Recently, I’ve been ramping up a practice as I go through Central Park on my way to the office that has to do with recognizing that everything I encounter along the way, every living being—human or otherwise—is kin. This recognition comes from the awareness that we are all “children of Gaia”, with no exceptions. A colleague mentioned to me last week that she saw a documentary in which the anthropologist pointed out that not so long ago, geologically speaking, we humans were part of nature’s “wildlife”. It was only when we began to use agriculture that we shifted from actively participating as local wildlife. It was a reminder that we humans, as well as every other life form, are born from the same source of physical life—we are all Gaian beings.
This practice got me to paying more attention to what I experience as I recognize that every living being I encounter in the course of my daily activities is kin. On my walk, for example, acknowledging people, trees, bushes, birds, dogs, grass, rocks—everything I encounter along the way—as kin, I notice that my heart becomes more open and I feel more immediately connected to the world around me. It’s hard to describe, but I become aware of a deepened sense of relatedness to, and part of, my world. That experience then touches something deeper that nourishes a richer sense of well-being.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore, perhaps more deeply than you have before, your sense of relatedness to the world around you. For this practice, focus on a sense of kinship with all the life forms you encounter and notice how it feels to recognize that you and everyone else are all earth beings, all related through our physical presence on this planet.
For most indigenous people, recognizing our human family as part of the community of planetary life is a given. Those of us who have grown up in a Western industrialized context tend to receive a message that our place in the world is one of superiority and separateness from nature, which leaves us alone, disconnected from our actual place in the natural world.
As you play with this practice, notice whatever shifts in physical sensations may arise. Also notice any shifts in your thinking and in your emotional responses to the world around you. It has always seemed to me that one of the more important elements in a sense of well-being is that we are part of something larger than our individual selves. Notice if this is true in your experience, as well, as you explore this practice on our human place within a larger family of Gaian beings.
As is true with all these practices, there’s no right way to do this one. It’s one more invitation to explore how the focus of your awareness has a powerful effect on the quality of your inner life. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat on the head any judgments that may arise.
And, as always, be sure to notice and allow whatever mixed feelings may arise as you work with any of these practices. Mixed feelings give us an opportunity to become more aware of the flow of our self-talk, a form of self-hypnosis that vividly affects our internal experience and how we move through the world.