Earth Day / Love letters to Mother Earth

In celebration of Earth day on April 22, 2021, we offer Love Letters to the Earth from Thich Nhat Hanh and recent retreatants as well as inviting you to offer your own.

Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), in 2013 published a collection of letters to Mother Earth and also often encouraged his students to write their own love letters to the Earth. Following Thay’s letter to the Earth are excerpts of love letters written by lay practitioners participating in the recent retreat for activists – Action from the Heart. If you are inspired by these offerings, please also add your love letter in the comments section for everyone to read and be nourished by them.

When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply the environment, you will be moved to protect her as you would yourself.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Your Wonder, Beauty and Creativity

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Mother Earth,

Each morning when I wake up you offer me twenty-four brand new hours to cherish and enjoy your beauty. You gave birth to every miraculous form of life. Your children include the clear lake, the green pine, the pink cloud, the snowcapped mountain-top, the fragrant forest, the white crane, the golden deer, the extraordinary caterpillar, and every brilliant mathematician, skilled artisan, and gifted architect. You are the greatest mathematician, the most accomplished artisan, and the most talented architect of all. The simple branch of cherry blossoms, the shell of a snail, and the wing of a bat all bear witness to this amazing truth. My deep wish is to live in such a way that I am awake to each of your wonders and nourished by your beauty. I cherish your precious creativity and I smile to this gift of life.

We humans have talented artists, but how can our paintings compare to your masterpiece of the four seasons? How could we ever paint such a compelling dawn or create a more radiant dusk? We have great composers, but how can our music compare to your celestial harmony with the sun and planets—or to the sound of the rising tide? We have great heroes and heroines who have endured wars, hardship, and dangerous voyages, but how can their bravery compare to your great forbearance and patience along your hazardous journey of eons? We have many great love stories, but who among us has love as immense as your own, embracing all beings without discrimination?

Dear Mother, you have given birth to countless buddhas, saints, and enlightened beings. Shakyamuni Buddha is a child of yours. Jesus Christ is the son of God, and yet he is also the son of Man, a child of the Earth, your child. Mother Mary is also a daughter of the Earth. The Prophet Mohammed is also your child. Moses is your child. So too are all the bodhisattvas. You are also mother to eminent thinkers and scientists who have made great discoveries, investigating and understanding not only our own solar system and Milky Way, but even the most distant galaxies. It’s through these talented children that you are deepening your communication with the cosmos. Knowing that you have given birth to so many great beings, I know that you aren’t mere inert matter, but living spirit. It’s because you’re endowed with the capacity of awakening that all your children are too. Each one of us carries within ourself the seed of awakening, the ability to live in harmony with our deepest wisdom—the wisdom of interbeing.

But there are times when we have not done so well. There are times when we have not loved you enough; times when we have forgotten your true nature; and times when we have discriminated and treated you as something other than ourself. There have even been times when, through ignorance and unskillfulness, we have underestimated, exploited, wounded, and polluted you. That is why I make the deep vow today, with gratitude and love in my heart, to cherish and protect your beauty, and to embody your wondrous consciousness in my own life. I vow to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before me, to live with awakening and compassion, and so be worthy of calling myself your child.

Extracted from Love Letter to the Earth (Parallax Press, 2013)

Enjoy some love letters written by our lay friends

A calligraphy by our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Mother Earth, I have never stopped being amazed by your design. And I stop all the time to admire it and to wonder. What gave you the idea for the Mandarin Duck, Octopus, Rhinoceros? When did you add a flash of blue on jay’s wing? Paint turquoise Kingfisher’s cape? Put a crown on the Peacock’s head? I am in awe of this formation of clouds and that silver birch shimmering in the wind. “Look, look” – I call to a friend. Yeah, she says, and her face says “so what?” I am lucky and I feel rich. My Mother gave me the gift of noticing the beauty and harmony in grasses and pebbles and colours of the sky. Perhaps it was the greatest gift I received from her. It allowed me, even in the depth of depression, to hear the birdsong, admire the rose or smell the lilac, and , for all your gifts. I love you and I will do what I can to protect you. Today I made three prostrations to solidify my commitment.

Zofia Bentley

Dear Mother Earth,

Though I know this intellectually, the more I practice, the more I know that when I address you, I address myself. How wondrous is this intimate connection that challenges my notion of (my)self and other! When I act, I am acting as a part of you. Yet I have free will, such is your generosity. My mind is a part of your mind, because you and I — one being — are both mind and matter. When I take action on your behalf, it is out of love, and it is also out of self interest, because you are my larger body. When I neglect myself, I am neglecting you, because I am you. This restructuring of my/our identity is at the foundation of what I think humanity needs to embrace. We and the Earth are One. And yet, in the historical dimension, there is the Other to love and cherish. My art and teaching are devoted to both perceptions: Love of the other-than-human and the perception of oneness, though most recently, it’s the former. In beginning anew, therefore, I’ve decided that in addition to all I do to prevent you/me from harm, I must do something about my eating habits, which I have been aware for sometime, have not been in alignment with my values.

