Aristotle or Plato?

Ever since Aristotle defined 'ethics' as 'habits,' Western morality has been backwards. Aristotle said that we become kind by acting kind, we become loving by acting loving, we become just by acting just, because kindness, love, and justice turn into habits.

But Spirit is who we already are before we act; and love, justice, wisdom, mercy are the inherent attributes of pure Consciousness before a single thought arises. Furthermore, everyone knows that, if we attempt to act kindly without being kind, we are just acting: our behavior is artificial.

When, on the other hand, we directly experience our transcendental divine Self through meditation, we awaken those divine qualities in our innate a priori awareness. Then we ARE kindness, we ARE love, we ARE justice, prior to acting them out.

But Aristotle believed the self was a blank slate. He literally called it the tabla erasa on which we inscribe our character by acting out ethical habits. He taught such ignorance because, unlike his master Plato, he never experienced a Self that transcends the intellect. He was a thinker, a philosopher, but not a yogi. He did not taste samadhi or breathe in "the peace which passeth understanding."

Before Aristotle, Plato taught that we must transcend the ordinary thinking mind, the mind of opinion - literally the Greek word he used. When practice the dialectic that takes us above mind into the realm of the Logos, we will gaze at the pure light of truth with the inward eye of the soul. He described this method quite carefully in The Republic. And for Plato, this ascent of the mind to pure seeing was not only a contemplative process, but was the method of science - again, his own word, scientia.

For Plato, it is this direct inward experience of the Light that changes our behavior into ethical action. Ethics are not inscribed in the soul through our material action; ethical actions flow out to the world from the Light within.

Like Plato, Buddha taught that we must transcend the cluttered multiplicity of the mind and awaken the unity of sunya, emptiness. Emptiness is the Buddha nature, the other shore, beyond the restless stream of thinking. Emptiness gives birth to compassion. This is the paradox of Buddhist ethics.

The Upanishads also taught transcendence. We must transcend waking thought, dreaming, and deep sleep, entering turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. The direct experience of turiya is the Self, the still and ever-silent witness of action. Then action arises spontaneously in harmony with Dharma, the moral law. This is also the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Yogaastah karukarmani: "Be established in the state of Yoga, the eternal non-changing Self, then act."

In Chinese tradition, the same principle is the basis of the Tao Te Ching. It  is the art of wei wu wei, "act by not-doing." When awareness surrenders to the Tao, the Te of ethical action arises spontaneous in harmony with nature.

Thus, the ancient masters of the East awakened the state of transcendental consciousness through deep meditation, prior to action. Consciousness preceded action. And Plato was deeply influenced by his master from the East. But the West followed the ignorance of Aristotle, rather than the wisdom of Plato.

Aristotle was a materialist. He taught that action precedes consciousness, and our habits in the material world are the foundation of our Spirit. The ancient masters taught just the reverse: consciousness precedes action, and Spirit is the source of matter.

We followed the materialism of Aristotle. We would have been a completely different civilization had we followed Plato.

Painting, Plato and Aristotle by Raphael, 'School of Athens,' Vatican Papal Apartments

Rest In Shared Abundance

When we practice affirmations for 'abundance,' we often make 3 mistakes.

First, we concentrate. Concentration is a subtle form of strain, belying uncertainty.

Second, we focus on our lack, not on abundance. Even when we think we are thinking about abundance, our very affirmation comes from an anxiety about lack. The subconscious is always more powerful than the conscious. So which seed are we actually planting? The thought at the surface level of awareness, or the subconscious anxiety?

Third, when we conceive of abundance, we think of personal rather than shared abundance. 'My abundance' is still a thought of lack. It lacks generosity of heart. It lacks expansion.

Don't focus, rest. Don't rest as lack, rest as abundance. Don't rest as personal abundance, rest as shared abundance.

Now rest so deeply, so confidently, so joyfully, that you let go of your very intention, and there is only silence...

Letting go of the intention in deep silence is called 'samyama' in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. 'Samyama' is much more powerful than concentrating on your intention, or asking for it in prayer. 'Samyama' means having an intention, yet letting it go in a silent mind.

Therefor, (1) You have clear intent, but it is not contracted into 'mine'; it is intended for all. (2) It is not subverted by its unconscious negation. (3) You let go of this very intention, and rest as silence.

