LAMB’S EAR – gentle presence

LAMB’S EAR – gentle presence

Touched by all that love is
I draw closer toward you
Saddened by all that love is
I run from you.
Surprised by all that love is
I remain alert in stillness.

František Halas

 

There, in the dirt, was an empty hole.  Just the day before, there had been a thriving plant commonly called lamb’s ear.  I looked at the hole, feeling sadness.  Across the continent and an there are holes that once were homes, places of worship and schools, not to mention the accompanying absence of humans, animals, and even plants.

I was grateful for my attachment to this lamb’s ear.  Its disappearance gave me a way to just pause and honor the underlying grief around the small and big losses of the world.  The plant had been a daily reminder to be gentle and kind.  The presence of this plant reminded me that gentleness, kindness and generosity thrive in the midst of the more visible malice and disregard.

The furry leaves of the lamb’s ear always seemed like an invitation to bend down and greet them as I passed by.  My greeting was merely touching the soft and velvety leaves.  But, within that touch, I felt living gentleness and peacefulness.  This brought the reminder of a quote that I had heard long ago by Robin Wall Kimmerer that in some Native languages, the term for plants translates as “those who take care of us.”

The caring is most often that which is visible and recordable.  Hummingbirds, bees and other insects regularly visited this lamb’s ear for nourishment.   With antiseptic and other recorded medicinal capabilities, the caring could have extended to a temporary wrap over a wound, or a soothing cup of tea.  For the animal – likely a gopher given the dirt mound next to the hole – the caring was a full meal.

I feel the lamb’s ear had taken care of the inner me.  To reach toward the plant was a gesture of humility – I needed to bow down and let go of my acculturated human ideas of superiority and separateness from other beings.  Within the tactile connection there was the grace of loving joy upholding the preciousness aliveness of all life, regardless of label, shape, hue, texture, or sound.

The daily touch of the lamb’s ear gave me innumerable gifts.  Most importantly, it was the gift of a sense of the power of living with gentle presence.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of gentleness. 

Prepare— 

  • Standing or seated, with your thumb slowly and lightly massage the base of your fingers, and then the palm, of your other hand.   Then, with both hands – and again lightly – make small squeezes up the opposite arm simultaneously.  Starting with your wrists, move upward over your forearms, elbow, upper arms, shoulders, and upper part of your torso.
  • Give yourself a couple hugs – changing the cross of your arms (i.e., left arm on top for one and right for the other).  If you wear glasses, please remove them for this next movement.
  • Lightly massage the back of your neck, your ears, and scalp.  Then, lightly move your palms across your face as though you are washing it.
  • If comfortable, stroke your torso, your arms one more time, and your legs.  When you are done, feel free to stretch, yawn, or moving in any way you feel inclined.

Practice— 

  • If standing, please find a comfortable seated position.  Invite an awareness of the parts of your body touching the surface beneath you – e.g., chair, bench, cushion, floor, earth.  In your mind’s eye, freely scan the entire area where your body and the surface beneath you are touching – without judgment, just noticing the sensation of sitting.
  • Lightly rest your fingertips and palms on the surface beneath you.
    • Invite an awareness of all earthly life being supported by our collective planet, whether sitting, walking, resting, slithering, crawling, swimming, or alighting.
  • Stretch your arms out to your sides. (Note:  please adjust as needed, being attentive to the current capacity of your shoulders.)
    • Invite an awareness of touching the air and space around you.
    • Breathe in deeply, and imagine you are reaching out from the center of your back through your fingertips.
    • On exhale, lower your arms and allow your hands to rest wherever they are comfortable.  Invite awareness of all earthly life – including you – similarly being held and nourished by air and space.
  • Place one palm and then the other over the center of your upper torso in the area called the heart-center.  Bow your head slightly.
    • Invite an awareness of the touch of your hands on your torso.  You might softly add a light pressure of your palms with a sense of loving reassurance that deep within there is steady, loving support wishing you safety, health, ease, and peace.  If comfortable, invite awareness of this unseen support gently caring for all earthly life – including you.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Place your hands wherever they are comfortable.  And then, sit quietly for as long as you wish.
  • When you feel complete, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 73, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

PRE-DAWN ~ loving transition

PRE-DAWN ~ loving transition

Night is passing,
sun comes by dawn,
Awaken now, beauty’s essence,
heart of love.

