As a Black woman, elder, and life-learner, professionally trained in psychological, Buddhist, and social systems, I recognize the earth body as kin – as a "body of color.” It’s not a stretch for me to see how global domination, exploitation, and neglect of the earth is not so different than the systemic cruelty, oppression, and marginalization experienced by bodies of color and women throughout the world. Our climate crisis, racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic – to name a few forms of chaos - have deep roots in social greed, self-interest, and disrespect of the fact of our belonging, crippling Black, dark, and poor bodies and communities exponentially.
If you have financial resources, you may be able to afford to distract yourself with comforts for a while, but we all breath the same air, depend on the same water and sun, and expect – often in righteous indignation or ignorance - the earth body and the work of dark bodies to sustain us. Harm to the earth body and to dark bodies reveal what we have forgotten and must now remember – that all bodies belong here. The raging horrors of current times are cries for collective care over self-interest. Just as we can’t live outside of our bodies, we can’t exist outside of nature, nor can we escape the impact of our coexistence and our choices.
We are each other's harvest,
We are each other's business,
We are each other's magnitude and bond.
One of our challenges as humans is to soften into a recognition and appreciation of the earth body and our body as one in the same, mirrors of belonging. As we walk through the minefields of social injustice and racial hardship, making time for a homecoming with the natural world can fill our nervous systems with ease and joy and help us remember that we belong here, and that diversity can coexist in harmony. We might begin with a few mirror reflections. For example:
When you question your worth, your distinction, or your beauty, it can feel nourishing to admire in intricate detail an unusual flower. See yourself in this flower. Imagine yourself becoming flower—soft, unique, fragrant, original—in the flower of your admiration. Notice and resist the impulse to sever the flower from its roots. Rest and savor the experience of this moment.
If you feel ungrounded, take some time to be near a mature tree. Notice its full trunk and deep strong roots. Ask the tree any questions that come to mind, for example: How do you just stand there through all the earthly destruction and racial horrors of life? Teach me how to survive without hiding or hurting. Teach me how to stand firmly and gracefully. Imagine yourself being tree—old, wise, solid, and grounded, knowing you have a right to exist. Let yourself feel the physical power of this natural expression – rest, ground, and extend. Imagine If I were a tree, how would I respond to my question? And ask: How do I protect you, dear elder, from harm?
If you feel lifeless and in need of energy to take care of yourself, consider wrapping yourself in a blanket, taking a nap, or falling asleep in the warm sun, soaking up its rays. If the warm sun is not available, imagine a radiant, high-noon sun beaming down on your body, a beautiful sunset, or a hearth fire. Invite your imagination to allow in more light and become light itself. Feel the warmth of light bringing you to life and offer thanks.
If you are hurting or enraged because you are in a situation or a relationship that you can’t influence or mend, take a break from engaging and invite the earth to join you. Plant a flower or tree as a dedication to the person or situation that feels unbearable. Attend to the flower or tree—talk to it as if it were a dear one. Allow it to show you that change is all there is.
If you need to grieve but your tears won’t flow, take this need to a larger body of water—the ocean, a lake or river, and give it over. Your bathtub will also do as well as your imagination. Ask the larger body of water to hold your grief. Then ask the water what grieves her and what's needed for a more fluid humanity. Listen with your full body then thank the waters of life for making life possible.
If you feel overwhelmed, caged, or frustrated, find your way to fresh air and open space. I will often say to learners: Put a bit of space around your worries and rest! This requires a shift in perspective – to imagine that we are space. There is always more sky than what appears in the sky; more space in a room that the objects in the room. This is true of our bodies, minds, and hearts – all experiences are experienced within space. Think about it: We all exist within a spacious and skinless body of awareness. Surrender to space and its inherent vastness and goodness. Rest in your exhales and thank space for helping you keep the objects of life in perspective.
Our bodies are here to mirror our membership in each other’s lives on this planet. To care for our bodies is to care for the earth body and all bodies. To nurture our bodies with nature makes life more textured and intimate. It heightens our curiosity and supports a reverence for life - a recognition of our kinship, codependence, and instinct for care. And care we must!
The earth gives you time to breathe; the aloneness gives you the privacy to expose yourself to yourself and discover a true home within yourself and in nature. You can feel the earth holding you like a mother holding her child. ~ Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Sanctuary