Bees – Seeing Anew

Bees – Seeing Anew

Listen, if you can stand to. 
Union with the Friend means not being who you’ve been,
being instead silence:  A place:  A view
where language is inside Seeing. 

Rumi

This year of 2020 continues to prod me to an increased awareness of the microscopic aspects of life.   It truly feels like the last few months have been a constant visual exam, searching through layers of blurred vision for 2020 acuity.  While it isn’t new to me to revisit hidden assumptions and sift through the strata of skewed perceptions, the avalanche of deaths and change spurs a recalibration of and an openness to a renewed view. 

In the midst this age of human reckoning, I anchor myself in the remembrance that the planet and the rest of nature has been around longer than our species.  While we are endowed with great mental capacities, we are prone to forget the grace of our existence.  Yet, nature is always there with endless reminders of our earthly interconnectedness with all beings, the deeper essence of life, and transformative qualities such as generosity, kindness, collaboration, and equanimity.

I find that nature consistently presents insights far beyond those in volumes of books or opinions.  For example, the sun doesn’t favor one group of people, or one part of the planet, over the other.  It just shines, offering light, warmth, and renewal to all.   Without the sun the plants wouldn’t grow, and without the plants, animals and humans wouldn’t have food.   First people as well as ancient knowledge preserve this simple but profound wisdom: that all life is a living community. Yet in the mainstream, this view is considered irrelevant and economically unproductive.

Small things make a difference, primarily in our thought patterns and consumptive behaviors and their influence on social justice, but also in recognizing and appreciating our inherent reliance on other species.  Bees, for example, are intricately connected to our existence.   As pollinators, they are important to the proliferation of crops of many of our favorite fruits and berries, as well as of vegetables.   They also support the perpetuation of the beauty of flowers that have their own role within the larger ecosystem, in addition to uplifting human spirits.  And, of course, bees produce honey and wax, which have been used by humans since the earliest times for nourishment, art, light and more.

For our current times, bees offer several timely reminders.  They harmoniously live and work as a community that creates abundance.  They accomplish the seemingly impossible in that they carry multiples of their weight – some say up to 300 times their weight.  Even though aerodynamically they aren’t naturally designed to fly, they fly.  They move from one plant to another as living examples of the interconnectedness of all living things, including humans.   Individual bees have the ability to focus, yet take time for rest and renewal.

My personal experience is that nature is a safe place for us to practice empathy, e.g., just sitting and observing without inner labeling and dialog, and accepting the clarity and joy of seeing anew.  We can do the same when we listen to one another and to our own thoughts and inner heartbeat.  Nature not only supports us biologically, but gives us the courage to see and face the inhumane inequities within our own species, and then proactively shapes new paradigms for the respect and wellbeing of all.  I will continue to rely on nature for renewed perspective, and hope you will join me.

Practice
This short practice acknowledges the sound of the bees.

Prepare – 

  • Please find a comfortable seated position.  
    • If you are seated on a bench or in a chair, rest the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Invite an awareness of the surface beneath you. 
    • If you are aware of the First Peoples of the land where you are, please take a moment and say their name with reverence.
    • Then, in your own way, acknowledge the layers of support beneath you, e.g., the floor, those that constructed the floor, the earthly resources with the floor, and the earth and microbes beneath that. 
  • Allow yourself to be fully held by these hidden layers of support.  Invite an openness to seeing and acknowledging those that you take for granted and regularly overlook even though they are always there supporting you.

Practice – 

  • Still seated.  Allow your hands to rest wherever they are comfortable.  Your eyes may rest in a soft gaze or gently closed.  As much as you can, relax the muscles across your face, including your jaw and chin. 
  • Vigorously rub your palms together until you feel some heat in your hands. 
  • Place your warmed palms over your ears.
    • Breathe two to three breaths. 
    • Then, begin to hum in a bee-like way.  Pause whenever needed.  Then, continue for about a minute. 
  • Take one hand over your chest and the other on top.  Smile slightly. 

Transition back into your day – 

  • Allow your hands to return to wherever they are comfortable.  Sit comfortably and breathe for as long as comfortable. 
  • When you are ready, transition back into your day.


This poem is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 76, 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. 

FOG – seeing the ever-present light

FOG – seeing the ever-present light

If God invited you to a party and said,
“Everyone in the ballroom tonight
will be my special guest,” 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
trans. by D. Ladinsky

A muffled growl resounded through the morning air.  It was so pervasive that I thought the wheels of our ever-changing world are at last making themselves audible.   Rather than being silent, the gears of time, future transitioning into past, seemed to grumble and groan.   Yet, as a chilly moist breeze blew into the bedroom window, my mind stirred out of its slumber to register the sound of a foghorn from a nearby bay.    

