-palm trees in the wilderness -
Every Thursday I attend a weekly Yoga Class. I always look forward to this experience not only because it helps my body but because it is also a time that feeds my spirit. Our yoga instructor knows a lot about how to “do yoga,” but he is also a spiritual guru of sorts who regularly helps those of us in his class to connect the various yoga practices with deeper spiritual awareness.
Almost every Thursday we start class by being asked to take a few moments and look at our feet to be sure we are well-grounded. While “being grounded” is somewhat of a yoga cliche, a necessity for properly engaging the poses, my instructor always reminds us that being “firmly-grounded” is a staple of the spiritual life.
A few weeks ago our teacher talked about how an electric current needs to have a “ground wire” for the energy to be used effectively – otherwise the current will run rampant and cause damage or injury. He explained that when we look at our feet to be sure we are “well-grounded,” we physically and spiritually plant ourselves firmly in the energy of the earth so that this energy can strengthen us and give us vitality.
Scientists tell us that the entire cosmos can be understood in terms of being grounded in energy. The universe “is” a flow of chaos and patterns – everything that exists is chaos, wild and uncontrolled energy, but the chaos of the universe also has order to it - there is some degree of stability in the ongoing, swirling process of chaos. The chaos is like an electrical current that flows at the core of existence and we are all “grounded” into that current.
This morning as I sit in my meditation garden and prepare to head out to my yoga class, I take off my shoes and look at my feet firmly planted in the chaos- I am “grounded.” I am connected to all that has gone before, all that now is, and all that yet will be.
As I firmly plant my feet on the ground of choas, I am connected to my ancestors, all who have gone before me. I am also connected to my family, my friends, acquaintances, strangers, and even to those who may count themselves among my enemies - I am connected to all the people of all the nations. I look at my feet firmly planted on the ground, and they connect me to the chaos as it swirls wildly into the future and so I am grounded in the presence of all that will yet come after me.
Who would have imagined that the simple act of looking at my feet might be able to offer me such a powerful moment of awareness.
All around my house and throughout the entire desert region where I live, palm trees grow in abundance – everywhere you look you will find palm trees growing. The thing about palm trees is that they have roots that extend deep into the ground and spread out in an extended, intricate pattern – some say that the roots of the palm tree are as big as the tree itself. The roots allow the trees to tap into sources of underground water even in the driest and hottest summer days. The roots also keep the trees firmly planted so that no matter how powerful the gusts of wind might blow in the desert, the trees wilt not topple over.
These trees are firmly planted in the chaos. This is what makes them vibrant and keeps them alive – yet another great lesson the world of nature teaches me about my own spiritual life.
The Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is often quoted as saying:
Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet
These are powerful word of wisdom for me. It reminds me that, not only do I need to look at my feet and stay grounded in the moments of quiet meditation in my garden or while taking a favorite yoga class; on my spiritual journey I must also “stay grounded” at every moment of every single dy.
In every step I take I remind myself that my feet are planted in the chaos - “grounded” in the energy of the universe – another name for that energy is “God.”
With every step I take I am rooted in “God,” in whom we live and move and have our being, and so with every step I take I kiss the earth with my feet.