Dear Earth, we stayed up all night for you.
Did you hear us? We filled the room with our voices and we circled the shrine we made for you, with a globe and a sprig of green alkanet and a scarlet autumn leaf.
Sometimes it still strikes me as a very strange thing to do. Why spend a whole night walking in circles, singing the same phrase over and over? Wouldn’t it be better to use that time to protest or be political or plant trees? How are we helping you?
As I chanted, I was opening myself to the love of the Buddhas. This is the love that held me as the police arrested me and lifted me from the road. This is the love that moves me to fill the bird feeder. This is the love that taps me on the shoulder when I encounter the worst of myself or of others, and reminds me that we are all doing our best.
For me, the most reliable path to this love just happens to be the nembutsu. Others have other paths, dear Earth – many of them involving you. I don’t think the love minds whether you use sacred books or surfing or prayer mats or forests or twelve step groups. If we are given a glimpse of our connection with something much-bigger-than-us, then hallelujah. We need this connection more than ever as you call us to help you, precious Earth. We need courage and determination and fierce care.
I was soaked in this love during my hours in the shrine room. It hasn’t turned me into a better person, as much as I always hope it will. It did connect me with your suffering. It did connect me with your nourishing sweetness. I am ready for whatever is next.