Although the breeze had wordlessly conveyed the source of the sound, I eagerly looked out the window for the promise of a clear day.  Instead, the only discernible forms were the telephone wires and houses across the street.  The sky and towering redwoods were enshrouded in an expanse of grey.   I sighed.  Even in this changing world, there are some consistencies such as the foggy weather along the California coast during the summer. 

The view out the window felt like snapshot of clouded perception where the bigger picture is obscured and our vision is limited to the nearby.   The light of the sun, for example, is always there even if we can’t see it.  Whether covered by clouds or fog, or invisible because of the turning of our planet causing night and day, the light stays like a steady axis to the wheel of change.   

The 14th century poet from Hafiz invites us to an unencumbered perspective where we see the world through the lens of eternal light.    There we see wholeness, equity, and abundance rather than a world restricted by the language of subject and object and labels and measurements.   Hafiz inspires us to step into the luminous center in the midst of the whirls and gain fresh perspective, and perhaps even touch the endless grace of God’s love.  

The summer fog will be my reminder to try to live and act with love and the light at the core of my heart for the wellbeing of all.   I invite you to join me. 

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of the ever-presence of love

Prepare – 

  • Standing,
    • Gently shake out each of your limbs. 
      • Lightly roll your shoulders around.

Practice – 

  • Still standing.  With your hands in front of your heart in prayer position, face:
    • East (if you are not sure where the eastern direction is, wherever you are is fine.)
      • Acknowledge that the sun rises in this eastern direction kindly offering continuous light around the world. 
    • South
      • Acknowledge the expanse of land in this southern direction offering in equanimity a ground to live and move to all life. 
    • West
      • Acknowledge that the sun sets in this western direction offering compassion and care to all beings.
    • North
      • Acknowledge the Northern Lights this direction offering the joyful gift of light in darkness.
    • East
      • Acknowledge all the directions, including that of above and below, come together in the center of your heart.  Acknowledge that the qualities of kindness, equanimity, compassion, and joy are present in all directions joining the outer and inner with endless love.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position, and sit quietly.  Allow yourself to feel that the eternal light is filling you from the crown of your head to the tips of your fingers of toes.   For as long as is comfortable, allow yourself to be bathed in that light.
  • When you are ready, transition back into your day.

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Casey Horner.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020. 

Earthworm – Tending to the Unseen

Earthworm – Tending to the Unseen

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them hard. 
The search for the Real
is no simple matter. 

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished. 
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there. 

Lalla

Small things can sometimes provide fresh awareness, so over the years I have learned to slow down and pay attention.   Usually, it is an unexpected encounter – for example, a swarm of honeybees along my path prompted me to choose a different direction, a spider in the bathtub caused me to pause and not mindlessly run a tub full of precious water and instead, I let the spider be.    This morning it was an earthworm slithering where I was about to step.  It was making its way to a pile of moist dirt that had slid off the hillside abutting our apartment deck.    

Earthworms’ homes are underground.  An apt reminder that life relies on humble, gritty work beneath the surface.  Just on a pragmatic level, earthworms are constantly working underground.   Along with bacteria and microbes, they support the growth of plants that nourish all of us humans.  Literally, they do the dirty work of ingesting the organic matter in the soil so that their castes can be used for food for other creatures.  Aerating and moving soil, they are some of our invisible earthly caretakers.  

Outer life relies on the workings of the invisible.   At life’s rawest level, we are dependent on other species for our air and our food.   The sun appears and disappears, offering us a sense of the passage of time.  The origins of earth and water began billions of years ago and continue as fundamental underpinnings to life.   The more that our awareness filters out these hidden dimensions of our collective existence, the more likely we are to be unaware of the innerworkings of our own mind, attitudes, and perceptions.  And, by extension, the more likely we are to be unaware of the countless ways our lives are supported by the hardship and labors of others.  

The earthworm patiently does its part to provide health to the whole.  There is a harmonic balance between what the earthworm consumes and gives back through its existence.  It reminds me of the timeless wisdom to leave the world a better place than you found it.  Within that are reminders of caring for the entire organism of life, and the hard and tedious discipline of constant vigilance about the hidden dimensions of our thoughts and lifestyles.  I hope that through deep introspection and consistent, conscious living we will begin to shape a world of wholeness and well-being for all.   Please join me in this work.

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of the unseen.

