Geranium – inspiring resilience

Geranium – inspiring resilience

Meditate within eternity.
Don’t stay in the mind.
Your thoughts are like a child fretting
near its mother’s breast, restless
and afraid, who with a little guidance,
can find the path of courage.

Lalla
Trans. by Coleman Barks

Over the past several months I’ve developed a new habit.  It is probably minor in the scheme of all the possible habits, but I’m ruminating on it because it is new.  And, because it has come about not only when a life-threatening virus is sweeping through the world, but also escalating severe natural disasters and human struggles.

Each morning, I now check on the geranium plant outside our front door – only a glimpse, but enough so that I was aware that my check had become routine.  This plant has been through many iterations.  It began as a houseplant, but because of the low light in our apartment I moved it outside to a sunny area.   Within a few days, the local deer had discovered it and eaten all but a bit of the stems.   I repotted and moved it to a spot where it grew and bloomed, until, the neighborhood crows began landing on the dirt at the edge of the pot and toppling it over; however, for the past year, it has steadily grown and formed new buds and sets of red blossoms.

I’m not sure when I began a daily acknowledgement of this particular plant.  I’m in the habit of greeting all of our indoor plants each morning, out of appreciation for the way they cleanse the air and their quiet presence.   Since the geranium is an outdoor plant, I normally would have noticed it only once or twice per week, but likely I increased that soon after the deer had eaten the flowers off the other outdoor plants.

Over time, I’ve grown to deeply respect this hardy, resilient being.   It reminds me of my grandparents and parents who survived and weathered many storms in life, including the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, a major world war and many personal disappointments and losses.  It reminds me of our collective human ancestors who survived and showed the way for others.  It reminds me of wise prophets, saints, and poet seers such as Lalla, who survived hardships with patience, kindness, and equanimity, and then compassionately shared gems of truth to uplift and guide the rest of us.

I trust this simple yet robust plant and am glad it is part of my new habit.  It continues show me ways to navigate life.  For example, it thrives on little water and care, yet it absorbs what it gets, multiplies it, and gives back abundantly.   If the deer come, it will regrow.  As a plant, it has its own way of recognizing threats, but it continues to stay rooted and freely offer the world its bright colors and fan-shaped leaves.   I hope you will join me in honoring the plant world!

Practice
This practice supports inner resilience and courage anchored in kindness.

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable standing position with your feet about hip-distance apart.
    • This may be with or without shoes.
    • If you are not able to stand for any reason, please feel free to skip to the latter third of the practice.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your weight from one foot to the other.
    • Do this a few times.
  • Stilling your movement, pause.
    • Notice the surface beneath your feet.
      • Invite an awareness of its offering of support to you at this time and in this moment.
      • Lightly walk in place, lifting one foot and solidly but gently placing it down before lifting the opposite foot.

Practice  – 

  • With your feet grounded, gently bounce through your knees – a small and barely visible bounce.
    • Invite a sense of trust of the strength in the large muscles in the upper part of your legs, e.g., the frontal ones called the quadriceps.
      • Lightly tap your palms on the front of your thighs saying, “I have confidence in my natural strength.”
  • Still standing, allow yourself to feel securely supported by the earth and the strength in your lower body.
    • For a few moments, gently sway like a plant in a summer breeze.
      • Open your arms to your sides, slightly away from your body.
        • Allow your palms to be open and facing forward, and your fingers lightly relaxed.
        • Invite a sense of openness in your torso and throat. Invite your eyes and facial muscles to relax.
      • Invite a few easy breaths into your mid-ribs.
        • If comfortable, invite a soft, sincere smile from the inside out.
      • Quietening the movement in your upper body, return to a comfortable, easy stance while retaining a sense of steadiness in lower body and ease in the upper.
      • Breathe:
        • Inhale: While inhaling allow your arms to radiate outward and upward from the side of your body.
          • Note: If you have shoulder issues, simply stand and breathe without movement.
        • Pause: Pause with your arms alongside your ears, palms facing inward.  Take a full breath.
          • Note: Allow your elbows to bend if that offers more ease in your shoulders.
        • Exhale: While exhaling, bow your head slightly and cross your palms in front of your face to bring them to the front of opposite shoulder.
          • e., your right palm to the front of your left shoulder, and your left palm to the front of your left shoulder. (Your fingertips will be lightly touching your collarbones and your wrists will be crossed.)
        • Pause: Pause with your hands touching the front of the opposite shoulder and your head slightly bowed.   If comfortable, close your eyes.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward your whole self – from your innermost self, to your body, senses, mind, and breath.
            • Breathe in and out one smooth, easy, breath.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward others while staying steady with a sense of kindness toward yourself.
            • Breathe in and out two smooth, easy, breaths.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward all beings while staying steady with a sense of kindness toward yourself.
            • Breathe in and out three smooth, easy, breaths.
          • Gently say to yourself, “I am grounded inwardly in peaceful kindness. This offers me courage and resilience to stay inwardly grounded and steady in the midst of outer struggles and changes.   In this kindness, I am strong and supported.”

