I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something that
makes your eyes
smile.

I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.

Look at
beauty’s gift to us –
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
soul. Mirabai

Mirabai

Near our apartment is a small, wooded park.  It is nestled between two streets with a ravine in the center.  On both sides are magnificent coastal redwood trees. They are only echoes of their parent trees, some of which would have been as wide as a two-story house is high, at the time those trees were milled by the colonizers more than a century ago.  This park is a type of haven where this second growth can thrive as living representation of the story of this locale, and beyond. 

Each day when I take a neighborhood stroll, I pass through this park.  The wide path is cushioned with the redwoods’ needles, so there is a quietness that muffles even the sound of the teenage boys daring one another to ride their bicycles down the steep slope.   I like to linger with the trees for a few moments of touching and admiring their bark.  

Just being near the beautiful reddish-brown bark of these giant conifers reassures me that dominance doesn’t necessarily mean oppression and destruction.  It can be compassionate, gentle, and genuinely equitable.  The redwoods’ bark has a larger role than just protecting the tree.  Its soft, almost spongey fibrous texture of outer bark is home to many types of insects and other invisible species that are integral to the vitality of the multi-dimensional web of life.   

When I touch the bark of redwoods, I am reminded of the words attributed to the 15th century ascetic Mirabai.  The beauty of the redwoods, like all of nature, continually invites us to pause and re-connect with the most fundamental part of our embodiment – we are part of a dynamic, earthly organism that gracefully and generously offers the air, ground, and endless nutrients for the well-being of all.  

Ancient sages such as Mirabai offer us both:  a warning –  e.g., if we remove ourselves from nature, humans will become coarsened toward one another;  and, guidance – e.g.,  stay in touch with something greater than us.  As a small way of heeding their wisdom, I will continue to touch the redwoods as a reminder of our innate human capacity for honesty, endless loving kindness, sharing and caring.  

Practice 
This short practice invites awareness of our connection with nature.

Prepare – 

  • For this practice, either be outside, or, if inside, be near a living plant.    
  • Standing, gently shake your forearms and hands for a few times.  Roll your shoulders around in any way that is comfortable for you.  Smile.  Smile again.  And, then really smile at how silly you might feel just smiling.  
  • Invite a few deeper inhalations of your breath.  Then, smile again.

Practice – 

  • Take your hands in front of you, palms facing one another.  
    • Slowly, take them apart and then back together a few times, similar to playing an accordion.  
    • Allow your palms and wrist to be relaxed.   Perhaps add a feeling of playfulness to this movement.
    • Breathe.  
      • As you inhale, invite your hands to move away from one another; and, as you exhale invite your hands to move closer together.  
      • Imagine as though you’re are playing music with your breath. 
      • Maybe sway gently with these movements.
      • Do this for at least a minute.
  • Come near a tree or other living plant.  Smile as though you are with a dear friend.
    • Hold your hands on either side of your plant friend, close but not touching.  If it is extra large, choose just a branch or a smaller part of the plant.  
      • Similar to above, allow your hands to gently and slowly move away from and then closer to the plant.  If you wish, connect the movements with your breath (as above).
      • If you are comfortable, imagine as though the plant is breathing.  Imagine your breath and movements are synchronize with the plant’s breath.  If you have found it comfortable to do this, be playful and free.
    • Now, lightly touch the plant.  Smile.
      • If you are comfortable, allow yourself to feel any sense of touch in return.
    • Say, “thank you” to your plant.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Find a comfortable place to sit quietly for a few moments.  
    • Allow your eyes to rest in a soft gaze.  
    • Invite an easeful, calm breath.
  • Touch your heart center lightly with your fingertips.  With a smile, say, “thank you.”
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 9, 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©2020. 

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