Oranges & the gift of roundness

Oranges & the gift of roundness

I cannot lose anything in this
place of abundance
I found.

If something my heart cherishes
is taken away,
I just say, “Lord, what
happened?”
And a hundred more
appear.  

St. Catherine of Siena
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

A few weeks ago, oranges began to mysteriously appear outside our home.  Every morning there would be a couple nestled along the curb, with no obvious clues how they got there.  Their color was bright and shape was still perfectly round.  Yet, they were a bit soft to touch.

Since there is a lot of vegetation around where we live, I assumed there was an orange tree nearby and simply started doing what I do with fallen leaves – pick them up and put them in the compost bins.   But, in the same way that I do with the leaves, I found myself considering the lifecycle and qualities of these oranges and the similarities to my humanness.  

I am particularly drawn to their roundness.   They’ve made me much more aware of the spherical foundation of life.  Not only is our planet earth an orb within space but most of nature, including our own bodies, are formed by arcs, curves, columns, and spheres.   Delight is often stimulated by the sun and the moon, as well as the glow from candles, stars, and our eyes.   That joyfulness offers a sense of rich fullness and satiation.  

Personally, I feel that humanity could use more connection with our innate roundness.  The obvious arena is getting back to holding one another, taking our arms around each other for hugs, and being in circles of our friends.  But, equally pressing is turning around and holding all those that support us – from unseen essential workers, the trees and other entities that form the fundamental underpinnings of our lives.  Roundness is wholeness holding all equally, with love and infinite generosity.  

Geometrically, all forms begin with a dot.  We need to bring back old-fashioned analog clocks with a dot at the center to remind us of the interconnectedness of all living things, but also the necessity of a core.  The beauty of flowers radiates from a central point, and the delicious sweetness of fruit from their inner core.   Of course, there is the fiery heart of the earth upon which we live, and the all-important dot at the end of each sentence reminding us that after the bustle there is stillness.  Sadly, in our being enamored with our digital inventions, we becoming untethered from our core.  

Perhaps, like the orange, our roundness is both our nature and our fate.  Every aspect of our life – thoughts, ideas, actions, behaviors, words – has a rounded ripple effect outward, far beyond the boundaries of our body and community.    Recognizing, reclaiming and respecting the inherent roundness of life is a key to reshaping systems and values for collective well-being.  Yet, maybe it is a key to our folly.   The oranges were from a tree far up the hill from where we live.  Once they fell, they rolled with such momentum that they passed several homes, rounded a corner, and continued to travel along our relatively flat street, only to meet their demise in the compost bin.  

For now, I appreciate the oranges and how they have continued to show up each morning.  I know that there are many more lessons to be learned from this now-common fruit.  Over the ages and around the world, oranges have symbolized good luck, prosperity, love, endurance, abundance, beauty, happiness, longevity, and divine energy.  I hope you will join me in endeavoring to embrace these more unifying messages from the orange. 

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of wholeness.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position. 
    • If seated on a chair or bench, place the soles of both feet on the floor. 
  • Lightly rest your palms downward on your thighs.
  • Notice the surface beneath you – for example, your chair, bench, or cushion – and the support that it offers.  Then, gently shift your awareness to the floor, if you are inside, and its support.   Lastly, shift your awareness to the earth – the soil, the microbes, the layers of rock, and even the very firey core of the earth.
    • Invite a sense of being supported by this planet, which supports and has supported all earthly life over a large span of time.
    • Allow your breath to be easeful and comfortable without forcing.
      • After several breaths, continue to the next steps.

Practice – 

  • Seated or standing.
  • Support your awareness of water:
    • Sway or rock gently from side to side, acknowledging the gift of fluidity with in the rivers and streams as well as within our bodily fluids and tissues. 
  • Support your awareness of light:
    • Stretch your hands toward sky in a v-position.
      • As you reach your hands upward, become aware of the sun and the light and heat it offers life.
      • Touch your fingertips to your eyelids with awareness of how light supports your sight. 
        • Thank your eyes for all that they do for you and the gift of seeing shapes and forms.
  • Support your awareness of air:
    • Lightly touch the top of your head, your face, arms, legs, and torso.
      • As you touch different parts of your body, become aware of the gift of touch and all the ways it supports your life.
    • Gently touch your nose.
      • As you touch your nose, become aware of the gift of your breath as a constant companion in your life.  
  • Support your awareness of space:
    • Lightly lightly cup your hands over your ears, appreciating the gift of hearing and sounds. 
    • If standing, slowly walk for a few steps with appreciation for the gift of space supporting your ability to move and navigate from place to place in the world.
  • Support your awareness of the core:
    • Place your hands over your heart – one on top of the other – acknowledging your innermost heart always holding all equally with love. 