Prepare – 

  • Begin standing. 
    • Please minimize any possible interruptions, e.g., silence your phone, so that you can sit quietly for the next few minutes. 
    • If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks.  It is okay to leave them on.
  • Wherever you are, notice the surface beneath your feet. 
    • If your shoes are off, notice the quality of the texture, e.g., smoothness, coolness – just notice without judging.  Lift your toes, spread them apart, and then slowly lower the toes – starting with your little toes, then your 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and big toes.
    • If your shoes are on, notice the texture of your sock or inner sole of your shoe.
  • Still standing, imagine the layers of support beneath whatever surface you are standing on, e.g., the foundation of the building, the soil, the microbes and moisture in the soil.   
  • With that awareness of the life beneath your feet, slowly walk in a clockwise circle. 
    • As you walk, reflect on these words –
      “Walk as if your feet are kissing the earth.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Practice – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.  As you settle in, again notice the surface beneath you. Silently offer a few words of appreciation for the layers supporting you.
    • If you are in a chair or on a bench, allow both soles of your feet to rest evenly on the floor or earth.
    • Allow your hands to rest wherever is most comfortable for you, e.g., palms down on your thigh, palms on top of one another in your lap.
    • Invite a softening in the small muscles around your eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and throat.
  • Bring your awareness to the sides of your torso and arms – left side and right side. Perhaps linger your awareness on one side, and then the other.  Then, return to awareness of both simultaneously.  Breathe with ease for a few breaths.
  • Bring your awareness to the lower half of your body, remembering the support beneath you.  Shift your awareness to the upper half your body (including your head).   Then, of your body from head to toe.  Breathe as effortlessly as possible throughout.
  • Become aware of the back of your torso and head.  Relax the muscles along the base of your skull, back of your neck, tops of your shoulders, and backs of your arms.  Breathe.
  • Imagine the inner workings of your body – e.g., your spine, bones, veins, nerves, tissues, and organs (including your brain).  Imagine all those areas relaxing and saying “aaaah.” 
  • Place one hand on top of the other over your upper chest.  Imagine infinite spaciousness deep within the core of your being offering endless support, ease, acceptance, and clarity.  Imagine all your thoughts, words, and actions arise from that place.  Pause here for a few moments and breathe. 

Transition back into your day – 

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

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 99, 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. 

Our Inherited Wisdom”  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt.  This book is a perfect companion for your personal reflections. 

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.

Rumi
Trans. by Coleman Barks

It was one of those transformative moments. As I rounded the street corner near my home, my five- and-a-half-year-old neighbor Emma greeted me with a big smile.  She held up her palm and said, “Look.”  Her younger sister Ali quickly rushed forward, one hand upward, and with delight said, “Meet Magenti.”  Teeny, hairless, caterpillars were gliding across both girls’ hands.  

Instantaneously, warm memories flooded into my mind.  I found myself marveling at how something so distant in time can be so present.  I could feel the feet of the caterpillar creeping across my arm.  Yet, that was a memory from decades ago when my older sister Gail and I would sit on the sidewalk outside our back door and wait for the caterpillars to crawl onto the warm concrete.  

We could be completely absorbed in watching their patient and quiet movement.  Even though they moved slowly, they made steady progress.  When we picked them up to place them on our limbs, they would continue advancing to fearlessly explore the foreign terrain of our skin.  

In hindsight, these insects were great life teachers.  Whether they knew it or not, they were headed to winged transformation.  Some would become moths and others magnificent butterflies, but they didn’t try to rush ahead, or bypass their caterpillar stage.  They relied on their entire being to navigate their immediate environment.   

When unchecked, caterpillars are harmful to gardens and crops.  Yet, their graceful and light presence inspired my sister and me to be gentle, peaceful, and take care not to cause them any harm.  They sparked some of our deepest feelings of attentiveness and tenderness toward another being.   I saw the same caring behaviors in my neighbors Emma and Ali as they showed me their caterpillars.  

Life’s wisdom is tucked within these small and least glamorous moments.  They have the potency to be like a flash of lightening that melts the boundaries of time and space, shape and form, age and size.  We are able to instinctively recognize that this ever-changing outer whirl of measurement and judgment is a projection of our inner architecture of desires, aversions and fears. Such moments offer a glimpse of what Rumi calls, “many beings in one being.”  

It may seem boring, or maybe even arduous, to be more attuned to small moments.  Our human minds like to be entertained and dazzled, but also disengaged and slothful.  We have an extra challenge to attune our inner antennae toward transformative qualities of lightness, steadiness, patience, and quietness.  Yet, in addition to my regular inner contemplative focus, I will endeavor to be attentive to the little moments every day.  I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice invites sensory awareness and relaxation.

