We are currently reading Jan Chozen Bays’s How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness at the Tricycle Book Club. Each week in November, Bays will present us with a new mindfulness exercise that relates to the theme of gratitude. The second exercise is posted below. Give it a try and then join us at the discussion to tell us how it goes. Pick up a copy of the book here.
Mindfulness Exercise # 2: The Great Earth Beneath You
As often as possible, during the day, become aware of the great earth beneath you. When you are not outside, you can use your imagination to “feel” the earth beneath the sidewalk or the floor.
Place notes with the word “Earth,” pictures of the globe or small dishes with dirt in them in appropriate places in your environment.
At the monastery we began this mindfulness practice each day by touching our forehead to the floor/earth as soon as we got out of bed. It seemed like an odd practice at first, but we all came to appreciate it. To wake up, stand, and immediately kneel and touch the forehead to the ground helped us begin the day with humility and with gratitude for the earth that holds us to itself. We ended the day with the same bow before bed, an acknowledgment and expression of gratitude to the ever-supportive earth.
All day long we humans are walking and driving around on the surface of the earth and we are almost completely unaware of the huge ball that is our platform for life. Zen Master Maezumi Roshi used to say, “You’re up in your head!” when he saw someone who looked distracted, ruminating on something. If our attention is extended through the bottoms of our feet into the earth, we feel rooted, less swayed by thoughts and emotions, and more solid.
The Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth… a miracle we don’t even recognize.”
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