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Each of us belongs to places and landscapes that nurture our bodies, minds, and spirits. We also dwell in a home place in our hearts, a private inner landscape. As cycles of day, moon, and seasons pass, our inner and outer landscapes mirror and respond. When we are in tune with our own sense of time and place, we truly come home. Each month, I'll share words, images, and practices to inspire you to connect with ease to your life purpose; your family, friends, and community; and the wonders of the natural world. Over time, the Homecomings series will expand your capacity to integrate scientific and spiritual ways of knowing. Whatever aspects of joy, wellness, or learning you seek, all you need for getting there is found in your own heart and in your home, yard, and neighborhood.

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Gathas continued: more about Water

Photo Credit: Dennis Holzberg

Gathas are short verses for the practice of mindfulness in our daily activities. In a previous post, I described ways to use gathas to connect us with the elements - earth, air, fire, water, and sacred center - in and around our homes. This practice leads to many more stories and endless new gathas! For example, I’m thinking about the story of water as it flows through me and my home. This story is actually more of a mental ramble. It’s the journey my mind takes when I connect with everyday gratitude for being alive. At approximately 60% water, I estimate that I contain about 240 cups of water in my cells and tissues, and this equals about 2 x 1027 water molecules. Of course, it's not always the same molecules. I continuously ingest and excrete. However, the molecules that are present in this moment help keep me upright, seeing, hearing, moving, feeling, and thinking. Water flows through my emotions, the expressions of my personality, and the pathways to my creative expression.

So to continue my ramble.

I open the kitchen tap, I start the washer, I water my plants. In my home place, I draw from a vast underground fresh water sea, a gift of the last ice age, delivered through the pressure of my city's subterranean pipeline highways.

I flush the toilet, I pull the sink plug, I watch the shower drain. These mini vortexes enter a different underground pipeline system to a waste treatment plant that cleans it up (mostly) and sends it downstream along the above-ground pathways of a creek to the next stream to river upon river and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.

"I wash my hands in flowing water. May I use them skillfully to preserve our precious planet." This is the gatha, or short verse of attunement from the earlier post. I'm sensing that this is a good practice, and I'm sensing that it is not enough. Yes, I receive the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of water as it flows into my cupped hands and splashes my face. However, I want my gratitude to be bigger and based in a larger field of knowing and connecting.

I want to write place-specific gathas that express my amazement that my community sources fresh water from a vast underground sea and returns it after use along a vast network of streams and rivers flowing hundreds and hundreds of miles to the Gulf of Mexico. I want to write place-specific gathas that hold awareness of what's really happening. Is the underground sea that serves my community being used faster than it is replenished? Yes. Is the "used" water sent away from my community completely clear of substances that affect the health and wellbeing of living things? No.

I have come to realize that I need to write gathas that reflect how water really ''works" with me and to encourage you to write your own place-specific gathas that fit the geography of where you live. Here’s a new one for my home place:

"Breathing in, my cupped hands receive water flowing from the tap. I connect with the vast underground sea it comes from.
Breathing out, the water flows from my open fingers. I connect with the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.”

The results? I am aware and grateful. I am informed. I am active. Today I am taking leftover medicines to the MedDrop in my community rather than send them down the drain. I am reading about endocrine disrupting chemicals that endanger our water and wastewater systems and finding out what needs to happen to eliminate this danger to all life on Earth.

How does water flow through you and your community? You may need to do some research first.  Then, please write your own gatha, specific to your home place, and share it with all of us in the comments.

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  I grew up with hands in the dirt, bugs in a jar, and tadpoles in a tub. Over the years, in support of environmental and community collaborations as a biologist, ecologist, consultant, facilitator, teacher, and spiritual seeker, I’ve designed innovative participatory workshops and forums. Nowadays as an elder, my passion is to create open, collective spaces for people to witness the natural world and creatively communicate what they learn and experience. I am the author of Wheels of Time and Place, a unique toolkit for tracking all sorts of cycles and seasons. One of my favorite creative pastimes is collage, and I am a certified SoulCollage® facilitator. My spiritual study and practice includes Quaker, Buddhist, and indigenous traditions, including lineages from Tibet, North America, and Peru. I will soon graduate from the Three Doors Academy and begin to offer selected meditation practices from the ancient Bön-Buddhist tradition of Tibet. These transformative practices for body, speech, and mind are now available to the modern world in a secular form through the generosity of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche  


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