We bloomed in Spring.
Our bodies are the leaves of God

The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;
but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright

they are God Himself,
we will never perish
unless He does.

St. Teresa of Avila

The body of a small bat lay at the roots of the tree.  It looked as though it had just been in flight, with its clearly defined head and body and outstretched wings.  Yet, it was on the earth not in the sky, and visible at the peak of daylight and not at night.   As I stood and observed this microcosm of our greater outer world, two blue butterflies flew by. 

Living in a semi-urban as I do, it is easy to forget that the wilderness is always nearby.   Since the onset of the 2019 coronavirus, unexpected encounters with the wild have become the new norm.  Today, it was the bat and the butterflies along the trail.  Yesterday, it was a doe and her fawn outside the kitchen window, dragonflies leading the way on a nearby trail, and a skunk scampering across a street in broad daylight.  

Throughout different cultures, the presence of wild species carries timely messages.  The bat, for example, signifies letting go of anything that comes in the way of our divine nature.  That can be old habits that cloud our thinking, clinging to the impermanent, attitudes of judgment, and self-indulgent behaviors.   For most of us, this type of letting go feels like a loss of life as we know it.   The butterflies inspire us to have the courage to let go and embrace the gentler, wiser aspects of our humanness.   

For me, there is some comfort in this ancient observation that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, and vice versa   Whenever I am not clear about what is happening within the wilderness of my own mind, I turn off my phone, put on my sneakers, and go out for a walk, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes.  As I walk, I remember that there are insects and microbes in the ground beneath me, even if it is paved over.  That helps me remember my embodiment is like a cell within the living organisms of the earth and universe.  Whether it is a bat or a butterfly, a redwood or a rose, most often some other being during my walk attracts my attention and sheds light onto whatever had moved me to the walk in the first place.  

It is nearly impossible to make sense of the scope of death and upheaval that has come with the presence of the coronavirus, but I take solace and hope from other species that if we heed their subtle messages, the road ahead will be much less painful.  It is time for us to let go of our habitual distractions, and instead step up to the responsibility of being attentive, caring, loving, and compassionate to all beings.  If we read the words of St. Teresa of Avila again and again, we may indeed discover that this is a time to rise up to our truest selves.   I am willing to try this steeper path and hope you will join me. In the meantime, please stay well.

This short practice invites an appreciation of being part of the larger whole.

Prepare – 

  • If possible, find a safe and comfortable place to be seated outside.  Inside is also fine.    
    • Wherever you are, acknowledge the surface beneath you by offering a silent appreciation for its steady support.   
    • Allow your hands to rest on your thighs or on your lap.
  •  Acknowledge the space around you – front, back, sides, and above.  Invite awareness that as you sit and move through the world, this space is always there.  It offers you complete awareness of your surroundings. 
    • Note:  We often only relate to what is directly in front of us, especially when using our technological tools.  Yet, we take in and share information holistically.

Practice – 

  • Soften your gaze and the area around your eyes.  Imagine you are looking from the back of your head rather than from the surface of your eyes. 
  • Keeping your 360° awareness, allow your breath to move into your lungs – front, back, sides, lowest and uppermost parts of the lungs.
    • Without forcing, breathe with this awareness for six breaths.
  • For three breaths, invite your arms to move with your breath:
    • As you inhale, allow your arms to move out to the sides, slightly back, and overhead.  If you have shoulder conditions, please adjust as needed.
    • As you exhale, allow your arms to return to the sides of your body.
  • For three breaths:
    • Bring your palms into a soft lotus bud shape (gentle prayer position) in front of your heart. 
      • Pause for a breath
    • Keeping your palms in prayer position, inhale your hands overhead, taking them up the center line of your torso and face to overhead. 
      • Pause there for a breath.
    • Keeping your palms in prayer position, exhale your hands back to your heart center.  Repeat.
  • Allow your hands to rest in your lap.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • Then, consider ways you might move through your day with awareness of the world around you.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

This poem is translated by Daniel Ladinsky and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 73, 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. 

NOW AVAILABLE!!   My new book “Our Inherited Wisdom”  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry  (click for online purchase).  This is a perfect companion for your personal reflections. 

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