Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer.

Radhanath Swami

In the beginning—when there was no written word to tell us the wherefores and the whys—we find evidence of earth goddesses the world over. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the primordial goddess, in association with earth and seeds, linking the female form to the reproductivity of nature dating to the Paleolithic period. As people moved from nomadic to settled she took on the names and origin stories of different regions. Gaia, Terra, PachaMama, Ki, Prithvi, Mat, Mara Papatuanuku, Lakshmi, Cybele, Joro, Mlande, Houtu, Venus all are tied to the earth through their allegiance with the cycle of life through the seasons, creation, and fertility. In 1970s, Gaia, the Greek Goddess credited with creating the earth from the chaos of the cosmos, took center stage again with the introduction of the Gaia Hypothesis. The Gaia theory proposes the earth as a sophisticated body of systems working to regulate, protect, and preserve life—much like the systems that regulate our own bodies. This new way of thinking followed on the heels of the original Earth Day.

The Earth Day movement was stimulated in part by a massive 80,000 barrel oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara that killed thousands of fish, sea birds, dolphins, and seals. It originated as an on-campus teach-in, but interest expanded and on April 22, 1970 over 20 million people across the country participated. This launched the modern environmental movement and prompted legislation such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. It was through the collective consciousness that systemic changes were made that impact our environment today. There is still so much more to be done.

Below are some practices that can help ground us on Earth Day, and every day, as we work to become more present, mindful, and reciprocal of the earth and her precious resources:

  • Get Awestruck: Some languages have a word for when you feel a shift in perspective experienced when confronted by the magnificence of nature – when you stand on the precipice of the grand canyon, in front of a magnificent waterfall, on a ship at sea, or gaze at the dark sky full of stars. In Japanese it’s “Yugen.” In German and French it’s “Sonder.” Seek out this experience and determine a way to take it with you so you can revisit that feeling in contemplation and regain your perspective.
  • Slow Down You Eat to Fast: repurposing the lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s Feelin’ Groovy. Mindful Eating can be practiced informally by taking a moment to really savor the first bite or sip of everything you consume. Contemplate how the ingredients might have found their way to you. The soil was prepared, a seed was planted, nurtured until fruition, harvested, traveled some distance to you, and then prepared for your meal. Set your fork down between bites and stop when you start to feel satisfied.
  • Toss some Seeds Around: Save some seeds from your next delicious strawberry, tomato, watermelon, or the like – toss them in some dirt and watch what happens! Put your hands into the earth, inhale, nurture your seedling, and find the miracle of life in nature.
  • Barefoot in the Park: Walk barefoot at a park, on the beach, or in your yard. Walk slowly rolling each foot with purpose focusing on the sensations as the heel, then the sole, then the ball, and the toes each touch the earth in turn. Pause for a deep inhale before picking up the other foot and doing the same. Repeat the action for 5–10 minutes.