Practice Being an Earth Holder

In celebration of Earth Day and our theme of "My Life is My Message", we hope you enjoy this teaching from Nomi Green, co-founding member of the Earth Holder Sangha.

Interbeing with Our Great Boddhisattva Earth

In the above image of our Great Boddhisattva Earth, we can see the very thin area where all life exists. Each of us is a tiny speck somewhere in that thin blue haze. Our Earth is a sentient being, and we are all cells in her body. We think “we” are the sentient beings individually, but in truth we are simply cells in the oneness of her.   

To be alive with this awareness is to practice being an Earth Holder. Breathing in, I am aware of all the trees and plants that offer me oxygen.  Breathing out, I am aware that I offer the gift of carbon dioxide to the trees and plants as well. We interare. In fact, it is not possible to be separate.

A single breath can bring me to the realization of interbeing. As Thay teaches us, it only takes one breath to come back to ourselves.  In this case, the first breath helps me be aware that I am a part of the Great Bodhisattva Earth. In the next breath, I can ask myself, “What will I do with this precious moment, this day, or this life to support my Mother Earth?”

Infused with this realization, there are many ways to support our Mother Earth.  Many of us will lean into a vegan lifestyle, participate in car free days, consciously use less, and move away from fossil fuels. These actions are daily bells of mindfulness that produce joy and help us stay diligent to support our Mother Earth.

Every Action Counts, No Matter How Small

Among other right actions, we may also be part of initiatives unique to our neighborhood or town. For a number of years, I have been part of a coalition working to close a polluting power plant in the four corners of New Mexico. The four corners is an area where primarily Native American people live.  The children play on the coal ash tailings and the area has the highest rate of asthma in New Mexico. 

  photo credit New Energy Economy Santa Fe, NM

photo credit New Energy Economy Santa Fe, NM

About five years ago, I stood outside the board meeting of this utility company with a sign of a Navajo child wearing an oxygen mask while the shareholders drove up. I had hoped that this image would inspire their compassion. Over the years as I continued to breathe and see myself as a cell in the Earth’s body, I bought a share of stock in this company for $35.00. As a shareholder I am permitted to attend the shareholders meeting and speak directly to the board of directors.

Last year I attended the board meeting. I asked the board members to breathe and bring their awareness to how easy it is for them to breathe. I mentioned the children playing on the coal ash and asked if that is what they would want for their children and grandchildren.  Again, I hoped to inspire their compassion and Right Action.

This coal plant is now slated to close entirely by 2022. Along with many other causes and conditions, perhaps my small action helped contribute to this result, even if it was a tiny contribution.

What Is an “Earth Holder”?

Our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has translated the name of the Bodhisattva Dharanimdhara as “Bodhisattva Protector of the Earth” or “Earth Holder” and has written about Earth Holding in his books The World We Have and Peaceful Action, Open Heart:

“This Bodhisattva helps further communication between humans and other species… Earth Holder works to preserve this planet for living beings by taking care of the air, water, and soil… We have to take up the practice of Earth Holder Bodhisattva and make protecting and preserving the Earth a top priority… We cannot say that we are too busy to take up this work… We must work to increase awareness of the situation because only mindfulness, awareness of what is happening, can save us from the path of certain disaster we are currently on.”

Dear friends of Great Boddhisattva Earth, we are all cells of her Sangha body, which makes us all a part of the Earth Holder Sangha.  I know you are there and I am very happy.

A lotus for you,

Nomi Green


Join the Earth Holder Sangha

The International Earth Holder Sangha is a community in the practice of Thich Nhat Hanh engaged in practicing mindfully to apply Thay’s teachings in order to protect our precious planet. We have resources to share with your sangha and other interested beings at www.earthholder.org. We have a quarterly newsletter and also have a monthly online sangha on the second Sunday of each month which is attended by people from all over the world. Join us!