The Cradling by Joanna Macy, Episode 12
We’re live every Sunday morning at 9am UK time. You can join our facebook group to watch live, view archives, and join in the growing community and conversation that’s happening around this project.
Episode 12, ‘The Cradling’, begins with a beautiful and powerful meditation from the work of Joanna Macy reproduced below. We ask ourselves what possibilities there are when we remember the extraordinary and unlikely evolutionary background from which all human beings come, and when we remember also that everyone – even those people we judge most or are most afraid of – arises from exactly the same background and shares with each of us the same biology. Would we respond so easily with the impulse to hurt, or distance ourselves, or turn away? And if we did not, what then?
Lift gently your partner’s arm and hand. Cradle it, feel the weight of it… flex the elbow and wrist, note how the joints are hinged to permit variety of movement. Behold this arm as if you had never seen it before, as if you were a visitor from another world… Observe the articulation of bone and muscle … Turning the palm and fingers, note the intricacy of structure.
What you now hold is an object unique in our cosmos: a human hand of planet Earth. In the primordial seas where once we swam, that hand was a fin – as it was again in its mother’s womb. Feel the energy and intelligence in that hand – that fruit of a long evolutionary journey, of efforts to swim, to push, to climb, to grasp. Note the opposable thumb, how clever and adept it is… good for grasping a tool, a gun, a pen.
Open your awareness to the journey it has made in this present lifetime… how it opened like a flower when it emerged from the mother’s womb.… how it reached to explore and to do. That hand learned to hold a spoon… to throw a ball… to write its name… to wipe tears… to give pleasure. There is nothing like it in all the universe.
Lift now your partner’s other hand and arm … Observe the subtle differences from its twin … This hand is unique, different from all other hands… Turning it in yours, feel the life in it … And note also its vulnerability… no shell encases it, for those fingertips, that palm, are instruments for sensing and knowing our world, as well as for doing… Flexible, fragile hand, so easy to break or burn … Be aware of how much you want it to stay whole, intact, in the time that is coming… It has tasks to do, that your partner can’t even guess at.… reaching out to people in confusion and distress, helping, comforting, showing the way. This hand may be the one that holds you in the moments of your own dying, giving you water or a last touch of reassurance…. The world of sanity and decency that lies ahead will be built by hands like this one. With gratitude for its existence, put it gently down; move now around behind your partner’s head.
Now hold your partner’s head, cradling it with reverence, for what you now hold in your two hands is the most complex object in the known universe… a human head of planet Earth… a hundred billion neurons firing in there… vast potential for intelligence… only a portion has been tapped of its capacity to percieve, to know, to vision.
Your hands holding your partner’s head – that is the first touch your partner knew in this life, coming out of the womb into hands, like yours, of a doctor or midwife…. Now within that skull is a whole world of experience– of memories of scenes and songs, beloved faces… some are gone now, but they live still in the mansions of that mind…. It is a world of experience that is totally unique and that can never be fully shared… In that head too are dreams of what could be, visions that could shape our world.
Closing your eyes for a moment, feel the weight of that head in your hands. It could be the head of a Chinese worker or an Nicaraguan mother, of an American general or an African doctor. Same size, same weight just about, same vulnerability, same capacity for dreams that could guide us through this time.
Looking down at this head, think of what this person may have to behold in the times that are coming… the choices to be made… the courage and endurance needed. Let your hands, of their own intelligence, express their desire that all be well with that head. Perhaps there is something that you want your partner to keep in mind – something you want them not to forget in times of stress or anguish. If there is, you can quietly tell them now, as you lay their head back down.