Waterfall

Waterfall

Since I was cut from the reed bed
I have made
this crying sound. Anyone
separated from someone he loves
understands what I say:
            Anyone pulled
           from a source
          longs to go back.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks


The morning light was intense.  Its radiance blurred the usual distinctive outlines of the trees and pathways.  In the near absence of these visual cues, I felt the soundscape pour into my awareness.

A swoosh passed overhead, reminding me of the crows along this path accompanying any passerby with aerial playfulness.  One of my shoelaces clicked rhythmically with each footstep.  Between the trill of sound birds, there was an occasionally rustling of the tree branches.   Just as the sun shifted and shapes began to reappear, I felt myself drawn toward a distant roaring.

There was something primal about the consistency of this sound.  Rather than a roar, it was perhaps more akin to a purr or even a steady murmuring of “aaaah.”   It was something outside my inner textbook of rumbling sounds, most of which are human-created roars with machinery or large crowds.  This murmuring seemed to be a call to remember the sacred sound of life.

A continuum of “aaaah” not only expressing euphoric exaltation of awe but, even more poignantly, the gut-felt wail of deep torment and heartache.  Even symbolically, the expansive openness of a long “a” disappears into the crisp brevity of the “h,” which then leaves a void for the “aaaah” to arise again.   An endless cycle gracing, shedding and renewing itself within each breath, pulsebeat, footstep, or any other earthly gesture.  Here, that gesture was a waterfall.

Although I could not yet see the falls, the path meandered in the direction of the sound.   Along the way there were giant boulders and rock faces shaped long ago by glaciers.  Meadows stretched across open spaces, offering soundless expression of the same snowmelt that relentlessly and loudly sighed “aaah” in tumbling over the rocky cliff.  Soon, moisture would evaporate and again rise upward toward the sky, forming clouds; then, likely another round of snow, later melting in the intensity of sunlight.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of an inner anchor of peacefulness in the midst of chaos. 

Prepare— 

  • Either standing or seated, slowly stretch your arms outward and upward.  (If you have shoulder issues, please adjust this movement to your comfort level.)   Breathe here for one or two gentle breaths.
  • Slowly, on an exhalation bring your palms to the top of your head allowing their weight to rest there.  Breathe her for one or two gentle breaths.
  • Then, on your next exhalation, allow your hands to slide down across your face to your shoulders, torso and thighs.  If comfortable, slide them down your legs toward the floor.  Imagine as though all the tension in your body is melting away with the warmth of your hands.
  • Slowly, on next inhalation, come back to a neutral spine, either standing or seated upright.  Again, breathe here for several gentle breaths.

Practice— 

  • Seated.
  • If comfortable, close your eyes.  Invite an awareness of the surface beneath you fully and unconditionally supporting your weight and offering a sense of peaceful groundedness.
  • Invite a few easy breaths. Then, rest one hand over the other on your heart center.
  • Allow yourself to feel the gentle movement associated with your breathing beneath your hands – a slight expansion on the inhalation and gentle softening inward of the ribs as you exhale.
  • With your hands still resting on your heart center, quietly say the sound “aaaah” 5-6 times, allowing each to seamlessly arise after one another.
  • Invite your hands to rest on your thighs in any position that is comfortable.  Mentally, repeat the sound “aaaah” 5-6 more times.
  • Pause. Invite a sense of peaceful, inner spaciousness.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
  • Then, when you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 12, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

New Moon – renewed perspective

New Moon – renewed perspective

I was delighted with myself,
having offered everything that 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
Trans. by Coleman Barks

“Moon.”  It was simple one-word exclamation.  Yet, to be sure that I understood her latest discovery, my youngest neighbor – a toddler named Natalia – reached her arm toward the sunny afternoon sky and pointed.  She repeated, “moon?,” although this time with an inflection of curiosity.

As I mimicked her – pointing upward and whispering moon – Natalia beamed at having successfully communicated.  She was with her grandmother, who seemed equally proud. Apparently Natalia was excited about her new understanding that the moon is up there in the daytime sky, and had been testing everyone along their afternoon walk.

It seemed like such an insignificant interaction, yet it caused me to ponder the ethics within our verbal exchanges, e.g., honesty, humility.  There is so much that happens within milliseconds.  Natalia had, in her own childhood way, deemed me as a grown-up who would responsibly respond to her in that moment.

