Mother Earth Is Inside Of Us

This quote is a transcription of the first part of a dharma talk by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (know as Thay by his followers). The talk took place in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France on November 29, 2012. The title of the talk is “A New Teaching on the Twelve Nidanas.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Mother Earth Is Inside Us

The nidanas are the 12 teachings of the Buddha on dependent arising. Dependent arising refers to the cycles of birth and death that are conditions of ordinary life. Thay presents a modern interpretations of this ancient teaching of the Buddha.

Mother Earth Is Inside Of Us

The first part of the talk is about how mother earth is inside of us. I was so touched by what he said that I spent the whole morning and much of the afternoon listening and transcribing most of this segment of the dharma talk.

Naturally, Thay expresses the nature of our interbeing with mother earth. In a later part of the talk, he expresses the nature of our interbeing with the sun. I did not transcribe the later part.

What’s even more moving to me is how we can practice meditation by honoring our connection with mother earth. With this connection, we can learn to allow healthy cells to grow all by themselves. We can be healed.

This part of the talk also provides us a guide for healing. He has expressed an idea that active visualization is based upon. That idea is that relaxation is required for healing. Active visualization is an excellent process for achieving deep relaxation.

The Buddha has spoken about the earth, mother earth in terms of patience and equanimity. Patience and equanimity can be described as the two great virtues of planet earth.

Our society is not very healthy. Therefore, many of us are sick and we need healing and nourishment.

We intoxicated ourselves with poisons. Our body and our mind have a lot of poisons. Craving, hate, anger, despair are poisons for our mind.

And our body also has a lot of poisons because we don’t know how to consume.

But mother earth has a power to heal herself, has the capacity to heal herself and has the capacity to help us heal if we know how to take refuge in her.

While the Buddha was teaching Rahula [Buddha’s son] he mentioned earth as having these virtues – patience and equanimity.

If needed then mother earth can spend one million years or ten million years in order to heal herself. She’s not in a hurry and she has the power to renew herself.

We have to see that. If we study the history of the earth we know that she has had a lot of patience. so that now today she has become a very beautiful star – a green star!

And when we walk, we are aware that the earth is holding our steps.

But mother earth is not just below, under our feet. Mother earth is inside of us. To think that mother earth is the environment outside of us, around us is wrong.

Mother earth is inside of us and we don’t need to die in order to go back to mother earth! We are back. We are already in mother earth and that is why we have to learn how to take refuge in mother earth. And that is the best way to heal and to nourish ourselves.

So walking meditation is one of the ways to heal. And walking meditation will be successful if we know how to allow the earth to be in us and around us – just to be aware of that.

We are the earth and we don’t have to do much. We don’t have to do anything at all in order to get the healing and nourishment.

Like when we go in our mother’s womb, we didn’t have to breathe. We didn’t have to eat. Because our mother breathed for us and ate for us. We did not have to worry about anything.

It is possible to behave like that now! When you sit, allow mother earth to sit for you. When you breathe, allow mother earth to breathe for you. When you walk, allow mother earth to walk for you. Don’t make any effort. Allow her to do – she knows how to do it!

Suppose you are sitting like this. Don’t try to do anything. Don’t try to fight in order to sit. Don’t try to breathe in and breathe out. Don’t try to be peaceful. Allow mother earth to do everything for you.

Allow the air to enter our lungs. Allow the air to go out of our lungs. We don’t need to try to breathe in. We don’t need to try to breathe out. Just allow nature – allow the earth to breathe in and out for us.

We just sit there and enjoy the breathing in and the breathing out. There is the breathing – there is no you who are breathing in and you are breathing out. We don’t need a “you” or “I” in order to breathe in and out. The breathing in and the breathing out happen by itself alone. Try!

Do you have to do anything? No! Allow the breathing in to take place. Allow the breathing out to take place. And enjoy the in breath and the out breath.

And if you do like that – allow our body to relax totally – you don’t have to strive, you don’t have to make an effort. Behave like the embryo and the fetus in the womb of the mother. Allow your mother to do everything for you – to breathe, to eat, to drink.

And this is possible now if you know how to take refuge in mother earth. She’s a great bodhisattva [a great being who serves all sentient beings]! She is the mother of all the buddhas – of all boddhisattvas, of all saints. Shakyamuni [the Buddha] is her son. Jesus Christ is also her son.

We are also her sons and daughters. And we have to learn how to take refuge in her and allow her to continue to do everything for us. We don’t need to do anything at all. We don’t have to fight in order to sit. Allow yourself to sit. Allow yourself to be yourself. Don’t do anything.

Let the sitting take place. Don’t strive in order to sit. And then relaxation will come. And you know something? When there is relaxation, the healing begins – will take place. There is no healing without relaxation. And the relaxation means doing nothing! Try nothing!

So while it is breathing in, it is not you who are breathing in. While it is breathing in you just enjoy – you say, “Healing is taking place. Healing, healing is taking place.” When it is breathing out you say, “Healing is taking place.”

Allow your body to renew herself, to heal herself, to be nourished.

This is the practice of non-practice – practicing with non-practice.

And if you observe, we see that mother earth has the power, has the capacity to heal herself and heal us. And you believe in that power of healing of mother earth. And that belief comes from your own observation – your own experience and not something people tell you and ask you to believe in.

Mother earth can renew herself and transform herself and heal herself and can heal us. And that is the fact. And if we recognize that fact faith is there. We have faith. We take refuge. We allow our self to be healed by mother earth.

And while sitting, we get the healing. While walking, we get the healing. While breathing, we get the healing. We do not have to do anything at all. Just surrender our self to mother earth and she will do everything.

Relaxation Is The Way We Can Heal

What can we take away from Thay’s talk?

First of all, mother earth is inside of us. This is very clear from what he said.

We can just sit back, do nothing and allow mother earth to take care of us, like she takes care of herself.

We also learn that relaxation is an important component of healing.

When I visited Thich Nhat Hanh in 2006, we talked about how healthy cells grow all by themselves.

This was the insight I had when I had cancer in 1997. I wrote,

Lying still,
Breathing in, breathing out,
Healthy cells grow all by themselves.
I am free of cancer.

Now, you too can learn how healthy cells grow all by themselves through the letting go in deep relaxation. Now you can learn how the power of your mind can heal you. Click here to learn more.

Micah Freedman

Micah Freedman

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  1. Wow! I also listened to this talk and loved it. It is so nice to have it transcribed and to be able read this part. I can really focus on the key points which you so kindly outlined. I especially liked the part about not needing a “you” or “I” to breathe. Thay talks about this in another dharma talk (there is no breather, there is only the breathing). Very helpful with the non-self practice. Thank you!

  2. Shared this today with a friend in need.

    Than you for transcribing 🙂