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 6, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

 

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Ladybug – spark of joy in a grey world

Ladybug – spark of joy in a grey world

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy upon spotting small ladybug along the pathway.   Her distinctive coloring, with bright reddish-orange and splashes of black, stood out on this foggy summer morning.

Only minutes before I had noticed the muted tones of the foliage and the fading shades of the flowers.  Along with the soundless creeks, these were reminders of the severe drought absorbing the vibrancy of this part of the planet.

The ladybug disappeared quickly, but left a remembrance of that spark of delight which I had felt upon seeing her.  It was that raw childlike enchantment and awe of life.

There was a feeling of kinship with the surroundings, sensing the thirst of plants and the creek and simultaneously the lightness of insects and clouds.  Fueling that sense of kinship were memories, such as:  feeling ebullient aliveness emanating from others – strangers, friends, family, and pets; and, even from that which we call inanimate – stones, soil, trees.

Along with those remembrances, I found myself imagining a world infused with a large dose of pure joy, seeding hope and compassion to begin anew.  The ladybug apparently begins as a bland monochrome larva and then transforms itself into a round, colorful form.

Perhaps it is childish to imagine that we could disarm the deep grooves of hatred, greed, and jealousy with joy, but our human inventive capacity can turn wild imaginations into possibilities.  For now, I am heartened to see the pre-school children in our neighborhood carrying ladybug backpacks. Maybe ladybugs will show us the way to the future.

For now, I’ll heed the wisdom of the timeless poets, prophets and sages, and appreciate that the world and we are intricately tethered together with a collective of small joys.  Joy is not devoid of grief or sorrow: it nourishes and uplifts us like a loving mother.  It is ours to share and treasure as lovingly as it graces us in the precious journey of life.  I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of joy.

Prepare— 

  • Remove any potential distractions.  For example, remove non-medical electronic devices from your wrist and surroundings.  Place them in another room.  If you are using a device for reading, please place it on silence and/or airplane mode.
  • Standing, stretch out through your arms in any way that feels comfortable. Then, gently shake each limb, one at a time for several seconds.
  • Sigh a few times, also in any way that feels comfortable.  Invite your shoulder and facial muscles to relax and soften.  Smile for about twenty seconds.

Practice  – 

  • Seated, allow your lower body to settle into the support beneath you. Gently invite an awareness into your feet and legs that they are free to just be. For now, they do not need to be on alert in anticipation of moving of doing something.  They can relax naturally.
  • With ease in your lower body, invite a few easy breaths to flow in and out through your nostrils.
  • Pause, allowing your breath to return to its normal background state.
  • If it feels comfortable, invite a remembrance of your own personal experience of what felt like pure joy in your lifetime.
    • Again smile for about twenty seconds, this time feeling as though your whole being is infused with remembrance of that joy.
  • Then, invite a smooth, even, and gentle inhalation through your nostrils. As you inhale, imagine that joy is spreading to all of your cells – from your toes to the crown of your head.  On exhalation, allow your breath to flow out with ease while sustaining that joyfulness in your tissues, muscles, organs, and bones.   Continue this for several breaths.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
    • Perhaps touch your heart center in remembrance that joy is always within you and that it is always there for you at any time during the day.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 8, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by  Neringa Hünnefeld on Unsplash.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, I am offering an online study group, 1st Wednesday each month, 10:30 a.m. to noon PT, July, August and September 2021.  Please contact me for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Forest – sacred aliveness

