We Are One With The Earth: April 2014 Tenleytown Family Meditation Class
By Jennifer Jordan | Apr 23 2014
In honor of Earth Day, the theme for the April class was "We Are the Earth". To settle in, Jen led the class in a meditation, guiding us to bring our attention to the awareness of our breath, sound, and body sensations. Just as a wave will rise and fall within the open ocean, breath, sounds, and body sensations rise and fall, coming and going. We were invited to notice how we cannot separate ourselves from sounds, from our breathing, or from our sensations, just as a wave cannot separate itself from the ocean. We ended the meditation with a reminder that any time we want, we can choose to take a simple time-out and settle in like this, noticing the rising and falling of breathing, sounds, or body sensations. We can steady our minds and bodies this way.
Ofosu led us in an experiential Five Element Awareness exercise, helping us see that what holds true "out there" holds true "in here' as well.
Earth: Ofosu passed around a bowl of earth elements for us to get our hands on--twigs, leaves, grass, and soil. The earth element reflects all that gives structure and solidity. This element exists inside of us just as it does outside of us--in the form of bones, teeth, skin, and the things we consume.
Ofosu asked, "If I handed you a glass full of sticky, gooey, black tar, would you drink it?"
"Because it would make us sick!"
Just as we try our best to take care of our body-minds and consume only that which nourishes us, so we should feed the Earth only what sustains and nourishes her. When we realize certain things we've been eating, like trans fats, are actually bad for us, what do we do? We try our best each day to change our habits! When we find out things we're doing to the Earth are harming her, what do we do? We also need to do our best each day to change our habits! For as we will explore during today's class, when we look deeply, we see there is no separation. We are the Earth.
Water: Next Ofosu passed around a bowl of water for us to touch and reminded us that just as the living world cannot exist without rivers, rain, and the ocean, our own bodies rely on dynamic rivers of blood, lymph, and other fluids to keep us healthy.
Air: Sweeping through the room whooshing around a floppy piece of plastic, Ofosu became a wind machine, demonstrating that just as the air element brings the world to life, so our bodies are one with the air element as air flows in and out of our lungs with each breath.
Fire: We brought our hands to our faces, cupping them over our mouths and were instructed to let out a big deep breath. What do we notice? It is hot! We contain the fire element, just as the Earth and all the stars in the universe have the fire element. The center of the Earth is a hot ball of metal that is as hot as the sun--almost 10,000 degrees hot! The movement of liquid around the core gives the Earth its magnetic field. Our bodies are similar! Our hearts are electromagnetic. And we are how hot? 98.6 degrees hot!
Space: Now we arrive at the final element--space. Holding up a wooden statue of the Buddha, Jen asks, "If we had a really, really powerful microscope and look deeply at this Buddha, what would we find?" Yes, space! Science has discovered that everything around us--all these things that look so solid--is actually 99% space. Whether we look under the microscope or examine the far reaches of the galaxy, we find that everything is mostly space. Joking that his wife has noticed the great amount of space contained between his two ears, Ofosu reminded us that we too have a great deal of space within our bodies and our minds. This can be quite helpful to reflect upon, especially in helping us regain a healthy perspective during those moments when we feel there's no way out of a situation or that things will never change.
Weaving along with the theme of interconnectedness, Jen led us in a mindful eating exercise, "The Universe in a Tangerine".
"Do you believe me when I say the whole universe is in this tangerine?" asked Jen.
"No!", giggled a chorus of children.
After everyone was passed a tangerine, we were invited to reflect on what went into bringing this unique tangerine into our very own hands today.
" Where did it emerge from?"
"A flower on a tangerine tree!"
"But how did the tangerine tree get here?"
"From a seed or maybe a tree graft!"
"Where did that seed come from?"
"From another tangerine!"
"What does the tangerine tree need in order to grow?"
"Water, sunshine, darkness, air, carbon dioxide, soil, nutrients, and more."
"So do you see the sun in the tangerine? With your wise eye, you can see that all these things are alive in the tangerine. You can see the clouds, the air, the soil. You can see the worms that helped aerate the soil, the farmers, the truck drivers, and the grocery store employees. Where did the atoms come from that make up the soil, the worms, the peel, and the delicious tangerine juice? They have been recycled, over and over! With your wise mind's eye, can you see the stardust, the woolly mammoths, and the dinosaurs in this tangerine?"
Now a giggling chorus of children exclaimed, "Yes!"
" Hmmm... now let's think about this. When we look deeply enough, we see there really isn't such a thing as an independent tangerine that exists separate from everything else. The whole universe is actually in this tangerine that sits in your palm!"
We were reminded that so it is with each one of us. The whole universe rests within us as well. Just as the wave cannot exist separately from the ocean, we are all connected and we all belong. This understanding can be a great source of comfort. Jen invited us to take time later to reflect on this within our families. But for now, time to enjoy our tangerines! Thich Nhat Hanh's "Food Contemplations For Young People" were shared.
After a long and cold winter, we were happy to take the remainder of our class out of doors to a nearby park, being invited to practice putting on our mindful bodies and practicing slow-mo walking en route. Our class was fortunate today to have guest teacher Glen Harrison's presence as he skillfully led us in nature activities from famed nature educator Joseph Cornell. First we were led in the "Build a Tree" game--a wonderful kinesthetic game of creating a living, breathing tree. From the inner, elder heartwood to the taproots, xylem, and cambium, we all became an essential function of a living tree. Each group had a movement and sound to signify the nature of their job--when the xylem group brought the water up, they whooshed their arms into the air and yelled "slurp, slurp"! The end result was a living, moving tree.
Beneath the shade of a majestic deciduous tree, Glen then guided us through a more reflective activity--a tree imagery meditation. Inviting us to imagine ourselves as a young sapling in the springtime, Glen guided us through the four seasons as we grew and withstood all that came our way, our tree roots growing and reaching deep into the soil, our branches spreading wide into the sky. Through all the changes, the wonder as well as the difficulties, through the loss of our leaves and the dormancy of winter, he brought us full circle to spring and the arrival of new life.
We ended our class with the Plum Village song, "Breathing In, Breathing Out" (lyrics below).
Breathing in, breathing out.
Breathing in, breathing out.
I am fresh as the dew.
I am solid as a mountain.
I am firm as the earth.
I am free.
Breathing in, breathing out.
I am water reflecting
What is real, what is true,
And I feel there is space
Deep inside of me.
I am free, I am free, I am free.