Letting go drops the seed in the field of Infinite Possibility, the creative womb of the Mother, who is Pure Awareness. Be patient. Let the seed sprout in its own time.

Rest in shared abundance.

'Abundance,' oil on canvas by Leon Frederic, Belgium, 1897


Who Knows?

"In the sunlight of awareness, everything becomes sacred."
~Thich Naht Hanh

Information is overrated. It is far more important to find out Who is being informed. In fact, we often use information as an escape from awareness.

In the age of digital media we are addicted to "knowing," entranced by an endless hypnotic stream of information. Yet most of the time, we're not looking for information at all: we're looking for connection. And we connect through the silent magnetic field of the heart, not through information stored in our brains.

Let us become sane again. Let us engage in the sacred practice of Unknowing. Unknowing is a return to Presence.
Right now, can you step out of the information in your head and become a naked Being available to sunlight, wind, pebbles and stars? Can you awaken to the green frog hiding under a fern, the person at your side, the breath of the moon?

How much education is required to hear a robin, or be overwhelmed by sunset? How much knowledge do you need to feel your heart beat? And to love?

Some will say that Unknowing is ignorance, but it is the opposite of ignorance. Ignorance is being mesmerized by the stream of distraction, swept into a toxic river of images and sensations fed to us by the media, until we have no inner life.

But Unknowing is awakening. We wake to the space beyond thought, the Clear Light that streams from within.
You are not the clutter of your knowledge. You are the Knower. You are the Light of the world.



Embrace bewilderment: be wild.

There is a forest of entangled miracles at the center of your heart. There Jesus calls his disciples, "Come away by yourselves into a wild place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31).  He wants to recharge their energy with untamed innocence.

In the Old Testament, God calls Israel back to the wilderness: "I remember the unfailing devotion of your youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed me into the wilderness, through a land unsown." (Jeremiah 1)

"True comprehension is bewilderment," wrote the young Martin Luther, when he was learning from Rhineland mystics like Meister Eckhart and Johann Tauler. Later, when Luther turned politician, he lost his inner powers, renounced mystical innocence, took up dogma, and joined the patriarchy.

Tauler wrote that God is "a simple hidden wilderness beyond being," and "a wilderness incomprehensibly wild... where multiplicity is lost in unity" (Sermon 60). Rhineland mystics like Tauler had nurtured the Protestantism of the radical reformers. They were almost entirely exterminated, not by the Catholic Church, but by Lutherans and Calvinists. Imagine how different Western history would have been had the Reformation kept its roots sunk in the mystics, rather than transplanting itself to the arid pseudo-rationalism of the Puritans!

Thus we now must look back to the Roman Catholic roots of mystical Christianity, especially among the Rhineland mystics, where Celtic monks from Ireland had been the first missionaries, rather than monks from Rome.

In the French version of the Arthurian Grail story, La Quest de la Sainte-Grale, the anonymous author, probably a Cistercian monk, tells us that "each knight chose to enter the forest where it was most overgrown, and there was no path."

The pathless wilderness where we meet God need not be on a mountaintop, in a desert, or forest. Wherever we are, even in the midst of market place or urban jungle, we may enter the wild places of the Heart, and be lost in Love.



"Love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain."
~Frieda Kahlo

Leap into the stream of annihilation. The past does not exist. The future does not exist. There is no present moment, no resting place, no state of being or point of reference called now. Now is not a noun but a verb, a verb that signifies perpetual dissolving.

How long will you cling to illusory images of time, fleeting sensations of a solid world? These images exist only in the mind. These sensations are a shimmering mirage of emptiness, fluctuations in a vacuum, to be witnessed and enjoyed, but never possessed.

Why not relinquish every attempt to grasp a permanent object, a permanent mind, a permanent me? Simply dive into the stream of death, which is the stream of beauty, which is the stream of birth.

This never-ending flow of dissolution seems terrifying, does it not? That is because you are standing outside it. You are standing on the shore.
Those who have the courage to leap in and lose every-thing will discover, through an instant trembling flash of eternity, the true nature of this river, which is bliss.


