This book summarizes John Milton's lifetime of deep exploration of nature based spiritualities and traditions. What he teaches is a world view and specific practices that complement the teachings of the major religions - how could they not be since they help us deepen our connection with and relationship to the natural world, nature. It's really accessible and includes specific meditations and practices that if practiced will shift your consciousness and wake up awareness that's always been right there but somehow elusive. I recommend this book highly and if you want to take this further, join John on one of his sacred quests in nature - it'll be a life changing experience that you'll not regret.
I personally was interested in this publication because I use his "Tai Chi for Liberation" practice in my weekly spiritual practice. I assumed his book may shed a little more light on the video previously mentioned. Boy, was I right; you will completely understand his involvement with the Tai Chi video after reading this book. If you are or are even considering more of an involvement with Nature, you will completely get it, and I'll bet you explore the video as well. Nameste _/\_
Principles John Milton wrote this book in the hope that the practices and principles he shares will “greatly enrich your life” (p.229). Over the years he has identified the following principles for natural liberation (pp.8—15):
- The fundamental truth: All forms are interconnected, constantly change, and continuously arise from and return to primordial Source. - Commit yourself completely to liberation in this lifetime - Relax and surrender to life. - Remain in now. - Cultivate union with universal energy - Go with the universal flow. - Rest in the radiance of your open heart. - Active compassion arises naturally out of unconditional love. - Cut through to clarity. - Return to Source. - Pure Source awareness is—remain in recognition. - Serve as a warrior of the open heart and liberated spirit. - Don’t take all these twelve principles too seriously.
From these twelve principles John Milton has essentialized six core principles (p.16):
- Relaxation - Presence - Cultivating universal energy - Opening the heart of unconditional love - Cutting through to clarity, luminosity, and spaciousness - Returning to Source
Each one of these six core principles are introduced in the book. John Milton emphasizes that: “The key is to bring each of these principles into creative interaction with the challenges of everyday life” (p.14). Each principle has a variety of practices to help support the realization of its essence. And every practice “serves to cultivate the truth of each principle within” (p.6). Over time, our “old habitual patterns of fear and automatic contraction to life” will be replaced with “new, helpful habits of meeting life with openness and letting go” (p.9).
Relaxation The union of (1) relaxation and (2) presence, combined with (3) the cultivation of universal energy, is the key to opening greater vitality. The main thing is this: “With whatever time you have available, go into Nature and start cultivating relaxation there” (p.30). It’s also important to remember that “you cannot force relaxation” (p.46). “The attempt to force relaxation just creates more contraction” (p.46). And contractions “usually arise from strong emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, and worry” (p.49).
Presence “The cure for much worry and anxiety is the cultivation of presence” (p.57). The main secret for transforming blocked emotions is to “breathe deeply and gently into them while applying … relaxation and presence” (p.43). The practice to start move emotional blockage is “to simply stay clearly present with the feeling it, while at the same time relaxing into its core” (p.43). If the mind wanders, “gently bring it back to the intention of relaxing all the constricted, tight, or stiff blockages” (p.46). Becoming “pristinely present while in a state of deep relaxation, totally surrendered to the moment, is the heart of spiritual practice in Nature” (p.52).
Nature By immersing ourselves in Nature – “Nature that has not been heavily disturbed and damaged” – we begin to tap into “the primal natural harmony” that is our “genetic inheritance” (p.37). Our “whole bodies, our energy, our diverse emotions, and our mind” have all coevolved with Nature (p.28). “All … ecosystems, and the beings within them, have coevolved in a way that has produced extraordinary symbiosis, balance, integration, and harmony” (p.36). “Integration is characteristic of virtually everything in Nature” (p.37). This is why “Nature is a very powerful healer” (p.28). Nature provides a “natural vitality and harmony” that is “not accessible in our urban centers” (p.37). One of John Milton’s favorite things to do is to “go into a forest, to a mountain, or by a river or wild coast and spend an hour or two each day” (p.55). John Milton says that: “All of Nature supports your being in the present moment. You do not even have to meditate. You can simply enjoy Nature” (p.55). The key is to find a place that inspires you – “a place that gives you a sense of harmony, peace, and tranquility” (p.74). And then, with practice, you can bring this “present-centered awareness back into your ordinary life, and you will find that the flow of your normal day will gradually become transformed” (pp.57—58).
Conclusions John Milton has convinced me that natural vitality and energy are released when relaxation and presence are cultivated. The challenge is to gently bring this awareness and relaxation back into the flow of the normal daily life. It’s all about practice, and there are many practices in the book. In a way, it can feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s also important to remember that “every journey begins with a first step” (p.91). What’s so nice is that “just regularly being in Nature brings joy and happiness” (p.229). It’s a great book, and I'm now taking the first steps on my own journey!
Decidedly the best book detailing a practice of meditation in nature that I have read. In recent years, the popularity of wilderness quests has mushroomed. Everyone from corporate lawyers to Buddhist practioners, to homemakers or avid eco-adventurists are seeking profound encounters with nature -- a quiet time of solo contemplation anywhere from 3 to 44 days. These seekers hope to deepen their connection to Source and to more easily hear the inner voice of the heart away from the distractions and constraining busy-ness of modern life. In Sky Above, Earth Below, John P. Milton explicates clearly and concisely how one may easily go into and connect with nature, whether for 15 minutes a day, or for longer periods such as with a 10 or 28-day Sacred Passage, or solo camping quest. (Sacred Passages are a popular and profound structure developed by Milton for those wishing to bond more deeply with the earth and quest for visions of their own true inner nature.) With decades of experience in facilitating encounters in nature for thousands of people, Milton is certainly an expert. (Though when you read the book, you will be struck by its humble approach and quiet strength via the author's open-hearted style.) In Sky Above, Earth Below, Milton details several simple but thorough meditation exercises, including the beautiful "Rainbow Light Meditation," "Reciprocal Breathing," as well as how to use universal Qi to move energetic blockages. These meditations work in tandem with his "Twelve Principles for Natural Liberation." Here's a hint: #3 is to Deeply Relax and Profoundly Surrender. You will understand when you read the book, if you dón't already. Here is true wisdom from a man who has spent a lot of time not only with many great masters of several ancient traditions, but also helped to get the first Environmental Protection Act passed, discovered an ancient Aztec city in the Yucatan, and has lived most of his life out in nature. Ending with a very lucid chapter on spiritual warriorship, this book will breathe new life into your deepest longings for connection to all that is, and true liberation for yourself and all beings. That's the 2nd Principle: Commit yourself to copmlete liberation in this lifetime for the benefit of all beings.