Paradise

Paradise

The heart has its reasons which 

Reason knows nothing of.

Blaise Pascal

The ramp off the freeway was like a parking lot.  The road fed into a nearby shopping center, which was a sea of cars, both parked and in motion with drivers who were in search of parking spots.  I had forgotten that it was one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  Most of those with whom I had spoken over the last couple of weeks had declared a hiatus from shopping, so it wasn’t in my awareness to change my driving route.

To the east and across the road from the stores is a large preserve of wetlands.  When the tide is in, streams of water meander through the brass-colored expanse.  During the spring and fall, flocks of migratory birds make this a stopover on their way to their destination.  During the winter, the most visible bird is the egret with its white and graceful shape.  It is common to see moms or nannies with children, and people walking their dogs along the pathway.

As I sat in the traffic line, I turned my attention toward the open landscape.  There was a break in the otherwise grey sky.  A band of brightness shined through.  It reminded me of a similar pattern earlier that morning when a stretch of cloudless sky was bright orange.  Both felt a little like some greater force – God or cosmic intelligence – was sending a little seasonal wish for clarity to anyone who was noticing.  

Ironically, the road between the wetlands and the shopping center is called Paradise Drive. Each of us in the row of cars had our own experience of being there together.  And likely, most of us felt that paradise was something ahead –certainly, not where we were at the moment.  Yet, there we were, in a place given the name “paradise.” 

It was humbling to be forced to stop in the midst of the everyday flow of life.  Instead of sitting quietly at home in meditation or prayer, I was sitting in stalled traffic with nowhere to go but into that moment.  There was no other choice or option. Had I been zooming down the road, I would have missed the parting of the clouds and the play of paradoxical duality.  For no rationale reason, I felt there on Paradise Drive that I had glimpsed life’s heartbeat, or that which is neither here nor there, yet everywhere.  

This event inspires me to consciously step out of our cultural tendency to value the rationale mind and its capacity to analyze, categorize, and quantify all that comes near. Rather than measuring my breath or my steps or judging one direction as being better, I will cultivate a bit more reverence, compassion and loving respect as I breathe, walk, observe, listen, and move within the landscape of all life.  I hope you will join me. 

Practice

This short practice is a reminder of your expansive and divine nature.

Prepare – 

  • Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for a few minutes.  
    • If in a chair, place the soles of your feet on the floor.
    • If you have had a busy day, take a moment and shake out through your arms and legs – one at a time.

Practice – 

  • Place one hand over the center of your chest.  Place your other hand on top.
    • Feel the touch of your hands on your chest. 
    • Allow your hands to relax.
    •  Invite a sense of ease in your face, shoulders, chest, and breath.
  • With bent elbows and open palms, open your arms to the sides.    
    • Imagine you are holding the entire universe in your hands. 
      • If comfortable, feel as though you are holding the most beautiful and precious baby in your hands.  
      • Breathe softly and gently.
  • Again, place your palms over your chest, one hand on top of the other. Breathe.  
  • Again, with bent elbows and palms upward, open your arms to the sides.
    • Imagine you are holding the most sacred and divine presence in your hands.
    • Breathe softly and gently.
  • Allow your hands to relax in your lap.  
    • Breathe softly and gently.
    • Pause for as long that is comfortable.

Transition back into your day – 

  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 3, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2019.

Geranium

Geranium

I was delighted with myself,

having offered everything I had;

my heart, my faith, my work.

“And who are you,” you said,

“to think you have so much to offer?

It seems you have forgotten

where you’ve come from.”

Rumi

Roots were sticking upward and dirt was strewn all over.  Given the overall condition of our planet and the increasing frequency of natural disasters, this upheaval was relatively minor.  A geranium plant was dangling over the edge of its pot.   Apparently a squirrel or bird had dug into the freshly added soil and uprooted the plant in the process.

I up-righted the geranium and gave it a little pat.   Notwithstanding my minimalist gardening attention, I have fondness for this geranium plant.  It is a model of resilience, because it has survived the appetite of the local deer that will eat even “deer-resistant” plants.

A few days later, a new blossom popped out from the geranium.  Upon seeing the cheery red color, I felt a sense of pride.  Then, I noticed the scraggly green stock, and remembered that this plant was not only a model of hardiness, but also had its own life capacity.  Perhaps it actually had needed to be repotted, i.e., it needed more room for its roots and not just new surface soil that I had added. 

The wildlife’s digging might have given the plant what it required:  a chance to be re-rooted. The dangling geranium could have easily dropped to the ground and found new life there.  My role likely was accidental. 