Coming Om

The sound of the Omkara mantra contains all possible alphabets, and all the harmonics of sacred geometry expressing the physics of creation. But 'Aum' must be de-mystified. Just listen to your body hum...
When Jesus said, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,' he was referring to the beginning and end of the alphabet, contained in the resonance of 'Aah' and 'Ouu.' These are not only the interior sounds of Aum, but the two-syllables in the Tetragramaton, most sacred name of the Lord in Biblical tradition. Of course, 'Ah' and 'Ouu' are also the sweet and by no means esoteric sounds of your own breathing...
In Aum, 'Ah' and 'Ouu' end in a dimension-less point of vibrant silence, the hum of infinite possibility. Mmmmm... This point is called 'Ayin soph' in Hebrew, 'Bindhu' in Sanskrit. Writing Aum in Sanskrit, the Bindhu is simply a dot over the whole figure. In that soundless hum, innumerable universes arise and dissolve. After chanting Aum, you can feel this boundless dot just above the crown of your head, where your soft spot, the fontanelle, never really closed...
Let the sound of 'Ahh' resonate in your belly. Let the sound of 'Huu' resonate in your heart. Let the sound of 'Mmm' resonate in your brain, massaging every neuron. Your brain is a beehive, cells buzzing with the healing music of Aum. Now feel the silence of vast space above your crown...
There is no priestly secret about Aum, reserved for gurus. Aum is the sound of your own body, being created this very moment out of a divine Breath.
According to Mandukya Upanishad, 'The sound of Om is the universe. Whatever has existed, whatever exists, whatever shall exist, is Om.' The opening words of John's Gospel echo the Upanishad: 'In the beginning was the Word... all that is created, is created through the Word.' A Vedic verse declares, 'Adau Bhagavan shabdha rasahih: In the beginning, the Lord manifested the universe through a stream of sound.' Modern physics confirms that all matter is really made from waves of abstract energy, resonant fields of the silent vacuum.
Aum is the primordial play of infant's speech. Mantras were our first language, and Aum contains all mantras, all names of God. In moments when we are truly happy, in a state of wonder, how do we speak? We return to that original language. We do not preach philosophy or metaphysics, or shout political slogans. We utter the primal mantras of creation: the sounds of consciousness celebrating its integration with a human body:
Ah. Oh. Hey! Wow! Hi! Mama. Papa. Mmm... And even now, when we question someone's existence, we ask, 'Whom'? But the ancient sound of 'whom' was not a question. It was the answer. 'Huum' is a heart mantra, the 'unstruck sound' of the 'anahata' chakra: vibration of the cosmos emanating from our own awareness at rest in its eternal source.
'Huu' is a name of God in both Islamic and Jewish mysticism. Sufi's chant, 'Alla' Hu, Alla'Hu, Alla'hu.' 'Huum' is the bija mantra that ends the central prayer of Tibetan Buddhism, locating God as the jewel in the center of the heart lotus: 'Om Mani Padme Hum.'
If you want to meditate on the deepest name of God, listen to the sound of your own physiology, resonating from the silence of the void. If you want to understand the science of mantra, become like a child: sing praises from your heart.
I offer this mad babble to celebrate National Poetry Month. Shelley wrote in his Defense of Poetry, 'Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.' He was speaking of the sacred power of language that is EVERY human's birthright.
Don't speak a second-hand language! Don't let the words of religious dogma, politics, or the media's talking heads co-opt your divine voice. In your own flesh, discover your Word of creation. Use it to bless and heal the world. Name yourself. Name the earth. You are a creator, and creation begins with the Word.
Om Sat Naam!



At this very moment, the surface of your oceanic mind is a foam of thoughts, images, memories, each lasting but an instant. Yet beneath this bubbling mind-stuff is the sea of Silence - self-luminous, still, eternally awake in its own nature, which is perfect peace.
Lacking nothing, your depth is full. Full of what? Radiant emptiness. And when you express any form of this fullness, that least expression is the complete whole, the ocean in a drop. For only fullness can come from fullness, pressed out and overflowing, each particle a hologram.

Yet because the essence and substratum of each form is emptiness, whatever you express is lighter than air, scintillating and playful, with no weight, no need to last more than the instant of its birth.
There is nothing to call "mine," nothing to cling to, because you are perpetually ripe and sweet inside. You have always already fructified. You act not to attain a goal, possess a property, or fulfill a need, but simply to release the fragrance of your fruition.
This gently surging sea of contentment is who you truly are. And the great masters - Krishna, Elijah, Gautama, Jesus, Muhammad - are your elder brothers. You and they are born of the same Goddess, the mothering depth of eternal inner Silence. The masters came not to establish creeds, churches, or religions, but only to remind you of your true nature.
Therefor, there can be neither rivalry nor hierarchy in their Presence. Just take the hand of any one of them, your chosen Friend, and let him guide you gently back to yourself.
When? Why not now, this very morning? Why not come Om?