Hakim Omar Khayyám
Translated by Nahid Angha, PhD

 

Most mornings I awaken into the near soundlessness of pre-dawn.  It feels like a generous pause, magically tucked between night and day.  There may be an occasional sound of leaves being rustled by the wind, but otherwise it is silent.  The nighttime calls of the local coyotes and owls have faded and left a silent opening to the first sounds of the day.

This sense of a quiet interlude seems to be echoed in the deep blue expansiveness of the sky.  Starlight has dimmed, and the starry constellations have lost their discernibility.  One or more planets might still glisten, but otherwise there is just a calm yielding of one phase of the daily cycle to the next.

Within this gentle transition, I often feel the presence of the surrounding hillsides and canyons.  It is as though they are stirring and slowly readying themselves to be the story-keepers of the activity of another day.  As part of the skin of the earth, they support and hold the long story of transitory earthly life – human and non-human.  Their presence feels like a loving welcome and embrace for all beings who have witnessed their morning awakening.

Each pre-dawn offers me a humble reminder to slow down and prayerfully notice the ever-present grace of life’s transitions.  In walking, there is a transition from one foot to the other.  Between receiving and letting go of the breath, there are transitions.  In conversations, there are transitions.  Every blink of an eye is a transition.  The coming and goings of the waves, seasons, and lifetimes are transitions.  With tomorrow’s pre-dawn, I will begin anew.  Please join me.

Practice
This practice invites you to slow down and notice transitions.

Prepare—

  • Remove any potential distractions—for example, take off your watch, and put your phone on airplane mode.
  • Find a comfortable seated position. Invite your facial muscles, neck, and shoulders to relax.  If you are in a chair or on a bench, comfortably rest both feet on the floor.

Practice—

  • Calm your primary senses:
    • Eyes—Close your eyes. Gently and lightly rest the pads of your index fingers on your eyelids. Let your ring, middle, and little finger pads rest on your cheeks. Pause here with a few easy breaths. Invite your eyes to relax away from the lids, i.e., let them take a break from their almost constant use during the daytime.
    • Ears—While keeping your index fingers on your eyes, add an additional relaxation away from outer stimuli. Do this by closing off sounds by lightly pressing your thumbs on your front ear flaps.
  • With your fingers still in place over your eyes and ears, breathe up to seven (7) even, smooth breaths. Stay within your comfort level.
    • If comfortable, invite an effortless awareness of the transitions between each inhalation and exhalation.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Release your hands into your lap. Your eyes may be closed or in a soft gaze.
  • Sit quietly for 3 minutes or longer. Silently set an intention to prayerful notice and offer gratitude to small transitions throughout the day, e.g., when you are walking.  Seal that intention in by giving yourself a hug with appreciation that you will do the best you can and generously accept your own efforts no matter what they are.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 9, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The practice is an edited excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt, page 311.  The photo is by Brad Mann.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

Trees – living essence

Trees – living essence

There’s a tree that existed before the woods,
in age twice as old.
Its roots suffered as the valley changed,
its leaves deformed by wind and frost.
People all laugh at its withered aspect,
caring nothing about the core’s beauty.
When the bark is all stripped off,
only essence remains.

Hanshan
Trans. by Tony Barnstone

 

This morning I was introduced to Lillie.  While the name might sound like a new app or clothing line, Lillie is something more rare—she is a lithe, 101-year old woman.  A tiny fraction of one percent of the world population is centenarian.  The wrinkled face and hands give a hint of a century of living, but like most her age, she doesn’t dwell on the hardships of epidemics and wars, or unrealized aspirations.

