Meditation Mondays

The Astrophysics of Meditation

It would be unkind of me to say that Neil deGrasse Tyson puts me to sleep. It would also be disingenuous of me to say that I have never fallen asleep listening to his deep, well-paced voice. And that’s exactly why I believe that, if you want to try meditation but get bored or find yourself thinking about your to-do list, you should give Neil deGrasse Tyson a try. Not because he might put you to sleep, but because the combination of content and sound create a soothing mental atmosphere just like any other guided meditation might.

If you are a visual person, I implore you to boot up Netflix and find “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” “Cosmos” is a 2014 follow-up to the 1980s series about space, the history of the universe, and the laws of nature. It is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson (the original was hosted by Carl Sagan) and runs for 26 episodes. The graphics are stunning, the background music perfection, and the narration is a balm to the busy mind.

I like to bundle up on the couch, settling in the same position I would otherwise use for meditation, and turn “Cosmos” on to whichever episode strikes my fancy. Then, instead of half-watching and mentally wandering like with so many other shows, I focus on it. I take in the sweeping panoramas of the galaxy. I digest the information presented. If my mind must wander I try to keep it on theme: Are we alone? How much farther will we advance? Did anyone from the 1600s dream about the day we would colonize the moon?

Inevitably by the second episode I have fallen asleep. I have never yet made it through two consecutive episodes. And that’s okay. The same thing happens sometimes with the meditation app on my phone. When I wake up I feel refreshed and calm. It’s like my subconscious just needed a little reminder that the universe is vast and my problems are small.

Similarly, I highly recommend you download the audiobook for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.” It covers many similar topics to “Cosmos” and is told with his characteristic nerdy wit. The whole audiobook runs about four hours. Sometimes I listen to it from beginning to end at work. Sometimes I listen to snippets while taking a very long shower. And sometimes I once again assume the meditation pose, close my eyes, and focus on his words.

I train my inner eye on imagining the things he is talking about, never drifting too far from the topic. Rarely do I fall asleep to “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” though I’m not sure what the difference is between meditation with it and meditation with “Cosmos.” But just like with “Cosmos” I finish feeling like my problems just aren’t that burdensome in the grand scheme of things. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice is the perfect conduit for both introspection and universal examination.

Have you ever done a non-traditional meditation like this? Let me know in the comments below.