Living in the Present

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Over the years, members of the Still Water community have often heard me talk about my love for the Touching the Earth practice, but few seemed to understand why I was so excited about this practice that combines prostrations with guided meditations.

After Mitchell asked me to facilitate this week, I contemplated the roots of my love. My contemplations also led me to choose “Living in the Present” by Thich Nhat Hanh as the guided meditation for this week’s Touching of the Earth.

Many years ago, in upstate New York when I began this practice, I was affiliated with the Budding Flower Sangha in Newburgh, NY. It was lead by a lovely woman named Patricia who lived on a farm, where the members of the Sangha gathered each week to meditate, have Dharma discussions, and sometimes sit around the kitchen table and drink tea. The modest farm was in a bucolic setting nestled off of a main country road, and was beautiful every season of the year. It was here that my love for the ceremony began. The very first time I participated in a Touchings practice, it was outside on a lovely summer night in the yard of the farm. When we prostrated we touched the the bare earth.

Doing the Touchings this way, on the earth, was profound: it created for me a palpable connection between my body and the earth that literally hummed through me. Additionally, the references to ancestry in the reading that evening resonated within me. I imagined and felt our universal human connection to the dirt. While lying on the bare ground, I felt as if I was hugging our brown mother.

When the “Living in the Present” Touching refers to the “red earth,” the “green grass,” and “The Pure Land,” it reminds me of our ineradicable relatedness to the earth and the delight that comes to us when we see clearly the interdependence of birth and death.

So yes, the Touching continues to inspire me. I invite you to be inspired as well this Thursday. After our meditational period, we will practice Touching the Earth and then focus our Dharma discussion on what aids us in (or obstructs us from) living fully in the present moment.

The “Living in the Present” text is below.

Warm wishes,

Paul Flippin

Coming Home to Ourselves: A Day of Practice, May 11, 2013 at Blueberry Gardens, Ashton, MD

Still Water Special Tour of the Freer Gallery Buddhist Collection, May 18, 2013, at Freer Gallery, Washington, DC

Touching Life Deeply: A Day of Practice, June 2, 2013 at Blueberry Gardens, Ashton, MD

Touching the Earth: Living in the Present

Dear Buddha, I touch the Earth to be deeply in touch with you and with the Pure Land of the present moment.


Dear Buddha, I recognize my deep habit energy of forgetfulness. I often allow my mind to think about the past, so that I drown in sorrow and regret. This has caused me to lose so many opportunities to be in touch with the wonderful things of life present only in this moment.

I know there are many of us whose past has become our prison. Our time is spent complaining or regretting what we have lost. This robs us of the opportunity to be in touch with the refreshing, beautiful, and wonderful things that could nourish and transform us in the present moment.

We are not able to be in touch with the blue sky, the white clouds, the green willow, the yellow flowers, the sound of the wind in the pine trees, the sound of the running brook, the sound of the singing birds, and the sound of the laughing children in the early morning sunlight. We are also not able to be in touch with the wonderful things in our own selves.

We are unable to see that our two eyes are two precious jewels. When we open our eyes we can be in touch with the world of ten thousand different colors and forms. We do not recognize that our two ears are two wonderful sense organs. If we were to listen attentively with these two ears, we would hear the soft rustling of the wind in the branches of the pine, the twittering of the golden oriole or the sound of the rising tide as it plays its compelling music on the seashore in the early morning. Our hearts, lungs, brains, as well as our capacity to feel, to think and observe are also wonders of life. The glass of clear water or golden orange juice in our hands is also a wonder of life.

In spite of this I am often unable to be in touch with the way life is manifesting in the present moment, because I do not practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to return to the present moment.

Dear Buddha, please be my witness. I promise I shall practice to realize the teachings you have given us. I know that the Pure Land is not an illusory promise for the future. The Pure Land is available to me now, wonderful in all aspects. The path of red earth with its border of green grass is the Pure Land. The small golden and violet flowers are also the Pure Land. The babbling brook with small, shiny rocks lying in its bed is also the Pure Land. Our Pure Land is not only the fragrant lotuses and bunches of chrysanthemums, but is also the mud which nourishes the roots of the lotus and the manure which nourishes the chrysanthemums.

The Pure Land has the outer appearance of birth and death, but looking deeply I see that birth and death are interdependent. One is not possible without the other. If I look even more deeply, I will see that there is no birth and no death; there is only manifestation. I do not have to wait for this body to disintegrate in order to step into the Pure Land of the Buddha. By the way I look, walk, and breathe I can produce the energies of mindfulness and concentration, allowing me to enter the Pure Land and to experience all the miracles of life found right in the here and now.


Adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching the Earth: Intimate Conversations with the Buddha (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2004).

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