Saturday, April 22, 2017

Holy Mother Earth

"Earth's Crammed with Heaven"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

Today is “Earth Day,” and while most nations of the world celebrate this holiday in some fashion, it seems to me that maybe we all need to make a bigger deal of  what today is really all about.  Today helps us realize that the earth doesn’t belong to human beings; rather we human beings belong to the earth. The more we learn to reverence and respect our Mother Earth, the greater we increase the chances of the human species surviving on this planet over the generations to come.

Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn, puts it this way:

We need to realize that the earth is not just our environment,
the earth is not something outside of us.
Our consciousness is also the consciousness of the earth.
We are the earth.
The future of the planet depends upon this insight.

As I see it “Earth Day” should be treated more like a major religious or spiritual holy day rather than a relatively unimportant civic holiday. Regardless of who we are or what we believe, on this “Earth Day” we can all join hands with one another across the globe and celebrate the sacred, universal energy that pulsates throughout the universe and flows throughout the planet connecting everything and everyone together into ONE great cosmic web.

I am reminded of a story about the early European Christian missionaries who first came to America in order to convert the “pagan” native peoples who inhabited the New World. When the missionaries arrived on these shores they were none too pleased to learn that the Native “Indians” were already a very spiritual people with a keen awareness of a Holy Presence abiding in and flowing through the world of nature.

For many generations, the Native Peoples believed that the Great Spirit was intimately present in the earth and sky, the rivers and lakes, plants and animals,  and in all the creatures who dwelt upon the face of the earth. When they prayed, the “Indians” focused the gaze of their eyes downward upon the “Holy Mother Earth,” for herein dwelt the abiding Divine Presence.

This custom of praying to the earth infuriated the Christian missionaries who saw these native peoples as ignorant savages -  any educated religious person would know that God lived up there in heaven seated on a throne in a far distant place to rule over what went on down here on earth. The missionaries told the natives that there was only one “Holy Mother,” the Blessed Virgin Mary who lived up in heaven with her son Jesus, and they decreed that that from now on the native people were to direct their prayers upward, up to the heavenly mother and to her son.

On this “Earth Day” I think it was the Native Peoples who had it right all along and I wonder if perhaps it was the missionaries who actually needed conversion. So, on this “Earth Day,” I fix my gaze upon the abiding Presence of “God” flowing in and through the Holy Mother Earth rather than looking up to a distant far away God in the sky.

I am reminded of one of my very favorite prayers passed down over the generations by the Ute Tribe of North American Indians. It is called A Prayer to the Earth – A perfect prayer for anyone on any spiritual path to embrace on this sacred celebration of Earth Day, 2017

Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with the light.
Earth teach me humility, as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves that die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed that rises in spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself, as the melting snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep in the rain.

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