrees. Another aspect we explore is the radius of the horizontal circle. Rotation pushes from the center outward (yang) in what is called centrifugal force. As this is counterbalanced by theGM2434B-1 yin centripetal (center seeking) force, we can change the volume of the energy field by playing with this ‘expanding – condensing’, yang – yin relationship.

In this top, the widest circle with the most outward thrust, the purple one, is below the center of the vertical axis. Lowering the center of gravity adds even more stability, which is why we emphasize the lower dantien in our breathing, movement and meditation practice. When we discover how to work with this principle in the energy field, our twisting poses can actually help expand the body. If we work muscularly, you will feel constricting in twisting poses.

SBK_1711254-24Traditionally the ‘dai mai’ girdle vessel surrounds the body at the level of the pelvis in the lower dantien. but we can move our attention to awaken other ‘latitudes’ of the body. To begin in the feet, stand with the right foot forward, the left foot back, as if you are about to move into a standing twist (without the forward bend), but haven’t yet begun. Before you move any further, imagine a spiraling coil of energy beginning below the floor (the Antarctic Circle) and traveling up the center. Notice how this mimics the girdle vessel. Now imagine the coils widening as they rise up from the base ( moving toward the equator), as the yang energy expands outward. The girdle vessel is very yang so this is quite natural. Feel the energetic volume expanding and condensing with the breath, but slowly expanding in overall volume

To awaken the front body-yin energy field, we can take the hoop forward to fully engage the arms and shoulders. Now imagine the hoops extends through the back body, receiving the rising spiral and expanding as the action of twisting. SBK_1711254-2SBK_1711254-9Most students eventually leave half of the body behind and end up contracting rather than expanding, especially along the spine column. Imagine the center of the spinal canal opening outward in an expanding circle/spiral, melting the tissue, feeling spaciousness, transcending the limitations of structure.SBK_1711254-4 (My front foot turns out much more than average to release the inner groin. Don’t feel you have to imitate this, but find out for yourself where openness and balance meet.) The hoop is moved to the front to expand the yin/organ/front body qi field and expand the ‘wings’ of the body, but also feel the back body softening and opening. This feeling can be evoked in sitting, lying and inverted twists as well. If you do not have a hula hoop handy, you can also use a thera-ball to find the volume.SBK_1711254-8


Another key component awakened here is the Pericardium 8 point, PC-8 (or P-8) in the center of the palms. Analagous to the K-1 points on the feet, P-8 is a gateway between the inner and outer qi fields. The SBK_1711254-11Pericardium, the fascial connective tissue membrane surrounding the heart, arises embryologically from the same cells and tissues that create the diaphragm and liver. The ‘heart protector’ literally does this, on many levels. As someone with a well-armored heart, I am finding that opening and nurturing the heart protector so that is does its job with over doing it is awakening a level of sweet vulnerability that is both precious and scary.

SBK_1711254-12In acupuncture, the pericardium meridian is part of the JueYin channel and connects all the way through the femoral canal to the legs. For those of you who have been practicing ‘climbing the wall’ for the last few years, you can actually trace the whole fascial continuity of the Jue Yin. (Use imagination to fill in the blanks.) Rise up from K-1 (not the heels, even though they do rise on their own) (DFL for those of you who know Tom Myers’ ‘Anatomy Trains’ system) to P-8, passing through liver, diaphragm and pericardium.

You can also track the qi from P-8 back into the body horizontally, again using the wall.SBK_1711254-14 Using the tip of the  middle finger of your other hand (PC-9) to feel the connections, trace the qi from the the wall and P-8 into the area around the pec minor muscle and then go inside the body to the pericardiam itself, along with the liver and diaphragm. Use the breath and your imagination. Then go back and try the twistings shown above with these new perceptions.

SBK_1711254-20To continue our building of a three dimensional perceptual qi field, we can return to the thera-ball to provide sensation and visualization. I like the feel of my third chakra having organ support, so I find placing the ball there and using a wall creates a powerful presence on the inside. Embryologically speaking, this is the extemely yin yolk sac which becomes the entire gut body. The conception vessel points on the micro-cosmic orbit are stimulated by the ball, bringing sensation and perception here. The liver comes from the yolk sac, so I can use this position to also find the Jue Yin channel we explored above. Lying SBK_1711254-19over the ball in a forward bend creates a similar feeling, with even more yielding and softening to the yang back body erector muscles. By moving the ball to the sternum, I can activate a new set of points on the conception vessel and engage the inner tissues surrounding the 4th chakra

If I want to build up my back field perception, I use the ball from behind and awaken sensation on the yang Governing Vessel.SBK_1711254-16 Here I have dropped it a bit lower to find the sacral-lumbar junction and here I can feel the possibility of both lumbar flexion and extension, from S curve to C curve and back.  The very important GV-4 Qi gong Image‘gate of vitality’ is here The inner abdominal space also opens and the front back and center plane begin to become conscious. This becomes trickier as you move upwards towards the liver. You can place the ball anywhere and feel different points coming alive. Feel their inner as well as outer presence. Back support can also help open the front. I haveSBK_1711254-17been trying to open my throat more for my sax sound and using the ball (or any elastic support) helps soften and melt tight tissue.

SBK_1711254-21Fish body support, opening some Gall Bladder Meridian points is another way to use the ball. I am using the wall, but this can be done on the floor as well, with slightly different effects. All of these ways of playing with the three dimensional field are ways of awakening and establishing a dynamic energetic field, centered in your heart, and radiating out throughout the whole of the cosmos. When you are out in Nature, feel this. When you are out and about in the human sphere, feel how you respond. It is fascinating to see what happens.

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