by Bill Cahalan.
Bill Cahalan is an eco-psychologist. His booklet, Awakening to Earth, is currently being updated by Quaker Earthcare Witness and will be available to share and download. This meditation is an excerpt. Bill writes, “Here is one version of a guided experience which I have used with weekend retreat participants and with clients, usually in a grassy place with lots of trees around us. It may help enliven your sense of membership within Earth’s body, bypassing any rigid separation of ‘inner’ and ‘outer.’”
Sit down and settle into the ground, allowing yourself to comfortably adjust to the Earth’s gravitational embrace. Close your eyes. Maybe you can faintly feel blood pulsing in your neck and fingertips. Enjoy this automatic cycling, knowing that it is actually part of the larger water cycling of this region. Just as our blood nourishes us, water is the blood of Earth.
Now notice your breathing, and gently follow its rhythm for a few minutes, relaxing any tightening which may be hindering a full, relaxed in-breath and out-breath.
Like blood pulsing, breathing is mostly automatic, an enjoyable and natural, taken-for-granted life process. Know that all the oxygen you and all animals are taking in at this moment is a gift of green plants, given off by them as they breathe in the carbon dioxide which we and other animals have exhaled.
Open your eyes and see some of the plants which are breathing with you. Feel the temperature and movement of air on your face and hands. As water is Earth’s blood, so air is the breath of our larger Earth body.
Now close your eyes again, feeling and savoring your own energy, which may be rising as your breathing has deepened. Notice also any stiffening you may be doing to interrupt the free movement of energy in you. Know and appreciate the source of this energy, which is the sun.
Open your eyes now and take in the sunlight. See the contrast of light and shadow. Allow yourself to slowly take in the land-scape, plants, and sky, rather than quickly skimming over what you see. This sunlight energy in you is released with each heart-beat and each breath, having come to you from plants through your food chains.
Now use your energy to slowly stand up….Begin to walk slowly, feeling the ground, savoring each step. See the sunlight, which is present even if the day is cloudy. Let your breathing regulate its own pace and depth. Look again at the plants and whatever else is here. Look at each plant, bird, or insect as a fellow participant in this symphony of life, in the self-regulating and evolving body of Earth.
Feel your interaction with the ground as you stand and walk, scanning your body slowly from your feet to your head and back, and releasing any tensions which may be blocking free, pleasurable movement. Enjoy lightly placing each foot, shifting your weight, and moving into the next step. Walk silently, with a “stalking” attitude, looking around the landscape and knowing that animals that may be near will be less likely to flee.
As you walk, begin looking at the trees, large and small. Notice their shapes and textures. Notice your bodily-felt responses to each tree and see which trees seem to attract you.
Eventually find one tree which you feel called to know better. Stand at a distance and just take in the shape, texture, colors, and movement of this tree as it reaches up to drink in the light and carbon dioxide, and reaches down with its roots for water and nutrients.
Notice your feeling response, and how you may be numbing or tightening yourself to interrupt it. How do you feel moved to respond? You may want to walk to the tree and learn more through touching and smelling it. Then empathetically enter the life of this fellow being, imagining that you are this tree. Reach up to the sky, and then feel your roots absorbing soil and water. Maybe sway like the tree in the breeze for a few minutes.
Then come back into your human identity. Sense how you are affected in mood and body sensation. Step back and take one last look at this tree so that you can recognize it again in the future if you want to visit again.
When you return to your starting place, you may want to write down, draw, or dance some of your linger-ing emotions or impressions, or talk about them with a friend. This will help you carry the life force and lessons of the wider world back into your everyday life in the human community.