Space. The final frontier. Between 15 and 20 billion light years of unexplored, at least by homo-sapiens, cosmic territory. Earth is embedded in an expanding bubble of space/time-the shape of which is unknown to us. Space could be a torus (donut shape) as easily as a sphere. So as the Earth spins, creating our night and day, we look up and out into the immensity of the night sky, our naked eye able to see about 4-5,000 stars out of a probable total of 20(22) (an average of 200 billion stars per 100 billion galaxies). We have walked the moon, seen live television from the surface of Mars and hurled short-lived probes into the 800[?] Venusian atmosphere. We have sent spindly little probe satellites silently whipping around Jupiter's gravitational field to be slung into deep space outside our solar system. Yet, is outer space our ultimate frontier?

Anybody who has lain down in a country field late at night when the atmosphere is glass clear and let their mind drink in the cosmic immensity has experienced that the outer "seeing" of the universe through our brain stimulates the inner "being" of the universe through our intuitive soul faculties. Outer space and inner space converge into a One Mind presence of which our physical body is but a faintly felt glow of energy. It's not surprising that this inner/outer space convergence is even more intense for those men and women who have seen a rising quarter-Earth from the moon or viewed the blues, browns and white wisps of the planet's surface from low orbit. Somehow, being in space and looking back at Earth catalyzes a greater inner reality than being on Earth looking out. One of the most fascinating aspects of the American and Soviet space programs are the number of mystic, occult events astronauts have experienced. And how a few astronauts have, upon returning to surface life, unfolded into very mystical, Hindu-like perspectives.

Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 (manned lunar landing) astronaut, exemplifies this transformation: "You see, during Apollo 14 mission and my "moon walks," I realized that we have a serious need to probe beyond the limits imposed upon us by traditional thinking. I began to understand the urgent importance of exploring the most promising frontier of all: the human mind and spirit. It is becoming increasingly clear that the human mind and physical universe do not exist independently." Russian cosmonauts, who hold the record-one year-for space inhabitancy duration have told of seeing angelic beings outside their Salyut craft and feeling an indefinable, meditation-like euphoria.

Weightlessness is certainly a factor. So-called samadhi tanks (highly saline water tanks creating weightless flotation that switches off body awareness and enhances mind awareness) use this principle. And in the pratyahara "sense awareness withdrawal" stage of ashtanga yoga there is a distinct interior sensation of weightlessness. But it is also zero-gravity weightlessness that causes space sickness: disorientation, uncoordinated motor control, low heart-pump rate, blood migration to the brain, muscle weakness. In 1984, to offset space sickness, Squadron Leader R. Sharma, successfully employed several yoga techniques (asanas and breathing) while in the Soviet space vehicle. India and Russia have continued this yoga research, striving to master mind-over-body control that would counter the biological and metabolic effects of weightlessness, especially over long durations. Look for more inner/outer space articles in future editions.

Article copyright Himalayan Academy.