It is merely  the journey of a breath, taking no more than a heart beat. Then you can share your radiant emptiness with humanity. Isn't this why you are here?


Beyond Belief

The nature of the Divine is such that no one who actually experiences the reality would entertain any sort of belief. Prayer arises only in separation from that Radiance. Actual taste of the Infinite annihilates language and consumes thought in the fire of naked awareness.

Without any theology whatsoever, one simply sings, not in words but in kirtan, fiery syllables of ecstasy: Om, Ah, Hum, Ma, Hrim, Shrim, Ram, Alla'hu!

Mantric sound vibrates and organizes darkness into light, prior to thought. Creation is not meaning but energy. What does a flower "mean"? What does a mountain "mean"? What does pain "mean"? The taste of honey on your tongue? The ever-expanding bliss of pure consciousness? Real meditation frees the mind from the tyranny of concepts.

The ecstatic one stops philosophizing and just starts humming. At the birth of time, this is all God did, and look what happened: She created the universe.



I once thought that silence was empty, and stillness was quiet. But by the grace of the Master's breath, I know now that silence is a billowing storm of joy, stillness a bursting flower.
The heart that touches the void violently blossoms in a revolution of gentleness that turns the universe inside out, spreading golden pollen throughout the stars.

This happens in the Body, not the mind, because primordial wonder annihilates thought. When no mind exists, the Body is the Spirit.

This is why, throughout the ages, souls bewildered by love gave up books of philosophy and gained enlightenment by smelling jasmine, touching a silken haired cat, or hearing that frog plop into a pond.

Now taste the wine of pure awareness.


Through The Body

"Glorify God in your Body." ~1 Corinthians 6:20

When you get to heaven, you will meet many nice people and see many sweet things. But you will not find the light of God. Then you will ask, "Where is the light of God?"

And they will tell you, "Remember when you were on earth, and you had a body? Every particle of that body was made of the light of God."

And you will marvel and ask, "What shall I do?"

And they will answer, "Go back. Receive a body and meditate on the glory of your flesh. Realize the light you are."

Friend, you are not here on earth in exile from God. You are here because this is the only place to express the light completely. You are not here as a punishment. You chose this realm of chaos, this conflict of opposites, so that you could embrace all, All, ALL.

Meditation is not an out-of-body experience, but  a through-the-body experience. Your body is the portal to realms of glory.

Follow the scents. Smelling, tasting, hearing, touch, are sacred paths. Just as the senses lead outward to the wheel of karma, so they lead inward to the hub. Whirl on that Dervish-dot between breaths. T'shuva, turn, enter the sensuality of the soul, which is the flesh. 

Honor your body. Trust your body so deeply that your mind pervades each cell, permeates the interstellar space in an atom, pierces even to the glory at the core of a photon.

Why does the Word become flesh? So that you may come Om to your body.

Why does the Formless take birth in this form? To carry every dust-mote back to the silence that was here before God said, "Let there be light."

Why does Christ hang on the cross like a grape on the vine? To reveal the taste of the void on your tongue.

In the marrow of your bone, at the core of a star-forged proton, is a black hole containing all the information in the galaxy. Rest there.

Be washed in your own precious blood, every drop bejeweled in the eye of God. Your breath is the Holy Spirit. What shines from your gaze is the beauty of the next Avatar.


Sacraments of Sensation

I wrote this little mindfulness manual in 2006. Just rediscovered it,
and it feels even more relevant today. Sharing...

"Eternity was in our lips and eyes..." (Shakespeare)

"Those who gained enlightenment by seeing blossoms or hearing sounds, achieved it through the body." (Dogen, Father of Zen)

These are practices of wonder. Wonder is the one mode of consciousness which computer and nanno technology will never fathom or imitate. I offer these teachings for the healing of the earth, through the reunion of the Spirit and the Body. These practices do not take you above or beyond your body and its sensations. They consecrate the body, the ear, eye and skin. They make a sacrament of sensation. "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34:8)

Do not romanticize these practices. You don't need a tropical island or a mountain shrine. You are called to attend the stark and the ordinary: a crow on a withered branch, a chimney against the clouds. When you bathe your perception in a breath of compassion and steep it in mere awareness, you open a window between God and creation, through which world-healing powers flow. You are the window.

