Earth Prayer

Earth Prayer

by Laura K. Secor

Hello my friends,

You have been my companions as I have been on a spiritual quest this last couple years.  A few years ago, I found Buddhism by way of the Tao, and it has been a very rewarding practice.  Those days in which I meditate tend to go better than those in which I don’t.  I find myself meditating a fair amount.  Recently I’ve added a quick 10 minute meditation into my work day, and that’s been a pleasure.

However, meditation alone does not feel like a complete spiritual practice to me.  It is soothing to the nervous system, but it isn’t poetry for my heart.  When my Buddhist teachers mention the heart, they tend to focus on keeping it calm and peaceful.  But my spirituality, whatever it is, needs to encompass a lively heart, a celebratory, demanding, hungry, laughing, questioning heart.  As Rilke says, it’s a matter of living our way into the questions.

So for my next layer of this spiritual adventure, I am exploring prayer which reaches out to nature and our planet.  The following excerpted from the book Earth Prayers, by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.

Earth prayer begins with our intuition of the oneness of all life.  We recognize that our identity is inextricably entwined with lives beyond our own.  This sense of expanded identity goes beyond human relationships.  We depend upon trees, trees depend upon grasses, grasses depend upon animals, mountains depend upon oceans, the dolphin depends upon the farthest star.  Physically and spiritually we all are woven into the living processes of the Earth.  We take part in a planet-sized living system.  Our breathing, our acting, our thinking arise in interaction with our shared world.  Our own hearts constantly beat out the cosmic rhythm within us.  We cannot escape our involvement any more than we can escape breathing the air that has traveled from plants thousands of miles away.

Herman Hesse writes:

Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.
My world turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
And an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions.  What should I reply?

Meditation has been described as a journey – a journey from the surface mind to the undifferentiated mind – a journey made by progressively extending calmness and awareness to more and more subtle levels.  The meditative experience leads to a moment of insight into the process of identification.  At that moment, awareness penetrates into the normally unconscious chain of mental events, the chain that gives us the illusion of rock-solid convictions such as “I am so-and-so” and “this really matters.”  The insight of meditation brings with it a radical and permanent change in this perspective.

As we keenly observe the Earth and its processes, alterations in our perceptions begin to occur; events seem to slow down.  Each component of the event seems to contain vast unhurried expanses of time and space.  In this silent emptiness the distance separating the starting point and the goal disappears.  We recognize our complete identification with the Earth and, indeed, with all that is.

I’ll leave you with one more poem of Earth Prayer:

I am a feather on the bright sky
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water
I am the shadow that follows a child
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows
I am an eagle playing with the wind
I am a cluster of bright beads
I am the farthest star
I am the cold of the dawn
I am the roaring of the rain
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow
I am the long track of the moon in a lake
I am a flame of four colors
I am a deer standing away in the dusk
I am a field of sumac and the pomp blanche
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky
I am the hunger of a young wolf
I am the whole dream of these things
You see, I am alive, I am alive
I stand in good relation to the earth
I stand in good relation to the gods
I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful
I stand in good relation to all the daughters of Tsen-tainte
You see, I am alive, I am alive.

– N. Scott Momaday