The Earth Knows Us Here

The Earth Knows Us Here

Grasslands National Park
Grasslands National Park

Indigenous cultures are aware that nature and all its creatures are aware. They say, “The Earth knows us”. When they have visited the same sacred place over centuries, they say, “Here, nature knows us”. This is a lovely idea for reflection – to understand beyond an intellectual level that the Earth is alive and communicates with us, and accepts us, even remembers us.

This requires a different kind of knowing. It is rewarding to develop an understanding of the different forms of consciousness within us and within other forms of life. Sometimes our language restricts our ability to know aliveness beyond the human world. Sometimes it is our lack of experiences in natural or wilderness settings, or that our imaginations are constrained by our fears or habits. Perhaps we have not developed the ability to relax, slow our breath, and let go of the thinking, planning, remembering, list-making mind and rest in a deeper awareness of the world around us.

Finney and Sagal (2017) describe the importance of experiencing that plants and animals feel our presence as helping us understand our profound connections to all that is. They say,

The more deeply we know the natural world around us, the more likely we are to see the ways non-human, living beings respond to our presence and speak to us. We may see the idea of the Earth speaking as metaphor or we could understand that there are many ways to communicate. When humans walk the same route for many years, the plants respond by drawing back and our route becomes a path. The earth knows our footsteps.

This path is an example of our profound interconnection with all other life forms on Earth – the air, the water, the plants and animals, the mountains and minerals. The trees around us evolved from the earth and we evolved from the earth and we are together in this evolving (p.182). This understanding enriches our lives.

Like all humans, we experience times of sorrow or loneliness or the pain that comes from not being seen and accepted for who we are. The longing to feel accepted, at peace, and at home, can be the motivation to spend time outdoors by ourselves. With our focus on the natural elements above, below, and around us, we develop the ability to feel known and part of the trees, plants, animals, and stars. This gives us a sturdier and stronger sense of belonging—one that once felt cannot be taken away. We are accepted as our essential selves by the Earth and other life forms in a profound and lasting way.

Coleman (2006) describes the rewards of opening our hearts to other living things as another way to be in love.

where creek and river meet

When we attune to nature with sensitivity, we can see just how connected we are. Falling in love with a meadow, a limpid stream, a young fawn, or a grove of oak trees does not happen without those things “reaching out” and touching us in some way. We are always in relationship; we just rarely notice it. From this perspective, everything on this earth, from the spring rains that provide fresh drinking water to the warmth of the sun, is an open-hearted, generous offering. To wake up to this idea is to realize how abundant our lives truly are, how we receive gifts of love from nature all the time. (pp. 9-10)

To be genuine in offering more of nature’s gifts to ourselves, we need to be outdoors more often and strengthen our presence and our ability to feel the presence of the other forms of life around us. This practice of listening and sensing more deeply can become a source of pleasure, a solace when we need it, and assurance that we are not alone.

“Teachings come from everywhere when you open yourself to them.” (Richard Wagamese, 2017)

This post is an excerpt adapted from Knowing the Earth Knows Us in The Way of the Teacher (Finney & Thurgood Sagal, Roman & Littlefield Education, 2016,pp.181-184).

What part of the natural world speaks to you?  beckons you?

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