Such a small and ordinary life event was what I needed to reconnect with a sense of humility. Ironically, two common flower meanings for geraniums are folly and foolishness, both of which I find easy to fall into.  Our human minds seem to gravitate toward considering ourselves as the center of our life events and interactions, whether with other humans or the rest of nature.

Prophets and sage poets such as Rumi remind us to recall the source of all life – we are one of many species sustained by the invisible and ever-present grace of love.    For today, the geranium is my reminder to slow down and accept the lessons of each moment.  I hope you will join me.

Practice

This short practice supports our capacity to let go.

Prepare –

  • Stand with a hip-width stance. 
  • Shake out your right arm for approximately 30 seconds.  Then, your left arm.
  • Bend your knees and bounce gently up and down.  Your feet can be flat on the floor.

Practice –

  • Come to a seated position either in a chair or on the floor.
    • If in a chair, place the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Place the backs of your hands on your thighs.
    • Five times, curl your fingers and thumbs toward the palms. 
    • Then, allow your hands to remain open. 
      • Relax across your eyes and around your jaw.
      • Allow your shoulders and palms to soften.
      • Invite your breath to be smooth and easy.
        • Close your eyes or ease them into a soft gaze.
        • Imagine all the tension and holding on is releasing from your body and mind.
          • Invite awareness that all is recycled.  As you let go, the universe absorbs and uses all.  Like leaves dropping from the tree in the fall, the release offers nourishments and makes room for the new.

Transition back into your day –

  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem is translated by Coleman Barks.  It appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 31, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   Photo by Michael Beener.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2019.

Sweeping

Sweeping

Sometimes afraid of reunion, sometimes

of separation:  You and I, so fond of the notion

of a you and an I, should live

as though we’d never heard those pronouns.

Rumi

It is late August, and open meadows and deciduous trees are turning from green to brown.  The deer have re-appeared outside our back windows after spending the summer foraging on the slopes of a local mountain.  Their hooves make a crunching sound as they wander through the dry grasses and leaves in search of ivy and other edible plants. 

As the summer gives way to fall, I admire how artfully the wind helps the tree let go of its leafy garb.   The tree seems to rejoice as the breeze arrives.  The two seemingly dance together making a rustling sound and swaying movement.  Then, when their dance is complete there is celebration.  Like confetti, a group of leaves scatter through the air and flutter onto the ground.

Almost overnight, it seems the porch and walkways are adorned with different patterns.   No longer tethered, leaves are free to ride the currents of even smallest of wind gusts, pirouetting across the surface to form little leaf mounds on the pathway.  It is then I gather my broom and begin sweeping.   

Stroke by stroke of the broom, I lose myself in the unity of the movement and sound.   Whoosh, whoosh.  Whoosh, whoosh.  Whooooosh.   As the leaves slide in front of the broom, they are like words of the saga of existence of all beings – birth, death, inhale, exhale, receive, give, whoosh, whoosh. 

Within that saga, there is the mystery of immeasurable wholeness within the ordinary occurrences and tasks of daily living.   I am grateful to the wind, trees, and turning of the season to tune me back into the gift of sweeping.  I am also grateful for my rural ancestors modeling chores and work as an expression of reverence, and being an integral part of life.   As fall moves along, I will continue to sweep.  I hope you will join me.

Practice

This practice supports your awareness of tree wisdom.  Ideally, outside.

Prepare –

  • Turn your phone and any other devices to airplane mode.
  • Sit near a tree, or in a place where you can observe a tree. 
    • If inside, ideally have a window open so that you can hear outside sounds.
    • Say “hello” to the tree.  Thank it for doing all that it and other trees share with your breath, shelter, paper, and inspirations.
    • Resist the temptation to take a photo. 

Practice –

  • Sit with the tree. 
    • Imagine you are seeing this tree for the first time. 
    • For example,
      • Notice its size, its limbs, and maybe its roots. 
      • Notice its qualities and characteristics such as it peacefulness.
  • Close your eyes, or allow them to settle into a soft gaze. 
    • Acknowledge to yourself that you are in the space of the tree’s home.
    • Imagine that you can feel the tree’s presence.   
      • Notice any natural sounds in and around the tree, yet let that awareness float by without analyzing the source of the sound.  
      • If comfortable, sit quietly without any effort to learn or observe the tree.  Allow any awareness or insight about the tree to arise and fade.
    • Rise.  Touch the tree and say “thank you.” 
      • If inside, imagine you are touching the tree.

