In The Rising Podcast

Episode 130: How Gazing at the Night Sky Brings Peace- Astronomical Mindfulness with Chrisopher De Pree

February 15, 2022 Bettina M. Brown Episode 130
In The Rising Podcast
Episode 130: How Gazing at the Night Sky Brings Peace- Astronomical Mindfulness with Chrisopher De Pree
Show Notes Transcript

 Did you know by simply looking up at the stars, you could improve your personal growth?

Astronomical Mindfulness offers fascinating insights while providing:

·         A new way to observe and understand our amazing skies

·         Mindfulness tools for living in the moment and considering your place in space

·         A history of how humans throughout time have connected to the cosmos

·         Interactive elements to enhance your observations and bring the night sky to life. 



I invite you to listen!

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Speaker 1:

You know, Sarah and I wanted to sort of bring that feeling in that sense to astronomical observing, which I think oftentimes people think requires tons of equipment and money and digital photography and all those things. But I think oftentimes those things can separate us from what's truly magical .

Speaker 2:

Hello, hello, and welcome to in the rising podcast, my name is Betina brown, and this is the platform in which I love to talk about what makes us tick, but what makes us rise up to live the life that we want live, that we're proud to live and leave behind that shame blame game. That does nothing for us. And my special guest today is Dr. Christopher Dupree , who talks about his brand new book that he co-authored with Sarah GOs . And it's all about astronomical mindfulness. Now I know what does that really mean? And what does it have to do with me? But star gazing is something that we have enjoyed doing, talking around a fire, looking at the night sky. It's just in our jeans . We love to do it. And cultures around the world have done this for so long, but what makes us want do that? And why does it bring us peace? Why does it make us feel relaxed? And why are we so excited to just look at the sky? So I'm really thrilled for you to hear my time with Dr. Dupree , cause your book is about astronomical mindfulness, right? Whenever I hear that, that term mindfulness, I do think in the moment in the presence and more in a relaxed state, but what does mindfulness mean to you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think, you know what you just said. I mean, being present in the moment and, and I think that , um, you know, sometimes it almost seems silly , uh, but you know, we get advice from a lot of people who are and mindfulness, but that being present in the moment doesn't mean necessarily only being present during important moments, but moments that just seem ordinary, right? So when you're drinking a cup of coffee in the morning to be mindful and to be present that I'm drinking a cup of coffee, right. And that's , uh , something that , uh , te Han said often, right? Every repeated that idea that whatever it is you're doing , uh , think, you know, if you're drinking a cup of tea, think I am drinking a cup of tea, or if I'm doing the dishes be present in that moment of actually, you know, the running water, the soap, all those things. And so , um, you know, Sarah and I wanted to sort of bring that feeling in that sense to astronomical observing, which I think oftentimes people think requires tons of equipment and money and digital photography and all those things. But I think oftentimes those things can separate us from what's truly magical and meaningful about observing the night sky, which is being present in the moment. And, and truly considering the fact, you know, I am looking at the moon. I mean, it seems , uh, again, almost like a silly thing to repeat, but if you really are able to do that, it becomes much deeper and much more meaningful to , to really consider there's this amazing spherical object that's actually rotating around our planet and you are there at the moment looking at it and seeing it out there in space, right. In the vastness of space above us. So , um, you know, I think that, that we thought that making a observations of the sky day or night, right. I mean , uh , it doesn't have to be nighttime, which the book talks about. I mean, those are all opportunities to be mindful.

Speaker 2:

Right. You know, when we, when I think about my own times when I have gone camping, it's relaxing, but when you look up, it's a , a completely different, and I , I remember I felt intimidated and overwhelmed by what's really out there cuz in the cities , um , a lot of times whether pollution or light, we are not able to see that, but it makes us feel connected. Do you feel like we're looking for more of this connectedness, not just on this planet, but kind of with what's out there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Yeah. And you know, many astronomers have pointed out, I think a wonderful thing, which is that, you know, we are all made of the same stuff that's out there in space, right? I mean, there's, there's nothing out there. There are no different elements, often distant galaxies, it's all hydrogen and helium and carbon and oxygen. It's all the stuff that's running through our blood streams. And so we, by our very nature as physical beings connected to this physical universe , um , because we're made of the same stuff and you know, I think a lovely phrase I heard once it might have been Carl Sagan who said it is, you know, he was talking about kind of the course of evolution and the moment rich , uh , on planet earth, visual organs, eyes evolved. And he said something to the tune of, and now the universe could see itself. Right? So there's this moment where the natural processes where physics and chemistry and biology got to the point where these visual organs that we have our eyes able to sort of look back on the universe that we came from and, you know, that's , uh , to me that's a , a , a very connected thought and a very connected moment, right. To kind of consider, you know, my , my retina right now is receiving photons from the Endra to galaxy that left that galaxy , uh, millions of years ago and just hit my eyeball, you know, how wonderful is that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah , that is a lot of connectedness. And , and , and you and Sarah talked about your cosmic guide , that's the , the title, the subtitle of the book, which you're reconnecting with the sun, moon stars and planets, you know, connecting to the sun is not something I've ever thought, you know, like it's dangerous, don't look at it. It , it , um , but, you know, I thought it was very interesting the way you phrased that you didn't even just wanna connect to just space. You, you put some specifics out there. Do you feel that less connected with like the, the rotation, the warmth, the everything just in general? Is

