Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Feet Kissing the Earth

"Walking in the Wilderness"

Yesterday, while browsing through Facebook, I stumbled across a very popularized quote by the Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:

Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.

I had seen this quote many times before  -on posters, on Facebook, Twitter, in articles, even on greeting cards. In fact I have probably seen this quote too many times because it has become overly familiar to me. So when I see it, I tend to ignore it. 

Yesterday, for some reason the simple teaching in this one little sentence really "grabbed me." I dropped what I was doing and realized that the simple teaching here was probably way more profound than what it looks like on the surface- but then again this seems always to be the case with most Zen teaching that I have come across. 

So I decided that I would spend the day paying attention to my feet, and wherever I went yesterday, every step I took was a kiss upon the face of the earth. 

I started out by taking a brief walk on a desert path. Because it's so hot at this time of the year I was the only person on the trail, so I could "loudly" hear the crunching sound of every step - and it actually sounded like a kiss. As I later went to do some grocery shopping, I thought about my feet and suddenly I was kissing the earth while walking up and down the supermarket aisles. I even thought about my feet when I was walking around at the gym - every step was a kiss. 

I found this practice of "kissing the earth with my feet" to be incredibly helpful to me in my ongoing effort to live more mindfully, more aware and more awake in the moment. 

Every day I "carve out" some time in my schedule to sit quietly in my garden for meditation and prayer- aware of my breathing, focused on the moment. This daily "dedicated" time is an integral part of my own spiritual journey. But it is a time spent "away" from my ordinary life.  Yesterday as I tried to be aware of every step I took (well, almost every step), I discovered a simple yet extremely helpful practice of  "paying attention" that I could integrate into the ordinary routine of everyday living. 

Awareness of my "feet" helped to ground me. It helped to keep me in the moment. It also helped me to embrace my relationship with the earth, the land, the soil, the wild.  With each step I took I was kissing the country where I live from sea to shining sea. Each step was a kiss to the ground of all those distant lands and "foreign" countries. 

Yesterday as I paid attention to my feet, I also became aware of all the people everywhere who were also walking on this planet at that very moment  - all of us walking together. So, as I kissed the earth with every step I took I was also kissing all those who were walking upon the face of the earth.

All this because I just happened to stumble across a simple little peace of Zen wisdom earlier in the day. 

When I returned home yesterday I had an online conversation about an article I had just posted on my blog. One woman in particular told me that she liked what I had to say about paying attention in the moment rather than spending all your energy thinking about the stuff you have to accomplish.  But she went on to say that this all seemed very impractical to her - in fact most spiritual practices seemed out of the range of possibilities available to her. She was a single mother of three children and she worked six days a week - carving out quiet time or a daily meditation time was a luxury she simply could not afford.

When I inquired as to what kind of work she did, my online friend told me she was a waitress. My immediate response was "So you are on our feet all the time?" I went on to talk about what I had just experienced that day as I shared my "feet kissing the earth" story with her.  

She thought that this was probably something she could do. 

Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.



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