Deepen your connection to the Earth to find new ways to care for her.
Some years ago I accompanied my teacher Swami Satchidananda, one of the 20th century's great yoga masters, on a walk in a park. I was one of three people walking behind him, and I was enjoying the beauty of the day and the feel of the soft, slightly damp grass under my feet. Realizing that many creatures were living in the earth beneath my feet, I was aware that my footsteps could be causing harm to them. As I was thinking about this, I noticed that as Swami lifted his foot before taking the next step, the grass perked back up. Looking back at the grass I had just stepped on, it was flat. Curious to see if it was the same for my companions, I glanced over at the others, who were also flattening the grass as they walked across it.
Perplexed, the three of us approached Swami. "Why is it," we asked, "that when you walk on the grass it stands back up when you lift your foot, while the grass we walk on stays pressed down?" A sweet, reverent expression came to his face, and he put his hand on his heart. "I have reverence for the Earth and she knows it," he said. "When I walk on her, I feel I am walking on my mother's bosom."
I don't know if I'll ever fully understand what happened that day, but the incident illuminated for me how deeply you can alter your consciousness to love and respect nature. Even now as I walk through a park, I am conscious that the Earth is my mother.
Today it seems that almost everyone is aware of how human activity is harming our planet. You're probably already doing many practical things to try to reduce your impact: recycling, driving less, buying "green" products. If you want to go even deeper, you can begin a practice of cultivating gratitude and reverence for the earth. As that moment with Swami suggested, when your actions are fueled by a heart-centered consciousness, you can affect the larger world in innumerable positive ways.
Feel the Connection to the Natural World
Too often the habits of our daily lives cut us off from the natural world. Yet the reality is that we are intimately joined to it. Like the planet itself, our bodies, too, are mostly made up of water!
Focusing your attention on the everyday gifts that nature gives can help you cultivate reverence. In my own life, just placing my feet on the floor to connect with the earth first thing in the morning fills me with gratitude. Splashing water on my face connects me to the water that flows all over the planet. Drawing air deeply into my lungs as I glimpse the first rays of the sun brings a sense of joy, because fire, air, and prana have united in me. In those first moments of waking, I feel a deep connection to the earth. When we appreciate these connections, we can experience groundedness, abundant well-being, and a sense of belonging.
There are other connections as well. The yogic tradition views the world as consisting of five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and ether. Five of the chakras (whirling vortexes of energy in our bodies) are considered to be direct reflections of those elements.
One way to create a deeper sense of one-ness with Mother Earth is by consciously choosing to take in energy from the elements of nature, while focusing on the chakras that correspond to the physical elements of the larger world.
To do this, draw the subtle energy of the element—be it earth, water, fire, air, or ether—into the corresponding chakra within yourself. As you do this, you are strengthening and enhancing your own chakras, as well as reminding yourself that there is no separation between us and the planet; we are all truly one. As the Chandogya Upanishad teaches, "The essence of all beings is earth."
Elemental Truths of the Chakras
Muladhara, the root chakra
It is located at the perineum and corresponds to the earth element, which motivates you to attend to the basics of survival: food, clothing, shelter. When connected with the earth, you feel grounded, confident. When disconnected, you may experience fear or depression. To connect, stand without shoes on and imagine roots coming out the bottom of your feet and going deep into the ground, drawing energy into your whole body. This will help you feel that you are part of the planet, and the planet is part of you.
Svadisthana, known as the chakra of "one's own place"
It is centered in the lower belly. It relates to the water element, which directs the flow of the emotions, passions, and creativity that bring harmony or disharmony to yourself and others. Tap into this energy by soaking in a hot spring or enjoying healing water in your tub or shower. Let the water purify your body, mind, and emotions.
Manipura, "lustrous gem" chakra
It is located in the navel area and mirrors the fire element. Your power, intellect, and vitality, which relate to your place in the world and your sense of self-esteem, are fed by fire. Like a tree, you absorb the sun's heat and transform it, using it to warm your body and ignite your intellect. Standing outside, stretch your arms and head upward and absorb the fire element; let it illuminate your entire being with happiness. By connecting to the fire element, you are enhancing your power, intellect, and vitality.
Anahata, the heart chakra
It reflects the air element. The air that you breathe inspires compassion, intuition, and love. The plants that share our world take in carbon dioxide and give back pure oxygen. Preserving them means they preserve us. Standing atop a rise, allow the power of the wind to embrace you. Breathe deeply as you feel life throbbing through you, empowering the heart to flow with compassion, intuition, and love.
Visuddha, the pure chakra
It is located in the throat area. Deep breathing unites earth and heaven within you, bringing a feeling of freedom. Through breath and an openhearted reverence, prana and the spirit unite in gratitude and love for all.
Getting in touch with the earth in these ways can also remind you of the enduring strength of the natural world. When the threats facing the natural world seem overwhelming, this perspective can give you hope.
After a time, the communion of your body, mind, and emotions with the earth will bring a shift in your inner and outer worlds. It will help each of us find ways to heal Mother Earth. And as Mother Earth heals, we—her children—are healed as well. As William Wordsworth said, "Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher."
See also A Yoga Practice for the Garden
Nischala Joy Devi is the author of The Healing Path of Yoga and The Secret Power of Yoga. Learn more at abundantwellbeing.com