Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will practice the Three Touchings of the Earth, a guided movement meditation written by Thich Nhat Hanh that helps us perceive more deeply the nature of our existence. It is a rich meditation. Each time I practice it, different phrases speak to me and different aspects of my life and history come to mind.
Often our practice at Still Water is to focus our discussion on one of the Touchings, or even just on one sentence or phrase. This week I am struck by the synergy of the inner attitudes the Three Touchings encourage..
The first Touching directs our attention to our spiritual and blood ancestors and to our descendants. Rather than judge them, we are encouraged to accept them, and to accept ourselves. We recognize that we are the way we are, with our urges and capacities, because of how others have been before us. “I open my heart and accept all my relatives, my blood descendants, and my friends and acquaintances, with their good qualities, their talents, and also their weaknesses.”
The second Touching reminds us of our connectedness with our contemporaries, sharing happiness and suffering. We are encouraged to develop confidence and commitment: “I am someone who has enough peace, joy and freedom to offer fearlessness and joy to living beings around me.”
The third Touching points us to the ultimate dimension, the underlying oneness of all life: “I have gone beyond the idea that I am a body that is separated in space and time from all other forms of life.” With an attitude of equanimity and transcendence,we identify with the ocean and not just with a single wave.
The three orientations work together. Acceptance – letting go of our judgments and resentments – is wonderful. However, by itself, it can lead to fatalism and withdrawal. Confidence and commitment complement acceptance. We feel empowered. We are able to act and to move forward. An excess of confidence and commitment, however, can lead to pride and narrowness of view. Equanimity and transcendence evoke humility and reverence. We are more at peace and more content. When old habits reassert themselves, when we fall short, acceptance eases our disappointment and comforts us.
You are invited to join us this Thursday evening. We will begin our discussion sharing how we are encouraged, or challenged, by the Three Touchings. (The text of the Touchings is below.)
You are also invited to join us for our Settling into Silence Practice Retreat at the Charter Hall Retreat Center, Perryville, MD, Fri, Oct 1- Sun, Oct 3.
The best times to join our Thursday evening gatherings are just before the beginning of our 7 p.m. meditation, just before we begin walking meditation (around 7:35), and just after our walking meditation (around 7:50).
The Three Touchings of the Earth
(adapted from the Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book by the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, January 23, 2002)
I: Touching the Earth, I connect with ancestors and descendants of both my spiritual and my blood families.
My spiritual ancestors include the Buddha, the bodhisattvas, the noble Sangha of Buddha’s disciples,
They include Jesus and Mary Immaculate; the Jewish prophets and the Hasidic masters; Mohammed and the Sufi masters, Krishna and the many other wise and courageous women and men who have shown us the way.
My spiritual ancestors include my own spiritual teachers still alive or already passed away. They are present in me because they have transmitted to me seeds of peace, wisdom, love, and happiness. They have woken up in me my resource of understanding and compassion.
When I look at my spiritual ancestors, I see those who are perfect in the practice of the mindfulness trainings, understanding, and compassion, and those who are still imperfect. I accept them all because I see within myself shortcomings and weaknesses. Aware that my practice of the mindfulness trainings is not always perfect, and that I am not always as understanding and compassionate as I would like to be, I open my heart and accept all my spiritual descendants and all those whose lives I touch in my daily life. Some practice the mindfulness trainings, understanding, and compassion in a way which invites confidence and respect, but there are also those who come across many difficulties and are constantly subject to ups and downs in their practice and in their lives.
In the same way, I accept all my ancestors on my mother’s side and my father’s side of the family. I accept all their good qualities and their virtuous actions, and I also accept all their weaknesses. I open my heart and accept all my relatives, my blood descendants, and my friends and acquaintances, with their good qualities, their talents, and also their weaknesses.
My ancestors my descendants, my friends and my loved ones, are all part of me. I am them and they are me. I do not have a separate self. All exist as part of a wonderful stream of life which is constantly moving.
II: Touching the Earth, I connect with all people and all species that are alive at this moment in this world with me.
I am one with the wonderful pattern of life that radiates out in all directions. I see the close connection between myself and others, how we share happiness and suffering.
I am one with those who were born disabled or who have become disabled because of war, accident, or illness. I am one with those who are caught in a situation of war or oppression. I am one with those who find no happiness in family life, who have no roots and no peace of mind, who are hungry for understanding and love, and who are looking for something beautiful, wholesome, and true to embrace and to believe in.
I am someone at the point of death who is very afraid and does not know what is going to happen. I am a child who lives in a place where there is miserable poverty and disease, whose legs and arms are like sticks and who has no future. I am also the manufacturer of bombs that are sold to poor countries. I am the frog swimming in the pond and I am also the snake who needs the body of the frog to nourish its own body. I am the caterpillar or the ant that the bird is looking for to eat, but I am also the bird that is looking for the caterpillar or the ant. I am the forest that is being cut down. I am the rivers and the air that are being polluted, and I am also the person who cuts down the forest and pollutes the rivers and the air. I see myself in all species, and I see all species in me.
I am one with the great beings who have realized the truth of no-birth and no-death and are able to look at the forms of birth and death, happiness and suffering with calm eyes. I am one with those people, who can be found a little bit everywhere, who have sufficient peace of mind, understanding and love to be able to touch what is wonderful, nourishing and healing, and who also have the capacity to embrace the world with a heart of love and arms of caring action.
I am someone who has enough peace, joy and freedom to offer fearlessness and joy to living beings around me. I see that I am not lonely and cut off. The love and the happiness of great beings on this planet help me not to sink in despair. They help me to live my life in a meaningful way with true peace and happiness. I see them all in me and I see myself in all of them.
III: Touching the Earth, I let go of my idea that I am this body and my life span is limited.
I see that this body, made up of the four elements, is not really me and I am not limited by this body. I am part of a stream of life of spiritual and blood ancestors that for thousands of years has been flowing into the present and flows on for thousands of years into the future.
I am one with my ancestors. I am one with my descendants. I am life manifested in numberless different forms. I am one with all people and all species, whether they are peaceful and fearless, or suffering and afraid. At this very moment, I am present everywhere on this planet. I am also present in the past and in the future.
The disintegration of this body does not touch me, just as when the plum blossom falls it does not mean the end of the plum tree. I see myself as a wave on the surface of the ocean. My nature is the ocean water. I see myself in all the other waves and see all the other waves in me. The appearance and disappearance of the form of the wave does not affect the ocean. My Dharma body and wisdom life are not subject to birth and death.
I see the presence of myself before my body manifested and after my body has disintegrated. Even in this moment, I see how I exist elsewhere than in this body. Seventy or eighty years is not my life span. My life span, like the life span of a leaf or of a Buddha, is limitless. I have gone beyond the idea that I am a body that is separated in space and time from all other forms of life.