Dear Still Water Friends,
There is a semi-famous self-introduction by one of the Woodstock (showing my age) performers, James Marshall Hendrix, which goes something like this: “I see that we meet again, hmmm, well dig…” I’m thinking that this simple intro might be apropos to our next Touchings of the Earth ceremony. We will revisit the practice this Thursday and once again reconnect with our fragile mother earth, our beloved ancestors and teachers, and both those we love and those who have made us suffer.
It has been so pleasurable to hear from so many of you during our Dharma talks. It seems that while there has not been total transition to acceptance of this sometimes challenging practice, there does seem to be a burgeoning appreciation of what it provides in terms of an inner peace and recognition of who we are and how our ancestors’ lives, including our Mother, the Earth, are intertwined with our own.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Creating True Peace:
In Vietnam, every home has an ancestral altar. On the anniversary of important events, such as the passing away of their father or mother, the entire family comes together at the house of the eldest child. This tradition is still alive in Vietnam, and everyone, including children, participates. It is a special opportunity to be with each other as one big family, to spend time together, to share a joyful meal and remember our loved ones.
Join us this Thursday so that we may engage in the practice of the Five Touchings, and through the collective power of our community, awaken the insight of our connection to the earth and our ancestors and discover how we are inexorably tied to both. Hopefully it will remind us in the words of Thich Nhat Hahn that “the Earth is us”.
How does the Earth Touching ceremony bring you closer to your ancestors?
How do you express your reverence for the Earth?
An excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh about touching the earth is below.
Touching the Earth
from Stepping into Freedom by Thich Nhat Hanh
When you prostrate, do not stand directly in front of the altar. That place is reserved for the abbot or abbess. Do not walk in front of anyone who is prostrating. When you join your palms, your fingers should point upwards, touching one another directly and not alternating. You may leave a small space between your palms so that your hands form a lotus bud. Do not prop your chin up with your fingers or place your fingers under your nose. Breathe smoothly and deeply three times, and meditate on the object of your reverence before touching the Earth. Bring your joined palms to your forehead and then down to your chest before separating your two hands as you bend down to touch the Earth with your forehead, your forearms, your knees, and your toes. Touch the Earth with your whole body and mind.
While you are touching the Earth, turn the palms of your hands upwards to express your openness to the Buddha. Let go of all ideas you have about yourself. Remember that your body, health, skills, intelligence, and knowledge have been transmitted to you by your spiritual and blood ancestors, so allow yourself to enter the stream of life and be with all of them. When you do, you will see that you are not a separate self, that your suffering or happiness is not yours alone. Breathe in and out three or more times before standing up, and you will feel light and free. If the meditation hall is crowded, you can come back later when fewer people are around. Practicing the Five Earth-Touchings or the Three Prostrations every day can heal feelings of isolation.