Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday we will practice the Five Earth Touchings together. You can find the entire text of the touchings on the Stillwater MPC website at https://www.stillwatermpc.org/ under Articles and Resources/Mindfulness Ceremonies or by clicking here.
I still remember the first time I practiced the earth touchings. We all lined up and faced the window and the large tree. As the words were spoken out loud about our blood family, spiritual family, our land ancestors, I experienced both a sense of embracing and letting go. Even though my mind was not always able to stay with the words, when I stood up each time, I felt a sense of renewal and release.
Over time, practicing the teachings has opened me up. I remember one time after practicing the teachings with the sangha, I simply felt this enormous lightness. I realized for many years I had been carrying around events from my childhood as if they were a huge boulder someone had placed on my back. But while doing the touchings, I had this image of the boulder being something I was carrying around in front of me, grasped tightly in my arms. It seemed so easy to just…simply…let…it….go. It reminded me a lot of the scene from the Wizard of Oz movie, when someone points out to Dorothy that she had the power to go home all along, just by clicking her heels together. I had the opportunity to let go of what I had been holding on to all along; I didn’t need to wait or hope that someone else would come to take the boulder off my back.
This past year, the touchings gave me a great gift. They allowed me to begin to see the decisions my parents made during my childhood, particularly around choosing a path of religious fundamentalism, with peace, understanding, and acceptance. Gradually, with those feelings as a foundation, love and gratitude took root. I remember calling my mother this past mother’s day and simply telling her how grateful I was that she had been my mother. I felt so free inside; it’s quite hard to describe. These feelings are still young within me, but they are growing, and the touchings help me nourish them.
This past week I have been reading a chapter in Lorne Ladner’s book “The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology”. The chapter is called ‘Gratitude and Inner Wealth. It delves into both cultivating gratitude for what we have now, however, it emphasizes the importance of expressing gratitude for what we had in the past. The text suggests that this can help transform our sense of inner poverty to inner wealth. Dr. Ladner makes the important distinction of acknowledging hurtful or harmful actions, however, he says expressing gratitude can help heal these. Here is part of the text:
“If we wish to develop our sense of inner wealth and compassion, we must cherish our memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors, teachers, and old friends who lovingly shared what they had, what they knew, and who they were with us. We should honor such memories by reviewing them in our minds, writing them down, and sharing them with those we love. Failing to cherish a true act of kindness is like discarding a precious gift, leaving ourselves poorer. By contrast, if we do invest time in recollecting such stories with a heart open to gratitude, we almost certainly will be surprised by the feelings of happiness, contentment, and fullness that result.”
It was interesting as I started to put together this email with the thought of focusing on gratitude. I re-read the Five Touchings and notice that 4 of the 5 begin with ‘in gratitude.’ So questions for thought are ‘What or who are you grateful for today? This past week? Twenty years ago? Forty years ago? Sixty years ago? How does it feel to express your gratitude for that person or thing? What are the difficulties you face in trying to express gratitude?
In peace and gratitude,