Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has offered us a wonderful practice called “Beginning Anew” for refreshing our personal relationships, especially when those relationships become neglected, tense, or torn. We humans have been in a rough patch in our relationship with Mother Earth. So we have adapted Thay’s practice as “Beginning Anew with Mother Earth.”

This is a “relational” mindfulness practice, so people are invited to pair up with each other. It can be done in sangha or in a retreat setting, or even two people practicing together.

Great Bell Chant video. Ideally, the pairs are invited to watch a 7-minute video of beautiful images of natural beauty while Thay chants and speaks the “Great Bell Chant.

The practice has three rounds in which each person has a turn to be listened. When we are the listener, we assume the “role” of Mother Earth and listen to the speaker without comments or questions, and with an attitude of acceptance, compassion, and caring, paying full attention to the speaker.

Step 1. Gratitude…Loving the earth. Tell Mother Earth what you love about her, expressing gratitude for a specific place, species, season, elements that you’ve loved and have been nourished by. It can be in your past or present. You may like to talk about more than one, depending on the time allotted, but savor each one.

Step 2. Beneficial regrets. Share with Mother Earth what you are sorry for, individually and collectively, asking forgiveness. Begin with yourself. Maybe when you were a child you pulled the legs off insects; or chopped down trees just for fun. Maybe now in your current life you feel you drive the car too much or don’t recycle diligently, or are not active in helping reverse global warming. If time allows in the practice, express regrets for the collective ways that we humans have harmed Mother Earth.

Step 3. Making amends. In a relationship, after we have shared how much we love and appreciate the person, and after we have genuinely said “I’m sorry”, the next thing we do is to make amends. So in this step, express to Mother Earth what you commit to doing to make things better, to help heal, to change your behavior. This might be in relation to a specific creature or place. It can be a small or large shift.

Whole group sharing. In a retreat setting, after the three steps above have been completed, it is beneficial to gather people together for voluntarily sharing what arose during the practice.

Notes on the process:

  1. Expect feelings. Each of the three steps can tap in to a deep well of feelings. Our love and gratitude for the natural world are infinite. Many regrets often lie buried deep in our hearts, waiting for the right moment to be expressed. And making amends invites us to touch our aspiration to be in right relationship with Mother Earth. Emotions may surface unexpectedly. As best you can, try to welcome and embrace the feelings, allowing them the space they need. They are part of the healing process. You might silently practice with a gatha like, “Breathing in, I am aware of my tears. Breathing out, I smile to my tears.”
  2. Experiment with timing. The overall time for this practice can vary. It has been used fruitfully with each person having as a little as 2 minutes for each of the three steps. 5-7 minutes for each step has worked well. A spacious time allotment might be 45-60 minutes:

– Pairing and watching video: 10 minutes
– The 3 steps: 30 minutes (5 min per question, 2 people)
– Sharing in whole group: 15-20 minutes

  1. Repeat as needed. As happens with our personal relationships, sometimes healing our relationship with Mother Earth might take more than one practice session. It can be fruitful to experiment with repeating any or all of the three steps as needed.

Mother Earth thanks you.

Written by John Bell, with a bow to Thay and Mother Earth. Reposted here with John’s kind permission. Please visit the Earth Holder site to learn more.