Just like plants, animals and people, the earth is a living being. However, it is not an average living being. She is quite powerful because she determines the quality of life for the people who are allowed to live on her. Luckily she has patience and compassion. Two qualities that give people the space to learn how to best deal with her. This learning process involves trial and error, which often damages the earth and makes it seem as if she does not know where to draw the line.

The earth has no judgment on what happens to her. What she knows is that she is the foster mother of all living things and she would like to keep it that way. She carries out her task flawlessly by renewing all that lives without interruption. Think of that plant growing out of the asphalt. Think of Chernobyl where flora and fauna have taken over the city. Think of the layers of the earth where there are fossil fuels that were once trees and plants. She serves the good of man in every way. Not only the physical, but also our mental well-being if we decide to stop running, moving and counting steps at least every now and then in order to be still.

Yesterday I was in a huge pine forest on the sloping hill of a mountain along the road from Portagem in Portugal to Valencia de Alcántara in Spain. I was there with a group of eleven people to experience nature in silence for a morning, with all my senses. We took a forest bath (Shinrin Yoku, a therapy that came over from Japan) led by Jorge Maia and Maria Sousa of TerraFazBem who gave us all kinds of exercises to perform in silence.

After a long meditation far away in the forest, sitting on the dried pine needles, I opened my eyes and saw a pine cone lying in front of me. It caught my attention. After I picked it up and turned it around in my hands, I took it back to the group.

As I descended to the gathering place I thought about human life. Having a solid foundation such as a pinecone is very important to be able to open yourself up to the outside world without restrictions, by the time you are an adult. Show who you are by contributing to the community with your talents as the pinecone opens to release its seeds.

After I told this story, someone in the group said that he marvelled at the tall trees that you never see growing, but do. Because I know that the earth is not only a foster mother but also a mirror, I asked him to turn around that sentence. Slowly and carefully he said:

“I marvel at me. I am not growing visibly, but it is happening.”

His smile and the look in his eyes spoke volumes.