Touching the Earth: A Black Buddhist Perspective on Connecting with and Healing Ourselves and our Ancestors


  • Kaira Jewel Lingo


ancestors, heritage, meditation, contemplative practice, Thich Nhat Hanh, connection, healing


Ancestors inform so many aspects of our experience. We are our ancestors. In the Plum Village Vietnamese Zen Buddhist tradition, we speak of three kinds of ancestors: familial, spiritual, and land ancestors. I reflect on my own connection to my familial ancestors as a Black bi-racial descendant, and explore the Plum Village practice of Touching the Earth, which supports us in healing the intergenerational trauma passed on to us by all of our many kinds of ancestors as well as strengthening and celebrating the intergenerational resilience and excellence that our various ancestors have gifted us with. I share and explain the specific text of Touching the Earth to our African American Land Ancestors as it appears in the longer practice of honoring all the many groups of land ancestors in the US. This is a practice readers are encouraged to adapt and continue in their own personal, ceremonial way.

When we connect with our ancestors we connect with ourselves and our descendents more deeply and authentically. We understand more clearly who we are, what strengths we have been given and what our purpose is here so we are better able to withstand the challenges of living in the midst of white supremacy and chronic racialized violence. When we touch the love of our ancestors, we grow our hearts and the seeds of compassion and wisdom in us grow stronger and more robust.

Author Biography

Kaira Jewel Lingo

Kaira Jewel Lingo is a Dharma teacher who has a lifelong interest in blending spirituality and meditation with social justice. She received Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh and became a Zen teacher in 2007, and is also a teacher in the Vipassana Insight lineage through Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Today she sees her work as a continuation of the Engaged Buddhism developed by Thich Nhat Hanh as well as the work of her parents, inspired by their stories and her dad’s work with Martin Luther King Jr. on desegregating the South. In addition to writing We Were Made for These Times: Skilfully Moving through Change, Loss and Disruption, she is also the editor of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children. Now based in New York, she teaches and leads retreats internationally, provides spiritual mentoring, and interweaves art, play, nature, racial and earth justice, and embodied mindfulness practice in her teaching. She especially feels called to share the Dharma with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, as well as activists, educators, youth, artists, and families.