Use these practices even in the work place to save the mind from fragmentation: the stress caused by information-overload and multi-tasking. "Salvation" means nothing if we cannot save our own awareness. These practices are designed to re-collect your energy and re-connect you to your core-silence. They are momentary Sabbaths. In Hebrew, the word Sabbath does not mean a day of the week; it means, "stop." Do you have the courage to stop rushing into the future and open your heart to what Is?

Do not practice these meditations all day: only for moments, as short bursts of refreshment, expansion, and cleansing. The practices prepare you for sharper focus and on-task clarity as your intellect returns to work. But during the practice itself, the intellect remains at rest, simply witnessing phenomena without analyzing them...


Close your eyes and listen to the faintest furthest sound you can hear. A fruitful time for this practice is early in the morning, as you are waking from sleep and birds are beginning to sing. Let your attention expand to the horizon of hearing. Let the faintest sound's vanishing lead you into deeper silence. Continue to listen in silence. Let each sound that arises be an invitation to the silence that follows it. You cannot be anywhere else but here when you truly listen. In pure listening, past and future vanish. Listening brings you to Presence.


Go outside during a break from work, even if you are in the middle of a city. If you can't go outside, just sit by a window. Look at the sky. Find a patch of blue. Look deeply into the blue of the sky until your eyes gaze beyond the vanishing point. You are gazing at infinity. Your eyes will unfocus and relax. They will focus on no-thing. This relaxes many muscles in your face. Breathe in, then follow your exhalation out through your eyes toward the infinite depth of blue. After a few breaths, close your eyes and experience this same vastness inside you.


In a gathered meditation circle, I do this exercise with grapes. Jesus did it with bread and wine. You can do it with any fresh natural food. Even a sip of water can be magic.

Hold the grape in your hand and look at it carefully. Notice every detail. If this grape were placed in a bowl with a hundred other grapes, what would you look for to recognize this particular grape? Now look even more deeply into the grape. It's liquid contains the rain, the clouds, the sky that watered it. It's skin and meat contain the minerals of the earth. Many trees and flowers and animals have died and returned to the loam to form the nutrients in this grape. The fire of the sun sparkles inside this grape, photons of light from the stars. This grape contains all the elements: earth, water, fire, sky. This grape is full of death and rebirth.

This grape contains humanity too. Many human hands have touched it: hands of laborers, packers, shippers and grocery store clerks. The juice of this grape runs with human toil and tears. The soft meat of this grape is woven from the web of commerce, stretched across a continent to bring you sweetness. Noticing all this is prayer: grace unspoken.

Lift the grape to your nostrils and smell it. Now hold this grape in your palm and honor its gaze. Eat. Taste. Pure wordless sensation, without the label, "grape." Swallow.

Sit quietly and observe sensations in the mouth and tongue, the bouquet blossoming and fading like the colors in a sunset. Follow these flavors and sensations until they dissolve into Presence, into the silence of Being without desire.

The Window of Personhood

You are bringing Spirit into Matter. In the moment of sensation, as the external object enters your senses, your consciousness flows out to meet it, blessing and infusing its material energy with radiance. What if the object of your sensation is not a grape, but a person?

The dynamics of the following process are precisely the same as the dynamics of meditation. You are meditating upon the presence of a person, in the midst of relationship, just as you would meditate upon your own breath, or the face of God in your heart.

There are two aspects to classic Buddhist meditation, called "samatha" (stillness) and "vipassana" (insight). In the Christian tradition these are called "recollection" and "union." First, your awareness becomes empty and free of monologue. You are silently focused on the object of meditation. Secondly, your consciousness penetrates into the object, merging with its energy and essence.

Face to face with the mystery of another human being, rest in silence. Spend a few breaths gazing into the eyes of the other, breathing her into your heart. I mean this literally. Breathe in your partner’s face, placing your attention in the region of your heart as you gaze into those eyes. Inhale their pain, their weariness, their sorrow. Soon you will see the little child beneath the lines of anguish in that face. Breathe in the child. Gaze upon that face as you would gaze upon a flower, just as it is, without judgment, without the slightest motive to change or improve.

Now as your exhale, breathe out a wave of compassion and healing. You need not try to feel it. Compassion arises as the gift of emptiness.

