I enjoy meditation outside, in the shade and dappled light of a canopy of trees, preferably near a stream, creek or river. For me, it’s good, restorative and invigorating. There’s plenty of research that backs up the goodness of forests, walks and outdoor meditation. I encourage you to search for these articles and studies, but even more than the research, I encourage you to do them, to try them for yourself. To taste is to know. Get outside and see if you can gain the testimony of the Earth, or as it is in the story of the Buddha, Earth as Witness. See if you can divine what that phrase means to you while you are outside. That phrase, Earth as Witness, is even in the Old Testament. Moses calls upon the Earth as witness, along with Heaven. I like to contemplate what these stories are getting at while I’m out in the wild. Why is the Earth’s testimony unassailable? What does this mean, to me?
In a one version of the story of the Buddha, my own paraphrasing, Mara is all up in the Buddha’s face, cutting to the core of self-doubt, he says something like, “Who are you, and I mean really, who do you think you are, to be radiant, good, and sit on that spot and harmonize Heaven and Earth? Who do you think you are to take what I see as my place, not yours?” In some versions, there are the bands of demons that say they are a witness to Mara’s words, that it is his spot, and not this other, unworthy person’s place.
The Buddha let’s these thoughts come and go, and then touches the Earth as witness. In some versions, when the Buddha touches the Earth, the Earth thunders, “I am witness.”
Worthiness, your idea of your own self-worth, that is what Mara is challenging here. Maybe even your self-worth beyond ideas of it, a felt sense of worthiness. Then, the Earth is called as witness to the worthiness of the being on the spot. To me, being on the spot relates to now-ness. Your mind and body are at the same spot, at the same time. Your body isn’t engaged in one activity, or many, while your mind races around to the past, present and future. You are here, now. Awake to the moment, the world and everything.
This talk of worthiness reminds me of the lyrics by Mos Def, from the song, “Fear Not the Man” from the CD, “Black on Both Sides.” For me, in this song, the words, “Hip-Hop” can be replaced by world, Country, Family, Culture, Sangha etc. That’s the strength of the wisdom in these lyrics:
“…People ask me all the time
… what’s getting ready to happen with Hip-Hop?’
I tell em, ‘You know what’s gonna happen with Hip-Hop?
Whatever’s happening with us.’
If we smoked out, Hip-Hop is gonna be smoked out
If we doing alright, Hip-Hop is gonna be doing alright
People talk about Hip-Hop like it’s some giant living in the hillside
Comin down to visit the townspeople
We are Hip-Hop
Me, you, everybody, we are Hip-Hop
So Hip-Hop is going, where we’re going
So the next time you ask yourself where Hip-Hop is going
Ask yourself, where am I going? How am I doing?
‘Til you get a clear idea
So… if Hip-Hop is about the people
And Hip-Hop won’t get better until the people get better
Then how do people get better?
Well, from my understanding, people get better
When they start to understand that, they are valuable
And they are not valuable because they got a whole lot of money
Or cause somebody, thinks they’re sexy
But they’re valuable cause they been created by God.”
There is so much I like about this song. Thank you, Mos Def.
How do people get better? By understanding they don’t need to get better, only realize their own inherent, indestructible worthiness. A worthiness you do not need to earn. A worthiness you may forget, but that cannot be taken. That is what Mara was obscuring by challenging. To ask, who are you, is to set you apart from who you are, because ultimately, you are that wholeness. I’m jumping ahead. Let’s just say, our worthiness is obscured by thoughts, ours and others.
Now, who could possibly be the witness to our worthiness? Who has always been with you? Always? Everywhere you go? The Earth. The Earth is the witness who can thunderously say, yes, you are worthy. Every moment occurs on this planet. You can’t escape the Earth, unless on a rocket, and let’s be honest, the Earth is merely part of the Universe. It is universes all the way down, but locally, we are talking Earth.
My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and it’s fair to say that this left me a little disjointed. Always the new kid. Always looking to belong. The one familiar friend was always the landscape. The Gulf region of the United States. Pine forests, humidity, rivers and creeks. The Earth was my constant friend. My constant witness.
When I speak about the Earth, I am speaking about everything that arises out of the Earth as well. In the ongoing moment, there are all these forms of life co-arising from the Earth. The Earth is made of the stuff of exploded stars. All the things that co-arise out of the Earth are also made of star-stuff. We are made of star stuff, stars that exploded so long ago, it is hard to understand.
All of these life forms that are co-arising out of the Earth are also, in their brief time, sending up new versions of themselves. Exact replicas if they are asexual. So in this ongoing moment are all these co-arisings, that only last a short time, and they send up new versions, always adapting best they can to the changing moments, and then, puff, new arisings, and puff, new arising. Contracting and then decentralizing, these arising are ongoing, all coming from what we affectionately call, Mother Earth. Every out breath, the earth decentralizes new life forms, puff. Inhale, exhale, puff. The Earth is your witness, because you are the Earth, the universe, and everything. You are your own witness. Your worthiness will come from nowhere else, but yourself.
What a paradox. The Earth is the best witness, when you realize your utter interdependence, where the Earth isn’t really separate from you, and that’s when it becomes the witness to your goodness, and worthiness. When thou art that.
Now, I’m thinking, it’s best to get outside and hike. Become intimate with yourself and everything. Sit, and listen, and discover. Realize the Earth is your witness, because who else could it be, but you.