Pare it down and you’ve got two things left: ground and space.
Ground is any object in the universe that has mass. Any object that has mass exerts a gravitational pull, or force, on every other mass. As far as gravity is concerned, humans are objects right along with refrigerators, and cars. It’s all a matter a perspective.
Walking one day around New York City, I saw a Peregrine falcon perching atop a tall, swanky apartment building. To that falcon, that high rise, high status apartment building was but another cliff, another lookout, and a place to rest one’s wings.
In New Mexico we’ve got these giant anthills. Some of them come up to my knee caps. To those ants traveling along their ant ways, that anthill is Manhattan.
But to me it’s just a clump of sand with some ants in it.
Looking around, what I notice is that every thing is touching some other thing. Look around. See for yourself. Nothing on earth is floating around, not even a speck of dust. The air to a speck of dust is like the ocean to some deep water creature, and when that speck of dust touches down, that creature is just resting on the ocean floor.
Continue looking at the objects around you. But do more than look at them. Sense them. Empathize with them. Objects excel at resting and receiving support. Objects know how to sit. They know how to meditate. They know how to be still and balanced, and often silent.
Objects don’t try to be what they are not. They don’t try. They don’t rush. They don’t wait. They’re not neurotic, not over-emotional, not irrational. Sometimes they stop working, they wear out, they break down, but that’s not a problem for them. They accept reality. Aging is not an issue. Nothing is.
When feeling distressed, look around. You are surrounded by peace, and stillness, and silence. Just let it in.
Space is everywhere where there are no objects. There’s a lot of it, much more space than ground. But ground, that is, every object that has mass, is made of atoms, but atoms are more than 99.9% space.
Quantum physics aside, even to the human eye, when we look around most of the time we see more space than substance. Just look around. What percentage of what you see is space and what percentage ground?
In New Mexico, where I live, about 99% of what I see is space. Basically, we live in the sky. One day I took a group of Japanese students on a hike up Kitchen Mesa at Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian Retreat Center in Northern New Mexico. It’s a good hike, a couple hours of pretty steep climbing. But the view is literally awesome. One of my students sat down and wept. She had spent most of her life living in Tokyo. She’d never seen so much space, so much openness. She was overwhelmed. There is so much confinement in a megalopolis like Tokyo, physical and social. So many rules and expectations. It was as if a lifetime of confinement, suddenly, fell away.
Where does the sky begin and where does it end? We look up at the sky and it looks like the sky goes on forever. But as we look down from the sky, all the way down to our very feet, at what point did the sky stop being the sky? Not until it meets the ground. The sky always comes all the way down to the ground. The sky not only meets the mountain tops. It meets the top of our shoes as well.
I call it heaven on earth.
Grace of Sense Practice
Sit on a chair, scoot your pelvis back, so that you can recline slightly and receive a light support from the back of the chair. Let yourself be easily and comfortably upright. Allow there to be a bit of room around your legs and let your feet rest on the ground. Place one hand on each thigh. I like to make very loose fists with my hands so that I can also rest my wrists upon my thighs. Find a good place for your loose fists somewhere between your knees and your hip joints that allows you to feel equally open across both the front and the back.
Imagine warm sand being finely poured through a little hole in the top of your skull that aligns itself above where the bottom of the skull rests into the atlas joint. Imagine the sand falling down through your body and forming a little pile on the ground under your chair. As the fine sand continues to fall, slowly but surely the small pile turns into a small mound, which turns into a small hill, rising through your body and spreading ever wider around you in all directions. Let it continue until the point of the hill is about a foot above your head.
Sense the angle of repose, the angle at which the hill all around you slops when all the sand rests and finds its stability.
That’s ground. Enjoy being ground for as long as it feels good.
Then imagine that the centuries go by and winds gradually blow the mountain away from the top all the way to the bottom, so that nothing remains except space. Enjoy that for as long as feels good.
Then slowly open your eyes only as far as they want to open by themselves.
Ground and space. That’s all there is, and all there ever will be.