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    


This  verse appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 87, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Lulucmy.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021. 


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Plum Blossoms & Contentment

Plum Blossoms & Contentment

That one is blessed and at peace
Who doesn’t hope, to whom
Desire makes no more loans.

Nothing coming, nothing owned.

Lalla  
Trans. by Coleman Barks

As I peered out the front door, I noticed that the front steps were covered with delicate blossoms.  It seemed nature had given voice to the wind by leaving these sweet floral traces wherever a breeze had been.

The blossoms appeared as perfect as they had the day before when they were still clustered on the plum tree branches.  Each rested unscathed facing skyward with ample room to spread out.  Every floret was as beautiful as the next.

These blossoms needed no audience.  In their simple grandeur, they had their own role in the broader life story.  When the sun came, they opened and allowed the light to shine through their translucent petals.  When the wind came, they let go and danced in the air until softly landing in their new spot.  Then, they will wilt away taking their memories with them. 

Like the great prophets and poets, the blossoms offered reminders that contentment is at the heart of each moment.  They model the capacity to stay anchored in inner peacefulness while living within the whirls of the world.   I hope that I might learn from the grace and lightness of these blossoms, and let go of what was, or what is yet to be.  Perhaps you will join me. 

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of balance.

Prepare – 

  • Standing.
  • Lift one foot and rotate it in small circles.   Then, place that foot down and lift and rotate your other foot around.  Place that foot down.
  • Lift and lower and your heels a few times.

Practice – 

  • Walk at a slow even pace for twelve to fifteen steps.
  • Enjoy the fullness within each step.
  • Notice the sensations as one foot and leg move forward.  For example:
    • Notice the muscles involved, e.g., the thigh muscles, and how they respond as: the leg lifts; the foot comes down; and, the foot stabilizes in preparation for your other leg and foot to come forward. 
    • Notice as the heel of your foot comes down and then as the rest of your foot rolls forward until you have enough stability on that foot to allow your other leg and foot to come forward.
  • Notice how the rest of your body shifts as you walk. 
  • Optional:
    • Sync your movements with your breath.  For example, one breath for each side:  inhaling lifting your right foot and leg; and, exhaling placing, rolling and stabilizing your right foot.  Then, repeat with the left leg and foot. 
    • Add a saying as you walk, such as, “I am loving the earth with my feet as I walk.”

Transition back into your day – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position and sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

The verse  appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 30, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by T. Hirai.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021. 



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Golden Light

Golden Light

If God
invited you to a party and
said,

“Everyone in the ballroom tonight will
be my special

how would you then treat them when you arrived?

Indeed, indeed!

And Hafiz knows that there is no one in
this world who is not standing upon

His jeweled dance
floor.

Hafiz

The trunk glistened on what was otherwise a modest redwood tree.  Some of its branches were filled with greenery reaching upward and others were bare, slopping downward.  Its bark was a little greyer than some of its neighbors, but on this morning, it glowed with a golden radiance.  It seemed to be joyfully returning the kiss of the dawn’s light.

As the sun rose, the tree blended into the background.  The early morning rays caressed every hilltop, street, and roof.  A few crows and smaller birds glided through the sky.  Slowly, shapes and forms appeared in greater and greater detail.  It seemed as though the first kiss of light had given birth to another day of activity.  Light with radiant reciprocity pulsed through every leaf, flower, and grain of sand.  

Life is spun of this constant grace of light.  Not only does solar energy sustain all earthly forms, but a nameless luminosity shines within, bringing light to all existence.  The redwood and other species in nature steadily grow, reflecting and absorbing the light.  In the fall season, countless deciduous trees echo the golden yellows, oranges and reds of the rising and setting sun.  Their colorful leaves are released from the tree, and fall to the ground to create a carpet for new growth.

Glistening objects are everywhere in nature – mica, gemstones, silken furs – yet the bland and unnoticeable are equally living expressions of light.  There are battles and contests for survival, but the light remains an equitable presence, untouched by time and space.  Light holds the heart of existence.

Within different traditions, the closing of the calendar year has a celebration of light.  Whether it is the flame of a candle or a string of sparkling lights, it is a call to luminously receive the ever-present kiss of illumination.  Still, it is a challenge for us as humans not to chase after and try to own the golden object.  It is also a challenge for us to accept that we are neither superior or inferior, and to realize that we are beings of light. In the light, we can fully see and compassionately heal our individual and collective fears, grief, and expectations.  

