As we go forth for the healing of our world, there are forces and institutions which we will and must challenge. The men and women who serve these structures will appear as our opponents. Here is a formal group practice which helps to free us from fear and illwill toward such persons, and to ground us in an all-embracing compassion.
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh encourages his students to express their respect, gratitude, and goodwill by the act of bowing. Because some Westerners are uncomfortable with notion of bowing, he calls it "Touching the Earth"--for their elders and teachers, the Buddha Dharma and the spiritual community, their original faith traditions, their ancestors, their homeplace on the planet. This particular practice for honoring our adversaries was composed by an ordained senior member of his Order of Interbeing, Caitriona Reed.
Everyone stands with enough room in front of them to kneel and touch the ground with hands and forehead. If there is an altar or emblem, like an Earth flag, they can be facing it. The guide reads the text aloud, pausing after each paragraph, at which point everyone (guide included) "touches the Earth"--putting knees, hands, and then head to the floor. Ten paragraphs, ten bows. Some may prefer to do a full prostration; others may choose to abstain from the practice and just listen from the sidelines. Be sure they feel comfortable in doing so. Maintain a slow, unhurried pace throughout.
Touching the Earth for Our Adversaries
By Caitriona Reed
You, who deliberately engage in the destruction of the environment for your own profit, you show me how much I value what is honest, what is generous, what has been clearly thought through, what is expressive of love for this planet home and our human and nonhuman fellow beings. So I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
You bring forth in me the passion and love I feel for this life-bearing land, its soil, air and waters, and the beings they nurture; the passion I feel for integrity and strong, sustainable community. Because of the strength with which I resist your actions, I have seen how strong my love and passion really are. I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
Because the pain I feel when I allow myself to witness the pain of the world is no less than your pain--you, who perpetuate destruction and cut yourselves off from needs of the present and the generations of the future, I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
Because the pain of greed, alienation and fear are no less than the pain of sorrow and mourning for what is lost, I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
For the power of my anger, transforming itself into love for the beauty and integrity of all life-forms, and for the bright energy of my passion for justice and the health of all beings, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
Because we all want to be happy, to feel ourselves intact and part of a single whole, for that shared longing, I bow to you in compassion and touch the Earth.
Because you challenge me by your actions, demanding that I release my attachment to the belief that my view, my understanding, is the only correct one, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
For you who teach me that the mind is a limitless source, a miracle capable of manifesting as love, as greed, as fear, capable of clarity or delusion, blind to the consequence of action or open to the boundless coherence of all that we do and experience in life. For you who show me what I myself am capable of when I let my life be governed by fear and greed, great awesome teachers, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.
In awe of the mind's capability for delusion and alienation that calls me so insistently to understanding and joy, I bow to you and touch the Earth.
With the understanding that all this will pass and with love in my heart, I bow to you and touch the Earth.