Speaker 1:

That what you, yeah, I mean, I , I , I truly think, and we talk about this at several places in the book that , um, you know, humans as a species used to be much more aware of these cycles, right. Which , uh , repeat year after year, right? If, if, if you look to the west every night as the sunsets and you kind of make a little mark and there are places in the book, you can even do this , uh, you know, you will notice the sun marching to the north of west and the summer and back to the south of west and the winter, and then wonderfully it repeats again. Right? And so there's this, this cyclical emotion of the sun up and down the Western horizon in the course of the year. And, you know, we taking a moment to notice that can, can help us to sort of be more connected to these natural cycles that are happening all the time. Right. Uh, the moons phases, right? Again , uh, sometimes people are, are surprised to see the moon during the daytime. Well, the moon is, is, it just depends on where it is and it's orbit around the earth. You know, if the moon is, is kind of wheeling around and is close to the sun in the sky, then we'll either see a waxing Crescent or waning Crescent, depending on whether it's, you know, just come past new or moon is about to be a new moon. Well, that little Crescent in the sky. Yeah. We notice it when the sun sets , because then everything gets dark and we see that Crescent. But if you looked during the day, you know, carefully, you're right, that looks downstairs, straight at the sun. But if you look carefully during the day, that little Crescent is there all day long, right. It's there. And it's, it's kind of just below the threshold of perception often because we don't take the time. We don't slow down. We don't look, we don't , uh, notice it because it's this very faint kind of white glimmer against the light blue sky. It's easy to miss it. Um, but you know, as you said, so many of us now live in where, where it's difficult to see more than a few stars. And I think the book addresses that by having plenty of exercises, plenty of observations , uh , that people can do even in a big city.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah. And you are , um, the director of the national radio dynamic zone project. And I, I looked all of this up and I was excited. I live in New Mexico right. By the VLA . And I'm like, oh my gosh , this in that same, or , you know , I've been there, but I knew the moment I got excited , um, about just reading what you've, what you , what you get to be a part of. What, how do you describe the cosmos and what has held your interest and fascination to just pursue it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's, that's a great question. But first of all, I have to say, that's so cool that you live near the VLA because I lived out there for two years and I just , uh, seora was such a , a great little town and , and just being at the VLA was so exciting. Um, but you know, my interest , uh , you know, it's funny, so many people who are astronomers say, oh, I got my first telescope when I was five. And I knew all the constellations. I was not that kid. Uh, I lived in Hong Kong and New York city, and I couldn't see the night sky. And , um, so I came to astronomy through physics. I was a physics major as an undergrad , uh , at duke. And then I got my PhD at UNC chapel hill. And so my, my interest came through physics. And then , um, I actually got, I went out to SRO and went to a , a workshop when I was starting grad school. And we got a, of the VLA. And I remember the moment , uh, you know, we were able to go up at the time into one of the dishes in the array and kind of look over the edge and see those telescopes going out into the distance. That's the moment I said, I wanna be a radio astronomer because it was , uh, it was, it's such a great combination of, of human ingenuity and engineering, and yet being sensitive to the most faint, incredibly faint signals that are coming from space. Right. If you look at the kind, the, the strength of the signals that a radio telescope, like the VLA detects, they are whispers, you know, they're barely there. And so that, that combination of these, you know, huge 25 meter antennas steering around the sky that looks so brutish, you know, like a huge piece of machinery. And yet the very delicate thing that they're doing was such a great combination to, to my mind. So, you know, I , I think , um, and in my current work, in the national radio dynamic zone project , uh, again, you know, there are issues that are coming up for radio astronomy from all of the wireless devices that are, you know, filling the globe. And I think there are, you know, humans are clever, there are, there are ways to solve these issues and we're gonna figure it out. Um, and I think we have to figure it out because, you know, I think astronomy is so important because , uh, it's something that we all, it's , it's our common heritage, right. As a species and as living things in the universe.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And you and Sarah decided to write this book and, and , and do that. And I applaud to you because a lot of people wanna write a book, very few people do. What , what , what prompted you to like, stick to it? You know , it sounds like you're busy. What did you decide? You know, what, let's write this book and, and help people connect more.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I think , um, you know, one thing that inspired me was , uh , were , were these monthly open houses that we would have at Bradley observatory? Um, I taught , uh , as I said, I think I , I taught , uh , astronomy for 25 years physics and astronomy at Agnes Scott college, which is a , a women's college in Atlanta. And at these monthly open houses, you know, the, the sort of enthusiasm of people showing up voluntarily at 8:00 PM on a Friday night, you know, then they had lots of other things. They , they could do , um, their enthusiasm to show up and sort of look at the night sky and hear a talk , um, was inspirational. And so , uh, Sarah, Sarah was a student at Agnes Scott and, and went on to get her , uh , MFA and is now a , a very accomplished a science writer. So , um, this was an idea that I had thought about for a little while. Um, but you know, like ideas, it had kind of bounced around and it really sort of took form and made progress when I reached out to Sarah and thankfully she was willing to work together on this. And , uh, the pandemic hit right after we got the book contract. And so we all had a lot of time to write, you know, the , this was when everyone was locked down and, you know, not even leaving their house, I mean, wiping down groceries and things. So , uh , we both had a lot of time to write. Um, she was an incredible collaborator , uh, and, and we just, we had a lot of fun doing it.

