Remembrance

Remembrance

Dear God, please reveal to us
your sublime
beauty

that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere

so that we will never again
feel frightened.

St. Francis of Assisi
Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

 

A loud siren was booming throughout our neighborhood. I was inside the house, putting clothes into the washing machine, but the sound fulfilled its purpose. As with most people who suddenly hear an alarm, my mind immediately shifted into high alert and sifted through the possibilities for its activation. Even though my husband and I live in an area prone to earthquakes and fires, I quickly dismissed either of those options, as there had been no ground shaking, and rain was pouring down. The neighborhood dogs began to howl. Then I remembered that a prescheduled test of our town’s firehouse siren had been announced some days ago.

While it is an absolute necessity that we alert one another to impending danger—especially with the preponderance of natural disasters—I wonder what our world would be like if humans had invented “sublime beauty” alerts. If we had regular sirens for every stunning natural occurrence, we’d be enveloped in constant awe of everything that sustains us.

Instead, we have used our ingenuity for threat alerts. Not the necessary ones like my neighborhood firehouse alarm, but a stream of promises to soothe every fear—be better looking, more productive, healthier, richer, more balanced, calmer, or happier. The modern commercial space subtly taps into our woes and wraps us into the comfort of their brand’s product, app, or service. As a result, our lifestyles and habits rarely bring us in direct touch with nature.  Our food is pre-packaged, our outdoor exercise requires equipment, our contemplation relies on apps.

Somehow, humanity has allowed itself to become enamored with cleverness—forgetting that homo sapiens refers to “wise human,” not “clever human.” Other species sing praises to the co-existence of all of life in an abundance of glorious shapes, forms, sounds, and fragrances. There are upheavals and invasiveness in other species, but we are unique in our trail of efforts to conquer, outsmart, and ignore the sacredness of all of life.  We need the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi more than ever to bring us back in sync with one another, the planet, the divine, and ourselves.

The daffodil is where I choose to begin the re-righting of my human perspective, from a separatist to a holistic view. It is among the first spring blooms and is lauded around the world as a messenger of renewal and abundance. Its trumpet-shaped crown is an uplifting announcement of the unfolding of new energy and hope.  It inspires me to tune into the wise messages that nature has to share.   I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice supports appreciation of your everyday surroundings.

Prepare—

  • This practice involves both being seated and standing. Choose a place that has minimal distractions. If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks.
  • Begin seated, with a gentle lift through the spine.
    • If in a chair, place both feet on the floor.
  • Look around the room, listen to the sounds, feel the air and the texture of your clothing on your skin.
    • Do this as though you are looking at, listening to, and being with cherished friends.
  • Place one palm on your heart and then the other on top.
    • Breathe a few breaths.
    • Relax through your palms, jaw, eyes, shoulders and torso.
  • Release your hands to your thighs.
    • Breathe free and easy.
    • Breathing, say to yourself, “I am in the midst of friends. The earth is supporting me, the breath is nourishing me, the space around me is enfolding me with love.”

Practice—

  • Remember, you are in the midst of friends who support, nourish, and enfold you in love.
  • Slowly begin to walk around the room.
    • Let each step be a gesture of your respect for the floor.
      • If it is wooden, acknowledge the trees that were the source of the wood.
      • If concrete, acknowledge the riverbeds and water formed the rocks and sand for the concrete.
      • Acknowledge the workers and their hands that built the floor.
    • Keep a gentle breath. After couple dozen steps, pause.
      • (No worries about counting the exact number of steps. An approximate amount is fine.)
    • Walk for another dozen or so steps.
      • Acknowledge the walls, the ceiling, and their sources. Acknowledge the air and the trees that cleanse the air. Pause.
    • Stand by your chair.
      • Acknowledge the source of all life. Acknowledge God, or whatever you consider to be most supreme.
      • Imagine you are filled with love and kindness.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Seated, place both of your feet on the floor.
    • Relax your palms in your lap.
    • Allow your eyes to close, or to be gently open with a soft gaze. Breathe.
  • After a few moments, return to your day.

H E A R T H reflections are posted each new and full moon.  In celebrating the one-year anniversary of Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt, this post is an excerpt of that book, pages 9-12.  The photo is by Marian Kroell.

If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, this Spring I am offering an online study group:  “Spring Wisdom Circle,” 5 Thursdays, May 6-June 10, 2021, 3:15-4:45 p.m. PT.   Please contact me for more information.

