An Excerpt from Sky Above, Earth Below
By John Milton
In an era long before indoor churches and temples, people communed directly with sacred Spirit out upon the body of the Earth, embraced by the vastness of the sky above and the loving ground of the Earth below. Nature was experienced as a flowing creation of the Divine, a sanctuary of the wild where one could recognize life's sacredness without the interpretations of intermediaries. Earth was part of the physical form of Great Spirit; the sky mirrored the infinite immensity of the formless Being that birthed and held all creation.
The mystery of being in human form was explored through ancient shmanic practices by intimately working with all living beings and the sacred elements of Nature. In those times it was not uncommon for people to take extended solitary wildnerness retreats and vision quests in forests, mountains, and deserts, where they opened to profound levels of spiritual realization. Animals, birds, and trees were seen as part of one's intimate family, and during vision quests were often viewed as great teachers for people. Because of this sacred view, all life was experienced as a whole; no separation of the sacred and the mundane, no arbitrary or harsh division between Spirit and matter. Mother Earth, Gaia was the temple, the shrine and the altar. She was the threshold to direct realization of the Great Nature that holds us all.
We, and our early human ancestors, have coevolved with Gaia through countless changes and migrations over millions of years. During that time, in a process of continual interaction with Nature and Earth, our physical energetic, emotional, mental, and spiritual natures took form. Inner and outer nature coevolved together as part of a seamless web of life. This is why many of us feel so at home praying, meditating, and doing ceremony in wild Nature. Such natural ways of spiritual cultivation go back at least fifty thousand years and almost certainly more, in contrast to modern historical lineages and religious institutions that reach back six thousand years or less.
Today, our modern world is filled with high-tech wonders. Our urban and suburban existence surrounds us with crowded, artificial environments of plastic, steel, concrete, and glass. Environmental toxins high-stress lifestyles, devitalized food, loud noise, unnatural electromagnetic fields, and microwave radiation assail our cells and sensibilities. Volatile chemical compounds often saturate our homes, offices, and communities. All these changes impose unique forms of anxiety, tension, and stress on us. They are destabilizing environments that are biologically quite new to humans. Our minds, emotions, and bodies are often unable to cope with these radically new artificial stresses. Consequently, rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, emotional suffering, and psychological breakdown have spread rapidly along with the mushrooming worldwide impact of modern technology and ways of life.
When we leave these tensions for a while to cultivate our national wholeness in the wild, we are renewed with the fresh vitality and spirit of Nature. New pathways open for living in harmony with our communities and the Earth. We discover deep inspiration to help transform our lifestyles and our culture toward harmony and balance.