Part of my pondering came about because it was a day of a new moon, when the moon is not only absorbed in the nighttime hues but invisible during the daytime.   Our minds in many ways are similar to the moon, with the potentiality to fully reflect the luminosity of eternal truth.  Yet, for the most part, our mind only catches glimpses of the truth.

The Sufi and poet Rumi reminds me that, within the shadowy orbits of life, I should remember that my human mind is vulnerable to misperception.   I found his words helpful as I reflected on how trustingly Natalia looked to others for affirmation with her learning to communicate and navigate the social nuances of human connections.  She offered a small lesson in the humility of remembering the deep responsibility that comes when someone asks for our advice or opinion.  In the coming weeks, I hope to continue to reflect on the gift from Natalia . . . and the moon.


Practice
This short practice invites awareness of inner awareness.

Prepare – 

  • Find a quiet spot where you can sit with minimal distractions or interruptions.
    • If seated on a chair or bench, evenly rest the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Take a moment to shake out through your arms and roll out through your shoulders.
  • Then, sit quietly with your hands comfortably resting on your thighs.  Invite awareness to your breath.  Just take notice of how it feels in this moment, e.g., raspy, calm, and smooth?

Practice – 

  • For each of the following, take six breaths.  Invite your breath to be smooth and even:
    • Close your eyes (and take six breaths)
    • Again with your eyes closed, place your middle fingers on your eyelids, index fingers on your forehead, and thumbs on your temples (again, take six breaths)
    • Repeat the previous by moving your thumbs onto your ear flaps, i.e., closing off the outer sounds (again, take six breaths)
      • Note:  you may wish to lightly rest your ring fingers on the outer edges of your nostrils and your little fingers on the corners of your mouth.
  • Relax your hands in lap.  Sit quietly, either with your eyes closed or resting in a soft gaze.
    • Notice any areas of your body where you may be holding extra tension.  Gently shift your awareness to an area that feels tense.  Invite more calmness and relaxation into that area with each inhale, letting go of tension on the exhales.  Repeat with as many areas of your body as you wish.

Transition back into your day – 

  • 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 31, 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©2021.

Morning Song

Morning Song

To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love ’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

Kahlil Gibran

 

As the other side of the earth experiences piercing sounds of death and destruction, here the song  birds permeate the air with their sweet melodies.  Their voices are most pronounced in the early morning, but continue throughout the light of day.   I do not know their names, or their migratory or evolutionary journey, but still feel the stirrings of a kinship far beyond labels and form.

Some part of me joins their joyful praising of existence.  The notes rise and fall on unseen currents.  No part of life is free from this hymn of notes fading and emerging.  Even though we may not always aware of it, life pulses in a gentle rhythmic stream of seasons, tides, breath, and heartbeat.  Within this harmonic beingness, there is the endless sacred grace of life.

It brings tears to my eyes to be enwrapped in nature’s continual prayerful expression of life.  The oldest human traditions, lifestyles and languages synchronize with this communal grace.  There is an inherent reverence for living and all life forms, and a deep surrender to an unnamable yet ever-present divine.    Clothing, food, water, sunlight, and all the elemental underpinnings of life are cared for with unsurmountable gratitude, and with appreciation of a reciprocity of being cared for in return.

Sages, prophets and poets like Kahlil Gibran lift us up with reminders that the beloved divine is boundless.   They carry forward the lessons from our ancient human ancestors of surrendering into praiseful way of speaking, living, and being together.  There may be occasional soloists, but the blessed song gathers the microbes, plants, birds, sky, and humans into a vibrant, regenerative chorus.   May these troubling times remind us of the gift of the morning song.

Practice
This practice brings awareness of our interconnectedness with other humans and other species. 

Prepare— 

  • Choose a day when you have some extra time in the morning.
  • The night before, just as you are ready to go to sleep:  offer a word of gratitude that throughout the day, your existence has been supported in all sorts of invisible ways.

