Mother Earth's Healing Power: Grounding, Grace and Gratitude
Many indigenous healers the world over are committed to teaching those of us in modern, industrialized society that Mother Gaia, the Earth herself and all her Elements, are not only sacred but are alive, conscious, and deserve be respected as our beloved relatives. It is easy to imagine how tribal people could feel this way, since Elements such as Water, in the form of rainfall, and Earth, in the form of farmable soil are essential to the growth of their food and directly related to the well-being of their livestock and themselves. Water and Earth are life itself, as are the Air we need to breathe and Fire in the form of sunlight.
I have always loved being in Nature, gardening and working with plants, and have been in awe of Her beauty and mystery ever since I was very young. But when I became a student of Shamanism, it became clear from my indigenous teachers that there is an entirely deeper way to perceive the natural world. I yearned to experience this new way of perceiving for myself, but found it very challenging to leave my overly-active, rational, thinking mind aside. I was envious of my friends who had learned to leave behind their skepticism and open their hearts and imagination to perceiving Nature in a new way.
Apanavayhu: Grounding Myself
My shamanic studies brought me an opportunity to work with an energy healing teacher who helped me make the connection I yearned for, by way of a guided meditation experience. (I had tried many types of meditation in the past, including a meditation in which I was instructed to imagine connecting a rope-like cord of energy from my tail bone to the center of the earth; it did not feel authentic to me, so I did not continue to practice it.) My teacher invited my fellow students and me to connect with our sacral area/pelvis and to be open to sensing the downward pull of the earth, allowing an image of our own to come to support this practice. I was shown a column of energy as wide as my hips, expanding like the trunk of a mature tree, extending its grasp into the soil with many lustrous, copper-colored, fibrous roots that spread out all around me, with one especially large tap root growing deep into bedrock. With this image came the sensation of a very secure, solid, downward tug. To be truly grounded and rooted in Our Mother Gaia, at last! This was the experience of deep connection that I had been yearning for.
This grounding exercise has become a treasured part of my personal daily energy maintenance practice; I sit, come to stillness, focus on my breath, invite energy in through my Crown Chakra (energy center at the top of my head), allowing energy to flow downward, especially down along my spine and back body, and out through my envisioned ‘tap root’ deep into the Earth, as I exhale. The ancient ones called this practice Apanavayhu, Sanskrit for ‘downward flow’. Next, I expanded on this practice by learning to visualize fresh energy flowing up through the soles of my feet, along my inner legs and up through my central channel as I inhale, becoming a ‘conduit between Heaven and Earth’, as the ancient yogis described it. Now, I am learning to use this practice to cleanse areas of stagnant energy throughout my body. With each exhale, I allow this dense energy to move downward and out into the Earth. Gratefully, Mother Gaia can ‘compost’ it and disperse it with ease.
The Healing Grace of Mother Earth
The gifts of connecting to the Earth in this way are many; most importantly, it allows me to quickly leave behind a worrisome, problem-focused state of mind and instead to sink into serenity, peace and a sense of belonging that an old, wounded place within me has always yearned for. Mother Gaia: I am hers. Her Grace continues to be medicine for me.
Reciprocating with Gratitude
The beauty and healing power of Nature is a gift, and gifting creates relationship. In return for her generosity, what could I offer the Earth, which has everything? I felt called to give Her something of myself: my time, my attention, my care.
I knew that if I brought my yearning to honor Mother Earth to my art supplies, the right response would come. I have learned to trust that if I soften, deepen and lengthen my breath, I can find the focused eye, the calm heart, the steady hand and the embodied curiosity I need to allow an image to come; a kind of reverence. Making art this way is not to impress others; it is a practice to reveal my Soul’s knowing to myself. Experience has taught me that when I prepare myself in this way and create something that possesses beauty and order for me, this process has the power to restore a sense of the sacred to my life. Peace.
With pencil on paper, I was led to draw tree roots branching, spreading out and down, growing all of them slowly, balancing roots on the left with those on the right, creating a sense of stability, extending their leading edges ever deeper. Though I intended roots, I soon saw that they reminded me of tree limbs, deer antlers, reef coral, branching streams, rivers and estuaries when seen from high above, or veins in leaves, even veins and arteries in my own body when seen close up. It felt right. For me, this root drawing expresses serenity, expansion, connection and love for Mother Earth.
My creative process made me eager to revisit the artful offerings of various indigenous peoples, those who’s Soul-based, beauty-empowered way of living in harmony with Nature continues to teach and inspire me. I found images of Tibetan Monks creating elaborate Mandalas, sacred geometric designs of great complexity, symmetry, order and color, painted in a focused and meditative way with delicate trails of brightly pigmented sand. Then I found images of the Q’ero Shamans of the Peruvian Andes making Despachos, paper-wrapped prayer bundles made to honor ‘All Our Relations’ in the form of multilayered and lovingly-arranged natural materials: seashells, stones, flower petals, leaves, feathers, seeds, grains, spices, sweets, fluffs of cotton to invoke rainclouds, glittery-gold minerals to honor the sun, and glittery-silver minerals to honor the moon. Like the Tibetan monks, the Q’ero Shamans arrange their colorful offerings in geometrically balanced and symmetrical shapes. Both the Monks and the Shamans create their offerings as sacred ceremonies, knowing that the intentions of the makers must be heart-felt and authentic; Spirit will know the difference! Both also know that the medicine, the healing power of making these offerings for the well-being of humanity and for our planet, is in the creating, not in the keeping. When complete, the Tibetan Monks sweep the sand of the Mandala into a pile and pour the sand into a river to spread its blessings and honor the impermanent nature of life; the Q’ero Shamans fold and tie their Despachos with string and burn them, ‘feeding’ their prayer bundles to Spirit. These wise ones know that to truly give a gift, one must be willing to let go of it.
Recently, I took a walk on my favorite beach, where the salt water, the sand, the wind and the sunlight have scoured my body and Soul clean more times than I can remember. When the teachings of these wise ones returned to my memory as I walked along the shoreline, I went to my reverence practice: I softened, deepened and lengthened my breath. From a place of stillness, I sunk my roots deep into the Earth. I was called to create a Mandala in reciprocity and gratitude for the healing I have received there, arranging oyster shells and other tiny snail shells that the shore made available to me. When I knew that my honoring ceremony was complete, I thanked the Elements and headed back along the shoreline, knowing that the steady breeze, a big wave or perhaps a curious seagull, would disperse the Mandala eventually. To my amazement, I came upon another offering. Someone had collected little scallop shells of similar size and shape, and arranged them in the outline of a big, beauty-full heart. A love note to the sea? Little footprints all around it suggested that a child had created it. I was grateful that I had a chance to take in its medicine just before the incoming tide came to claim it.