During his long meditation under the bodhi tree, the Buddha was repeatedly taunted by Mara, the non-human energy of the Tempter. Calmly he resisted and ultimately he attained Enlightenment. Mara querulously demanded that he produce a witness to his spiritual awakening.
The Buddha touched the ground with his right hand, declaring, “The Earth is my witness.”
The Earth bears witness to all of us every day, even when we are isolating inside our homes and keeping our social distance. The Earth bears witness by pulling us close through the force of gravity, by touching us with wind and sun, and offering us oxygen to breathe, then taking back our carbon dioxide.
We, too, can bear witness to the Earth. And during times of grief, stress, and anxiety, bearing witness to the Earth can offer enormous comfort and stability.
Here are some simple practices for bearing witness to the Earth:
- What does the sky look like right now? In five minutes check again. How has the sky changed?
- Gaze straight ahead, patiently, until you see a bird. Watch.
- Witness the sunlight as it moves over the land—even if your “land” is a city.
- See the wind move. Stand still and feel how it approaches, touches you, moves away.
- Tune in to the pull of gravity beneath your feet.
- Ask yourself what phase the moon is currently in. Pay attention more regularly.
May the Earth sustain you. And may you sustain the Earth.