Therefore, I began a vegetarian diet during the retreat (as was suggested in the beginning). And in just a few days, I have found that there are ways to enjoy your fruits without contributing to the suffering of animals. I had had a compartment in my mind that separated my eating habits from all the other services I provide out of love and my adoration for you. Yet when it comes to myself I have not been able to integrate myself into you completely. I believe this is because of the eating habits I inherited, and the fragmented thinking I inherited from the larger culture. In my family, food meant love – a particular kind of food that almost always included animals. This change in eating habits is as much a rewiring of my neurons as any other practice that goes against my conditioning, particularly my habits of thinking and speech — they are the most stubborn!……. May this act of compassionate eating help bring me closer to you, allow me to cross over from dualistic thinking to unitive thinking. To identify with you completely and with all other beings, human, animal, vegetable and mineral.

Angela Manno (Sacred Harmony of the Heart)

Dear Mother Earth! It is not easy to see You when one lives in a big city, at a big intersection, where every day hundreds-thousands of cars and buses pass by, polluting your air and enveloping us with noise; people are always rushing and at all hours. I see You in the morning when I drink my tea and hear the sparrows under the roof talking excitedly, when I look out the window and see the ravens swinging on the (only remaining) birch tree. I feel You on the way to work…. with every step; when I walk up the stairs from the subway, a strong wind comes towards me, fog hides the skyscrapers – sometimes. All this is You. Also the children on their way to school, sometimes laughing, sometimes arguing, the garbage on the sidewalk a carelessly discarded piece of You, the smell from the bakery…. On my way I pass an avenue of birch and maple trees – they stand side by side in harmony – some tall and narrow and others smaller with spreading branches. There I stop and breathe with them – they in – I out, they out – I in. For a while I forget the noise. A church congregation has created a small garden – the No Man’s Land Garden – so small and yet so full of life. People meet there, everyone seems to plant something different – all year long I see something new every day. I never see these people and yet they show themselves through your garden. Thank you Mother Earth for giving us your strength even when we are in places not so favorable to you. And thank you having shared with us the Beginning anew Ceremony and the Earth touchings.

In gratitude, Daniela Simm

To My Beloved Mother Earth, I will write to you again and again … you nourish and sustain me every day. I promise to take care of you as best as I am able. Here is a song I wrote for you, with blessings, your daughter,

Max (True Aspiration of the Heart).

[You can also listen to the song here.]

I’ll write a love letter to the Earth, a love letter
I will love you as you’ve loved me, I will love you better than be]ore
A love letter to the Earth, a love letter
Sealed with a solemn promise I will love you forever more
You give me life; you take care of me each day
You awaken all my senses in a thousand different ways
Your rivers quench my thirst, you offer shelter in your arms and then
You feed me and you clothe me and you keep me from harm

I’ll write a love letter to the Earth, a love letter
I will love you as you’ve loved me, I will love you better than before
A love letter to the Earth, a love letter
Sealed with a solemn promise I will love you forever more
You’re a miracle, a jewel, yeah, you have never failed
Despite the ways I’ve hurt you, you have always prevailed
Now you’re crying and you’re burning and our home is falling down
So I’m gonna use my power! I’m gonna use my power! I’m gonna use my power to turn this system ’round I’ll write a love letter to the Earth, a love letter
I will love you as you’ve loved me, I will love you better than before
A love letter to the Earth, a love letter
Sealed with a solemn promise I will love you forever
A love letter to the Earth, a love letter
I will love you as you’ve loved me, I will love you better than before
A love letter to the Earth, a love letter
Sealed with a solemn promise I will love you forever more.

Dear Mother Earth,

….It’s been a while eh? Horrible I know but I appreciate u and your grace. I just finished a retreat with plum village and it was quite amazing. I miss u so much and yet, u are here with me. You’re truly amazing and I love u deeply. I don’t even know how deeply I can love u yet but I hope that I will remember to come back to my breathing and connect with u regularly, at least more regularly than I have been. I’ve been having a hard time, as u may know. I kinda feel like I’m talking to god and that can spin off in another letter. This letter is for u mom. So here it is. We just did that [Beginning Anew] ceremony and it was so nice to connect w u again. When I look around, I see u every where and even when I think about the eyes I’m using to look at u, I know u are there, in my eyes! U are everywhere and everything! It’s a true wonder when I think about it. I love u so much, u are so much, and I promise to love u. I promise to treat u well and I appreciate the ways u care for me. In every step I take, every breath I make, u’ll be watching me, haha, but for real, u a homie.close friend Mother Earth, I care deeply for those who suffer and it makes me sad that my siblings hurt [each] other. I was feeling very frustrated and confused. I was lost, but now I’m found. Just like another song of yours. Oo, u everywhere. I feel like I don’t have enough words to communicate with u but I also take comfort in knowing that this is just part of our journey. There will be many more letters and renewals (I just renewed my library book, wish me luck on that traffic ticket!) to come. I love u, truly deeply and I thrive in the love u have for me.

Your humble loving child, Ng

Your turn?

If you feel inspired, please do write your own letter, or short message to Mother Earth below. You might write about:

  • What notice about the Earth
  • What you are grateful for
  • Any aspirations you have to take care of the Earth

We look forward to reading your letters!

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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