 

 

Light

Light

Hark to the unstruck bells and drums!
Take your delight in love!
Rains pour down without water, and
the rivers are streams of light.
One Love it is that pervades the whole
world, few there are who know it fully.
They are blind who hope to see it
by the light of reason, that reason
which is the cause of separation —
The House of Reason is very far away!
Kabir
Translated by Rabindranath Tagore


Everything around seemed to glisten in the afternoon light.  The ocean stretched into the sky, shimmering evenly across its surface.  A set of islands appeared to be floating with the lightness of the clouds on the distant horizon.

The grasses on the hillside where I stood sparkled with different shades of green.  As the currents of the wind shifted between calmness and soft breezes, the blades of the grasses gracefully followed.  The blades seemed to be tracking some ancient rhythm as they harmonically twisted and turned together, offering a visual verdant dance of light.

Beneath my feet, the footpath also twinkled in the sunlight.  Small chips of stones on the dirt path caught the light, giving a sense of an earthly mosaic.  Having been raised in Kansas, I was reminded of a lit pathway of the Wizard of Oz and its promising ‘yellow brick road.’

With all the nature around me glowing on this spring afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel an awareness of the loving Light that pervades all life.  Universally, prophets, saints, and sages represent quiet testaments of the ever-present gift of Light. They have reminded us to let go of our attachment to labels and differences, which hold us in an illusion of separateness and cause us to suffer within the trappings of our own mind’s fondness for itself.

It is no wonder that a halo of light enfolds our dearest prophets and wise beings.  They embody the pure love, equanimity, peacefulness of eternal Light.   Every fragment of their presence endlessly radiates compassion and kindness.  Like the sun, they bathe the ocean, the grasses, the soil, and all living beings with the blessings of Light.

I am grateful for this sweet moment on the hillside, where the solar light reminded me that timeless truth is carried within the forces of nature.   All I need to do is pause, let go of expectations, listen and observe.  Or, I should say, “try” to take these simple steps.  Still, I hope you will join me.

 

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of daily light.
You may wish to read through this practice the day before practicing.

Prepare – 

  • Rise early enough time before dawn so you can:
    • First, take care of your early morning hygiene and any personal habits.
    • Then, make your way to a window or outdoor spot where you can witness the first light of the day for at least five minutes.
      • Unless needed for a medical condition, leave your digital devices, including those on your wrist, behind.

Practice –

  • Standing or seated, face the eastern direction where the sun rises.
    • Find a comfortable position.
    • As though you are meeting a close friend, invite a sense of ease – and perhaps delight – into your awareness.
    • If possible, allow yourself to be fully present for the next few moments with the rising of the sun.
      • Promise your mind that there will still be time to do all that it wants to do.  Perhaps let it know that for now it gets to take a little break from its constant work to run ahead of itself, full of anticipation, expectation, and evaluation.
  • Once positioned, lightly close your eyes for one or two breaths.
    •  Invite your entire eye area to relax.
  • Gently open your eyes, yet “see” with your entire being.
    • Imagine your entire being is made of tiny eyes, all soaking in the full experience of morning’s first light.
    • Try to wholeheartedly be present with dawn – the sounds, the sensations, the fragrances, the shapes, the colors, and the forms.
      • Perhaps note your overall mood, feelings, impulses, and awareness;  however, invite a sense of friendliness toward yourself, setting aside judgments and self-criticisms.
    • Note:  You may be used to only using your eyes for observing an occurrence such as dawn.   If you choose to use only your eyes for this part of the practice:
      • Consider the advice from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.” and “We see only what we know.”
      • Consider all the many sages across the ages to try seeing from your heart, i.e., observe with loving awareness.
  • Feel free to stay and quietly observe as long as comfortable.
  • Silently acknowledge your inner light.
    • Take one hand over your heart and the other on top.
    • If comfortable, close your eyes. Otherwise, allow them to remain open in a soft gaze.
      • Notice the gentle weight of your hands over your heart-center. Perhaps smile.
      • Acknowledge the loving Light within your heart and its endless capacity for compassion, kindness, equanimity, and joy.
      • Breathe three breaths.
      • After your three breaths, three times reach your hands from your heart up toward the sun and back to your heart.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit – or stand, if you have been standing – quietly for a full breath.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This  poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 59, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021.

 

 

Support Wisdom in Your Life

Support Wisdom in Your Life

We are each innately wise, but get sidetracked by life and forget our own capacity for ease, compassion, clarity, and creativity.  In this class, we will explore basic habits for making room for and nourishing wisdom in our life. We’ll tap into ancient yogic literature on universal human tendencies to both cloak and uncover wisdom. We’ll draw on nature and sacred poetry for inspiration and for furthering our awareness of the ever-presence of wisdom.