Forest – sacred aliveness

One instant is eternity;
Eternity is the now.
When you see through this one instant,
You see through the one who sees.

Wu-Men
English version by Stephen Mitchell

As the seasonal cycle once again turned toward summer, the mountain forests held the quietude of winter.  For months, they had been in hibernation with their ground blanketed under mounds of snow.  The immovable settling into prayerful silence absorbed each of these in its own reverent essence:  trees, plants, boulders, and granules of dirt were still and peacefully gathered in quiet, timeless communion.

To come to this moment of transition, the days have incrementally lengthened.  The snow has been melting.  And, the seemingly insentient community has transformed into a body of diverse shapes and forms.  Brilliant greens, browns and greys have emerged.   The expansive space between the towering trees seems to have taken centerstage – perhaps because the openness sustains the memory of quietude and is home to thousands of resilient, tiny plants that later blossom into soft reds, yellows, blues and lavenders.

Crystals of snow have steadily transformed into trickles and streams of water.  By the time human visitors arrive, the water is energetically rushing downward, cascading into waterfalls.  Eventually it begins to echo its quiet origins, slowing its pace and flowing into broad bodies of water.  There, like the mountain meadows, the lakes and even human-made reservoirs inspire memories of tranquil peacefulness and reverential awe.

Nature is a continual expression of sacred wisdom that abides in every morsel of life.  A visit to the mountain forest is a visit into the vastness of our own inner wilderness.   We are Nature.  The seasons move within us and we move within the seasons.  Nature’s voice is a quiet wordless offering of predominately subtle reminders of our temporal worldliness, being woven around the sacred Infinite.   The less subtle reminders are the turbulent storms – whether outer or inner – that uproot our confidence in predictability.

Within the pallet of worldly opposites of rising and subsiding, and offering and receiving, there is spacious, all-fulfilling serenity generously and equally holding all.  My hope is that we all rediscover what ancients have long observed, which is that the life’s essence is always nearby.  As the poet Wu-Men offers, Eternity is the now.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of the universality of the five elements. 

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
    • If you are in a chair or on a bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the surface beneath you.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your awareness to your breath in any way that feels pleasant for you.
  • If possible, invite a sense of ease and openness.  Relaxing the muscles around your jaw and shoulders, your navel, and the base of your skull.

Practice  – 

  • With your eyes in a soft gaze or lightly closed, take a moment to reflect on five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space.
    • With each, slowly and gently:
      • Whisper the name of the element three times.
      • Invite an awareness of the sensations and feelings associated with the element. Silently say the name of the element as you inhale.  Imagine as though your awareness of the element is expanding with your inhalation.  Perhaps notice its presence within and beyond the boundaries of your skin.  On your exhalation, smile slightly and feel as though you are completely letting go of all stresses, thoughts, and any clinging.  Repeat with each element.
      • If the above practice seems inaccessible to you, perhaps try the following:
        • Invite an awareness of your inner sensations associated with that element. Imagine with your inner eye you are scanning the inside of your body from your toes to the inner surface of your head.  In your scan, be open to areas of the body where there is a seeming predominance of that element.
          • For example, the solidity of earth within the bones, the fluidity of the blood and moisture on the tongue for water, warmth for fire, lightness for air, and spaciousness for space.
        • Gently shift your awareness to your outer environment – nearby and then extending as broadly as comfortable for you – and invite an awareness of areas of the environment where you perceive to be a predominance of that element.
          • For example, the ground beneath you for earth, the interior of your home and the expanse of the night sky for space.
          • As you scan the environment, simultaneously invite an awareness of your inner sensations and feelings that arise. Allow yourself to let and just feel and notice without labels and judgment.
        • Again, whisper the name of each element three times.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • When you are ready, return to your day.
  • As you go about your day, invite a view of the world as a composition of the elements continuously and seamlessly manifesting in innumerable ways – inside and out.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 80, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

