BOS 09 16 2020 doublesize
I've mentioned before that I have started a daily online yoga practice. It is a good way to work at attentiveness. The teacher asks us to be aware of what is comfortable for our body, aware of what we need to relax, aware of how we move between poses. And always she reminds us to be conscious of our foundation, aware of what is touching the earth.

In preparation for a shift in pose, she said to move our feet right together. But she said, "Don't look down." Then she smiled and said, "if you have already looked down, don't worry. But you know the ground is there. You know your feet are there on the ground. You can feel the ground. You don't have to look." She moved on to instruct us in the next pose, but that comment stayed with me.

Going down stairs, we do want to look down because missing a step can be disastrous. On a rough path, we need to watch the ground so we don't trip. But when our feet are on solid ground, we don't have to look at them to move. The ground is there supporting us.

This seems obvious once we think about it. The ground is beneath our feet. But what is obvious we tend to take for granted.

When was the last time that you appreciated the earth beneath you? Can you remember standing barefoot on rock in the sunshine, feeling the warmth? Or maybe laying on the grass or the sand of a beach appreciating the touch? Can you remember standing on the bluff, looking out across the water, aware of the stone holding you up?

Try it a few times today. Put your attention--not your eyes--on your feet and feel the gift of earth supporting you.

The land provides our foundation. The land also provides our food. Without grass, cattle and sheep and wild creatures don't eat, don't grow. Without grain and beans, there is no bread, no pasta, no chili, no curried lentils. Think of your favorite food--it comes from the land.

We affect how well the land will produce. Farmers know this. A proper crop rotation is essential to deal with insect pests and to keep the land fertile. Red clover is sown with winter wheat to add nitrogen as it grows, to be plowed into the land when the wheat is harvested adding nourishment to the soil. Farmers need to know their land because loam and clay behave differently, how deep the bedrock is affects how land is worked.

Even backyard gardeners and front yard lawn growers know that what we do affects the land. Spill gasoline on the lawn, and there is a dead patch. Add compost to the tomatoes, and they prosper. What we do affects what the soil will grow.

Land's fertility is not just about soil, however. Land depends on the interaction with the air and with rain. Ten days of hot dry weather in July, burned the grass. Pasture for grazing animals withered. Finally, rain came, and green was restored.  

Right about now, however, farmers are thinking harvest not growth. We could use some sunny dry weather. We've had heavy rains and little sun so the ground is soggy. But we needed the rains that came in early spring, what came in July. We need the snow that will come in the winter.

But climate experts are telling us that what we do, how we live, affects the weather. Carbon in the atmosphere changes heat patterns which changes wind patterns which changes rains. Humanity's actions change the interaction of land and environment.

Air matters too. Trees can pull carbon out of the air. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are used by leaves of plants. Nitrogen is necessary, and legumes will take it from the air and add it to the soil. The quality of the air affects the land. We got acid rain and dying trees from what factories put into the air.

Getting back to yoga and the challenge to be aware of our foundation. Attending to what grounds us matters. Once we attend to the land, we become aware of the interaction of land and water and air, and our affect on the health of this system. Earth is more than dirt and rock.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


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