The Importance of Looking at the Sky

I remember hearing a statistic some time ago about how little time people actually spend looking at the sky.  I thought about how many people work in buildings where all the light is artificial and the ceilings are drab-  being inside for  entire days, weeks, years,  in a building, away from sun and sky and clouds.  At night people are inside too, not looking at the stars and night sky.  Not to mention people in prison and hospitals.

What made me think about this was the fact that since everything has been on fire around here all summer, we’ve barely seen the sky all day for weeks, the sunsets were inferno-like, and the night skies were smudged.   This produced a spate of problems on our little hill.  There were supposed heart attacks that turned out to be stress, strange behavior all the way around,  arguments, missing animals, way  worse driving than usual- just an incredible influx of negative energy which was also combined with unrelenting heat. Last night almost seemed like a miracle, when the sun set as normal in a deep blue sky with fabulous clouds, many mountains being visible.

It made me think about how we suffer when we separate ourselves from what is natural and real.  When we don’t look at the sky our entire horizon closes down, and ultimately we lose perspective.  We stop being able to see ourselves in context and the daily materialism of it all seems to be more real than it is.  Things feel closed in, and it starts to seem like we must DO SOMETHING, force movement, function out of a belief that it is WE who DO things, and that we can make things do what we want, regardless of consequence.   Politics, anyone?

So, okay.  When we could finally see the sky last night, things felt completely different.  This made me think about just how many things impinge on us, how many things we’re moving through all the time to make sense of things, to live, to function.   When the Partner commented that I seemed to be able to wade through the tsunami of inner chatter, inner thought, and stay reasonably centered and happy for the most part, and how did I do that?  Well, Gentle Reader, the mental floodgates creaked open. I don’t, certainly, ALWAYS do it.  Hoo boy.  No.  But as we talked about how so often happiness appears to depend on external influences, I started to think about what a different path it is when one decides to make mindfulness a central focus.  It is, indeed, the practice of a lifetime and it is a matter of constantly turning the attention to, simply, what IS in the moment.  (Which at bottom, is spaciousness, eventually.) Over and over and over.  Happiness really is an internal condition.  I think it is possible to have, if not happiness, at least calm and presence, even in the worst situations.  Facing the ruination of everything one holds dear in whatever way that ruination decides to appear in the moment is frightening and debilitating. Listening to a news story about Syrian refugees in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, I was struck by how similarly, and perhaps fatally, we humans can respond to trauma, regardless of cultural or religious affiliation (which in today’s parlance are often put forth as unbridgeable divisions).  It is a humiliation of the worst sort to be poor, needy, in trouble in the Arab world- bringing shame to the family.  On some level that is true everywhere, and people whose lives have changed financial direction often find themselves feeling shame and withdrawing.  In fact of course that is the very time one has to take yet another deep breath, look up at the sky, and say- OK.  Let me think in silence, reach where I am right now, and see when a decision can be made.    The difference between that ascribing of import and impact exclusively to things outside of us, and the path of developing one’s own inner authority, is huge.  Things happen all the time, and we may or may not prevail in the situation.  We may live, we may die.  But the important thing is the quality of how we do these things.   As long as we depend on the outer world to “feed” us, we will always be hungry.  The inner resources, once developed, cannot be taken away from us.  Sometimes that’s all we have for a time.

This is why I propose the following.  A new rule, as it were.  Look at the sky.  Every day.  Several times.  Remember that we’re all part of something very, very big.  The way things have been getting done in our world is showing itself to be not practical, or practicable.   Especially in times of turmoil it is easy to get knocked off balance and then any forward movement can be seemingly impossible.  Knowing, perhaps, that the smoke WILL go away, and fastening one’s gaze on a deeper spot in the sky each day, it helps.   It helps a person realize that problems are not solved by continuing to do the same things, and it helps a person realize that if you listen, the answers really are out there- in you.  We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid suffering, and this is one key to it, in my mind.   Onward stargazers!

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