Thursday, April 24, 2008
Dear Still Water Friends,
We celebrate Earth Day this week. I believe that one of the great contributions that mindfulness practice offers the environmental movement is a very different way of experiencing our relationship with the universe. With deep mindfulness we can can become aware of ourselves as co-participants, experiencing life from the inside, rather than as observers, experiencing life from the outside. For me, it is the difference between awareness and thinking, between immediacy and distance, between organic vitality and mechanical force.
In Love in Action, Thich Nhat Hanh eloquently draws our attention to our “interbeing” nature:
We have to remember that our body is not limited to what lies within the boundary of our skin. Our body is much more immense. We know that if our heart stops beating, the flow of our life will stop, but we do not take the time to notice the many things outside of our bodies that are equally essential for our survival. If the ozone layer around our Earth were to disappear for even an instant, we would die. If the sun were to stop shining, the flow of our life would stop. The sun is our second heart, our heart outside of our body. It gives all life on Earth the warmth necessary for existence. Plants live thanks to the sun. Their leaves absorb the sun’s energy, along with carbon dioxide from the air, to produce food for the tree, the flower, the plankton. And thanks to plants, we and other animals can live. All of us—people, animals, plants, and minerals—"consume” the sun, directly and indirectly. We cannot begin to describe all the effects of the sun, that great heart outside of our body.
After our meditation period this Thursday we will share our experience of feeling intimately connected with the universe. We will begin by reading an evocative short essay by Peter Levitt in which he compares the intimacy of being in our mothers' bodies to the intimacy of being in the world. An excerpt from the the Levitt essay is below
Excerpt from "An Intimate View" by Peter Levitt
(From Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology)
When I lived inside the body of my mother, she was the entire world to me. She was my Earth, and she was my sky. She was my rivers. She was the weather. She was the sun. She was my absolute physical world. And, of course, even more. But while I was living inside her body, she was living inside the body of the world. The body of the world was her Earth, and her sky. Her rivers. Her weather. Her sun. And, though I was me, living inside of her, two bodies, somehow there was one body there at the same time. When I look deeply I see that this very same thing was true for my mother, living in the body of the world. There were also two bodies, but, at the same time, somehow there was only one.
The body of the world is living in the universe, just like a child inside its mother. And each thing of the universe, each of the many, countless things of the universe, sometimes called the 10,000 dharmas form one body. When we practice slow walking meditation, we can get a feeling for this. There are many bodies walking but we walk as one body, we breathe as one body, we act as one body. A kind of great intimacy is present. When we sit in meditation, that intimacy is there as well. We breathe in, we follow our breath, we stay with our breath, we know our breath. That means we know our life—we are intimate with it. And when we breathe out, we intimately know our death.
Think of the intimacy my mother and I shared during those first nine months. The kind of deep knowing of one another. Not intellectual knowing, but intimate knowing, in the same way a leaf on a maple tree knows it is autumn when the air has become a little cold and the leaf is turning red. Natural, intimate, immediate direct knowing. A knowing so intimate that, really, we can not say it is knowing at all—just naked mind.