In tree years, Lillie would be a sapling among some species.  For example, a spruce in Sweden is recorded to have lived about 9,550 years.  Even as sapling, Lillie’s demeanor and attitude reflect the generosity of trees.   She loves caring for her daughter and son-in-law, not because they house her, but because she has a tree-like nature. There is a continual offering of strength, stillness, protection, nourishment, stability, refuge, receptivity, giving, and serenity.

Trees have long served as symbols of lasting wisdom.  Most world cultures have tales of sacred trees. For example, in the ficus family: the pipal or bodhi (F. religiosa) repre- sents happiness, longevity, and prosperity; the banyan (F. bengalensis), eternal life; and the sycamore (F. sycomorus), infinite connectivity between life and death.  There are references to trees of life, knowledge, and perfection. And, there are promises that whoever knows the tree will be the knower of all truth. Their verticality is a reminder of our own rootedness in the earth, upright trunk and crown reaching toward the heavens.

As I read this poem by Hanshan, a 9th century poet- hermit, I felt as though I was near an ancient elder.  Hanshan reaches across time and gathers together universal stories of our shared roots and lasting, spiritual nature. His imagery of a valley is symbolic of life itself as fertile and transitory.  And, of the tree itself, it conveys a timeless essence, full of beauty and free of all rivalry and to amass more than is needed.  I feel as though if I look carefully, I can find this or a similarly seasoned tree nearby.  When I do, I will sit near its roots and simply listen.

 

 

Practice 
This practice supports awareness of living essence in all realms. 

 Prepare— 

  • Standing, gently shake out your arms, wrists and hands.
  • Still standing, close your eyes (if comfortable).  In your mind’s eye, imagine being able to see beyond the immediate space where you are to the surrounding landscape in all directions.  For example, there may be hills on the distant horizon in one direction, and vast open grasslands in every other direction.  Imagine that landscape within your heart.  Pause for a moment and seal in the memory of that landscape before opening your eyes.

Practice— 

  • Then, settle into a comfortable seated position.  If you are on a chair or bench, allow the soles of your feet to rest on the floor.
  • Imagine you are a tree, and the earth is receiving your roots.  Your roots are nourished by the water, the soil, and all the micro-nutrients.  Feel your roots deepening and growing in all directions.
  • Momentarily recall that wherever you are on the planet you are part of the full story of the Earth along with countless other living beings.  Invite an appreciation of the Earth lovingly offering courage and strength to you through your roots.
  • With continued awareness of the embrace of the soil, close your eyes (if comfortable) and return to the sense of the landscape abiding within your heart.  Notice the spaciousness of the landscape.  Pause for a moment, bathing in a sense of inner and outer spaciousness.  Open your eyes, if they were closed.
  • Shift your awareness back to the part of your touching and rooting into the Earth.  Become aware of the part of you rising up from the surface of the soil, e.g., the trunk of your body.   Imagine within the landscape surrounding you there is a forest of trees – all with firm, steady trunks.  Appreciate all life nourished by the Earth and the spaciousness.  Pause here and breathe with that awareness.
  • Slowly become aware of the crown of your head, and the spaciousness not only in all horizontal directions but infinitely stretching above you.  Imagine you have invisible limbs reaching into this upper spaciousness and receiving the warmth and light of the sun.  Pause here and breathe with that awareness of being rooted, growing upward, and spreading in all directions.
  • Once again, close your eyes and remember the landscape in your heart – all beings including you abide there in the expanse of life.  Appreciate that you are the body of the whole, you are wholeness.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for several minutes.  Rest the backs of your hands rest on your thighs, palms upward.
  • When you feel complete, return to your day.

