Thursday 22nd April is Earth Day. It’s a time to honour our planet, celebrate her gifts to us and draw attention to the damage we’re causing. Does attention still need to be drawn to our catastrophic environmental impact? Surely by now we’re all aware? Earth Day will involve over a billion people worldwide, raising awareness, focusing on sustainability and protecting habitats for all of Earth’s offspring.
My intention here isn’t to underline the gravity of the situation or to lament the losses. There’s ample and important information about that elsewhere. But if deforestation, desertification, climatic destabilization, pollution and the exponential rate of extinction are symptoms, what is the underlying malady? And what remedies are needed? What does Earth Medicine offer?
The Earth and all her expressions are the primary inspiration and source of Earth Wisdom Teachings. Long ago, in communities that lived close to the Earth, women and men sat in communion with the Earth to contemplate Life and our relationship with it. Their insights have evolved into a powerful body of knowledge that is very relevant now. It reminds and reawakens our relationship with the Earth and all Life.
In our world today around 370 to 500 million of us are indigenous. That’s about 5% of the global population, but they care for 80% of the biodiversity, including some highly significant carbon sinks such as rainforests. In general they have a deeper sense of relationship with the Earth and sophisticated knowledge of ecological interrelatedness.
The mainstream paradigm views humanity as having ‘dominion over’ the Earth, plants and animals (“over the fish of the sea … birds of the heavens .. livestock, the earth and every creeping thing…” – The Bible, page 1.). This sense of superiority separates us from Nature. But we also perceive ourselves as separate because at the current point in our evolution our waking consciousness tends to be dominated by thinking.
Thinking is a tremendous faculty of consciousness, but it is only one faculty. For most of us there is an incessant stream of involuntary thinking going on all our waking lives. This can drown out other faculties and be like a filter between us and Life around us. It can seem that thinking is all there is, because our thinking mind only notices thinking: it can’t think of not thinking. This closes down our connection with the Earth.
When we direct attention into the present moment – for example to our sense perceptions – part of us is not thinking but perceiving. Noticing what is, here and now, is a different faculty of consciousness to thinking. It is the essence of mindfulness and meditation. Noticing the silent gaps between thought brings our attention into the present moment and opens the doorway to a more direct relationship with Life.
In many indigenous people cultures, noticing is probably more used than our mainstream culture, because these people have traditionally spent time observing Nature in order to hunt and gather. And actually the ancestors of everyone alive today lived in that way, and the ability to be present present is innate in all of us, if we choose to use it.
The present moment is the doorway to awareness and to other faculties of consciousness. Among these are intuition, intention, dreaming and heart-knowing. All humans have these faculties, and when we activate them we come into the full spectrum of consciousness. Through this we can experience a richer, deeper relationship with Mother Earth, one of respect for all Life.
Our culture is dominated by ‘dead-matter thinking’. Dead-matter thinking means we look at objects as devoid of life, spirit and consciousness, so it doesn’t matter how we treat them. They’re disposable. But when we treat the things around us with respect, we treat ourselves with respect.
One of the insights of many indigenous elders is that all energy has consciousness. All things are sacred: all things are part of the whole. Even trash is sacred. When we realize that all energy has consciousness – when this becomes real for us – our relationship with the Earth and with our Self expands. It comes into wholeness.
This shift in the collective consciousness is needed in order to heal. It is a step forward in our collective evolution, one that we are called to make every day, for every day is an Earth Day.
A practice for Earth Day.
You can deepen relationship with the Earth anywhere, though it may help to be in Nature, and relatively undisturbed Nature if possible. Simply going for a walk in the woods or sitting in silence, deeply listening are ways to honour the relationship. The following is one practice I have used to commune with the Earth.
In this practice find a spot – preferably where you won’t be disturbed. Lie face down on the Earth. Become present: open your sense-perceptions – smell and touch the Earth. Open up and let the planet fill your awareness. Be present, and let the Earth’s presence come into you.
When you are ready, begin to speak with the Earth. Thank her for all that she provides: food, shelter, clothing, tools and even your body. Open to any subtle teaching or healing she may offer. (You may need to slow down enough to deeply listen.) You may also like to ask for the support you need in the time to come. Then make whatever commitment you’re ready to make to heal our relationship with her. And there may be some actions you want to commit to regularly to strengthen your relationship with her.
To complete you may like to offer her a kiss and carry this Earth connection back into the rest of your day.
Wishing you well with this and other practices.