Practice— 

  • When you awaken from your sleep the next morning, notice what you first notice. No judgment, just noticing.
  • Then, intentionally invite your awareness to the areas of your body which actively engage with the world: e.g., your feet, hands, skin, nose, mouth, eyes, ears, breath, and mind.  In any way that is comfortable for you, offer gratitude to all parts of you that seamlessly allow you to navigate the world.
  • Pause.  Slowly, shift your awareness to your breath.  Perhaps, for a couple breaths rest both hands on your chest to support your awareness of the gentle expansion of your ribs on an inhalation, and softening on an exhalation.  Notice this movement is like wings rising and falling.
  • Then, for several breaths, invite in a sense of gratitude for the reciprocity of breath with the trees:  as you inhale, invite awareness that as the breath enters your body, the trees are exhaling; and, as you exhale, invite awareness that as the breath moves outward, the trees inhale.
  • If you have a particular faith or connection with a divine presence, take a few moments in loving prayerfulness.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Arise. If you have time, sit quietly for a few moments.
  • When you are ready, move into your day with a sense of reverent praise.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 51, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The photo is by Tom Bradley on Unsplash. The practice is a modified  excerpt from “Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 141-43, available through Bookshop, or order through your local independent bookstore.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021.

 Join me in one of my upcoming classes, exploring the unified wisdom of the earth, the soul, and the divine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUTTERFLY – harmonious love

BUTTERFLY – harmonious love

This
Sky
Where we live
Is no place to lose your wings,
So love, love,
Love.

Hafiz
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

The hill was steep.  Experiencing the intensity of walking up its slope, I felt my mind beginning to create storylines about cozy places with a steaming cup of tea in the company of friends.  My mind seemed to be unhappy with my reining those thoughts in with a concurrent focus on process of walking – the earthly terrain beneath my feet, the clear sky above, and the pace of my breath and stride.   Just before mind began to fully rebel against being restricted, a butterfly captivated its attention.

It was solo monarch floating gracefully before my eyes.  Like a skilled conductor, the butterfly drew my mind into sync with the rest of my body and breath.  The rhythmic movement of the butterfly’s wings set the tempo.  Up and down, with the wings, my breath, and feet – all motion was fluidly measured and harmonious.  Each flutter of the wings was a sweet kiss of the air, offering a cue to move effortlessly and lightly touch the air and ground with my breath and footsteps.

I am grateful to the butterfly for quietly orchestrating this beautiful synchronicity.  Literally, I felt a returning home – not only to a sense of timeless belonging to this rich and diverse earthly community, but the home where I was raised.  My childhood memories are imprinted with a similar awareness. Having grown up on a farm, I continually experienced the enduring wholeness of life.  Every insect, cloud, seed, and clod of dirt was as much my family as my sister, parents, and grandparents.

As the poet Hafiz offers, love is the secret essence holding the world and nourishing the world.   Butterflies are exquisite reminders to attune our minds and movements to love.  With about a quarter million different forms of butterflies around the world, they have been revered as messengers to the soul of hope, love, joy, and endless peace.  They are reminders of the struggles and transformative process of life. They encourage us to lighten up, take only what we truly need, and lovingly remember to harmonize our thoughts, breath, and actions with all of life – human and non-human.  So love, love, love.

Practice
This simple practice brings awareness of the rhythmic nature of your breath. Like the emergence of wings of a butterfly, first there is a symbolic release and then gentle flight.

Prepare –

  • Set the intention to go offline for five to ten minutes. Clear your environment of digital and audio distractions, e.g., turn your digital gadgets to airplane mode, remove your wrist watch.
  • Find a comfortable seated position – either on the floor or in a chair – and gently settle into the earthly support beneath you. Your eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze.
  • Allow the backs of your hands to rest on your thighs.
  • Wrap the fingers of your right hand around your right thumb.
  • While continuing to hold the right thumb, do the same with the left hand. (If you are left handed, begin with the left and then add the right hand.)
  • Lovingly hold both thumbs and breath for a few breaths.

Practice –

  • Move your thumb and individual fingers in sync with the breath:
    • Inhale –
      • Gently open your palms, thumbs, and fingers to relax into a soft and open hand.
        • Return to this hand position with each subsequent inhalation.
    • Exhale –
      • Three exhales for each finger, lightly touch the tip of your thumb (simultaneously on both hands).
        • With the tip of your index finger.
        • With the tip of your middle finger;
        • With the tip of your ring finger; and,
        • With the tip of your little finger.
  • Move your entire hand in sync with your breath:
    • Smooth Inhale and Exhale – 
      • With minimal effort, allow your entire hand to gently open with each inhale and relax inward with each exhale.
        • Imagine that your inhales flutter outward from the deepest core of your heart to every cell in your torso, limbs, digits & skull.   Imagine that your exhales quietly settle back into your heart center.
        • Continue for as long as is comfortable.