 

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 111, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The reflection is an excerpt from “Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 38-40. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

VINES – voices of interconnectivity

VINES – voices of interconnectivity

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
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

On first glimpse, the weather seems normal in our neighborhood.  There are the usual patterns of morning and evening fog cover.  The deciduous trees have large, green crowns and the midday sky is a clear blue.  Yet a closer look shows troubling signs of drought, such as shallow water in the creeks and an earlier than usual appearance of deer and other wildlife searching for food at lower elevations.

I am not sure if it is merely my imagination, but it seems that with the drought, one plant form seems more prolific than ever.  In recent weeks, I’ve been noticing more and more vines.  They are creeping across sidewalks and stairs, wrapping trunks of trees, and enveloping gateways and fences.

Regardless of the type of vine, each has masterfully found a way to grow and flourish wherever it was planted.  They move beautifully by fluidly meandering and creatively spiraling around whatever is nearby.  Some of them adorn themselves with magnificent blossoms, and others produce clusters of fruit.

It is no wonder that vines have long been considered as wise models of endurance, steadfastness, and immortality.  Vines are featured in the mythology of the Mayans, Aztecs and other early peoples of what is now called the Americas for their transcendent qualities and medicinal values.  Ancient Celts recognized the grapevine as being a voice of interconnectivity and representing the eternal life of all things in the universe.  Ivy was lauded by early Egyptians for its everlasting soul, and later by Greeks and Romans for unwavering vigor and abundance.

In their robustness, vines resourcefully thrive.  Once they make a connection with something, they cling and rarely let go.  Yet sometimes they are overly attached, and suffocate other plants or cause fissures in foundations and structures. Their vitality is singular in an inherent drive for survival, but successful in intact environments where they can continually bond and develop.

Hence, for me, vines are a living reminder that true wellbeing is the wellbeing of the whole and all the parts.  They remind me of the delicate, relational interdependence of all living beings.  A vine that overtakes too much loses the others on whom it has survived, and thus dies and is left as a dry twig.  Perhaps, by paying attention to vines, I’ll be a little more aware of the grace of life and notice the ways I overreach and otherwise block its flow in everyday living.  I hope you will join me.

 

Practice
This practice brings awareness of the interconnection between breath and subtle actions.   

Prepare—

  • Seated or standing.
  • Simply notice your breath. Perhaps, notice the movements associated with your breath, e.g.,  in your ribs, shoulders, belly, and back.   Or, notice the rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale.  Just noticing with no need to change anything.
  • Now, intentionally, invite a sense of ease in your breath, i.e., breathing with as little effort as possible.

Practice—

  • Between each of the following practices, take a moment to stretch out your hands. Then, shake out your arms and smile.  Within each practice, notice what happens to your breath, e.g., notice if it still feels easeful and effortless.   (Note: If you are feeling tension in your breath, please pause for a few moments before continuing.)
    • Scrunch up your face tightly. Notice your breath.
    • Glare, as though looking at your phone or a screen. Notice your breath.
    • Frown, as though concentrating deeply. Notice your breath.
    • Slump your shoulders and let your head hang forward. Notice your breath.
    • Make tight fists and squeeze all the muscles in your arms. Notice your breath.
    • Observe something beautiful around you, such as a flower. Notice your breath.
    • If you have a view of nature, rest your eyes on a tree or another part of nature. Notice your breath.
    • Smile, as though smiling from your heart. Notice your breath.
    • Touch your fingers lightly to your lips, kiss your fingers, and then release the kiss into the air by moving your hands outward and upward toward the sky. Notice your breath.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Take a few moments to sit quietly with your eyes closed or open (in a soft gaze). Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap.
  • As you are ready, transition back into your day.

 

 

This poem appears in Mala of Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 40, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The practice is an excerpt from “Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 273-274.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

OAKS – mighty beings

OAKS – mighty beings

There’s a tree that existed before the woods,
in age twice as old.
Its roots suffered as the valley changed,
its leaves deformed by wind and frost.
People all laugh at its withered aspect,
caring nothing about the core’s beauty.
When the bark is all stripped off,
only essence remains.