As you gaze into her eyes, do not resist the movement out of yourself, into them. Have courage: surrender to your flow into the depths of the other. You will dissolve into the silence, the stillness, at the core of her being. And you will become gently disoriented: for this is the very core of your own being also!

In this moment of pure dissolving, you in relationship, yet beyond relationship. You meditate upon that Being who is both Self and Other. You can"love thy neighbor as thyself," for the other IS your self. This meditation on the heart of relationship will transform both of you into one radiance.

Do this even with a difficult relationship: in the home, on the street corner, or in a business meeting. In a troubled relationship, we usually protect our heart by withdrawing into our head, the artificial world of mind. We construct a gray parallel world of thought, where there is safety in merely commenting on the real world, instead of living in it. Then consciousness gets stuck inside us and cannot flow out into the other.

Feel that stuck-ness. Feel it as a sensation burning and scraping all through your body. You really don't need to think about what you will say, or what the other person says. The “meaning” of the words is quite superficial: it will change according to our emotional state. It is only an interpretation. The words are theirs, but the hearing is ours.

So just for a few moments, it is more fruitful to let go of thoughts and words, and silently observe the other’s face. Abandon your own agenda and be empty. Gaze into the other's eyes, breathing in, breathing out. Observe fear rising in your heart. Just to observe that fear is courage. Then fear dissolves into energy, energy dissolves into calm, and calm gives rise to compassion. In this moment of acceptance, the other's demeanor will soften.

If that person continues to be tense, you can soften the space around them. Let your primary focus shift to the space around their body. No matter how agitated the person is, the space around them is still. Artists call this negative space. Allow your awareness to expand and enfold the other’s body. Infused with your transparency, that space grows soft and quiet. The enfolding cloud of your awareness will penetrate that person's mind and body. Enjoy this practice even with your "enemy." This is secret silent work. You don’t have to let the other know you are doing it.

Thich Nath Hanh once said, “We practice deep listening, compassionate listening, in order to relieve suffering. We don’t listen in order to judge, to blame, to argue: we just listen with all our heart, because we know that the fact of mere listening can bring about transformation and healing.... Compassionate listening is what we desperately need in our world.”

Touching the Sun

You've been working inside, staring at your computer for many hours. Perhaps you've had days and days of gray weather with no sunlight. Then the sun comes out. Is this not grace? Is this not a sacrament? How will you celebrate?

All of your energy comes from the sun. Your food is energized by photons of sunlight. Whatever you use for fuel, its warmth and fire originate in the sun. When you feel depleted, you can use this sunny day to re-energize. I write this on the first day of Spring, 2006, twenty minutes from the vernal equinox!

Go outside. If you can't go out, open the window and stand in the sunlight. Close your eyes and agree to be completely here in your body. Be aware of your breath-body, each breath filling you from the soles of your feet up to your eyeballs. Absorb the radiance dancing through your eyelids, the sun's energy bombarding your nerves with billions of photons. You can "see" this even though your eyes are closed, because the sun's energy will stimulate your optic nerve through the skin. There is nothing esoteric about this, nothing to imagine.

Using your inhalation as a vehicle for the sunlight, breathe the solar fire in through your forehead. This will cleanse and tune the pineal gland and you can feel the energizing tingle in every cell of your brain. Breathe this stream of sunlight down through your lungs, to your heart and solar plexus. It will irradiate your internal organs and nourish every cell in your body.

Exhale through your solar plexus, offering the stream of fire back to the sun. Breathe deeply and slowly, luxuriating in each breath of light. Do it seven times. Seven circles of sunlight in to your forehead and out through your belly. Afterward, spend a few minutes sitting in silence, merged with the sun in your body. Or if you are outside, take a walk, greeting and warming the earth with every footstep.

Touching the Planet

"Nowadays people breath through their nostrils. In ancient times, the masters breathed through the soles of their feet." ~Earliest Chinese text on Tai Chi

Your skin is an organ, the largest organ in your body. When we speak of touching, we usually wait for something or someone to press our skin. We are not used to being in constant touch with the air, the sun, the moisture around us. Some of us are so de-sensitized and numb, we can't even feel the ground when we walk on the earth. A great Buddhist teacher, Thich Nat Hanh, said that the real miracle is not to walk on water, but to walk on the earth. Sioux Indian sage, Black Elk, gave us this advice: "Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer."

