Touching the earth

For the past few weeks, I have been working with Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Touching the earth”. This new practice has brought me refreshment and a greater level of peace in my day. I am using the bowing and the readings, when I am at home, instead of a morning service. That, in itself, is quite refreshing. Doing something different within the context of prayer brings the spirit of the liturgy alive through the novelty of something different. That is true for all our practices. Sometimes we have to change or rotate are practices, matching the circumstances of our life, in order to keep them fresh and alive. When something is rote it is often forgotten or done without joy and concentration. As Ram Dass said, years ago, “Remember, be here, now.” The hardest word in that phrase is to “remember.” 

Thich Nhat Hanh asks us to do our bows slowly. We touch the earth with our frontal lobes or our discursive minds, to allow ourselves to let go of the swirling world of thought and let everything drain back into the earth and be supported by the earth. The earth is an example of unconditional acceptance. The earth receives all weather and all conditions with complete equanimity and offers in response, support. At the bottom of your bow, take three full breaths and contemplate the reading or what you are bowing to which is included in the guided meditations. Slowing down my bow has allowed me to more completely relax or let go, as I am doing this service.

The readings take about 1-3 minutes a piece and I have been doing several of them at a time. This means that this practice doesn’t take up that much time but is very penetrating. It reviews the major tenets of our understanding and practice.

Here are a few examples from the readings that I have written on index cards to carry with me throughout the day. This are condensed sound bites from a longer reading.

  • Lord Buddha, You have taught me not to regret the past or lose myself in anxiety and fear about the future. Through mindfulness and concentration, I can enter the beauty of the pure land of the present moment and be nourished.
  • Lord Buddha, all of your disciples, whether monks, nuns or lay practitioners, are in one way or another your continuation; they are the Buddha. I see you in the methods of practice you taught, which, when used intelligently, always lead to transformation and healing. I recognize you in the energy of understanding and compassion, embodied in people, in writings, poetry, architecture, music and other works of art and forms of culture. I recognize you, the Buddha, in myself, in the seeds of awakening and love in me that make it possible for me to practice understanding and compassion.
  • Lord Buddha, I still have the habit of acting as if everything is permanent and I am a separate self. I have the tendency to believe that my feelings, my perceptions, my mental formations, and my consciousness are permanent, cutting me off from other people and living beings and causing suffering. But from now onward, I shall solidly practice to maintain the Samadhi on interbeing and impermanence to nourish my awareness that all composed things are of the nature to change and that I am interconnected with all beings throughout space and time.

And many more in “Touching the earth, intimate conversation with Buddha” by Thich Nhat Hanh.