Hanshan
Trans. by Tony Barnstone

 

Rustle. Rustle. Rustle.  I turned around expecting to see another walker on the path, but there was no one there.  No person. No squirrel.  No sign of a moving being.  Perhaps I had imagined the sound of movement behind me.  The long shadows likely had amplified my awareness of being on a quiet, and somewhat remote, pathway late in the day.

There was a warmth in the air and few rays of sunshine lit the path ahead.  Spiderwebs glistened in the light, offering a quiet reminder of the life around me.  A light breeze moved the webs in rhythmic waves revealing silvery threads stretching from the circular masterpiece to a vast network of thick, curved branches.

Oak trees lined the pathway.  Their crowns intertwined forming a lacy, green archway overhead.  Faint traces of light blue showed through the openings, reminding me of the expansive space of the sky and universe beyond.  Surely if the soil were transparent, another network would have been visible – the roots reaching outward and downward while steading the trunks and limbs, which appeared more than twice the age of the eldest human.

It was humbling to consider their oak relatives elsewhere in the world with a lifespan up to one thousand years.  And, even more humbling to appreciate that their ancient relatives reach back millions of years.  It is no wonder humans have long adored, admired, and even worshiped these magnificent tree-beings.  Their longevity and expansive outer form invite a broader view of life beyond the entanglements that we have created for ourselves, inspiring a pondering and embracing of larger life purpose and meaning.

Wherever rooted, the oak is a steady witness.  As a continual bearer of wisdom to whomever comes near, the oak emanates strength, steadfastness, and stability; conveys contentment, community, connection, and completeness; and, bears beauty, breath, and balance with grace and serenity.

Oaks are known for their resilience, often withstanding severe weather conditions and inhospitable growing conditions.  They are also unsurpassed earthly friends, endlessly offering shade, shelter, protection, healing, solace, and nourishment to animals, birds, insects, humans, and all beings.  Their trunks are transformed into musical instruments, boats, furniture, wine barrels, houses and sacred arches.

Rustle. Rustle. Rustle.  The scurrying sound of an oak leaf pushed by the wind along the surface of the path.  Together, the wind and leaf offered an invitation to pause and notice the true loving essence beneath the color, age, shape, and all other superficial outer labels and measurements.  More often I will try to pause, firmly planted, inviting connection to heavenly truth and honesty with earthly roots.  I hope you will join me.

 

Practice
This practice invites awareness of living with a steady yet light presence. 

Prepare— 

  • If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks.  Then, stand either on the earth or bare floor.  Lift and spread your toes a few times, then curl them under once or twice.
  • Invite your weight to balance evenly between your feet, i.e., with somewhat equal weight on your left and right foot, and the front and part of your feet.   If it feels difficult to sense a balanced weight, please no worries.  Feel the support of the ground beneath you.  Silently offer gratitude for this enduring support for all life.
  • To an extent that is comfortable, bend both of your knees coming into a half squat.  Please take care to keep your directly over your ankles, i.e., not leaning forward.  Your arms may be at your sides or on your waist.  Pause here a few seconds and feel the strength in your thighs and appreciating the support beneath you and within your own body.  Then, return to standing.

