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Book Review: Sky Above, Earth Below

spring snow Colorado

credit: Brian Nunnery

I have heard wonderful things about John Milton and the spiritual wilderness experiences he guides through Sacred Passage, so I was very interested in reading his book Sky Above, Earth Below.

My understanding is that the book was adapted from a sound recording series. Some of the weaknesses of the book may stem from the fact that it was not originally conceived and organized in written format. It has a feeling of being retrofitted.

The first few pages of the book outline Milton’s “twelve principles for natural liberation,” which he presents as the distillation of his teachings. Strangely, they are immediately abandoned and never revisited after page 15. The remainder of the book is instead structured using six core themes. There is some overlap between the six and the 12, but the relationship between them is never clearly explained.

The main part of the book describes practices to support each of the six key themes or goals: Relaxation, Presence, Cultivating Universal Energy, Opening the Heart, Cutting through to Clarity and Spaciousness, and Returning to Source. Anecdotes and stories from Milton’s own spiritual path are also included as illustrations, and these are fascinating.

The practices draw mainly from eastern traditions and consist of contemplative exercises that involve working with subtle energy, sensory awareness, and visualization. The author draws heavily from Qi Gong, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, and Taoist meditation practices and concepts. I admit that I have little experience with, or affinity for these traditions, so I had to make an effort to understand many of the images and ideas he presented. I also found that many of the exercises do not involve relating to nature directly and subjectively, but rather position the natural world as a backdrop that facilitates presence and relaxation and therefore supports the human seeker.

In my view, the book is most helpful and engaging when it presents exercises that promote direct encounters with nature that expand awareness across the usual species boundaries. Some of these practices are truly beautiful and I have found that they produce shifts in my consciousness immediately. These are the exercises that I will return to again and again because I already sense that they are shifting and expanding the way that I relate to the more-than-human world. This is what I’m after. I am grateful to John Milton for providing the gift of these excellent tools.

1 Comment

  1. An enjoyable read Ruth, much food for thought. Regards to your family.

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