Krista Kurth, Ph.D.
Cultivate Gratitude for the Earth to Inspire Climate Action
A Thanksgiving Earth Contemplation/Meditation
As it is Thanksgiving week in the United States, everyone is paying more attention to the practice of giving thanks for all we have. This morning when I sat down to meditate, gratitude for the earth arose spontaneously in me. With it came a sense of peace, renewed energy for climate action, and a realization that I am often moved more by my fear for the future of the planet than by appreciation.
While fear can be a great motivator, it can also stress and drain us. So, today I made a commitment to cultivate more appreciation for the earth regularly, not only around Thanksgiving. For several years now, I have been receiving daily quotes from the Network for Grateful Living. While I love reading them, I rarely pause after and allow their wisdom to inspire me in my climate action.
From now on, I intend to take five minutes each day to contemplate them and draw on them to nourish me and guide me. As my friends who created the Virtues Reflections Cards app say, “An attitude of gratitude heals our sorrow and lights our path.”
To help me learn how more on cultivating gratitude, I turned to the wisdom of Br. David Steindl-Rast, who created a simple “Stop. Look. Go” approach to the practice of grateful living. He encourages us to 1) Stop and cultivate presence, 2) Look and cultivate perspective, and 3) Go and cultivate possibility. Drawing on the rich explanation of this process provided by Kristi Nelson in Cultivating a Practice: Grateful Living as a Way of Life,
I created a Gratitude for the Earth Contemplation/Meditation for us all to use in fostering appreciation for the natural world that supports our lives.
A Guided Earth Thanksgiving Meditation
Find a comfortable place to sit, preferably outside or near a window overlooking nature.
Take a deep breath in, filling your body with life energy. Exhale slowly, returning the gift of breath to world. Repeat two more times. Then return to your normal rhythm of breathing.
Next, open your senses to the surrounding nature. Notice what you see–maybe there’s a bird on a branch, or the green of a fern uncurling. Pay close attention. What do you hear? The sound of the wind moving through the trees? A woodpecker hammering on a trunk or a dog barking? What do you smell? The musky smell of fall leaves on the ground, or freshly cut grass? Take a few moments to absorb what is all around you in this moment, bringing more into your field of awareness.
Now, with your awareness widened, think about all that nature provides us. Start with the solid ground we stand on. Imagine the earth beneath your bare feet–soft grass, rich soil, sandy shores, solid granite rock. Recall how you feel when you connect this way to the Earth and how it supports you.
Then, turn your attention to the water that makes life possible on this blue planet. Recall how refreshed you feel when rain, or water from a shower, cascades over you. Taste clear cool water as it flows down your throat on a hot day. Immerse yourself in the ocean or a cool river or lake. Appreciate how water supports you and all other living things on earth. Visualize plants sprouting after a spring rain, multi-colored fish darting in and around a reef, streams rushing through a forest.
Allow waves of gratitude to wash over you as you contemplate how the forests nourish you with their shade and their oxygen. Be present to the gift of the wood they provide for our homes, and the carbon dioxide they remove from the atmosphere. For a moment, feel yourself as a part of the breathing cycle of the earth, breathing in what the trees exhale, breathing out what the trees inhale.
Now turn your attention to the many plants on the planet. Appreciate how they provide nourishment for our eyes, through their beauty, and for our bodies as food. See apple trees with branches weighed down by fruit, fields of rice shimmering in the sun, gardens of vegetables waiting to be picked–bright red tomatoes climbing vines, colorful bunches of rainbow chard standing at attention, white heads of cauliflower perched atop their stems, squash blossoms elongating into green and yellow winter squash gourds.
Notice how the plants even nourish the earth as they die. Visualize how the micro-organisms and insects break them down into nutrients for the soil. See the earth worms turning dry leaves and cornstalks into compost. Glimpse the birds in the fields fertilizing the soil as they scratch for their dinner. Marvel at how the animals interact with their environment; how they too give their lives to the earth and to us. Allow yourself to fill with gratitude for the gifts from nature.
From this place of expanded perspective and appreciation, now contemplate how you might tend, nurture, enrich, nourish, or cherish the planet on which we live. How are you called to act from gratitude for the Earth? Recognizing our interconnectedness, how do you want to make a better life possible for the world? How will you act more purposefully around the climate crisis?
Take a few deep breaths. Then bring your attention back to where you are sitting.
Find a piece of paper, or a journal, and note any insights you had during the contemplation, including how you want to engage in climate action now.
Thank you for traveling with me on this gratitude journey. I hope you will join me, going forward, in continuing to cultivate more gratitude for the Earth and experiencing the generative power of appreciation to inspire climate action.
As Kristi Nelson says, “Blessed with presence and perspective, gratefulness wants to move, cast its ripple, have its impact. Grateful living is active. It beckons us to step into our lives and into the world to play, take part, and protect, and to cultivate the glorious possibilities that live on the other side of the busy street that is life.”
It is time to go. It is time to cultivate new possibilities.
I wish you all the best,