SPRING 2021 – 5 Tuesdays, March 30 – April 27, 3:10 – 4:30 p.m. PT, $40
College of Marin Community Education
Zoom Virtual Classroom

Walking

Walking

Keep walking, though there ’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings. Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Walking has long been an essential part of my daily life.  It was utilitarian early on, when going on foot was my primary mode of transportation.  In college, it was the best way to get from one classroom to another.  After college, for years I was fortunate enough to live in areas that supported an auto-free lifestyle with ample walkways and public transportation.  I think my feet fell in love with carrying me around because they didn’t want to stop, even at those times when walking was less necessary.

Now, I usually walk just to walk.  But, that freedom to meander has only come about in the past few years.  Prior to that, there have been several varieties of purposeful walking.  There have been phases when it was all about achieving a destination, e.g., if in an urban area, getting to a particular place.  Other versions have been in walking for accomplishment – maximum length, pace, or difficultly, e.g., steepness.  I even recall a period of being a purist where only being the wilderness would qualify as a real walk.  

Exploration has been the most continuous component of my walking.   As a child, I was intrigued with the play of tracing one of my fingers around the globe.   In my imagination, I would pretend my feet, walking around the world, were attached to my finger.  No matter how often I did this, it seemed mystifying that people all over the world were living and walking on the surface of the earth and that I could someday visit them. This eventually happened with a solo sojourn that I took around the world, and other travels.  Equally as fascinating, however, was that no matter how far I walked, if I kept walking in the same direction, I would eventually end up where I began.   

There is a bumper sticker on the rear bumper of a neighbor’s car that says, “happily going nowhere.”  I think that best describes my journey with the process of walking.  Likely my footfall has logged enough miles to have circumambulated the globe.  But, now I realize it is not the number of steps that matter, it is the quality of being present and buoyant within and between every step.  This way of being is visible in dogs and other animals as they move.  They are light-footed and generally conveying a sense of acuity wherever they are, even in the midst of their movements.   

Perhaps all that walking actually has been traversing the secrets in my own heart.  And, perhaps there really have been no footsteps or globetrotting.  Because, after all, as the poet Rumi says, “there is no place to get to.”   I’ll keep walking as long as my feet still are able to caress the earth, but I will let them do the walking while I go along for the ride.  

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of the life beneath your feet.

Prepare – 

  • Please find a comfortable standing position, ideally barefoot.   
  • Take a few moments to notice the connection between your feet and the surface beneath them.  Just notice and become aware of the sensations on the soles of your feet. 
    • Invite your mind to pause so that you can truly feel the feedback through your feet without expectation, labeling, or other mental chatter
  • Imagine the surface beneath you is welcoming your presence. 
    • Even if you are not standing directly on soil or sand, invite your awareness of your standing on the Earth, which is a living organism and home to not only you but millions of different life forms. 
  • Still standing in place, slowly bend one knee, then straightening that leg and bending the other knee.  As you do this, notice any changes in the sensations in the soles of your feet without naming or labeling the feeling – just noticing.

Practice – 

  • Slowly begin walking around the area where you are. 
    • Invite your awareness of that you are walking on the Earth, a living organism. 
      • Be aware of the quality and weight of your steps.
      • Pretend you want to leave as light a footprint as you can.
    • Notice the sensations in the soles of your feet.
  • Gradually lengthen the stride of your steps until you are taking giant steps.
    • Take three giant steps.
    • Again, try to leave as light a footprint as possible.
    • Notice the entire movement of stepping into the long stride and placing your foot down.  Notice the sensation in your foot as it connects to the surface beneath you.
  • Return to walking with your normal stride. 
    • Imagine your feet are smiling.
    • Imagine the earth is smiling.
    • Notice the sensations in the soles of your feet.
    • Perhaps notice the quality of your mood without labeling or naming.  Just noticing.
  • Slowly return to standing still.  Smile and thank your feet.  Thank the Earth. 

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

This  verse appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 2, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021. 


Support Wisdom in Your Life! Join me for this is well-loved class with practical tips to nourish and make room for wisdom.  This class celebrates that we each innately wise, but get sidetracked by life and forget our own capacity for ease, clarity, and creativity.  5 Tuesdays starting March 30 and ending April 27, 3:10 – 4:30 p.m. PT, fee $40.    Register Today! College of Marin Community Education, virtual classroom (course #4880)

Oranges & the gift of roundness

Oranges & the gift of roundness

I cannot lose anything in this
place of abundance
I found.

If something my heart cherishes
is taken away,
I just say, “Lord, what
happened?”
And a hundred more
appear.  

St. Catherine of Siena
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

A few weeks ago, oranges began to mysteriously appear outside our home.  Every morning there would be a couple nestled along the curb, with no obvious clues how they got there.  Their color was bright and shape was still perfectly round.  Yet, they were a bit soft to touch.

