(15 – 20 minutes)
As we go forth in the Great Turning, there are systems and institutions that we will and must challenge. The men and women who serve these structures may appear as our opponents, but they are likely in bondage to our true opponents: organized forms of greed, hatred, and delusion. Here is a practice that helps to free us from fear of and ill will toward such people.
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh encourages his students to express their respect, gratitude, and goodwill by the act of bowing– to their elders and teachers, the Buddha Dharma and the spiritual community, their original faith traditions, their ancestors, their home place on the planet. Because some Westerners are uncomfortable with notion of bowing, he calls it “Touching the Earth.” This particular practice for honoring our adversaries was composed by Caitriona Reed, an ordained senior member of Hanh’s Order of Interbeing.
Everyone stands with enough room in front of them to kneel and touch the ground with hands and forehead. Or if they prefer, people can simply bow from the waist. If there is an altar or emblem, like an Earth flag, they can be facing it. The guide reads the text aloud, pausing after each paragraph, at which point everyone (guide included) “touches the Earth.” Let each bow be marked by a bell or gong. Maintain a slow, unhurried pace throughout.
We begin by bowing to the Earth, in gratitude for life itself. Then we bow to the ancestors and teachers we revere, and, after that, to all our companions in the Great Turning. Now the bows to our adversaries begin.
You, who destroy the natural world for profit, you show me how much I respect and honor our planet home and fellow beings. So I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
You bring forth in me the love I feel for this life-bearing land—its soil, air and waters—and for the community that rises in its defense. Because of the strength with which I resist your actions, I learn how strong my love really is. I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
Because the pain I feel when I witness the pain of the world is no less than your pain–you, who perpetuate destruction and cut yourselves off from the web of life—I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
Because the pain of greed, alienation and fear is no less than the pain of sorrow for what is lost, I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
For the power of my anger, arising from my passion for justice, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
Because we all want to be happy, to feel intact and part of a single whole, for that shared longing, I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
Because your actions challenge me to see the limits to my own understanding, they free me from holding my view as the only correct one. I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
You who teach me that the mind is a miracle, capable of manifesting as love, as greed, as fear, as clarity or delusion—you who show me what I myself am capable of when I am governed by fear and greed—O great awesome teachers, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
Understanding that we all belong to the web of life, and with love in my heart, I bow to you and touch the Earth.