This remarkable little quote takes us to the heart of responsibility and puts into perspective our task: tend our planet. This broad action is really what life is about. However, for each one of us, there is a focus and a honing in that needs to occur. On this planet are people, animals, structures, and nature. While we specialize in different types of knowledge and work, and live in different locales, what we all have in common is that we have an affect over the sphere in which we orbit throughout the day. This is our responsibility, our “planet”. While we can have broader perspective and help outside of our local sphere of influence, we are ultimately responsible for that which we are close to and interact with daily first. Hashem, our animals, our family, our property, our jobs, our communities—all these require our attention. Sometimes this can overwhelming; sometimes we drop the ball and lose sight of what we should be doing. As we are all deeply interconnected with the world, what we do matters, and how much we do or don’t do matters as well.
This meditation will help you focus and clarify what “tend your planet” means to you.
(Note: For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)
Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place. First, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Close your eyes. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed and feel little or no distractions. Let the noises around you, no matter how small, filter out.
As you feel relaxed, let your mind focus on you for a moment. Judaism says that each person is a world. You are a world, a planet so to speak. Sometimes we neglect this world. Contemplate any way in which you have neglected yourself (exercise, eating properly, relax time, sleep). You can only give to others if you are able, and the health of your “world” matters greatly. Focus on how you can be more responsible with how you treat and tend to yourself. Perhaps you tend to yourself too much (overfocused on fitness, eating, checking every blog and email, shopping); think of ways you can lessen some of the attention you give to yourself to help others.
Then, let your mind drift to people with whom you are in relationship on a daily basis (parents, siblings, children, animals, etc.). Contemplate your responsibilities to these individuals. Are you lax in what you do for them? Are you overdoing yourself? Is there a way that you could tend your planet better by tending to them?
Extend your focus to friends, people you work with or have a professional relationship with … how are you tending your planet with regard to them ? Are you meeting expectations, exceeding them or shirking them? Are you tending what you should be on a daily basis?
Think of those outside of your local sphere that might need your help. How do you tend to them? Do you think of them at all? Meditate on how you might better help those who live in this realm on your planet.
As you go through these groupings, it is important that you examine your responsibilities and assess them honestly. If you are tending your work “planet” at the expense of your home, seek more balance in this area. If you are zealous about being home and loathe your work “planet”, focus on how you can make a shift and balance your middah of responsibility.
Concentrate on what your responsibilities are in these various areas. Perhaps you need to simplify or magnify your responsibilities. This is a time to realistically assess that over which you have been given charge and what you do for those with whom you are knitted in relationship. Take time in this meditation to stay focused on the spots of your planet where you need improvement.
Practice this meditation often so you can bring clarity and stay focused on your responsibilities to yourself and those around you in a balanced fashion.