Our hands imbibe like roots,St. Francis of Assisi
so I place them on what is beautiful in the world,
And I fold them in prayer, and they
draw from the heavens light.
As I stepped outside to feed the birds, the neighborhood redwood trees were bathed in the early morning light. In this bucolic view, there was no visible trace of the pain and suffering in the world. There was only light, and sky, and treetops.
It made me wonder if such beauty always carries a sense of hope for harmony and peacefulness among all earthly beings. Certainly, the redwoods themselves are living reminders of the power of equanimity. Their strength and ability to weather storms is ever-present in their graceful, columnar trunks and evergreen needles.
There is a hidden beauty to these Coastal Redwoods. Rather than their prominence or grandeur, their secret charm is in their natural way of being. Unlike the giants in most of our human mythology, the redwoods are gentle sentinels. For thousands of years, they have modeled true generosity, kindness, and steadfast devotion to the wellbeing of the whole. They support all life around them from beneath the ground to the uppermost regions, e.g., other plants, insects, worms, mammals, reptiles and birds, along with the health of the soil and air. At their roots, they intertwine with and nourish one another from generation to generation.
Almost everywhere on earth, there is some part of nature with similar altruistic qualities of the redwood. The soil itself offers the ground for us to live and move, not to mention being a source of our food. It has mostly been in the last couple of centuries that our human species has experimented with shaping economies and group attitudes in opposition to our earthly inherited values of cooperation, altruism, non-greed, and being grand in our gentleness.
Now with our global pause on this Earth Day, we are challenged as humans to reflect. We have a choice as to whether we can humbly acknowledge our own ancient, human ancestors who gave us the ethical roots on which we grow and stand. Ironically, their tenets reflect those natural ones of our earthly home. Or, do we choose to continue the path on which name, fame, impatience, and indulgences are all that matters?
The choice is ours – individually and collectively. I’m choosing to listen to the ancient beings – human sages and saints, and earthly caretakers like the redwoods. I hope you will join me.
This practice invites gratitude for our earthly home.
- Find a comfortable seated position on the earth, floor, or in a chair.
- Allow your spine to lengthen upward. Try to gently lift from your pelvis, navel area, and then lower ribs.
- Wherever you are – inside or outside – acknowledge one or two parts of the natural earth that sustains your body, e.g., the ground beneath you.
- Pause for each and imagine as though you are holding them in your hands. Notice how that feels, for you e.g., scary, calming, reverential.
- Invite your breath to be free and easy, again without forcing. Perhaps smile to further support ease in your breath.
- Lightly place your hands on:
- Your thighs, acknowledging the grace of solidity within you.
- Your lower belly, acknowledging the grace of beauty within you.
- Your navel area, acknowledging the grace of vitality within you.
- Your chest, acknowledging the grace of transformation within you.
- Top of your head, acknowledging the grace of equanimity within you.
- Bow your head with your hands in front of your heart with gratitude for these gifts that are represented in the gentle giants and the rest of natural world around us.
- Then, allow your hands to relax lightly in your lap or on your thighs. Sit quietly and allow yourself to breathe with an even length between your inhalation and exhalation.
Transition back into your day –
- Gently rub your hands together. As you do this, invite a sense of loving, caring attentiveness not only to your hands, but to all that they touch, create, and express.
- Then, if you wish, hold your hands, palms open and upward, in front of your chest. Imagine you are holding the entire earth with caring, loving attentiveness.
- Relax your hands into your lap or on your thighs once again.
- Sit quietly for a few moments. And, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed appreciation for your embodiment and earthly home.
This poem is translated by Daniel Ladinsky and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 86, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2020.
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