Speaker 2:

Well, it looks, you know, I get to see you, it looks like you had a lot of fun. You look energized about your time and , um, you know, it definitely is contagious and I'm, I'm very grateful for you , um, for writing this book. And , um, if people are interested in more, what would you suggest to them as like the last question ham , I love the book, but how can I learn more? What would you suggest them as a next step?

Speaker 1:

Sure. That , and that's a great question, because I think, again, one of our goals in this book was not to convey knowledge of what we know about the universe, right. There are 1,000,001 books that do that very, very well, you know , uh , textbooks that have lots of information in them. But I think the thing that we really hoped would come from this book was both a realization that anywhere I am is an observatory and I have the tools between my eyes and my hands and my brain to actually observe the universe. Right. Um, so, so I would say, you know, if, if someone reads the book and thinks, gosh, this is great. I want to know more, there are plan any of opportunities then to, you know, buy a small telescope and, and see some of those things that you can see with your eyes in more detail. Right. I mean , um, I , I'm certainly not a ludite and I wouldn't say, you know, you don't want to use all these great tools. And in fact, you know, one of the joys of observing the sky , um, once you've be come oriented to it, right? Because , uh , one of the great things about not using a telescope to start with is you start to understand the architecture of the sky, you understand to the south, and there's the plane of the, of the solar system. And that's where I sort of see planets and the moon, and then perpendicular to that. There's the north star. Right. And you start to kind of get that architecture, I would say, do that first, before you buy all sorts of equipment and then start simple, right. Maybe find a , a , a small telescope you can get , uh , what's called a Doon in telescope for, you know, couple hundred dollars tops you , and, and it's one that you just sort of steer around manually. It doesn't have tracking and photography and all those things, but it's a way to collect more light, right? And so, you know, our eyes have a pretty small diameter. And if you have a, Dobsonian with say an eight inch mirror, that's gonna collect a lot more light than your eyeball. So when you look up at Orion and you know, that middle star in the sort of Orion is actually a Nebula, and you point even a small telescope at that star Kaboom, it's amazing. You start to see that pink cloud of gas, which is new stars forming. It's an incredible site . So, so I , I would say, you know, if, if someone does get, you goes through the book, does the exercises and, and wants more, that might be a , a next step, because I, I think once you've gone through the book, you will have that familiarity with where things are in the sky and sort of how to find things. And , and then that next step is a good one. I , I think what often stymies people is that they start with an expensive telescope without that other knowledge. Right. And so I , I really would say a great first step is, is don't bother with equipment. Uh, keep it simple.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Keep it simple, keep it, you know , when you appreciate it, that passion, we'll just keep, keep moving you forward.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And, and maybe one more thing I would say is, you know, if someone enjoys the book and is living in a big city, take a trip out west, you know, go to New Mexico, as, you know, the night skies are incredible in most places , uh , in New Mexico , uh, or , or even, you know , uh , Florida, if you go to the, the panhandle of Florida and look south across the, the Gulf, I mean, you get a beautiful view of the Milky way . Uh , and , and even, you know, I used to live in Atlanta a little ways out of Atlanta, 30, 40 minutes, you can see the Milky way . So that would be my next suggestion is find a dark sky site and, and appreciate it with your eyes. I appreciate

Speaker 2:

It. Well, I appreciate your time today. Dark depre . It was really , uh , exciting for me, like a little kid . Um , and then it was really an honor, and I'm so thankful that you and Sarah put this book together to, to share , um, your enthusiasm with so many people as well, and , um, many blessings to you with everything.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much. I really appreciate the chance to talk and, and all of your excitement , uh , it's contagious.

Speaker 2:

I may have to admit that I am just a little bit of a nerd, and I really enjoyed reading this book. And I , I really enjoyed talking about it. Just anything involving the night sky, where you get a moment to just stop. And for me, I love that he mentioned to Ryan because that's my guy in the sky. Anytime I stress out, I look and I just, I know that constellation and I love how he moves around the sky. And it just grounds me. It makes me stop in that moment and appreciate where I am and be in a place of gratitude. And that's what makes us rise up. And in our own journey on this earth, it makes us rise up in our spiritual journey, our emotional and our physical. And so I'm so thankful that you've spent this time with, with me today on this podcast, because time is something we cannot get back, but if you did enjoy this podcast, I encourage you to share it with people that, you know, give it a five star review. It does so much to put this podcast into the hands and into the ears of those that it can make a big difference to . And if you're listening to this on YouTube, go ahead and hit the like button and subscribe again, the more we can lift each other up the better it is. And until next time let's build .