Prepare – 

·         Turn your electronic devices to airplane mode.  Remove any non-medical measuring devices, such as your watch.

·         Stretch out through the palms of your hands and arms.  Roll your wrists and ankles around. Then, find a comfortable place to sit.  For example, this could be on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair or bench. Breathe a few smooth and easy breaths.

Practice – 

·         Gently stroke one hand with the other.  Then, lightly stroke your legs, arms, and face. 

·         With awareness of being human with multiple ways of experiencing the small moments of life, lightly touch 

  • Your nose, acknowledging it is the portal of breath and smells.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your nostrils.
  • Your mouth, acknowledging it is the portal of taste, nutrition, speech, and kisses.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your mouth, and at the root of your tongue into the throat.
  • Your eyes, acknowledging they are the portals of sight – colors, shapes, and forms.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your eyes and at the back of your eyes.
  • Your skin, acknowledging it is the portal of touch.  Invite a quality of relaxation on all surfaces of your skin, especially in the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, back of your body, and your face.
  • Your ears, acknowledging they are the portals of hearing.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your ears.
  • Your head, acknowledging it is the CPU of memory, thought, and processing.  Invite a quality of relations in the center of your skull.
  • Your heart center, acknowledging it is the seat of your eternal self.  Invite a quality of relaxation around the center of your chest.

·         Invite a quality of softness and gentleness into your inhales and exhales.  If comfortable, close your eyes.  Otherwise, leave your eyes in a soft gaze.  

·         Sit quietly.  Imagine you are being breathed – the breath comes in, then goes out. 

Transition back into your day – 

·         When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem  appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 80, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Bankim Desai.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020.

NOW AVAILABLE! Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt. BookLife Review: “Both experienced meditators and those still learning to cultivate intentionality and presence can gain much from this paean to thoughtfulness and peace.” 

Full Moon

Full Moon

If God
invited you to a party and

said,

“Everyone in the ballroom tonight will

be my special
guest,”

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

There was a long beam of light across the water.  It seemed surreal, and even prompted a thought of whether there really was such a thing as extraterrestrial visitors from other planets.  Having had a day filled with synthetic hues in signage and screens, I laughed at myself for my being surprised by one of the most lasting, universal, and natural visual experiences – the glow from a full moon projected onto the earth.  

The moon – except during its darkest phase of newness – shines on all the lands and waters of the world.  It has no favorites and illumines whatever it touches whether that is noticed, or not.  Its presence influences the movement of the ocean, which covers nearly three-fourths of the globe.  When the full moon floods the darkness with pearly iridescence, everything is at least partially revealed.

Our dear friend, the moon, rarely makes the news – unless we land on it and then celebrate that landing.  I tend to feel that is like most of the “fixtures” of our lives.  They are the underpinning of our existence, but like the foundation of our homes and buildings, we forget that they are there.  Most of us actually don’t want the bedrocks of our lives to be making the news, because that might mean that there is something amiss.

It is unfathomable that the moon would go away within any of our lifetimes, but maybe, just as a precaution, we could notice it a little more often, and offer it appreciation for being there.  Maybe that will inspire us to notice the other everyday, regular stuff that sustains us, such as the trees, earth, our bodies and senses, and our unseen layers of support. 

After all, maybe the light of the moon is the invitation to notice what the sage poet Hafiz suggests – that all the world is standing on God’s jeweled dance floor.  Perhaps we are meant to glow and beam, seeing and being light in the world.  My sense is that this begins with an appreciation of and reverence for the ordinary.

Practice

This short practice invites appreciation of the ordinary.  

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable place to sit where your spine can be upright.  For example, this could be on the earth or floor, or on a chair or bench.  
  • Notice the surface beneath you and the support that is offering you.  
  • Breathe.

Practice – 

  • While still seated, systematically notice your body from the tips of your toes and fingers to the crown of your head, e.g., each toe, the top/bottom of the foot, the entire foot, the ankle, 
    • With each part of the body, with sincerity, say “Thank you. I appreciate you.”
    • As you come to the parts of your face, lightly touch your nose, then your mouth, eyes, cheeks, and ears.  
      • With each of these sensory organs, say, “Thank you. I appreciate you. Through you, I appreciate the world around me.”
  • Come to standing and begin to walk around with a sense of great appreciation of the earth that supports you.  Whomever or whatever is nearby, allow yourself to find that sense of true appreciation of all that co-inhabits this world.  
    • Walk for a few minutes.
    • Note: there is no right or wrong about where you are when you are walking and noticing your surroundings.  You could be alone at home appreciating the floor, a plant, a vase, or the light streaming through the window.
  • Come back to where you were seated.  Allow your eyes to rest in a soft gaze.  And, sit and breathe with a smooth inhalation as though you were sipping in the sweetness of all life.  On your exhales, gently yield that sweetness back to the world.
  • Give yourself a hug.  And, make a silent promise to move through the rest of your day with thoughts and gestures of appreciation.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.
  • 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 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by Lukas Robertson. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020.

