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One of the themes of this week’s readings has been the question of connectedness with, and alienation from, nature. In your contemplative exercise this week, I encourage you to engage in this area. Below are a couple of suggestions for practices you might like to try. Just choose one of them to respond to.  As usual, please post your responses below.

Suggested exercise 1: [this exercise adapted from The Meditation Bible by Madonna Gauding, (Sterling, NY,2005)]

Find a quiet grassy place outdoors where you will be relatively free from noise and distractions.

Remove your shoes and socks so that you are barefoot on the grass.

Take a few deep breaths, trying to pay attention to the sensation of the breath entering your body and the rise and fall of your chest and belly as inhale and exhale.

Pay attention to the feeling of your feet. Notice any sensations of pressure, of temperature, of comfort or discomfort. Note how the ground feels in contact with your feet – you may feel the grass between your toes.

Think about the energy and life that is under your feet. In the soil beneath you there are hundreds of millions of microorganisms than enable the healthy growth of the grass. There may also be countless insects. With this energy of life in mind, take a deep breath and as you inhale, imagine the life energy present in the earth surging up through your feet and filling your body. You might find it helpful to envisage this energy as a light or as a wave that fills up your body. When you exhale, envisage your own energy as a living being (you, too, are fully of billions of microorganisms!) blending with that of the earth. Continue this exercise for a few minutes, building a sense of connectedness with the earth. When you breathe, think too about the energy and life-giving properties in the air around you and how the plants and beings around your depend on this air just as you do.

You may choose to lie on the grass towards the end of the exercise. Relax your body as much as you can, stay focused on your breathing somewhat, and continue an awareness of the life and energy in the earth that is supporting you.

Suggested Exercise 2: Deepening your acquaintance with your seed.

If it is difficult or impractical for you to do the exercise above, then do a similar exercise but instead focus on your planted seed. If you planted it in a pot, hold the pot in your hand and follow the instructions above whilst imagining the energy contained within the pot (rather than under your feet). If you planted the seed outside, then put your hands on the soil around the seed. If neither of these work for you, just visualize the planted seed.

After engaging in this exercise, think about the readings for this week and note how, if at all, the exercise has given you a different perspective on these reactions.