 

 

Life Trail

Life Trail

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

 

The sky was a deep blue and the earth was covered with swaths of green.  Among the low growing plants, soon to bloom into a rainbow of wildflowers, there was a narrow dirt trail.  It was an offshoot of a larger trail, but it looked inviting in the way it meandered and flowed through the open mountain meadow.

Within just minutes of being on the trail, I felt the quiet community of boulders, rocks and vegetation.  It seemed appropriate to pause and acknowledge their pristine presence.  From the condition of the path and the lack of footprints in the patches of snow crossing over the path, it was clear that few humans had tread this way.

The pause allowed my ears to attune to the avian melodies but also to any possible reptilian or mammalian movements in the grasses.  A subtle rumbling of the wind in the treetops prompted a mental scan of the contents of my backpack, ensuring there was extra layers of clothing and water and food for both my husband Jay and me.  All was well.  We could move onward.

Being in the wilderness is a more normal human experience than we think.  The trail ahead is always unknown.  Even with maps, preparedness and fine-tuned planning, the unexpected is the journey of all life.  Yet, few humans choose to take the road less travelled – the one where we embrace each moment with a keen awareness of the vulnerability and simultaneously pure wondrousness of our embodiment.

There is sweet, but difficult, surrender in accepting that the only certain pattern is change.  Wise poets such as Rumi remind us to keep walking, yet not to follow the more familiar pathway lined with fear.  I would like to believe that instead, he and other sages are inviting us to courageously follow the road of love and its expressions in compassion, equity, and equanimity. And, in doing so, come together for the benefit of the well-being of all.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of walking

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Invite an awareness of your surroundings – the space around and above you, and the earth beneath you.   Feel free to look around or even touch your surroundings.
  • Slowly shift your awareness to your skin – back, sides, front, top and bottom – and then the inner surface of your body.  Notice any places where you might be holding unneeded tension and gently invite those areas to relax.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your awareness to your breath in any way that is comfortable for you.  Notice the quality of your breath today – smooth, ragged, deep, shallow – inviting acceptance of this awareness.

Practice  – 

  • When you are ready, come to standing.
    • If comfortable, remove your shoes.
  • Standing evenly on both feet, notice the soles of your feet and where they touch the surface beneath them.  If you are on a floor, imagine you are standing on the earth.
    • If you chose to leave your shoes on, imagine you can feel the surface of the earth through the soles of your shoes.
  • Silently say to yourself, “The earth is a living organism.  Even though I am standing on its skin, I am part of its life.”
    • Repeat this three times.
    • Pause and in a non-judgmental way, notice any emotional response you may have to considering the earth as a vital, living being.
    • Silently greet the earth and say “thank you for allowing me to stand and walk on you.”
  • Slowly begin to walk, taking each step with gratitude and appreciation of the gifts of the earth.
    • Walk as long as you wish.  Invite an awareness of your inner experience.  Feel free to pause or move in any way that seems appropriate for you.
  • In your own time, return to a seated position.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 2, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

 

 

Light – generosity of being

Light – generosity of being

Like a great starving beast
My body is quivering
Fixed
On the scent
Of
Light.

Hafiz
Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

 

It seems fanciful that a new moon can appear to shimmer. Yet, about once every eighteen months, there is a radiant glow around a new moon. It occurs when the two orbs of the moon and the sun seem to mate in the daytime sky, and the moon partially obscures the sun.