Ocean of Love

Ocean of Love

The Ocean of Love
is a sea
where there is no shore;

And without the soul’s surrender,

there is no hope,
no sand.

Hafiz

The ocean was peaceful.  A green sea turtle rested on the warm sand and a young family lounged in the shade with their baby.  As I sat on a bench and absorbed the gentle flow of the waves, I let my mind settle on the quiet horizon between the water and sky. It was a seemingly perfect embrace of one blue merging seamlessly into another.

After having been absorbed in that infinite expanse for some time, my mind drifted back to the sounds and sights.  A few doves pecked at the ground near my feet.  Fresh sweetness – likely from a nearby plumeria tree – wafted into my nostrils.  

When I looked around, I noticed that other people had arrived at the beach.  A group of children played in the surf while their parents kept watch from the shore.  One person had taken on the role of monitoring the activity around the turtle, shooing people away if they got too close.  

The newcomer who captivated my attention was a neatly-dressed woman.  She stood on a rocky outcropping near the beach.  Rather than appearing lonely, her stance and demeanor emitted a sense of serenity and calmness.  In fact, she appeared as one with the vastness of the surroundings, which equally enveloped the turtle, the doves, and the children. 

While I was curious about what life journey had allowed her to shed the aura of separateness, this peaceful woman offered a beautiful, wordless expression of where her life journey had brought her.  This expression encompassed not only her presence, but the unassuming way she went about completing her purpose at the shore that morning.  

As though timed by the rhythm of the waves, she tossed one red rose blossom after another into the water.  She would reach into a somewhat crumpled paper bag, and carefully pull out and release each blossom.  Then, she stood and patiently watched a line of evenly-spaced red dots bobbing their way toward the horizon.  When the last one vanished, she also disappeared, walking over the stones toward the street and carrying her empty bag.

This anonymous woman and the translated words of the poet Hafiz invite all of us to come home – back to the ocean of eternal love that knows no separateness nor pretense.  As humans, we are a special species, yet somehow, we try to outwit the gifts of our existence: the divine to which we give many names, and our raw embodiment sustained by the giving-ness of other species, the solar and lunar orbs, and the elements.  The more entitled we are, or feel we are, the more buffered, or perhaps unaware, we are of the power of old-fashioned notions of kindness, acceptance, nongreed, humility, and reverence for all life.   Each day I will try to immerse myself in the ocean of love and hope that you will join me.

Practice

This short practice supports your support of eternal love.

Prepare –

  • Free your hands and wrists of any personal devices. 
  • For this practice, it would be easiest to be seated on a chair or bench.  It can also be done in a reclining position.
  • Shake out through your feet and legs.

Practice –

  • Allow your breath to be smooth and easy.
  • Even if imagining, adopt a sense of receptivity toward a truly loving presence. 
    • To help connect to the sense of infinite, boundless love, reflect on:
      • Being in a place where you felt truly in awe of the mystery of life, e.g., in a sacred place, watching the night sky, observing a sunset, or holding a newborn baby; or,
      • This Hafiz poem; or,
      • Another Hafiz poem, “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.”  Look what happens to a love like that—it lights the whole world.”  (translated by D. Landisky)
  • Point your left big toe toward the floor for a moment.   
  • Imagine you are dipping your toe in a sea of eternal love and light.
    • As you do this, remember your receptivity toward infinite love.  Imagine love and light are pouring into you through your left big toe.
  • If you haven’t already, relax through your toe and left foot.
    •  Imagine as love and light flow in from the toe into all of your body. 
    • As love and light pour in, imagine as though it is touching all those places within you where you hold your deepest fears, worries, judgments, greed, and feelings of hostility and sadness.  Not washing away, but touching and giving you momentary relief from their presence, and allowing you to receive love and light.
    • If you find a blockage or a sense that love and light only fill you so far, just let that be.  Smile.  You have dipped your toe in.
    • Breathe smooth and easy breaths throughout. 
  • When you feel sated in love and light, invite a sense of surrendering into a sea of love.

Transition back into your day –

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

This poem  is translated by T. R. Crowe and appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 60, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020.

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