Often, when beginners are given meditation instruction, they are told to pay attention to their breath, the feeling of air rushing in and out of their nose. While I occasionally like this method, it also trips me up. I can become hyper-aware of my breathing, and it starts becoming forced and irregular. Additionally, guidance may also be given to place ones hands on top of each other in your lap, touching your thumbs together. I’ve always preferred to place my hands face down on my knees, feeling the pressure and stability of my palms as they rest, supported.
This past Saturday in my physics class, we began learning about dynamics, which is the sum of all the forces acting on us at a given time. Forces do not come out of nowhere–they are the relationship of two or more objects. While the teacher listed the various types of forces on the whiteboard, my thoughts latched onto the last one: gravity. Gravity is the force acted on us by the earth; except in a rarified environment, we are always subject to it. My daughter, like most small children, performs a multitude of experiments to test gravity, dropping things from her high chair and other random places, watching as time and again, they do indeed drop down. By the time we’re grown, we take gravity for granted, a banal fact of our existence.
When I thought of it, how gravity is a force and where there is a force there is a relationship, I was awestruck at the thought of gravity’s origin. To picture the earth is to visualize it on some grand, cosmic scale-the view of astronauts looking out their window. Yet when thought of in this context, the earth becomes intimate, something that we have a continuous relationship with from our first moments alive on to our last breath. To take the time to feel the weight of our feet on the ground, our body as lies in bed, the feeling of our seat in a chair, is bring our minds into closer contact with that relationship we have with gravity, and consequently with the earth. This isn’t mysticism–this is scientific fact.
As we go about our day and our lives, we endure many moments of hardship and stress. Mindfulness is helpful for this, if you can catch yourself before being totally overwhelmed. In these moments of strife, however, a meditative space can be hard to enter into, seemingly remote, reserved for monks and sacred places far from us. Finding tools that remind us of those calm, clear moments are essential. When I thought of gravity as a reminder of our relationship with the earth, it seemed to be a useful way of making that meditative peace and clarity both immediate and accessible. When we’re feeling caught up in crap, disconnected from ourselves and struggling, we can sink our thoughts to our feet, to that point of contact with the ground below us. When we feel that weight, the force of the planet’s gravitational pull, why not take the time to appreciate the force that holds us, the earth that connects and sustains us and all the other beings with this most constant of companions?