Practice— 

  • Still standing, reach your hands toward the sky.  Please take care and do this in a way that feels comfortable for your shoulders.  Imagine as though you are firmly rooted to the ground beneath you.  Simultaneously you are lifting upward through your torso and arms.
  • Softly spread through your palms and fingers.  If this creates tension in your shoulders, neck, or face, invite your elbows to bends until you feel some ease in your body and breath, wiggle your fingers and sway your forearms as though being gently moved by a breeze.  Silently, offer gratitude for the expansive space that holds the entire universe.
  • Slowly lower your arms, crossing your arms across your upper chest and allowing each hand to rest on the opposite upper arm or shoulder.  Allow yourself to receive a hug from yourself.  Slightly bow your head and silently offer appreciation for all that you are and all that and those who have and are supporting your in endless ways.  Thank them for being your earthly kin.  Then, change the cross of your arms and thank yourself for being an expression of love and friendship toward yourself and life to the best of your ability.  Pause here, inviting a gentle, easy breath.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Transition to a seated position.  If you are in a chair or bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the ground.  Rest your hands over your upper chest, either with palms together or one hand lightly resting on top of the other over your heart-center.
  • Gently recall the strength and support beneath you, the lightness above you, and the kinship around you.  Invite in a glimpse of the feeling that from the moment of your birth you have been held, lifted up, and loved within and without.  If you have a particular faith, silently offer prayerful gratitude for the presence of sacred grace in every moment.   Pause here, inviting a gentle, easy breath.
  • Allow your hands to rest wherever they are comfortable, e.g., on your thighs or on your lap.  Sit quietly for several minutes.
  • Then, when you are ready, return to your day.

 

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 123, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo by a photographer who goes by the nickname AVTG.  This HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

Dappled Light

Dappled Light

You’re in my eyes.
How else could I see light?

You’re in my brain.
This wild joy.

If love did not live in matter,
how would any place have
any hold on anyone?

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

A delicate pattern of lacy forms covered the pathway.  Wavy lines of all thicknesses connected varying sizes of triangles, hearts, and rectangles.  As a breeze picked up, these shapes shifted and moved as though they were dancing across the earthy floor.

Had I gone for my walk at my usual time early in the day, I would have missed this joyful interplay of the noonday light with the tree branches and leaves.  It had been grey and overcast that morning, so the path would have a been a quiet stretch of brown soil and twigs.  A clearing of the clouds had turned this brown quietness into a storybook of the mystical, intricate web of existence.

The trees’ summertime crowns full of leaves revealed the presence of the otherwise invisible air as it moved those leaves.  The movement allowed the light to shine and show itself through the open spaces between the shadows of forms.  The ground held the silent interchange of the air and the light while hinting of the hidden latticework of the tree roots below.

Within the trees and their dappled light, I felt my own mortal interdependence with the worldly elements.  I felt grateful for divine luminosity quietly shining through the thicket of impatience, persistent curiosity, and other busy patterns of my mind.  All seemed to be held by love.

Beyond the treed area the path opened into a clearing.  While the day had begun overcast, ahead in the clearing was pure, unhindered light.

 

Practice
This short practice supports awareness of the grace of light.

Prepare—

  • Lightly shake out each of your limbs.
  • Then, sit in a comfortable seated position. (If you are in a chair, please place the soles of your feet on the floor.)
  • Slowly and gently invite ease into your face, shoulders, hands, and breath.

Practice—

  • Still seated, gradually reach your arms out to your sides and then upward into a V-position.   Breathe deeply.
  • Then, slowly lower your arms and bring your hands in front of your chest. Open your palms as though you were ready to gather water from a running faucet.
  • Pause here for four breaths.  As you pause, imagine a soft, gentle light flowing into your palms.
  • Then, imagine you are slowly bathing yourself in light.
    • For example, gather light in your palms and then lightly sweep hands over your face and throat. You might also gently stroke down each arm and leg, and across the front and sides of your torso.
    • As you do this, imagine your skin is absorbing the light.
  • When finished, pause and imagine the light is settling into every cell in your body. Invite your hands to rest in any position that is comfortable.
  • Silently say “thank you for the ever-presence of light.”

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Move in any way that feels natural. Perhaps allow your arms to move like limbs of a tree swaying in the wind and receiving the light.  If comfortable, smile.
  • When you are ready, return to your day, full of the grace of light.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 48, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The practice is an edited excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt, page 254-255.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

Enjoy gems of natural beauty 
& #naturesutras

invitation to connect

Are you wondering if this is the right time for a Living Wisdom Mentoring session?
upcoming events

©2019 Kate Vogt. Privacy Policy. Portrait Photography by Paulina Paczkowska