Although I have never met Thich Nhat Hanh personally, his writings, words, philosophies, and spirit have had a significant and positive influence on my life over the past decade. As many people already know, on November 11, 2014, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh experienced a severe brain hemorrhage. His current health condition is described as stable and peaceful. As we enter this busy holiday season, let’s do our best to practice peace, compassion, and gratitude. Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh for being an amazing teacher on happiness, awareness, and grace. Today, I Touch the Earth in gratitude and bow to you.
Here is an Excerpt from the book, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Touching the Earth
“The practice of Touching the Earth, also known as bowing deeply or prostrating, helps us return to the earth and to our roots, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the earth and part of life.
When we touch the earth we become small, with the humility and simplicity of a young child. When we touch the earth we become great, like an ancient tree sending her roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters. When we touch the earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the earth, and breathe out our suffering — our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy, and grief.
To begin this practice, join your palms in front of your chest in the shape of a lotus bud. Then gently lower yourself to the ground so that your shins, forearms, and forehead are resting comfortably on the floor. While touching the earth, turn your palms face up, showing your openness to the Three Jewels — the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Breathe in all the strength and stability of the earth, and breathe out to release your clinging to any suffering. After one or two times of practicing Touching the Earth, you can already release a lot of your suffering and feeling of alienation and reconcile with your ancestors, parents, children, or friends.
Touching the Earth is a practice that is helpful to do with your Sangha. When you are with a Sangha, one person can be the bell master and invite the bell between prostrations. This same person can read The Five Earth Touchings aloud while everyone prostrates. If you practice Touching the Earth on your own, you can make a recording of yourself reading the text or do it from memory.
The Five Earth Touchings
In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my blood family.
I see my mother and father, whose blood, flesh, and vitality are circulating in my own veins and nourishing every cell in me. Through them I see my four grandparents. I carry in me the life, blood, experience, wisdom, happiness, and sorrow of all generations. I open my heart, flesh, and bones to receive the energy of insight, love, and experience transmitted to me by my ancestors. I know that parents always love and support their children and grandchildren, although they are not always able to express it skillfully because of difficulties they encounter. As a continuation of my ancestors, I allow their energy to flow through me, and ask for their support, protection, and strength.
In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my spiritual family.
I see in myself my teachers, the ones who show me the way of love and understanding, the way to breathe, smile, forgive, and live deeply in the present moment. I open my heart and my body to receive the energy of understanding, loving kindness, and protection from the Awakened Ones, their teachings, and the community of practice over many generations. I vow to practice to transform the suffering in myself and the world, and to transmit their energy to future generations of practitioners.
In gratitude, I bow to this land and all of the ancestors who made it available.
I see that I am whole, protected, and nourished by this land and all of the living beings that have been here and made life worthwhile and possible for me through all their efforts. I see myself touching my ancestors of Native American origin who have lived on this land for such a long time and know the ways to live in peace and harmony with nature, protecting the mountains, forests, animals, vegetation, and minerals of this land. I feel the energy of this land penetrating my body and soul, supporting and accepting me. I vow to contribute my part in transforming the violence, hatred, and delusion that still lie deep in the consciousness of this society so that future generations will have more safety, joy, and peace. I ask this land for its protection and support.
In gratitude and compassion, I bow down and transmit my energy to those I love.
All the energy I have received I now want to transmit to my father, my mother, everyone I love, and all who have suffered and worried because of me and for my sake. I want all of them to be healthy and joyful. I pray that all ancestors in my blood and spiritual families will focus their energies toward each of them, to protect and support them. I am one with those I love.In understanding and compassion, I bow down to reconcile myself with all those who have made me suffer.
I open my heart and send forth my energy of love and understanding to everyone who has made me suffer, to those who have destroyed much of my life and the lives of those I love.
I know now that these people have themselves undergone a lot of suffering and that their hearts are overloaded with pain, anger, and hatred. I pray that they can be transformed to experience the joy of living, so that they will not continue to make themselves and others suffer. I see their suffering and do not want to hold any feelings of hatred or anger in myself toward them. I do not want them to suffer. I channel my energy of love and understanding to them and ask all my ancestors to help them.”
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