Sitting, Resting, and Healing the Earth
Blue Marble – Image of the Earth from Apollo 17

Sitting, Resting, and Healing the Earth

Discussion date: Thu, Apr 04, 2024 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Recently I read two articles on the Order of Interbeing website. The first, by Dylan Tweney, asserts that the act of sitting restfully is powerful and can change ourselves and the world. The other, by John Bell, is a call to action for each of us, individually and with others, to love our planet and take responsibility for its healing and well-being.

I immediately began to connect the concepts in both articles. I guess my brain works in funny ways. It may seem to be a stretch to connect sitting, resting, and being present with the concepts of revolutionary change and motion toward the health of our environment and the planet. But just pause for a moment and contemplate the radical act of taking a slice out of time to stop, relax, and soak in the wonder of our planet: the peaceful, meditative sounds of the surf, the smell and tranquility of the forest, the majesty of the mountains, the songs of birds, the powerful currents and eddies of the rivers and streams, the wonder of gazing at the stars. Each time is a truly transformative moment, as John Bell describes in this passage:

I sometimes sit and feel into how the forest is in me, and I am in the forest, or the ocean, or the sky, or the desert. We are descendants not just of our human ancestors, but also plant, earth, mineral, and star elements.

I often work outside, walk in the woods, sit by the ocean, ride my bike in solitude in a vast forest in Cape Cod, and kayak on waters with pure joy. Similarly, I often hear in our Dharma sharings how our fellow practitioners revel in the wonders of nature. We can use our collective energy of sitting and being present to heal our Earth.

Our practices of sitting in silence or Touching the Earth can be the launching pad for peaceful action. As a sangha, sitting and taking time to rest, recharge, and connect to the living Earth can have enormous power. Dylan Tweney writes:

Thich Nhat Hanh says that sitting is an act of revolution. Sometimes, just sitting at a lunch counter is a protest, because you’re not supposed to be there. Sometimes, just sitting requires you to do something different than what everyone around you is doing — and that can be revolutionary. …

If you follow this practice, you may find that you start to see things differently. You might find you are increasingly out of sync with the always-on, constantly busy world we live in. You might start to wonder why everyone in a capitalist, patriarchal society feels they need to hustle so hard. You might start to imagine a world where we all have the freedom to do less. You might start to think about liberation.

We often fail to recognize that sitting and resting in nature can inspire us to become agents of change. There is immense power in quiet meditation that can assist us in our work of healing our Mother Earth. Thích Nhất Hạnh counsels in The Energy of Prayer:

The energy of mindfulness is a real energy, and whenever energy is applied there is a change. For example, the energy of the sun can change life on the planet Earth. Wind is energy and our mindfulness is also an energy that is able to change the situation of the world and of the human species.

On Thursday evening after our sitting meditation, we’ll have an opportunity to share our experiences with sitting, resting, and applying the energy of our practice to healing our Earth. Here are some questions we may like to consider:

  • How have the simple acts of sitting and resting in nature inspired you or given you increased energy to help heal our planet?
  • For you, what does it mean to fall in love with Mother Earth?
  • What practices especially help you in renewing your desire to protect and preserve our Earth?

Two related excerpts by Thích Nhất Hạnh are below.

Warm wishes,
Paul Flippin

Excerpt from Thích Nhất Hạnh’s 2015 Statement on Climate Change for the United Nations

When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life. …

All civilizations are impermanent and must come to an end one day. But if we continue on our current course, there’s no doubt that our civilization will be destroyed sooner than we think. The Earth may need millions of years to heal, to retrieve her balance and restore her beauty. She will be able to recover, but we humans and many other species will disappear, until the Earth can generate conditions to bring us forth again in new forms. Once we can accept the impermanence of our civilization with peace, we will be liberated from our fear. Only then will we have the strength, awakening and love we need to bring us together. Cherishing our precious Earth – falling in love with the Earth – is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.


Excerpt from “Loneliness is the Ill Being of Our Time,” a Dharma Talk by Thích Nhất Hạnh, December 13, 2012, at the New Hamlet, Plum Village, France

We walk, but we do not know that we are walking. We are there, but we do not know that we are there. We are alive, but we do not know that we are alive. We are losing ourselves, we are not ourselves. And that is happening almost all day long. So the act of sitting down is an act of revolution. You sit down and you cut off — you stop that state of being: losing yourself and not being yourself. When you sit down you connect to yourself, and you do not need an iPhone or a computer to do that. You just need to sit down mindfully and breathe in mindfully, and in a few seconds you will connect with yourself. You know what is going on — in your body, in your feelings, your emotions, and your perceptions, and so on. You are already home. …

Every time you make a step — whether you are breathing in or out — you go back to yourself. Every step brings you home to the here and the now, so that you can connect to yourself. Your body and your feelings. And that is real connection. You don’t need a lot of technology to do that, and this is the revolution. This is the way to heal ourselves and our society.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Apr 04, 2024


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Mon, April 8

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Tue, April 9

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Wed, April 10

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Thu, April 11

Takoma Park Morning Meditation

Fri, April 12

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Sat, April 13