Recently, I was fortunate to be in a location where I could view Comet Neowise with the naked eye. It was food for my soul to take this pause, lean back, shift my vantage point, and take in the majestic heavens, the Milky Way, and this stunning comet — particularly given the difficult times we find ourselves in. With the help of binoculars, my father and I witnessed the comet’s ball and tail grow and shrink. While observing, we suddenly beheld the International Space Station passing right by the comet. Witnessing this modern marvel of human invention cross the path of an ancient remain of our solar system took my breath away. From NASA’s estimates, the last time Comet Neowise passed our way was 4,780 BC. The next time this celestial body will visit Earth’s sky will be 8,820 AD. My dad and I marveled. What will Earth be like when the comet returns? Will there be life on Earth? Will there be humans?
Having just learned that my three kids won’t have in-person school for at least another six months, and feeling the near-overwhelm of this thought alone – which in many ways feels like just the tip of the iceberg – viewing this spectacular 4.6 billion-years-old ice-coated leftover from the dawn of our solar system flaring up due to its near explosion with the sun was precisely the medicine I needed. In the words of Tibetan Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodren, “The next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you’re feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in.” I experienced a heightened sense of awareness, aliveness, and presence as I absorbed the rarity of this comet viewing, the rarity of this human life, and the sacredness of this present moment. Taking in the expanse of the universe, I began to sense more spaciousness, inside and out, along with the understanding that I can handle this. And when I can’t, I can lean on the Earth and this limitless universe for support. I noticed how pausing and taking in Comet Neowise was deeply helpful in these challenging times, by allowing me shift my perspective in healthy ways.
To all of us who are feeling disheartened or overwhelmed in these times, Comet Neowise offers a gentle reminder that beauty and awe still remain, that the universe remains a wondrous and profound place that can offer us supports that can help us shift perspective. When we allow ourselves, we have access to a near-boundless spaciousness in which to hold, as Zorba the Greek would say, the “full catastrophe” of this existence. Widening the aperture of the lens from which we are viewing our lives, and even switching lenses altogether, can provide a much-needed change in viewpoint, helping open our eyes to new possibilities and unforeseen paths forward. Thank you Comet Neowise for these lessons – and safe journeys!