Transition back into your day –

  • Hold your arms around the tree, or imagine that.  Make a commitment to visit it again soon.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 40, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2019.

Hummingbird

True love gives us beauty, freshness,
solidity, freedom, and peace.
True love includes a feeling of
deep joy that we are alive.
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

As I turned the corner toward my front door, a streak of color darted before my eyes. A soft hum penetrated the air, giving me the sense that I had entered an ancient temple infused with the peaceful chanting of Om. Almost instantaneously, I felt a childlike joy in this encounter with a hummingbird.

It is not surprising that this tiny bird sparked such feelings of delight.   Hummingbirds playfully move through the air as if they are dancing with the light.   Their aerobatic agility allows them to fly in all directions at full speed. With their fast wingbeat – 50-80 beats per second – they can appear to stand still when they hover, as though suspended in time.   This mirage of timelessness is echoed in their wings’ figure-eight pattern, or the symbol of immeasurable and boundless infinity.

The sign of infinity represents eternity and balance. In more modern times, it brings timeless messages of true love and the gifts of strength, vitality, peace, and beauty. There is simultaneously a sense of the divine and the eternal grace of existence.  It is buoyant and unburdened by the heaviness of brooding over the past or tension of worry over the future.   It offers a reminder to lighten up and tune into the heart of life.

I feel that the hummingbird carries the tranquil messages of infinity, and fills us with gratitude for the sweet nectar of life. With acuity for authentic sweetness, the hummingbird eloquently slides its slender beak past the bitter exterior of plants to fully delve into the sweetness within. Its inward journey not only retrieves the nectar, but harmoniously gives back to the plant by pollinating the flower.

Sages, saints and masters such as Thich Nhat Hanh are like hummingbirds transmitting timeless wisdom and filling us with awe and hope.   It is as though they lovingly nourish us with seeds of truth.  The beauty of nature and their wise words are reliable doorways into our deepest and most sincere selves.   Over the next few weeks, I will be more attentive to the small moments of wisdom. I hope you will join me.

Practice

This practice supports the sweetness of loving abundance.  Allow at least fifteen minutes. 

  • Prepare –
    • Choose a place with there is minimal ambient noise or light. Put your digital devices out of reach and turn the volume off.
    • Sit in a comfortable position, either on a chair, or the floor. Note: This practice could also be done resting on your back. Make any adjustments you need for comfort.
      • If on a chair, rest the soles of your feet evenly on the floor.
  • Practice –
    • Slowly, shift your attention to your breath. Notice the gentle expansion in your torso on the inhalation, and the release on the exhalation.
      • Gradually lengthen your breath, keeping it smooth and even.
    • The following has three segments, each segment with three breaths.
      • Breath throughout:
        • Inhale – Say to yourself, “Every part is loving abundance.”
        • Exhale – Let the feeling of loving abundance settle into every cell.
      • The three segments with the above breath:
        • Sweep your awareness from:
          • your hips to your legs to your feet, and to the tips of your toes;
          • your shoulders, your torso, arms, and to your toes; 
          • the top of your head, your body, arms, and to your toes.
    • Gently breathing, let loving abundance seep inward,:
      • e.g., into your tissues, muscles, organs, neural and circulatory networks, respiratory system, and your bones.
        • If you find areas that feel heavy or agitated, just notice them. Imagine that you can gently reassure them that you have noticed them, yet, for now, they may just rest in loving abundance.
      • When you feel ready, invite your awareness to shift to the center of your chest, symbolically the deep and timeless core of your being.
        • Imagine that deep within you is a beautiful, vast space that stretches into infinity. It is filled with loving abundance.
        • Let your awareness delve into that sweetness, enfolding and enlivening you with the nectar of loving abundance.
          • Remain here for a few breaths.
    • Bring your palms over your heart, one hand on top of the other. Imagine as though this gesture is sealing in the vitality, peace, and joy of loving abundance.
  • Transition back into your day –
    • Sit quietly for a few minutes.
    • Perhaps set an intention to notice “loving abundance” as you move throughout your day.
      • e.g., in the water flowing from a facet; the food that you prepare and eat; your friends and family; your home and belongs; the air you breath; and, all of nature.
      • You live in the midst of living abundance. You are loving abundance.
    • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 64, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash.

HEARTH is posted each new and full moon and written by Kate Vogt. To learn more about Kate Vogt and her “Living Wisdom . . . every day,” please visit katevogt.com.  KateVogt©2019

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