As the poet Hafiz reminds us, we are all guests on this “jeweled dance floor.”   May this season of light inspire all of us to ponder how we can be like the redwood tree, humbly returning the kiss of the light within every thought, gesture, and word.  

 Practice  
This short practice invites awareness of light.   

Prepare – 

  • Sit in a quiet place.  Turn your device to airplane and/or silence to minimize the disruptions for the next few minutes.    
  • Look around wherever you are.  
    • Notice any plants or items that are made of plant material, e.g., wooden floor, fabric, baskets.  Acknowledge the life process of that plant or plant item, especially the significance of solar light to its growth.
    • Notice any candles or electrical lights.  Acknowledge the light that they offer.  Perhaps also acknowledge the source of the energy allowing them to be a source of light.
  • With your eyelids closed, rest your eyes in your palms.  
    • Invite an easeful, gentle breath.  Relax around your jaw and temples.  
  • Remove your hands.  Slowly move your eyes left to right, up and down, and diagonally from one upper corner to the opposite lower corner.  Acknowledge the gift of sight and its relationship to earthly light.

Practice – 

  • Hold your hands palms upward in front of your chest.  Relax through the center of your palms, between the fingers, and along your wrists and fingertips.  
    • Imagine they are holding a golden luminous presence. 
    • Smile and imagine this radiance is filling your entire being.
  • Place one hand over the center of your chest – your heart center – and then place your other hand on top.  
    • Allow your eyes to rest in a gentle gaze, or be softly closed.
    • Feel the touch and weight of your hands on your chest.  
      • Invite a sense of being comforted and held by the most loving, generous, compassionate, caring and selfless being.  
      • Smile as you welcome this loving presence into every pore of your mind and body.  
      • Stay here for several moments, allowing your breath to become smooth and easeful. 
  • Lift your fingertips to your eyelids, then your ears, nose and mouth.  Pause for a breath or two at each of your sensory organs.  
  • Place your hands on the opposite upper arm.  Invite a smooth easeful breath as your arms are crossed across your chest.
  • Then, sequentially rest your hands for a moment on your thighs, lower belly, navel area, heart, throat, and crown of your head.   
  • Return your hands over your heart and pause.
    • Quietly say to yourself, “I release sarcasm, rudeness, pride-fulness, clinging, delusion, and greed.”  “I invite in clarity, trust, receptivity, justice, discernment, responsibility, decency, courage, equanimity, love, compassion, and light.”
    • Then touch your fingertips to your forehead, lips, and heart as if to seal in your prayerful message to yourself.  May all your thoughts, attitudes, and words be energized with this awareness.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Find a place where you can sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

The poem is translated by Daniel Ladinsky and appears on page 40 in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, 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. 

Fall Morning

Fall Morning

It is there
that our hearts are set,  

In the expanse
of the heavens.   

Pawnee Wisdom

Outside the open bedroom window, the sound of birds escorting another day into being.  Even before the had light arrived, new sounds accompanied the melodic chirps and warbles.  There were the familiar signals that it was a Tuesday, with the clanking of the lids of the trash bins as the garbage workers made their way up the street.  For a short while, there was the scratching sound of a metal rake against cement as a neighbor tended to the weekly sidewalk grooming.

In spite of the newness of the day seeping through the window, the walls of our apartment were still infused with the pre-dawn silence.   Being as noiseless as possible, I dressed and made my way out the front door for a daily offering of seeds for the birds.   As I closed the door, a squirrel scurried up a nearby oak tree and paused motionless on a lower branch, silently gazing in my direction.  

Just as sunlight began to make its way through the tree’s branches, the squirrel scampered onward, causing a mini shower of leaves and acorns in its wake.   It became still.  The raking and clanking had long since stopped and the birds had quieted.  Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there would have been a constant stream of sounds, such as the chatter of children making their way to school.  Now, there was only the noiseless presence of the light and the oak.

A spider web glistened as the sun’s rays made it into the higher branches of the tree.  The anchoring strands reached unimaginable distances from one another.   At the center of roundish spirals was the weaver of this shimmering masterpiece.  The spider had a plump body with its two lobes forming the shape of a figure eight, or the sign of infinity.  There was such symmetry in the evenly spaced protrusions from the body that I assume it had all eight of its legs, allowing it to freely navigate across its web.  

As the sun’s rays shifted, the spider and its web disappeared, perfectly camouflaged within the lattice of the tree’s branches.  Even though no longer visible, the web surely remained, not only as a home for the spider but also as a net to entangle some unsuspecting insect.  

