Touching the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh

In Plum Village we do a practice called “Touching the Earth” every day. It helps us in many ways. You too could be helped by doing this practice. When you feel restless or lack confidence in yourself, or when you feel angry or unhappy, you can kneel down and touch the Earth deeply with your hand. Touch the Earth as if it were your favorite thing or your best friend.

The Earth has been there for a long time. She is mother to all of us. She knows everything. The Buddha asked the Earth to be his witness by touching her with his hand when he had some doubt and fear before his awakening. The Earth appeared to him as a beautiful mother. In her arms she carried flowers and fruit, birds and butterflies, and many different animals, and offered them to the Buddha. The Buddha’s doubts and fears instantly disappeared.

Whenever you feel unhappy, come to the Earth and ask for her help. Touch her deeply, the way the Buddha did. Suddenly, you too, will see the Earth with all her flowers and fruit, trees and birds, animals, and all the living beings that she has produced. All these things she offers to you.

You have more opportunities to be happy than you ever thought. The Earth shows her love to you and her patience. The Earth is very patient. She sees you suffer, she helps you, she protects you. When we die, she takes us back into her arms.

With the Earth you are very safe. She is always there, in all her wonderful expressions like trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunshine. Whenever you are tired or unhappy, Touching the Earth is a very good practice to heal you and restore your joy.

 ~ from “A Pebble for Your Pocket”, page 44.

Bell of Mindfulness

From Mindfulness Bell issue #48

Note:  What you might say is in boldface.  The answers to questions in parenthesis are the answers our children gave us.

Materials Needed:

Bowl bell and its cushion

Inviter

Did you know the Buddha calls us?  Today we will listen to see if we can hear the Buddha calling us.

Listen, I think he is calling us now!

Bow to the bell and if it is a small bell, mindfully pick it up.  Bow to the inviter and pick it up.

Smile to the bell and the inviter and breathe in and out.

Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness.  We send our hearts along with the sound of the bell.

Awaken the bell by placing the inviter on the rim of the bell and holding it there.

After breathing in and out, invite the bell to sound and allow it to sing.

Breathe in.  I listen.  I listen. Breathe out. This wonderful sound brings me back to my True Self.

Set the inviter down.  Return the bell down on its cushion.  Bow to them.

Did you hear the Buddha call to us?  When we hear a bell, we are hearing the Buddha calling us!  That is why we stop whatever we are doing and show respect to the Buddha in the bell.  We stop our moving.  We stop our thinking.  We stop our talking and we listen to the beautiful sound of the Buddha.  It is not the Buddha from a long time ago who is calling us; it is the Buddha inside ourselves; it is our Buddha nature.   We smile when we hear the call.  We breathe in and we say to the Buddha inside ourselves-to our Buddha nature, “I listen.  I listen.”  Then we breathe out and say to our Buddha nature,  “That wonderful sound brings me back to my true, kind, loving self.”

Would you like to learn to invite the bell?

Guide a child through the procedure described above (in italics).

Guide other children as they learn to invite the bell, following the same procedure above.  All of the children might say the “I listen” gatha together each time the bell is sounded.

Sometimes the Buddha is a bell.  Sometimes the Buddha is a bird singing.  Sometimes the Buddha is a baby crying or a telephone.

Can you think of other sounds that the Buddha inside you might use to call you back to your Buddha Nature? (my dad calling me, an alarm clock, thunder, wind in the trees, a rooster crowing, the sound of a river, an airplane flying over my house, a horn honking, my cat meowing)

Can you think of ways other than sounds that the Buddha inside you might use to call to you?  Things you might see or smell or touch that will remind you to come back to your Buddha Nature? (sunset, finding a lost toy, butterfly, storm, dinner cooking, my cat crawling up in my lap, iris, my dog wagging his tail, my favorite stuffed animal)

Why do you think the Buddha inside you-your Buddha Nature-wants to get your attention? (to remind me to be happy; to remind me to love the person I’m with; to remind me to be kind)

Wherever you are, it is wonderful to listen for the Buddha.  Or to look for the Buddha.  Or to see if you can smell or feel the Buddha calling you.  When we get back together again, we will share with each other the different ways the Buddha has called us!

Submitted by Terry Cortes-Vega

Bowing

Note:  What you might say is in boldface.  The answers to questions in parenthesis are the answers our children gave us.

Materials Needed:

colored felt-tipped pens

Bowing is a deep form of communicating.  A bow may mean hello, thank you, good bye, or excuse me.  But it is not just a way to be polite.  It is a way of recognizing and honoring the Buddha Nature in each of us.

We put our hands together carefully to form a beautiful lotus flower.  Then we look into the eyes of the person we will bow to and smile.  We say to ourselves, “A lotus for you, Buddha to be!” and bow at our waist.  Then we straighten up, look into the eyes of the other person and smile.  Isn’t that an easy gift to give someone?

Please practice with a friend.

Allow each child time to bow to a friend.

Instead of a lotus, you might want to give something else to a friend or someone in your family.  Maybe you will put your hands together, look into the eyes of your friend and say to yourself, “An apple for you Buddha to be,” or “A sunny day for you Buddha to be,” or “A smile for you Buddha to be!” and then bow.

Give enough time for each child to practice bowing with a different child and with you, “giving” whatever gift they choose to give (a lotus, those suggested above or one of their own choice).

How does it make you feel to bow to someone’s Buddha Nature? (happy, like I’m watering the seeds of my friend’s happiness)

How does it make you feel when someone bows to you? (happy, grateful, loved)

When you can, please practice bowing with the people in your family, too.

With the colored pens, invite children to draw simple faces on each other’s thumbs.  The “thumb people” can practice bowing respectfully.  The “thumb people” might also have conversations with each other or sing to each other.

Submitted by Terry Cortes-Vega

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