Go outside in the hour before dawn, or early in the day when the grass is still wet with dew. Take off your shoes. Stand with eyes closed in the cool grass and breath. Don't just breathe through your nose. Imagine that you are breathing through the soles of your feet. Let the breath of the earth flow up into your legs, hips and belly. As you exhale, release the pent-up tensions in your muscles. Feel the release from your face down to your ankles. Watch the tension discharge into the ground. It makes good manure.

Exhale stale thoughts and worries of yesterday. Pour them into the wet grass. Breathing yesterday out, right down into your feet, let the touch of the earth and the sting of the dew awaken today. This is the only day. This is the only world. Why not stand in dignity, without trying to be anywhere else?
Become aware of the bottoms of your feet and the touch of the ground. Imagine your feet taking root, your roots penetrating to the center of the earth, chords of conscious energy. Breathe in and out through these roots.

Now open your eyes and begin to walk slowly, barefoot in the wet grass, with your attention in the soles of your feet. Very slowly, walk without destination. Walk without a goal. Walk just to taste your body moving, drinking the milk of space. Today is enough. Has it ever occurred to you that the purpose of life is just To Be? If we are truly alive, truly walking, we need no other purpose. We are pilgrims ever-arriving in the temple of Presence.

Feel every sensation as one foot lightens and lifts into the cool air, the other foot pressing into the grass to gradually receive the sacred weight of your body. Feel the foot widen to hold the earth like a hand. Feel your weight roll from the heel toward the ball of the foot. Feel your toes gently grasp the earth, one last caress, as the foot leaves the ground. Walk like this for three minutes, that's all. It’s not meant to be a rigorous discipline, but a respite of wonder. Be a toddler just learning the dignity of walking on this earth. You will feel grounded and whole for the rest of the day.


"Breathing in with the whole body, breathing out with the whole body.”
~Buddha, Satipatthana Sutra

Breathing is the purest prayer. In awareness of breath, we dissolve the gap between mind and body, heaven and earth, the ideal and the real.

If you sat back from your desk at the office and practiced the following exercise for three minutes, giving yourself to it 100%, you would be re-energized, relaxed, and re-newed for several hours.

A common expression is: "Stop and take a breather." But we seldom actually do. We stop to gossip at the water cooler. We stop to douse our nerves with caffeine. We go to the gym and work our breath into a heavy pant. But have you ever actually stopped to breathe, noticing the feathery touch of air in your nostrils and throat? Noticing breath descend into your chest, expanding the rib cage in slow majesty? Have you allowed warm breath to bathe your heart? Have you let breath swell the belly and abdomen muscles, drawing awareness right down to your sit-bone, grounding you to the earth?

Then, exhaling, have you consciously felt the gentle contraction of those abdomenal muscles, watching the breath flow up the torso into the throat? Have you become aware of your jaw and cheeks and tongue relaxing into the face you had when you were a child?

Have you noticed your nostrils quiver to attention like the nostrils of a deer? Have you watched breath rise and dissolve like a wisp of smoke in your forehead, leaving awareness free from the chatter of thoughts? Have you offered your exhalation through the baby’s soft spot in your crown, and poured yourself gently back into the sky?

Now, at the end of the exhalation, in the moment between this breath and next, surrender. Merge your attention in the silence between exhalation and inhalation. Abandon the little "me" that is merely a thought. Dare to be no one, just for a moment, and become the boundless sky.

Boundlessness is the gift of every exhalation, as one breath dies into the birth of the next. Your breath can teach you to dissolve your entire history, and to be reborn. As scripture says, "All that matters is to be created afresh!" Every breath is the new creation.

Now observe who is breathing... Are you breathing? Or is the Almighty breathing you? Breath is a gift, is it not? A gift given without your slightest effort. To witness your  inhalation is the revelation of Grace. What is your response to Grace? Just offer it back: exhale. That’s all you can do. Each breath is the whole story of salvation: God's gift, your response. To breathe is prayer.


Listen to the wild
silence of your open heart
or you'll miss the Spring.
Today, just for an hour, let's give each other permission not to be outraged. Permission not to react, but to respond. Permission not to trigger each others anger, but to polish one another with forgiveness. A gracious light is always pouring from the heart. Indignation often blinds it. The world can survive for an hour without indignation, but it can't survive without your light.

Photo by Kristy Thompson
Collage of my verse by Rashani Réa