We Are Earth Walking

03/28/2015 10:37 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

Dearest Friends --

Now is the time to remember who we are.

We are not as the corporations would have us. Our value is not in our ability to consume and dump -- endlessly extracting from our planet and building boundaries between each other and our fellow species for the sake of momentary status.

We are powerful, compassionate, sensitive, intelligent, strong and interconnected beings. Look deeply: are we here to race against the clock for money and possessions? Our value is beyond material wealth.

As an indigenous culture of the Andes, the Kichwa, says, "We are Earth walking." (1)

We are the water, the air, the soil, the sun, the fire and the wind in beautiful, bi-petal form, walking on this planet that we call home. A planet, some call her Mother Earth, that loves us dearly. We are her children. Our value is in our relationship with her and all life.

The water that we drink, that filters through drains, pipes and faucets before it reaches your glass, originated in her raw veins -- the rivers, oceans, lakes, and aquifers. The fire that powers our computers, television screens, our ovens, and the lighting in our homes all came from the bellows of her ancient wells of energy. Our ancestors -- the life that came before us and then fossilized into oil, natural gas, and coal -- is burned to run the neon lights that inundate our modern world. The air that we breathe and the food we eat directly fuels the respiration in our cells to make energy to walk to work, type on the computer, play with our children and wash the dishes. This oxygenated air and energizing food was given to us by her plants that converted sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen.

We are, quite literally, one.

Can you see that we are not separate from her?

Despite the growing talk of venturing to another planet after this one fails or developing a technology that will make the issues of peak oil and climate change obsolete, we cannot live without this planet. Despite our desires for comfort and convenience, we cannot continue to live infinitely on a finite planet. Nature does have rules.

This post was inspired by a distressing conversation I overheard. As I poured my self-serve coffee at a local cafe, a man was boasting to his friends about his recent hunting trip. He tells the tale of stalking of a bear, watching her eat a moose and tearing the moose's flesh to shreds. After she ate, he and group of men followed her to her den and waited for her to rest. They shot her from a distance as she slept. Three men were needed just to hold her head up for a picture.

This bear was once lovingly carried in her mother's womb. Her mother labored, no doubt, sacrificed her life to ensure that her offspring had life. This bear was once a cub that played and joyously explored the world. She ate copious amounts of Earth's energy so that she might grow and serve in the Web of Life. Precious energy was invested so that she might live.

One could argue the same for the moose, but the moose died to support the sacred circle of energy. The moose died so that Life could continue. Her life was sacrificed respectfully.

Can we say the same for the bear?

We must realize the impact of our actions. In killing other species senselessly and without respect, we indirectly do the same to ourselves. The bear is Earth -- we are Earth.

The Kichwa preserved an ancient tradition to help us remember this foundational understanding. It is a practice of greeting, feeling and thanking the elements, as often as possible. (1)

When we stop, and greet (internally or not), feel and thank the elements of air, earth, wind and fire, we establish a friendship, a relationship, with our relatives. Just as if we were attempting to establish a relationship with a human friend, we would say hello, ask how they were doing, and offer respect for their existence.

Stop now -- don't delay.

Find the sun in the sky, feel how it warms your face. If the sun is not out, say hello to the fire in an artificial light nearby. Turn on the faucet, greet and feel the water as it gently rises, cools and cleanses your hands. Take in a deep breath. Greet the air and notice how it fills your lungs and your body feels satisfaction from it's gift. As you sip your coffee, greet the earth manifested as rich, dark beans that give your morning boost -- surge your veins with invigorating caffeine. And to all: extend gratitude.

In incorporating this practice into my own life, I was shocked to see the profound benefits of such a simple process. I had always imagined reconnecting with nature to be so complicated and tiresome.

However, as my professor, Martha Travers, of the Jazz and Contemplative Studies program at the University of Michigan says, connecting with nature is who we are. No one is unable to connect with our relatives as, again, at our most minuscule and grand, we are Earth.

When we greet, thank and feel our external world through the elements, we start the communication with each other and ourselves.

Any internal or external doubt of our ability to connect is merely the mind in its jest.


1. Martha Travers, "Elemental Play"