Sitting in Central Park among my tree friends, I found myself asking the following question: How do I help people understand that the earth and everything on it isn’t inert, isn’t passive and lacking in consciousness? How to I offer a perspective that holds the awareness that everything is earth-kin and that everything is conscious, alive, and aware in its own ways? Many of us raised in the Western world were taught that our planet was filled with “resources”, available for our use, rather than the more indigenous-oriented position that everything on and of our earth is alive and is valued kin.
Here’s a quotation from an enchanting book, “Becoming Animal”, by David Abram that captures some of what we modern people have lost in our relationship to nature, our earth, and our earth-kin:
“Our chest, rising and falling, knows that the strange verb ‘to be’ means more simply ‘to breathe’; it knows that the maples and the birches are breathing, that the beaver pond inhales and exhales in its own way, as do the stones and the mountains and the pipes coursing water through the ground under the city. The lungs know this secret as well as any can know it: that the inward and the outward depths partake of the same mystery, that as the unseen wind swirls within us, so it also whirls all around us, bending the grasses and lofting the clouds even as it lights our own sensations. The vocal cords, stirred by that breath, vibrate like spiderwebs or telephone wires in the breeze, and the voice itself, laughing and murmuring, joins its song to the water gurgling under the grate.”
I resonate deeply with this perspective and I still ponder and grapple with this question: How to help us all awaken to the life in our world? My experience of reality is that, everything is alive, without exception, that everything deserves a chance to live, without exception, and that everything deserves respect, without exception. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to eat, use water, have electricity, clothing, medication when we need an antibiotic or something else to help us be well, etc. What it does touch on, for me, is a need for us to actively respect the life around us and engage it with a respectful awareness that we are interrupting and/or taking a life when we gather food, that we express gratitude for the gift of our food, water, electricity, lumber, paper, whatever, and engage that other lifeform with respect.
I know that this may seem too far out for some who read this practice, but for this week I invite you to imagine that everything you encounter along the way is earth-kin. Everything you encounter is a life expressing itself in its own unique way, that everything you encounter is an expression of the life of this planet “dressed up” in an infinite array of forms and qualities of consciousness. Then, notice how this intention affects the quality of your internal experience, the quality and tone of your thoughts and feelings as you move through your daily activities.
It’s normal to have mixed feelings, so please also take time to notice those. It’s also helpful to explore somewhat deeply what it touches in you to look at a tree or a computer and recognize that you are engaging an earth-kin. I know it’s a stretch to imagine your computer is alive, but the particles that comprise it and the particles that comprise your body come from the same source, even though they have a different physical expression.
And, if it’s easier to engage this practice by limiting your exploration to organic life, that’s fine, too. Choose a tree, a boulder, a bird, an animal companion, an insect friend, the food you eat if that works better for you. The key here is to know that this is earth-kin and that it is alive. For sure, that life may look and express in ways very different from yours but notice what it’s like to remember that all these life forms arise from one planet, from our earth, and are earth-kin.
One additional part of this practice is to develop an ease with receiving impressions that aren’t the result of thoughts or conscious creation. Instead, they arrive. They may arise as a felt-sense in your body, as an image, a word, a color, or some other impression that conveys something meaningful to you. As you sense into the life around you, play with saying “hello” or “thank you” and see what you receive back, if anything. This isn’t about being “psychic”. It’s about sensing the world around you and tapping into the living presence of it. Also notice what it’s like if you do what so many indigenous people do and that is to ask permission if you want to take food from your garden or give a head’s up if you’re going to move a plant or a rock, say, so that there is time for that lifeform to get ready for change.
What I have found as a result of doing these kinds of practices for many years now is that I never feel alone. I am always with earth-kin no matter where I am or what I may be doing. In my apartment, I feel the presence of kin all around me, not only in the plants, but also in the crystals, the walls, all the gadgets and “stuff” I have, the three felines who live with me.
As with all these practices, please bring along curiosity as a constant companion. When judgments arise, be sure to gently pat them on the head and allow them to move on through. Judgments are pretty much inevitable but it helps when you remember that they generally don’t bring helpful information. Instead, they are often a signal that you may be activated.