Transition back into your day –

  • Stretch through your palms. Open your eyes if they were closed.  Stretch out through your arms. Return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, page 4 , and published by New World Library. The photo is by Joshua J. Cotton on Unsplash.  The practice is from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry, by Kate Vogt, page 53-54, available through Bookshop, or order through your local independent bookstore.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

SUNSET – shining the light home

SUNSET – shining the light home

I am a fountain,
You are my water.
I flow from You to You.
I am an eye,
You are my light,
I look from You to You.
You are neither my right nor my left.
You are my foot and my arm as well.
I am a traveler,
You are my road.
I go from You to You.

Zeynep Hatun

Our local neighborhood newsletter has a somewhat surprising addition.  Along with the usual listings of missing pets and discarded items is an enthusiastic lauding of late afternoon and early evening skies.  Comments by others responding to that seem to pile on top of one another in a way that feels like a sea of waving hands, all attesting to the spectacular beauty overhead.

It feels good to be dazzled and captivated by the sheer grace of light.  As the sun slips below the horizon, it offers an elegant reminder of its continued presence.  The golden roundness may be invisible, but its radiant essence spreads across the sky with colorful, warm, soothing messages of hope and eternal love.

The light is always there.  It seems to endlessly play hide and seek, appearing and disappearing at the beginning and end of the day. Yet it is our earthly nature to move around, in and away from the steady center of luminosity.  Whether it is the macrocosm of our planetary solar center or the microcosm of the heart of our being, the light never dims.  It gets overshadowed by our constant movement.

The glorious embrace of sunset allows me to remember this: light holds and nourishes every manifestation in this world – human and non-human.  Boulders, reptiles, insects, trees, plants, mammals, birds, all lands, all peoples.  Its splendor knows no boundaries or fences.  It offers forgiveness in the highest form, reassuring me of my worth and strength to let go of those sufferings that I bring upon myself and perhaps to others.  It invites me to return again and again until the ultimate sunset of this lifetime.  Within the shoulder of nighttime, love shines and brightens the path home.

Please join me in taking a pause with sunset, and finding your own reflections and insights.

 Practice
This practice offers a simple gesture of letting go and forgiveness.   

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position, e.g., on a chair, the floor.
    • If on a chair, allow the soles of your feet to rest on the surface beneath you.
  • Gently squeeze one hand in the other
  • Slowly make and fist and then stretch evenly through your fingers.
  • Shake out through your hands and wrists, relaxing your forearms.
  • Sigh a few times, letting go through your breath.  Then, sit quietly for a few moments, allowing your breath to be free and easy.

Practice— 

  • Seated, rest your right hand wherever it is comfortable, e.g., on your thigh, and keep it relaxed throughout the rest of the practice.
  • Allow the back of your left forearm to rest on your left thigh.   Your left palm is relaxed and open toward the sky.  Invite your entire left shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers to relax and soften.  Breathe a few breaths.
  • Slowly guide your left forearm forward on your thigh, so that your hand relaxes with the palm open and fingers relaxing downward toward the earth.  Again, release tension throughout your left side.  If needed, adjust your seated position to support the sense of relaxation and softness throughout your left arm and open hands.
  • Invite a sense of letting go of non-beneficial habits, feelings, or ideas you might be clinging to.  Imagine as though the earth’s natural intelligence and capacity is able to receive and slowly compost whatever you release.   Breathe with an open hand for as long as is comfortable for you.
  • Invite in a sense of being supported by love from the earth beneath you, from the space around and above your, and from the inner and outer sun.  Imagine you are being embraced and enfolded in love.  Allow your open hand to receive this love.  And, as you do so, allow it to seep into every pore of your palm, into the tissues of your palm, and then travel upward into your left wrist, arm, shoulder into your heart.  Breathe freely receiving love and allowing love to settle into the spaces you created by letting go.
  • If you wish, repeat this with a focus on your right palm, forearm and right side.  Otherwise, continue.
  • After a few breaths, gently give yourself a hug.  Perhaps offer a silent prayer of self-forgiveness.
  • (Note:  this practice is for the normal everyday ways we are hard on ourselves.   It is not designed as substitute for professional support in working through deeper hurts and wounds.)