I continue to marvel at the timeless wisdom woven into everyday occurrences in the natural world.  Just within a few moments on a fall morning, there had been lessons of infinite potentiality, stillness, interconnectedness, patience, and resilience.  There had been reminders of the steady, peaceful essence cloaked by the ever-changing earthly cycles of day to night, and of season to season.  There had been the sense of belonging to a larger whole, within which there is ample room for the diverse expressions of existence.  

If a bird can sing and a spider can spin silvery threads into intricate webs, then surely contemporary humanity can rediscover our gift to appreciate, respect and care for one another, and for all life.   I will try to arise each morning with this reminder, and hope you will join me.

Practice 
This short practice invites appreciation of wholeness.

Prepare – 

  • Standing.
    • Slowly and gently, shake out your right leg for about a minute.  Then, your left leg, followed by each of your arms.  As you shake, imagine you’re are releasing and letting go of tendencies toward jealousy, resentment, selfishness, anger, and overconsuming in all aspects of your life, e.g., food, ideas
    • Quietly walk in a clockwise circle, as small or large as you like.  Then, stand in the circle’s center.  Turn toward the east and pause.  If you don’t know where to face, just choose to face in one direction.

Practice – 

  • With an inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and overhead.  Pause for a breath with your arms overhead as though greeting the expanse of the heavens.
    • If you have shoulder impingements, please adjust this movement to your comfort level.
  • On your next exhale, bring your arms to your sides with your palms facing inward toward your body.  Pause for a breath as though acknowledging the stability of the earth.
  • Repeat the following four times:
    • On your next inhalation, stretch your arms out in front of you, palms upward.  Pause for a breath in appreciation of all that life in that direction to the furthest distance.  
    • On an exhalation, bring your palms together over your heart center.  Pause for a breath in gratitude for all the nourishes you from that direction.
    • Take a quarter turn to your right.  On your last turn, you will be facing your initial position.   
  • Pause.  Acknowledge the full cycle of breath, i.e., each exhalation seamlessly arising as the inhalation ends, and v.v.  Take several breaths with this awareness.
  • Come to a seated position.  Allow your hands to rest in your lap or on your legs.  Become aware of your surroundings in all directions.  Imagine that all those directions are come together at the core of your being.  Simply breathe in, and out.   

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly.  
  • Bring your palms together in front of your heart center, and “thank you.”
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

The verse is translated by Frances Densmore and appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 5, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by S. Lukka. H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020. 

WIND OF LIFE

WIND OF LIFE

The great sea has set me in motion,
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.

The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy.

Uvavnuk
Netsilik Inuit

Wind everywhere.  Smoke rode the invisible currents across the land to the east.  Gales spiraled across the waters to the south, making their way toward landfall and then to the north and east.  Across the airwaves, voices rose with blame. 

Within hospitals around the world, ventilators sustained the wind of life and loved ones prayed for revival.  On the streets, this wind was, and continues to be, extinguished in humans with black bodies, sending rippling reminders of the heaps of humans and other species extinguished for the triumph of progress.  Where wind was lost, it gave birth to a surge of its expression in a storm of appeal for change. 

Ever-present, wind touches all of life.  We know it mostly by the manifestations of its presence. As a child, I would notice it in the movement of our windmill’s blades.  Or, on the days when it would cause my short hair to stand straight out from the sides of my head.  Having grown up on the flat expanse of the Great Plains, I still hear stories about the wind, such as the time my brother had run out of gas and opened both doors of his pick-up for the gusts of winds to push him along on the road home.  

Throughout the world, wind is found in the gracefully swaying of reeds or leaves, a sweet fragrance wafting through an open window, and the dispersing of pollen or seeds for new growth.  It carries away bad odors, and luckily for those of us near the recent fires in California, it clears away smoky air.   Our breath is considered a wind, resonating in musical instruments, song, poetry, and all our day-to-day vocalizations.  

The wind communicates in a larger-than-life language, yet its tenderness is visible in dragonflies and butterflies gliding across the sky.  In indigenous traditions, the wind is the soul of the divine spirit sweeping through all of nature.  Invisible, the wind is a constant messenger to attend to all life with reverence and respect, until at last we come to know the truth of the wind.   As I read the poem of the Netsilik Inuit woman Uvavnuk, I am inspired to listen more closely to the messages of the wind.  I hope you will join me.


Practice
 
This short practice invites appreciation of voice. 

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.  
    • If you are seating on a chair or bench, place the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Open your mouth wide as possible, not worrying about scrunching up your face.  Relax your facial muscles.  Repeat again if you wish.
  • Smile, even if it feels fake.  Then, pout with your lower lip extended.  Smile again.
  • Take a few easy breaths.  On your exhalations, gently sigh.

