“You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”  – Rousseau

For as long as I can recall I knew that whatever and wherever God and His Heaven are, He is undoubtedly part of the Earth. I sensed we all reside in Earth with Him. And living in it, being totally composed of it, I would often feel its pain, as well as its rippling joy: the rawness of the wound of the rubbish dump, the deep searing sharpness of the drills going deep, deep down for oil and other explorations. It was hard not to identify with it; they echoed aspects of my own embodied earthness, clinging on since childhood with type one diabetes: the needles digging deep into finger tips and veins to explore blood contents, and the toxins from chemicals and food which cannot be metabolised, damaging muscles and nerves.

Eventually I shared this openly with a group of women mystics. There my experiences were recognised and accepted. Oh it is OK, other people feel it too. So I was able to witness this earth-knowing inside, no longer identifying with it as separate me, but as Life flowing.

As my awareness deepened I came to sense immediately and intensely the pain and degradation of the food, the exhaustion of the Mexican labourer, the agony of the trapped tuna: I tried hard not to recoil – just witness and discriminate. This is Earth in its abundance, generosity, chaos and cruelty, within now as it was without…

The challenges of such awareness grow. In 2005 boils and strange skin lesions erupted in my body.  Night after night, half-waking knowing and sensing within Earth a very deep tearing and agony, a woundedness, a ripping apart as though an anguished woman is tearing at her dress – and a huge sense of an earthquake deep below. I thought it was probably the San Andreas fault in the West of the USA, as there was concern that it was due to blow that year. I did not identify, just witnessed it, still there in me. And then it blew – in Kashmir and Pakistan.

And with it blew out lots of feelings and thoughts from the depths of the trauma from the Partition of India in 1947 and the psychic splitting left by the wars fought there with the British in the 1850s. It was overwhelming, the power of the feeling was beyond the personal and I sensed how such dominance, such fighting on and for land and its resources, the control of peoples, not only affects the people, the animals, the vegetation, in the obvious, visible ways we know, but goes deep, deep down into the soul, into the earth, into the soul of Earth.

Somehow my body wasn’t just connected to the rubbish dumps nearby and the food I had eaten, to this land of my mother’s and where I was born and always lived. But more profoundly than I could ever have known to land thousands of miles away where my father came from.

But what could I do?

These connections are perhaps much deeper than we can know. Yet, lacking the visible, solid, rational evidence of science, such experiences fail the reality checks, the proving of normality, acceptability – and so, inclusion.

Life works in ways beyond our human minds’ knowing.  We are increasingly being taught this through the growing number of natural disasters: Earth forcing us up to our own physical and mental limitations, the failures of our plans and dreams, and the frailties of the structures of our human lives. So we keep these odd experiences to ourselves, or other crazy folk, and carry on.

This earth-knowing is not all pain. Earth has a joy, a life, a vibrant sparkle. I once met a woman whose body vibrated with this earthlife energy. It was both totally incredible – and devastating to part from – leaving something beyond words and very deep.

It is said Earth sparkles and is still alive in particular places. I have experienced it in a very ordinary place, a field near a small river. The land seemed to softly smile and joy quietly rippled by a brook. People running a discrete new age centre close to the spot told me they had moved there some years before, having also sensed the energy. Yet a few months later I walked the same path – but it was inert and as closed down as the rest of the land.

I shared this later with other older women who had experience of this Earth-connection and wisdom. I was puzzled at the disappearance of the energy I had felt, and was told starkly, “The Earth does not like being exploited.”

Like a small child dancing, her tender vulnerability is not to be grabbed and used – no matter how worthy our intentions may be.

Such incredible moments are gifts to be accepted, let in – life may never be the same again – it is enough to be with them quietly, joyously witnessing. A passerby making a friendly observation can ruin such tender connections. A moment of being in and with the May blossom is suddenly broken into by the pronouncement of a “Yes, isn’t it lovely?” loud, labelling voice, like a sudden wind breaking a bough.

What then do our own internal voices do? Such disruptions are very painful. Being in Earth is very tender and fragile. And is terrifying, cruel, violent and heavy, enveloping, all-consuming.

What can we do but forgive and accept uncomplainingly? As trees find branches torn away by sudden gusts and do not even sigh. This is life “in Earth”.

For many months I have been with all of this, the pain and the joy.

A few miles away from where I live, soldiers are training. The land is wild, craggy, bleak. Its grand, wide openness is captivating. But one false step – and whoosh you’ll be pulled in and …

There is a spot there marked by stones said to be, and to honour, the feminine and where women have come for hundreds of years – perhaps they hold still inside them the knowing and honouring of the deep intimate interbeing of humans and Earth. Maybe they are barely conscious of what they are doing when they visit – what brings them is a sense of loss perhaps, the need for reconnection and the keeping of local custom. Who knows?

The soldiers march through, seemingly oblivious to this Life they stomp all over, and then rest amongst the stones and eat. I watch from a distance until the troops pass, their traces echoing in the ground. They are no doubt training for the military campaign in Afghanistan. It made sense of the strange feelings I had had, the desperate need to tear away from this area, this firing line. Yet in mind and somewhere else it made no sense. Yes it is dark, it is damp … and yet so beautiful. It is hard to leave.

So I just held these tensions. Like a fighting between left and right arm, a disconnection between mind and body, the mind going after what it will and the heart buried underneath it all. Eventually I could do nothing other than pray. Accept. This is how it is. I am deeply connected through the Earth to both places which are fighting each other – as indeed we all are. And then some peace came.

The pain is in the earth here. Here in the UK – it may be more obvious in the other countries far away, but it is one Earth just as the body knows the pain in the elbow and knee equally, and where it all started is never quite clear. If the fighting in South Asia can somehow be linked to eruptions in the land there, cannot the preparations for warfare here and all the past battles affect the land here in the UK? And cannot in turn the hurt in the land affect us, and our suffering,  the land?

Holders of this earth-sensing and wisdom around the globe are increasingly depressed and in distress as they become traumatised by this unacknowledged in-earthness of us all, often totally unaware of this aspect of Life – that so much of what we pathologise within individuals, see as their projections onto the outer, and then try to heal within them as individuals alone, is in all of us. Is in Earth. It is her suffering. Her deep, dark depression. It is one.

Yasmine Khan
Dartmoor, 2010