Morsel of the Earth

 Morsel of the Earth 

Your physical body, as yoga reminds us, is annamayakosha, or a food body, just a heap of the nourishment you ingest. The food that you consume is, in turn, just the earth. You are a small outcrop of this planet prancing around and claiming to be an autonomous entity. But since you are a small extension of the earth, whatever happens to the planet happens to you too—in some subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways. 

This planet is part of a larger body that we call the solar system. What happens to that system affects the planet. This solar system is part of a larger body we call the universe. Maybe it is beyond your perception right now, but because your physical form is just a fragment of the planet, everything that is happening to any part of the universe is also in some way happening to you! 

As incredible as it sounds, if you maintain your physical body in a certain way, you will become aware of subtle changes that happen in the planet and the cosmos. Once you become sensitive to it, your whole body feels everything happening around you. If you spend more time and pay attention to the ways of the earth, this sensitivity will increase dramatically. 

I lived on a farm for a few years. There was a man in the local village who was hard of hearing. His name was Chikkegowda. Because he could barely hear, he could not respond to people, so they thought he was an idiot. He was rejected by the village and made an object of ridicule. I employed him as my man on the farm. He was a nice companion to have because I wasn’t particularly interested in talking, and he could not talk because he could not hear. So, no problem! Those were the days before tractors; life on the farm was all about bullocks and ploughs. One day, suddenly, at four o’clock in the morning, I saw him preparing the plough. 

I asked him, “What’s happening?” 

He said, “I am getting ready to plough, sir.” 

I said, “But what will you plough? There is no rain.” 

He said, “It will rain today.” 

I looked up. It was an absolutely clear sky. I said, “What nonsense! Where is the rain?” 

He said, “No, sir, it will rain.” 

And it did. 

I sat up for days and nights after this. Why couldn’t I feel what this man could feel? I sat, holding my hand in different positions, trying to feel the moisture, the temperature, trying to read the sky. I read all kinds of books on meteorology, but it felt like I was up against a wall. But then, with careful observation of my own body and what was around me, I discovered the most fundamental mistake that most of us make: the fact that we view the ingredients which constitute our body, like earth, water, air, and food, as commodities and not as an organic part of the life process. 

After persevering for about eighteen months, I understood. And now if I say it is going to rain, ninety-five percent of the time it will. This is not astrology or magic, but a surmise based on the minute observation of a completely different level of the human system and its ongoing transaction with the planet, the air, and everything around. If it is to rain today, some change will happen in your body. Most urban-dwellers cannot feel it, but many rural people all over the world do sense this. Most insects, birds, and animals can feel it. A tree for sure knows it. 

Recognizing these small changes in the planetary system, the ancients tried to make use of them not just for their own well-being, but for transcendence. The magnetic equator of the planet flows through India. A few thousand years ago, yogis pinpointed the exact location of the magnetic equator and built a whole string of temples along this area for very specific reasons. One of the most famous temples is the South Indian temple of Chidambaram, which was set up for those who sought ultimate spiritual union. At the time of its construction, it was located exactly on the magnetic equator (which has since shifted). 

Many spiritual seekers gathered in Chidambaram over the centuries at those times when the planet was in a certain position. In this temple, a shrine was consecrated by Patanjali, the father of yoga, to shoonya, which literally translates into “emptiness” or “nothing.” This is not mere symbolism. At the magnetic equator there is no pull toward north or south; there is zero degree of magnetic play, and this promotes a certain balance and equanimity in the life of the spiritual seeker. This equanimity can be a powerful device to liberate oneself quite literally from the limitations of the physical world, which makes this region the ideal geographic location for a seeker. (It is important to remember that the magnetic equator is distinct from the geographic equator.) 

The additional significance of Chidambaram is that it happens to be located on eleven degrees latitude. When it was built, there was a convergence of the magnetic equator with this latitude—a rare and important occurrence. What was the significance of this location? The tilt of the planet at this latitude impels centrifugal forces in a nearly vertical direction, which, in turn, pushes energy upward through the human physiological system. This means that the ascent of human energy—the aim of the spiritual journey—is actually assisted by nature. Since this was a great source of encouragement to seekers, this entire region was considered to be sacred. (It is not a coincidence that the Isha Yoga Center in South India is located bang on eleven degrees latitude.) 

The kind of spiritual system described above makes use of natural phenomena to support human efforts at spiritual growth. Another system—of meditativeness, or inwardness—completely ignores the changes happening in creation and focuses solely on the inner journey. These are the two fundamental ways in which the spiritual journey can be approached: you can either go slowly, step-by-step, accepting all natural assistance available to you, or you can ignore all the steps and take the inward leap. The second entails a withdrawal from external life situations; the first makes involvement mandatory. Every human being is free to choose the path more suitable to his or her temperament. In the times in which we live, a balance between the two is usually best.


The body responds the moment it is in touch with the earth. That is why spiritual people in India walked barefoot and always sat on the ground in a posture that allowed for maximum area of contact with the earth. In this way, the body is given a strong experiential reminder that it is just a part of this earth. Never is the body allowed to forget its origins. When it is allowed to forget, it often starts making fanciful demands; when it is constantly reminded, it knows its place. This contact with the earth is a vital reconnection of the body with its physical source. This restores stability to the system and enhances the human capacity for rejuvenation greatly. This explains why there are so many people who claim that their lives have been magically transformed just by taking up a simple outdoor activity like gardening. 

Today, the many artificial ways in which we distance ourselves from the earth—in the form of pavements and multi-storied structures, or even the widespread trend of wearing high heels—involves an alienation of the part from the whole and suffocates the fundamental life process. This alienation manifests in large-scale autoimmune disorders and chronic allergic conditions. 

If you tend to fall sick very easily, you could just try sleeping on the floor (or with minimal organic separation between yourself and the floor). You will see it will make a big difference. Also, try sitting closer to the ground. Additionally, if you can find a tree that looks lively to you, in terms of an abundance of fresh leaves or flowers, go spend some time around it. If possible, have your breakfast or lunch under that tree. As you sit under the tree, remind yourself: “This very earth is my body. I take this body from the earth and give it back to the earth. I consciously ask Mother Earth now to sustain me, hold me, keep me well.” You will find your body’s ability to recover is greatly enhanced. 

Or if you have turned all your trees into furniture, collect some fresh soil and cover your feet and hands with it. Stay that way for twenty to thirty minutes. This could help your recovery significantly




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