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Terra Firma

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from Waking Up in America

IF THERE IS WHOLESALE REINCARNATION, I want to come back here. I love the earth. Find me in a large open space, on a wide stretch of beach, in the center of the ocean's circle, on a rocky mesa, or any place where there is naught but patch and sky and where wildness reigns, and my heart expands to fill that space. I have a love affair with this planet.

While I am not always proud of what we human beings have done, I am always proud to call myself an earthling, and to be one of the lucky critters living atop this massive, molten-cored, thickly forested, oceanic cell. It is a grand place, and when I am fortunate enough to be out in wide spaces or wild places, I rarely fail to see Paradise before me. Most days, I see plenty that is paradisaical in my own backyard.

Now what this means to my own practice and to my digestion of the Buddha's dharma is that I have no real concerns about Nirvana, any more than I have about inhabiting a medieval interpretation of Heaven in the clouds. My focus is on the space and the landscape before me. Nirvana here or Nirvana down the road, it makes no nevermind to me.

The next adventure will be the next adventure, whether it turns out to be Profound Silence, some form of spirit recycling, or a higher, lighter sphere of being. My resources only tell me that the scouting reports vary a great deal about what's to come once we finish with our present bodies. So I am content to find out when I find out, and to relish the big surprise. Even Buddha did not speak with finality about an afterlife, either because he too did not know what was to come, or he saw no benefit to his disciples living a more wholesome, productive, generous life on earth by spilling the beans. Personally, I believe it was the first reason, but no matter.

There is a point to this of course, and I think it is an important one. It is about fully occupying and indeed loving the ground one stands upon this moment, or the meditation cushion one sits upon, whether it is in a corner of a messy room or in a monastery in the mountains. It is about appreciating one's home, one's town, one's nation and one's planet. Remain convinced that life will be better only after you move to San Diego or Stockholm, or that existence will be vastly improved the moment after one take's one's last breath, and one not only gambles on the magic longshot, one also misses the countless miracles right under one's nose every blessed day.

So my own heartfelt notion of waking up is not some smooth, friction-free ideal of enlightened life over yonder, but rather waking up to my own life, my own wife and child, my own home, my hometown, to America the beautiful, and to this tremendously breathtaking and breath-giving planet.

To the extent that I remain appreciative and humbly grateful for all I have -- especially this very life and this living moment -- is the extent that I am present and accounted for. This person here has only one shot at living in this bag of skin and going on this particular adventure; he only has one shot at this day; he sees this very sight once and only once, even in his well-studied backyard.

I have been known to voice a complaint or two in my time, but the moment I stop my tongue from flapping, or sit upon the cushion, or take a breath and look carefully about me to view our amazing world, I am more grateful for this life than I can ever put into words. This gratitude rests peaceably in the deepest chambers of the man's being, and it grows with each passing year.

An earthy enlightenment is about relishing that great meal, or that single slice of bread. But it is more than that. It is about getting fresh soil beneath one's fingernails. But it is more than that. It is about having a good run, and fully experiencing the good air filling one's lungs. But it is more than that too. It is about the miracle of life, right here... the forever folding and unfolding enigma... the part cloudy, part clear sky of existence... the in and out of breath and being... This!

An earthy enlightenment is being enlightened by life's grand parade, what the Chinese call the 10,000 Things. We wake up, arise from our slumber and remeet the multitude of phenomena and colorful appearances before us, the spectacular kaleidoscope of life.

An earthy enlightenment is fully appreciating this earth, as noted, but it is all the more about seeing one's self as earth. Our environment is no longer a "natural amusement park" for us to stomp upon like thoughtless children, our environment is who we are. It is more than our proto-parent; its nature is our nature. Its integrity is our own.

There is a sacredness to this place. We walk on holy ground. Everywhere.

