A Deep Sense of Belonging and Relief

Bhikkhunī Santacittā

A Deep Sense of Belonging and Relief

In order to support the journey from the early to the later stages of maraṇasati—both for the Earth and for the body—we need to move slowly and employ some grounding practices. Whenever we feel that this contemplation is becoming too intense, it’s important to take a step back and remind ourselves that this is a very long journey. To make this path sustainable, we must be gentle with ourselves.

We can imagine roots coming out of our feet or root chakra. When we breathe in, we breathe in through those roots and draw nourishment up from the Earth. When we breathe out, we send our gratitude deep down into the planet. We feel the Earth welcoming, sustaining, and nurturing us. We can’t fall off her—she will always catch us. Finally, we experience ourselves and the Earth as inseparable. We are part of her, and she is part of us. Once we see this clearly, we won’t be able to engage in certain behaviors any longer. Before I started to meditate, I would slap mosquitoes, but after years of meditation, I can no longer do this. After all, don’t the mosquitoes and I come from the same place? Don’t we both have the same mother?

If we fully give ourselves to this practice, there will be a transformation that affects everything we think and say and do. But we need to put ourselves on the line for this to happen, because there will definitely be discomfort. Little by little, we’ll come to know for ourselves the origin of our actions. Is a particular action coming from an understanding of the inevitability of death? Or from a place of fear or guilt or confusion? Really taking in the inevitability of death doesn’t lead to doing nothing. If that happens, we need to keep going, because we are still in the early stages of the contemplation.

Imagine a dear friend is dying. We know that the friend is dying, but we do our best to help, to heal, and to comfort. We don’t abandon our friend, nor do we stop caring. Out of love, we do what we can, knowing that no matter what we do, our friend eventually must die. We continue to care, even though no amount of caring can save her in the end.

Like children, for a long time we have just been taking and taking. Everything seemed to revolve around us, and we thought of ourselves as the center of the universe. The only times we thought about our mother was when we were hungry, when we were tired, or whenever we wanted something. Our mother has been very patient with us, and we have become rather spoiled. Now, Mother Earth has become sick. It’s up to us either to grow up and stop thinking only of ourselves or to die with our mother. We are all her children, and we are all in this together.

If you murder someone, you can’t tell the judge, “I should not be punished—eventually that person was going to die anyway, so it doesn’t matter that I killed them.” Even if we are all only waves on the ocean, we still have to look out for one another and do our best not to cause harm. We all know this. As we work with maraṇasati and our grounding practices, we discover the Middle Path between shutting down and becoming obsessed, between freezing and panicking. Once we see for ourselves that we cannot draw a line between this thing called ‘me’ and the planet, a deep sense of belonging and relief will arise. With this comes an understanding of what we actually can do for our planet, for one another, and for ourselves. Then we will move into action, one step at a time, with equanimity and dedication—trying with all of our might to do what needs to be done, while at the same time knowing that saṃsāra ultimately cannot be fixed.

At different times in my life, I’ve had different teachers. Right now, the Earth is my most powerful teacher. If we are looking for a teacher, we don’t have to look very far. We are standing, sitting, and lying down on our teacher. We come from our teacher, and we return to our teacher. All it takes is one moment of feeling our feet on the ground. Even right now, in whatever way comes most naturally, we can connect with the Earth. She is always right here with us.

This reflection by Ayya Santacittā is from the book, Leaving It All Behind, (pdf) pp. 35-37.