Practice – 

  • Still seated, take a deep inhalation.  Exhale completely, and with your breath out, try saying the sound “aaah.”  
    • Note:  if you completely exhaled, no sound will come out.  We need a residual of air in the lungs to make audible sounds.  
  • Breathe in again.  
    • At the end of your inhalation, open your mouth and sing the sound of “aaah.”  Imagine as though this sound is rising up from your lower belly, i.e., not just from your throat.  Sustain the “aaah” sound as long as comfortable without straining.
    • At the end of your inhalation, open your mouth and sing the sound of “eeeee.”  Allow your mouth to form the shape of a smile as you make this sound, again letting it arise from the torso and not just the throat.  Sustain the “eeeee” sound as long as comfortable without straining.
    • Repeat two more times, alternating between the “aaah” and “eeeee” sounds.
  • Read Uvavnuk’s poem quietly aloud, inviting a pause as though listening for the wind at the end of each line.  Imagine as though you are caressing her words with your voice.  
    • Note:  if you have a favorite verse, you may choose to read that instead.
  • Pause.  Notice the space around you and inside of you.  Say “thank you.”

Transition back into your day – 

  • With your eyes in a quiet gaze or closed, sit quietly, simply observing the passing thoughts being carried by the winds of the mind.  Then, notice the wind of the breath, and allow your awareness to be bathed in the flow of the breath.  
  • Stay as long as you are comfortable.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    


This poem is translated by Stephen Mitchell and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Scared Poems, page 70, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by Jamie Street.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020. 

Begonia – opening to gratitude

Begonia – opening to gratitude

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind I was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along. 

Rumi

Here in the northern hemisphere there are signs of the upcoming fall season, especially in colors across the hillsides. The squirrels have been more visible as they scurry along near bare branches.  Neighborhood hydrangeas are fading and persimmons, grapes, and pomegranates are finishing their final ripening.    

In the midst of the seasonal waning, a begonia plant on our back deck just sprouted an array of new leaves. Two weeks ago, it had nearly disappeared after deer had made a nighttime meal out of its foliage and stems. As if to protect the begonia from another foraging, a larger nearby plant had extended its canopy over the begonia’s new growth.  

Imagine if several hundred years ago, colonization would have taken a very different path, allowing indigenous cultures to flourish unimpeded.  Humans would have sustained an understanding of being part of, rather than superior to, nature.  Plants, which make up nearly eighty percent of the earth’s biomass, might be viewed in the way they are in some ancient languages, as “those who take care of us.”  

We might have recognized that within this earth school, plants are continually modeling their exquisite abilities to: adapt; peacefully care for and protect one another; let go; and, offer beauty, nourishment and support to the world.  Particularly in their natural habitat, they harmoniously thrive in a dynamic and sophisticated community where understory plants, such as begonias, are as significant as the overstory. 

While we are in the midst of multiple pandemics – health, social, climate, and economic – it can be challenging to be hopeful.  Some of us have lost loved ones, others have lost homes, and others livelihoods.  Still, the begonia on our back deck models a spirit of resilience, and its neighboring plant one of loving attentiveness.  It inspires a deeper sense of gratitude for the grace of life.  And, it causes me to ponder Rumi’s reminder that all is within all.  Perhaps it is not an accident that this particular begonia is called an “angel wing.” 

Practice 
This short practice invites some inner ease. 

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.  
    • If you are seating on a chair or bench, place the souls of your feet on the floor.
  • Gently and slowly roll your shoulders around in each direction.
  • Place your palms on your thighs and lean forward slightly.
    • Three times, open your mouth wide and hiss like a cat.  
    • Then, turn your nose up toward the sky and sniff the air like a dog, turning your head from side to side 3-4 times.
  • Give yourself a hug, each hand wrapped around the opposite upper arm.  Accept being held – albeit by yourself. 
    • If comfortable for your shoulders, shrug your shoulders forward as you are hugging yourself.  Feel the stretch and openness across the center of your back. 
  • Take a few deep breaths.  Smile.

Practice – 

  • Standing, bring your arms alongside your body. 
  • Rotate your wrists in both directions. 
  • Relax through your hands, arms still along the sides of your body.
  • As though you were a bird, arc your arm slowly up from your sides to alongside your ears.  And, then, lower them back down. (If you have shoulder issues, please adjust as needed.)
    • Playfully and lightheartedly walk around the room, loosely flapping your arms as though you were flying. 
    • Continue for about a dozen times.
  • Standing in one position, rhythmically sway from side to side. 
  • Pat yourself on the back and then give yourself another hug.  Smile.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Come to a seated position.  Allow  your breath to return to a  smooth and easy pace.
  • Stay as long as you are comfortable.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    


This poem is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 42, 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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