I admire the odd and wondrous relationship between this unlikely pair. They couldn’t be more different in their natures. The moon is tiny and constantly mobile, whereas the sun is massive—about four hundred times larger than the moon— and ever-steady and luminous. Still, they have an intimate inter-connection, and model balance and altruism despite their unique and vast differences.

The sun, even with its center-stage prominence in the solar system, freely offers warmth and light to all. In some cultures and religions, the sun’s radiance is an archetype of the immortal, supreme light and love that holds life.  And, the moon is its partner, reflecting light into the nighttime. It helps stabilize the earth’s rotation and regulate our tides.  Together, they provide us with energy, illumination, inspiration, and our sense of the passing of time.

Ancients recognized the magnificent power and significance of these two spherical bodies. Nowadays, we need a cosmic jolt to renew the awe of our raw link to them and the rest of life. When the dark moon covers the sun, it is like a power outage, especially in the locations where an eclipse will be visible.

For days, and some human lore says for months, things can be turned upside-down before and after a solar eclipse. There can be distressing energies, turbulence, and waves of negativity and misfortune. Plants, animals, humans and the elements can be affected. The change in the gravitational pull may cause earthquakes and other terrestrial phenomena. We may feel forced to leap into the new. Still, all is not gloomy with an eclipse; the sun reveals its radiant presence by giving the moon a glimmering appearance.

Poets like Hafiz remind us that light is always there. It will always illumine us, even if we ignore or forget about it, or when we think it has abandoned us in our bleakness. Like the moon, we have the capacity to reflect or eclipse the light, with the former a more normal way of being and the latter, temporary and occasional.

In our daily lives, the orbs in the sky are always there—day and night—inviting us to remember our own inner luminosity steadily shining, even during the eclipses of life.   And, with that remembrance is an awareness of our endless capacity of generosity, reciprocity, equanimity, and all other loving qualities of light.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of your inner light.

 Prepare—

  • Invite quietude—Turn your phone to airplane mode and put it aside.
    • Remove items from your wrists, such as your watch or any non-medical monitor.
      • However, if you know you only have a set amount of time, please feel free to use an alarm.
    • Sit comfortably—Come to a seated position, either in a chair or on the floor, where your spine is effortlessly upright.
      • If seated in a chair, place the soles of your feet on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, please place a cushion or a block under them.
    • Relax your hands—Give a gentle squeeze to each hand by placing the thumb of the opposite hand on the palm and wrapping the other fingers over the back of the hand, and squeeze.
      • Then, let the hands relax on your lap in any position that is comfortable.
    • Relax your eyes and face—Either close your eyelids or have them open. If open, let your eyes rest in a soft, gentle gaze. Relax your forehead, jaw, and chin.

Practice—

  • Imagine a steady, radiant glow of light similar to that of the early morning or late day sun. Imagine that with that light, there is an overwhelming presence of well-being, protection, and love.
  • Sequentially, imagine that the building that you are in is infused with light—every wall, ceiling, floor, window, and door, as well as the roof and foundation.
    • the room you are in is made of light.
    • the cushion or chair that you are seated on is made of light.
    • you are bathed and enfolded in light.
    • you are luminous…you are the steady, radiant glow of light.
    • there is only light.
      • Note: You may wish to open your eyes, silently read a line, e.g., “the building…,” and then sit quietly imagining that layer before moving to the next line.
      • Follow your pace of awareness. Savor the light.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • If your eyes were closed, slowly open them.
  • Allow the awareness of your breath to seep in. Notice the gentle movement of the chest and ribs associated with the breath.
  • After several breaths, slowly lower your chin to your chest and rock your head from side to side in half-circles. Shrug through your shoulders. Stretch through your palms and squeeze your hands. Before standing up, stretch through your toes and feet.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 32, 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.  This post is an excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry.  KateVogt©2021.

If you are interested in exploring more about an perspective on the interweaving of our mind, senses, and our inner orientation to life, please consider joining me in my virtual community education class “Path to Quietude” starting June 17 for 5 Thursdays.  Register before June 14, 2021.

 

 

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