"My Front Yard"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
The other day I posted an article in which I said that a spiritual path never leads us away from the world into some sort of safe harbor where we are removed from the chaos of everyday living. Quite a few people responded that, and while they understood that a spiritual path doesn’t take us to some artificial place where everything is bright and beautiful, many also said that at some level this made them feel uncomfortable. One person asked: “If we are always floating around in the chaos how can we keep ourselves from “going under?”
I’ve been reflecting on this excellent question and decided that, while a spiritual path doesn’t remove us from all that goes on in our everyday living, it does “ground us in the chaos.” The spiritual path is not a safe harbor but it does help us to be firmly planted and to grow deep roots.”
I attend a weekly Yoga Class, not only because it helps my body but also because it is a time that feeds my spirit. Every week we begin our class by being asked to take a few moments to look at our feet and be sure we are well-grounded. While “being grounded” is a necessity for properly engaging the poses, my instructor always reminds us that being “firmly-grounded” is also 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.
This morning as I sat in my meditation garden, I took off my shoes and looked at my feet firmly planted in the chaos and realized that I am “grounded” in it all. I am grounded in the energy and flow of the universe, connected to all that has gone before, all that now is, and all that yet will be, grounded in the joy, grounded in the pain.
I am connected to my ancestors, connected to my family, my friends, acquaintances, connected to foreigners and strangers, connected to the world of nature, even connected to all that all that is yet to come when I am gone.
This morning, I looked at my feet firmly planted on the ground of my daily existence and realized that this is what my spiritual journey is all about. I don’t want a safe harbor away from all this - I want to be planted in the midst of it all.
Today as I sat in my garden, the many palm trees around my house caught my eye - palm trees grow in abundance out here in the desert. 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 deep 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 throughout the desert canyons, the trees will not be toppled over.
The trees this morning were a wonderful icon of a spiritual path - it doesn’t lead us away from the world, it helps keep us steady regardless of whatever comes our way.
The Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said:
Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet
Today, with my feet firmly planted I feel those deep roots and with every step I take I kiss the earth.