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Practicing Gratitude for the Earth

Practicing Gratitude for the Earth
I love autumn, a time of year when the earth is quieting down and drifting off into the sleep of winter. The squirrels prepare their nests, the leaves drop from the trees, and the air grows cold and crisp. Autumn is also an excellent time for us humans to calm our minds and go more deeply inside, taking stock of the year that’s passed and deciding how we want to grow and change in the coming new year. This year, I would like to commit myself to deepening my gratitude for and connection to the earth.

But how does one express one’s gratitude for the earth? Well, it begins with awareness and mindfulness. In our world, it can be easy to forget that everything we have and enjoy comes ultimately from the earth. Yes, you could say that some things are “manmade,” but where did they really come from? Everything ultimately comes from resources provided by the Earth. Even plastics, which certainly seem “unnatural,” are ultimately derived and processed from natural sources. Humans have been highly creative (and often destructive) in our ability to manipulate nature, but ultimately, we have nothing without what Earth herself provides.

Earth-Dependance Visualization

Being mindful of what we consume and where it comes from can help us grow gratitude for the earth in our hearts. As a visualization exercise, I recommend sitting quietly and thinking of all the things you have consumed from the earth recently. Think of all the food you have eaten, the gasoline you have burned through personal or public transportation, all the waste you have thrown away, and anything else you have bought or taken for yourself.

Now, visualize the process of production and consumption in reverse. Imagine the item being driven to the store, imagine it being stored in a warehouse, imagine it being produced in a factory, and so on, down to the point where it was extracted from the earth, through mining, farming, or some other process.

Taking the time periodically to visualize this process for everything you consume might help you become more mindful of what you consume and where it comes from. Although most of us need to use less overall, this is not about feeling guilty about taking from the earth. All living things must take from the earth to survive, and we are no different. Instead, it is about awareness of our dependence on the earth, no matter how technological or manmade our environment may seem to us. It is about acknowledging where the material gifts of our lives arise.

Sensory and Energetic Earth Awareness

To keep our hearts full of gratitude for the earth, I believe it is also important to take time to direct our senses toward nature. This could mean going out into “raw” nature, free of buildings, concrete, and technology, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Really, you were never disconnected from nature, no matter how much that may seem true to you. You must keep breathing the air; your life depends on natural processes every moment. However, we may feel at times that we are disconnected from nature, especially when our minds are wrapped up in the pressures of the human world.

For this reason, I recommend taking small breaks throughout the day to close your eyes and notice how nature is always working around you. You don’t have to take much time; even a minute or two makes all the difference. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or even in times of happiness and joy, take a few seconds to close your eyes and say “thank you” to the earth. In that brief moment, notice how nature is still functioning all around you—your breath, your heartbeat, the sound of the wind outside, leaves rustling in the breeze, the sensation on the tips of your fingers, the smells in the air, and so forth.

You are part of nature, no matter where you are or who you are. If you do this regularly, your awareness of your connection to Earth will be automatic. It will not require any scheduled time for meditation or visualization. It will just be part of who you are . . . because it is who you are.

Reorienting toward an Earth-centered Identity

In the world's mythological stories, the earth is commonly recognized as the mother of all living things, and there is great truth in this. We are all like children dependent on this Great Mother, whether you call her, Mago, Gaia, Mother Earth, or just “nature.”

Practicing gratitude for the Earth regularly will help you reorient your identity toward earth-centeredness as an Earth Citizen. This new identity will become very important as the world becomes interconnected above and beyond old definitions of nationality through our new technological forms of communication and as we seek to solve global problems. And, of course, everyone must begin to take stock of our current lifestyle and how it has impacted the earth. We are all Earth’s children, and we must give her the respect and gratitude she deserves.

Editor's Note: Practicing meditations that connect you to nature's sights and sounds through Change Your Energy courses like Nature Meditation for Healing and Awakening.
Written by Ilchi Lee
A visionary, educator, author, and founder of ChangeYourEnergy.com, Ilchi Lee has spent nearly three decades helping people create better lives for themselves. Lee has created Body & Brain Yoga, Brain Education, and hundreds of other wellness programs and methods. A model for the self-improvement he teaches, Ilchi Lee is continually changing and continually creative. Keep up with Ilchi Lee on his blog at http://www.ilchi.com.
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