All Heaven and Earth Are Still

All Heaven and Earth are still though not in sleep,
But breathless, as we grow when feeling most;
And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep:—
All Heaven and Earth are still. From the high host
Of stars to the lulled lake and mountain-coast,
All is concentered in a life intense,
Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
But have a part of Being, and a sense
Of that which is of all Creator and Defence.

–excerpt from Canto III of “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” by Lord Byron, 1816

In the current maelstrom of life in the 21st century, it may seem from the accumulated reports from across the globe, that Lord Byron was recounting the state of the world from an impossibly gentler time, when stillness was a great deal more common than it seems to be in our time. In some ways, of course, it may be true that our modern world has become less amenable to calm and stillness, with fewer opportunities to stand in deep thought, or to appreciate a lulled lake scene, or to be soothed by the gentle rhythms of a mountain coastline. Our apparent societal obsession with the advancements in digital technology and the relentless machinations of the 24-hour news cycle, may make it appear as though “life intense” no longer infers a condition where “not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost.”

In spite of the demands of modern life, there are still opportunities for appreciating the view of heaven and earth “…from the high host of stars.” For Christmas this year, I received a signed copy of “Infinite Wonder,” a book by astronaut Scott Kelly, detailing his year in space aboard the International Space Station. The photo above is one of the many views provided by our participation in the work being done 250 miles above the earth. Thanks to the efforts of astronaut Kelly and the many international participants in the space program, anyone who wishes can now appreciate these “unspeakably beautiful” images of the Earth from space, and realize that the stillness of “heaven and earth,” from this perspective is fully available to any who have eyes to see, and the ability to ponder “thoughts too deep.”

Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt
In solitude, where we are least alone;
A truth, which through our being then doth melt,
And purifies from self; it is a tone,
The soul and source of Music, which makes known
Eternal harmony, and sheds a charm
Like the fabled Cytherea’s zone(*)
Binding all things with beauty;—‘twould disarm
The spectre Death, had he substantial power to harm.

–Canto III again…(*) —Cytherea’s Zone – refers to the fabled belt or girdle (zone) of Aphrodite/Venus, the goddess of love (Cythera was the mythical birthplace of the goddess), which conferred upon by any mortal who wore it, the power to attract love.

Recently, as I have spent more time in solitude, I have begun to understand how Byron concluded that when we spend more time there, “where we are least alone,” we come upon a truth, which illuminates an “eternal harmony,” at the heart of life. Last year, depicted in the photo above, I performed a scene for my family during our annual Christmas celebration, which I wrote as part of a larger work-in-progress, where I reflect in solitude, and affirm Byron’s contention that such contemplation “stirs the feeling infinite:”

When I’m alone, looking back over the years, I can still hear the beautiful song of hope that played in my head as a child. It’s like a siren song. I believed in it. I believed in it because it was not a song that leads to destruction, but one that was calling me to my task. That beautiful voice gave me hope. Now that I look back on it, I know that it was not just one voice. I know that each time I heard it, I recognized the spirit who dwelled within it…it may be the voice of my unborn grandchild…it may be a voice from the future or from an ancient past. I know that essence. In unguarded moments, in the silence between words, in moments of quiet contemplation, I know that it is a part of me, telling me to move forward with hope.

Spending more time now in contemplation has provided me with opportunities to reflect and focus on the meaning of a lifetime of experiences and “deep thoughts,” which were so rare during the demanding work schedule I pursued. For many people, the frenetic pace of modern life, with so much more attention being paid to our digital lives, rather than our temporal and spiritual lives, contributes to an awareness for some of us of an emotional and spiritual deficit, which we try to fill with “mindfulness programs,” which often seem more materialistic, emphasizing profit, rather than providing the personal benefits possible when applied empathetically as a therapeutic approach to the modern challenges of life in the 21st century. Anyone can subscribe to one of the many offerings made available through large for-profit organizations, and some of them do provide portions of age-old wisdom traditions in a way that might lead to a more considered approach to those challenges, but with the additional requirement for monetary contributions, when there are other religious and spiritual centers which provide similar programs without cost.

