Kategoriarkiv: Mindfulness

Book Review: Sky Above, Earth Below

Principles
John Milton wrote Sky Above, Earth Below: Spiritual Practice in Nature 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):

  1. The fundamental truth: All forms are interconnected, constantly change, and continuously arise from and return to primordial Source.
  2. Commit yourself completely to liberation in this lifetime
  3. Relax and surrender to life.
  4. Remain in now.
  5. Cultivate union with universal energy
  6. Go with the universal flow.
  7. Rest in the radiance of your open heart.
  8. Active compassion arises naturally out of unconditional love.
  9. Cut through to clarity.
  10. Return to Source.
  11. Pure Source awareness is—remain in recognition.
  12. Serve as a warrior of the open heart and liberated spirit.
  13. Don’t take all these twelve principles too seriously.

From these twelve principles John Milton has essentialized six core principles (p.16):

  1. Relaxation
  2. Presence
  3. Cultivating universal energy
  4. Opening the heart of unconditional love
  5. Cutting through to clarity, luminosity, and spaciousness
  6. 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!

The ecology of perception and language

Here is a seminar on The Ecology of Perception and Language with David Abram.1 He is author of two books – Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World – and is best known for his work bridging phenomenology with ecology.

Specific topics covered in the seminar include:

Notes:
1 The seminar was arranged by Naturakademin Learning Lab, Stockholm, 2010-11-05.

What is Dialogue?

The following quotes are from posts by Susan Taylor at What Is Dialogue (emphasis mine).

The process of Dialogue is designed to create opportunities for new understandings — a space where new knowledge can be born. Through active listening, treating people equally, balancing opinions with inquiry and suspending judgement — by speaking honestly, noticing your internal reactions to what others say and examining your own beliefs – and in slowing things down and permitting moments for pause and silence, you are creating an environment where people are in conversation, creating new realities in a way that is meaningful and significant.
— Susan Taylor, The Magic in Dialogue

Holding space comes with profound responsibility and the capacity to be present, operating with neutrality, providing grounding for individuals and the group to simply be where they are – without judgment, criticism and blame. This requires you to be mindful. It necessitates that you open your heart and at the same time make a commitment to the unfoldment of what is occurring, allowing each person to have whatever experience he or she is having.
— Susan Taylor, Be Mindful Be Attentive

When a group is in “true Dialogue”, you are developing your collective knowledge, actively seeking information via empathetic listening and inquiry. In this, you are able to tolerate ambiguity. You are mindful of your basic assumptions and avoid negative judgments. You become creatively flexible through a desire to learn about the worldview of others in a way to fully understand them. You reduce uncertainty by asking questions from a place of authentic curiosity, merging all aspects of the worldviews in the room in an effort to develop shared meaning. In Dialogue, you take your time, slowing the cadence. Uncertainty is expected and you embrace differences, rather than ignoring them, learning as you interact, adjusting your behavior as appropriate.
— Susan Taylor, The Platinum Rule

One of the key principles of Generative Dialogue is that of natural rhythm. This can be quite challenging to achieve as many of us are accustomed to using checklists and agendas in our meetings. With these checklists and agendas comes structure and within that structure, we tend to get attached to specific outcomes. If you are looking for Synchronicity or have interest in attaining Flow, you will need to let go of any connection you may have to any specific result. It is as simple and as difficult as that!
— Susan Taylor, The Natural Rhythm of Synchronicity

The Elements

The Elements with Joseph Jaworski is an interesting series of short videos on:

Doing versus being

Mindfulness may initially seem difficult to fully grasp since it has to be experienced to be understood. Mark Williams and Danny Penman lists seven characteristics of the doing and being modes of mind in Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (pp. 36—44). These characteristics might help us understand the differences between doing versus being.

Doing Being
Automatic pilot Conscious choice
Analysing Sensing
Striving Accepting
Seeing thoughts as solid Treating thoughts as mental events
Avoidance Approaching
Mental time travel Remaining in the present moment
Depleting activities Nourishing activities