Since there is a lot of vegetation around where we live, I assumed there was an orange tree nearby and simply started doing what I do with fallen leaves – pick them up and put them in the compost bins.   But, in the same way that I do with the leaves, I found myself considering the lifecycle and qualities of these oranges and the similarities to my humanness.  

I am particularly drawn to their roundness.   They’ve made me much more aware of the spherical foundation of life.  Not only is our planet earth an orb within space but most of nature, including our own bodies, are formed by arcs, curves, columns, and spheres.   Delight is often stimulated by the sun and the moon, as well as the glow from candles, stars, and our eyes.   That joyfulness offers a sense of rich fullness and satiation.  

Personally, I feel that humanity could use more connection with our innate roundness.  The obvious arena is getting back to holding one another, taking our arms around each other for hugs, and being in circles of our friends.  But, equally pressing is turning around and holding all those that support us – from unseen essential workers, the trees and other entities that form the fundamental underpinnings of our lives.  Roundness is wholeness holding all equally, with love and infinite generosity.  

Geometrically, all forms begin with a dot.  We need to bring back old-fashioned analog clocks with a dot at the center to remind us of the interconnectedness of all living things, but also the necessity of a core.  The beauty of flowers radiates from a central point, and the delicious sweetness of fruit from their inner core.   Of course, there is the fiery heart of the earth upon which we live, and the all-important dot at the end of each sentence reminding us that after the bustle there is stillness.  Sadly, in our being enamored with our digital inventions, we becoming untethered from our core.  

Perhaps, like the orange, our roundness is both our nature and our fate.  Every aspect of our life – thoughts, ideas, actions, behaviors, words – has a rounded ripple effect outward, far beyond the boundaries of our body and community.    Recognizing, reclaiming and respecting the inherent roundness of life is a key to reshaping systems and values for collective well-being.  Yet, maybe it is a key to our folly.   The oranges were from a tree far up the hill from where we live.  Once they fell, they rolled with such momentum that they passed several homes, rounded a corner, and continued to travel along our relatively flat street, only to meet their demise in the compost bin.  

For now, I appreciate the oranges and how they have continued to show up each morning.  I know that there are many more lessons to be learned from this now-common fruit.  Over the ages and around the world, oranges have symbolized good luck, prosperity, love, endurance, abundance, beauty, happiness, longevity, and divine energy.  I hope you will join me in endeavoring to embrace these more unifying messages from the orange. 

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of wholeness.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position. 
    • If seated on a chair or bench, place the soles of both feet on the floor. 
  • Lightly rest your palms downward on your thighs.
  • Notice the surface beneath you – for example, your chair, bench, or cushion – and the support that it offers.  Then, gently shift your awareness to the floor, if you are inside, and its support.   Lastly, shift your awareness to the earth – the soil, the microbes, the layers of rock, and even the very firey core of the earth.
    • Invite a sense of being supported by this planet, which supports and has supported all earthly life over a large span of time.
    • Allow your breath to be easeful and comfortable without forcing.
      • After several breaths, continue to the next steps.

Practice – 

  • Seated or standing.
  • Support your awareness of water:
    • Sway or rock gently from side to side, acknowledging the gift of fluidity with in the rivers and streams as well as within our bodily fluids and tissues. 
  • Support your awareness of light:
    • Stretch your hands toward sky in a v-position.
      • As you reach your hands upward, become aware of the sun and the light and heat it offers life.
      • Touch your fingertips to your eyelids with awareness of how light supports your sight. 
        • Thank your eyes for all that they do for you and the gift of seeing shapes and forms.
  • Support your awareness of air:
    • Lightly touch the top of your head, your face, arms, legs, and torso.
      • As you touch different parts of your body, become aware of the gift of touch and all the ways it supports your life.
    • Gently touch your nose.
      • As you touch your nose, become aware of the gift of your breath as a constant companion in your life.  
  • Support your awareness of space:
    • Lightly lightly cup your hands over your ears, appreciating the gift of hearing and sounds. 
    • If standing, slowly walk for a few steps with appreciation for the gift of space supporting your ability to move and navigate from place to place in the world.
  • Support your awareness of the core:
    • Place your hands over your heart – one on top of the other – acknowledging your innermost heart always holding all equally with love. 

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    


This  verse appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 87, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Lulucmy.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021. 


Support Wisdom in Your Life! Join me for this is well-loved class with practical tips to nourish and make room for wisdom.  This class celebrates that we each innately wise, but get sidetracked by life and forget our own capacity for ease, clarity, and creativity.  5 Tuesdays starting March 30 and ending April 27, 3:10 – 4:30 p.m. PT, fee $40.  Register Today! College of Marin Community Education, virtual classroom (course #4880)

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