City streets and national parks are holy. The Amazon and the Antarctic, equally holy. The dirt path or the highway can be holy. My backyard is holy. Then so is the dog whimpering to go out at 11:45 at night, followed by the babe crying at 2:22 a.m. That too is holy. The fall leaves falling, the blinding snowstorm. Holy, holy. The fire raging in the forest and that long stretch of super green 17th fairway. Both holy. The first cup of coffee in the straining morning light or the four-course dinner at sunset. Holy squared. The island of Manhattan and the island of Kauai. One is thoroughly drenched in holiness, yet the other is too. The derelict sitting in his own urine in a dark alley and my child romping in the flowered field. Both are pitiful, wonderful, searingly poignant, fleeting expressions of holiness.

It's all holy. The whole earth is holy. Thank God.

(c) 2004 and 2012, Ken Taub

Thoroughly modern buddha


Are you awakened by fresh air?


Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on June 20, 2013:

Thank you so much KKG. I'm so glad you visited, and commented. Come again, we're happy to have your visits, and input. warm regards, Ken

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Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on June 20, 2013:

Very interesting. I like the idea of accepting reality as it comes. Very well written. You've convinced me, I'm a follower.

Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on June 18, 2013:

I sure will. Have a nice one! :)

Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on June 18, 2013:

Thank you much, W-lover. Feel free to Follow or visit again. Stay in touch, and enjoy the summer.

Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on June 18, 2013:

Hi, Kenja! This made me feel grateful that I'm still alive (and Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" kind of helped, too). I appreciate nature as much as I can when I'm out and about. Voted it up!

Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on March 05, 2013:

Thanks Russ, for the second kind acknowledgement on this piece. Trust you are well, and ready for spring. I sure as heck am. My head is in nearly as good a place as when I wrote this in 2003, 10 years back, but then I was in my prime, still good-busy, and rockin'. Still rockin' for the most part -- tonight I start a second course (as instructor) in a 3 part series on meditation & mindfulness at Amba. Keeps me humming. warm regards, Ken

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on March 05, 2013:

Ken, thanks so much for the reminder of all that is holy. I recall when I first met you many years ago in a seminar. Glad to see your head is still in a great place. To experience the holiness of all around us is a gift, one which we often deprive ourselves of. Voted up and awesome.

Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on March 05, 2013:

Thank you much Beata. Yes, let's stay in touch.

Beata Stasak from Western Australia on March 05, 2013:

Very, very interesting, Ken the earthling, totally agree with this writing...great work, happy I stopped by the master in writing:)

Need your editing skills, please come back often if you can, writing always at night and rushing too much:)....B

Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on February 21, 2013:

Who knows anything. I mean really. Perhaps what we little humans call Heaven is in fact one long stretch of beach on one endlessly long summer day. Why not, huh? Glad you enjoyed. thanks, Ken

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 21, 2013:

I'm really gonna miss the beach the most.

I enjoyed this read-- it was uplifting !


Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 30, 2012:

Thanks Stan. I intend to stay here for a while, and if the Buddhists and Hindus are right, I probably wouldn't mind coming back here. Happy New Year. Ken

Stanley Soman from New York on December 29, 2012:

I love the opening line, its almost a message to the Gods "I'll stay here"

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on November 30, 2012:

Ken - I get a notification as soon as someone who I follow posts a new hub. About google adsense, I'm really not sure. I do know that adsense has an incubation period but I don't want to give you a wrong answer because I don't know. I suggest you post this question on the forum. Also - why not do an Amazon capsule and plug your book on your hub(s).

Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on November 30, 2012:

Thank you Russ. Now, I'm a rube... how have you seen this Hub when it was JUST posted and does not appear on my page yet?? Also, I now have 11 Hubs, but when I go to link my hubpages to Google ad sense, they say not enough content (despite the fact that they still advertise away in the center and bottom of my hubs!) How many hubs does one need to link, and start making a hefty $6 a month? best, Ken

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on November 30, 2012:

What a lovely hub, voted up, beautiful and awesome. The majesty of the present and accepting reality as it shows up is regenerating. I feel like I've been to a good old est seminar. Great job Ken and thanks for sharing the holiness of life, something we too often forget.

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