Excerpt from Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh ©Parallax Press
When we feel that we’re fragile, not stable or solid, we can come back to ourselves and take refuge in the Earth. With each step we can feel her solidity beneath our feet. When we’re truly in touch with the Earth, we can feel her supportive embrace and her stability. We use all our body and our mind to go back to the Earth and surrender ourselves to her. With each breath we release all our agitation, our fragility, and our suffering. Just being aware of her benevolent presence can already bring relief.
On the verge of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he touched the Earth with his hand and asked her to bear witness to his awakening. Flowers sprang up in celebration at the very place where his hand touched the ground. At that moment, the Buddha’s mind became so free and so clear that he saw millions of flowers everywhere smiling at him.
We can be like the Buddha, and in difficult moments touch the Earth as our witness. We can take refuge in the Earth as our original mother. We can say, “I touch the pure and refreshing Earth.” Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that Mother Earth is a great bodhisattva. When we see her in this way, with all her many virtues, we will walk more gently on her and treat her and all her children more gently. We will want to protect her and not harm her or any of the myriad forms of life she has given birth to. We will stop wreaking destruction and violence on Mother Earth. We will resolve the question of what we mistakenly call “the environmental problem.” The Earth is not just the environment. The Earth is us. Everything depends on whether we have this insight or not.
When you’re able to see the Earth for the bodhisattva that she is, you will want to bow down and touch the Earth with reverence and respect. Then love and care will be born in your heart. This awakening is enlightenment. Don’t look for enlightenment elsewhere. This awakening, this enlightenment, will bring about a great transformation in you, and you’ll have more happiness, more love, and more understanding than from any other practice. Enlightenment, liberation, peace, and joy aren’t dreams for the future; they’re a reality available to us in the present moment.
Reprinted from Love Letter to the Earth (2013) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. www.parallax.org
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the best-known Buddhist teachers in the world today. His books, including Understanding Our Mind and Being Peace, have sold over two million copies in the US alone. He lives in Plum Village, his monastery in southwest France, and travels throughout the world leading retreats on the art of mindful living.