During the past eight years here at John’s Consciousness, I have endeavored to provide some sense of the underlying “eternal harmony,” which I believe exists within us, and which can be accessed regardless of our ability to participate in the modern amenities available in such for-profit programs. This is not an indictment of any such program or a criticism of those who participate in them, only a suggestion that when we seek outside of ourselves for the answers to our most pressing personal and spiritual challenges, what we often find is that we can often better serve those goals by taking what we find and comparing it to our own inner sense of what life requires of us in pursuit of these answers. With a consistent and concerted effort to explore our inner world in this way, we can arrive in a place where our very human spirit and our evolving inner life can expand and become fuller, even in consideration of our jam-packed modern lifestyles.

In the coming months, I will be devoting more of my time to expanding on the work I have accumulated over the past eight years, and presenting examples of the many ways in which we, as individuals, can enhance our understanding and appreciation of the pathways leading to a greater spiritual and less materialistic approach to modern life, and sharing the many stories of all the various experiences and explorations that contributed to my present world-view. As the previous year recedes and the new year approaches, as is usually the case with me anyway, I engage more fully in contemplation of what I have learned and what still remains unanswered, and how to discern which efforts in which areas may provide me with an improved path forward. I thank each and every one of my readers and commenters for their continued support and encouragement in this effort, and look forward to an expanded amount of sharing as life unfolds in the year ahead.

Wishing you all the best of what life can provide in the coming year. With warm regards…John H.

4 thoughts on “All Heaven and Earth Are Still

  1. Well John, I must rely on this modern digital media device to reply to this fantastic insight into your world. Solitude can be rewarding experience, but can also be maddening. What a thin line between the two. Love you man.

    1. No doubt about it, Arthur, we have become reliant on our digital devices to gain access to the thoughts and insights available on the internet, and in important ways, this access would be less available without our modern digital technology. We benefit most, I believe though, when we approach the technology in a more measured way, and balance it with a well-rounded and more actively personal participation in more socially immediate circumstances like face-to-face meetings and actual live conversations about what matters most to us. Any effort pursued obsessively, regardless of its merits, may prevent access to the very insights which could assist us with a more balanced approach.

      As to the merits of solitude, it mostly represents a benefit when it is not imposed upon us against our will, or when it is not the result of alienation or oppression. Too much time alone is really no better than not enough time alone, and either extreme can be maddening as you say. I think the line is a bit more blurry than you suggest, since some of us need more than others, and every situation is different, but the rewards of having the experience, when balanced by more social activity, are great, and the prevention of such opportunities is usually problematical.

      You are also dear to me in ways that you know well, and I hope the new year provides us both with a break from our mutual experience of solitude to share in the benefits of sharing insights.

  2. Great post John and looking forward to your future offerings.

    I’m from the town that spawned the Fab Four and I’ve been revisiting their back catalogue recently (specifically Revolver onwards) and there is a certain timeless honesty and beauty in certain lyrics (which fits in well here I think):

    Within You Without You:

    “We were talking, about the space between us all
    And the people, who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
    Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late when they pass away

    We were talking, about the love we all could share
    When we find it, to try our best to hold it there, with our love
    With our love we could save the world, if they only knew

    Try to realize it’s all within yourself, no-one else can make you change
    And to see you’re really only very small
    And life flows on within you and without you

    We were talking, about the love that’s gone so cold
    And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
    They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?

    When you’ve seen beyond yourself
    Then you may find peace of mind is waiting there
    And the time will come when you see we’re all one
    And life flows on within you and without you”

    The technological revolution is upon us for sure, but there are inherent dangers in over use (but I guess we could say the same about a lot of things), a life of equilibrium and moderation is quite tricky nowadays.

    1. Mike,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, and the lyrics from one of the most interesting Beatles songs, which very much do “fit in well here.” Technically, George Harrison was the only one of the fab four who contributed to the performance of this song, and according to producer George Martin, at the time it was recorded, it was not appreciated very well by the others, who only came around to doing so years after the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s album.

      When he wrote it, George was well along in his efforts to learn more about the culture of India, and pressed for the inclusion of several images of key spiritual figures from India at the time to appear on the album cover. In particular, he was partial to the teachings of Sri Pavamahansa Yogananda, which emphasized the importance of a consistent practice of meditation, keeping a focus within, and by doing so, achieving a level of calm to increase the awareness in consciousness, of the “unchangeable spirit” of which we are all a part.

      One of the most pressing issues of our time now is the urgency to figure out how to continue to progress in a spiritually unified manner, while maintaining progress in the temporal world of technological innovation as well. Life does indeed “flow on within us and without us,” and our striving for advancement in the WORLD, must be accompanied by an increased awareness of the life within US as well.

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