The weight of arrogance is such
that no bird can fly
And the man who feels superior
to others, that man
the real dance when the soul takes God
into its arms and you both fall
onto your knees in gratitude,
a blessed gratitude
St. John of the Cross
As I walked through the neighborhood in the early morning, I felt the urge to change my route and make my way over a hill toward the beach. It would be a little longer and more strenuous walk, and it was still relatively quiet along the streets. That is, except for the birds, who seemed unusually persistent in their search for food. Most of them were scurrying and quickly pecking along the ground. Others were acrobatically exploring every side of a tree limb and the leaves.
The bird activity prompted me to remember a forecast for stormy weather. I felt a little “aha” within me as to why my body had felt the impulse to linger outside. Although I had no scientific evidence to back up my “aha,” intuitively it seemed likely that my body had tuned into the atmospheric shift and felt an impulse to linger outdoors to be doing what the birds were doing – gathering and soaking up the available nourishment while the weather was drier and calmer.
There was something humbling about the glimpse of my nearly forgotten capacity of truly listening and living in sync with the larger bio-organism of all existence. It stirred a feeling of deep reverence for the earth and soil not only supporting my feet as I walked, but being the source of all support of my life – e.g., food, shelter, relationships, environment, breath. I felt the caress of the air around me, and felt gratitude for the trees and plants with their gift of reciprocity of oxygen and carbon dioxide, along with nutrients.
The horizon was pure blue. As I meandered down the hill, ocean and sky seamlessly filled my sight, absorbing my awareness in the endless space holding all existence. Even though some part of me knew that wild rains and winds were predicted to appear out of this blue expanse, I felt the “aha” ease into an “aaah.” I was home, along with everyone and everything. All existence has always equally belonged to this vastness.
As I walked along within this reverent sensibility, a flock of birds flew overhead. Their flight felt like a gesture of heavenly grace. The easefulness that they flowed through the openness made me smile. For a moment, they offered me a bird’s eye view of modern humanity in its seeming quest to forget the subtle and rich interdependence and value of all life. Before heading back to my little box that I call home, where my food is stashed in cupboards and in a refrigerator, I simply stood and took in all this togetherness and let myself fully belong.
This practice supports awareness of belonging.
- Please find a quiet place where you feel a sense of safety and comfort. If indoors, please remove electronics and any modern devices, including any digital watches (unless you truly need them for medical or emergency reasons).
- Gently stretch out in any way that feels comfortable. For example, reach one arm at a time overhead and toward the opposite side; or, place your hands on a cabinet, table, or back of a piece of furniture and walk, walk backward a bit and stretch out through your back.
- Find a comfortable seated position. If you are on a chair or bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the surface beneath you. If you feel distracted, invite your mind to notice your breath – inhaling in and exhaling out.
- Wherever you are seated, gently invite awareness of the support immediately beneath you, and then slowly acknowledge the layers of support beneath whatever you are seated upon. If comfortable, silently acknowledge that the earth’s surface supports all life around the globe. Take a few moments, appreciating the interwoven fabric of earthly existence.
- Slowly shift your awareness to the space above and around you. Invite an appreciation of space always being there kissing every morsel of life. If comfortable, silently acknowledge space holding all life, including the air which we breathe. Take a few moments to appreciate the intimate touch of space, even in its vastness.
- Invite an inner feeling of a seamless community of life – beneath, above and all around you. Slowly, stretch your arms to your sides, imagining one is reaching to the north and the other to the south. Then, reach one arm forward and one to the back, imagining one is reaching to the east,and the other to the west. Next, reach your fingers toward the earth and then toward the sky, acknowledging the downward and upward directions.
- Once you have reached your arms in all directions, bring your fingers toward the place where all directions meet (at your heart center). Bow your head slightly with your fingers still touching your heart. If comfortable, appreciate your seamless belonging.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Quietly, sit for a few moments.
- When you are ready, transition back into your day.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 11, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. Photo by Valentin Hintikka. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2023.
I offer this particular HEARTH blog in acknowledgment of the enduring presence of the Indigenous People around the world. With that, I wish to share a link to a vibrant, yet financially challenged, project Red Sunrise Taos Pueblo. I ask that you consider supporting them to your level of comfort (scroll to the bottom of their page for their donation link). Thank you.