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments, with the eyes and ears tuned inward.
    Place your hands over your heart and pause for a moment.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   This photo was taken in Tribune, KS on the eve of my brother Michael Vogt’s funeral.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

 

SOIL – Ground of Love

SOIL – Ground of Love

I think God might be a little prejudiced.
For once He asked me to join Him on a walk
through this world,

and we gazed into every heart on this earth,
and I noticed He lingered a bit longer
before any face that was weeping,
and before any eyes that were laughing.

And sometimes when we passed
a soul in worship
God too would kneel down.

I have come to learn:
God adores His creation.

St. Francis of Assisi
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

It is winter now in the northern hemisphere.  Even though the temperatures are mild here on the mid-California coast, the morning air is cool and crisp, and the sky is a deep winterish blue.  Walks in the nearby grove are filled with sounds of the stream having been replenished with long stretches of rainfall.  A sweet smell arises from the fresh soil formed from the matter that once was a carpet of leaves and grasses.

On these winter walks in the grove, a sense of astonishment continually washes over me.  In my mind, the northern coastal winter is season-less, with none of the usual markers of frost or snow.  Yet, within a few steps outside, that mental architecture yields to raw messages around me.  Like the decaying foliage, the thoughts and pre-conceptions crumble in the presence of the pure aliveness seeping in through my senses.

It is particularly the aroma of new earth that frees me of the wintery ideas.  Soil in the making is simply miraculous.  And, for a multitude of organisms, soil itself is a truly miraculous offering ground, sustaining and nourishing life from the smallest bacteria to the biosphere of Earth.  Although soil forms over a long period of time, the earthly scent stirs a primal memory within me of the humble awe of belonging and of being lovingly held in a divine way.

To accept soil as miraculously sacred inspires me to walk a little more gently among other living beings – human and non-human.  The acceptance allows me to remember the pain and suffering of other “soil”-beings who live or have lived, especially those whose essence has been suppressed, eradicated, and/or paved over.  It invites an ever-greater sense of gratitude for the farmers and workers who care for dirt, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and the bounty to feed the hungry world.  It prompts a dedication not to further sully this sacredness with plastics and other products, which take hundreds of years to biodegrade and cause early death to oceans and other living beings.

Overall, soil offers a reminder that the words “human” and “humility” connect through the Latin word for soil, humus.  Whether our faith believes in a divine creator or not, St. Francis of Assisi’s words point to a wisdom carried by religious, indigenous and other traditions around the world:  life is a flowing ecology with a continual unseen web of interconnectedness and reciprocity.  There is a universal trust in the sacred value of all life, even soil. This ground where we live – and where we return as ashes or dust – is the ground of unbounded, divine love.

Please join me in honoring the simple yet miraculous gift of soil.

 

Practice
This practice is more like a prayer of appreciation for soil.   

Prepare—

  • Find a comfortable seated position, e.g., on a chair, the floor.
    • Allow yourself to feel the surface beneath you, especially where there is a connection between you and that which is supporting you.  Invite an awareness of the layers of support beneath you, e.g., the floor, the foundation of the building, the soil, the microbes in the soil, the multiple layers of earth.  Then, invite a sense that your weight is gently and lovingly being held by these layers of support.
  • Scan through your body from your ankles to the crown of your head.  Notice any unneeded tension you might using to hold you upright and invite it to soften with the trust that you are being safely held.
  • Keeping a sense of being held by the support beneath you, allow a slight lift from your seated surface through your torso to the crown of your head.

Practice—

  • Seated, invite your palms to rest on your thighs with your fingers relaxed.  If comfortable, stay here for a few gentle breaths.
    • Imagine your palms could speak to your legs through the quality of a sincere and honest touch of kindness and gratitude for this part of you that is closest to the soil.  If you are seated on the floor and have easy access to your feet, take a few moments to also rest your hands on your feet before returning them to your thighs.
      • Notice any shift in the muscles in your thighs as you let your own hands gently rest on your legs.  (Note: If for any reason you feel any aversion toward this part of the practice, please feel free to skip it, and to make any adjustments you feel you need to.)
  • Standing, pause and once again invite a connection to the surface beneath you.  If comfortable, trace through the cues in the “prepare” section above. (Note: If standing is not accessible to you, please skip this standing portion.)
  • Slowly begin to walk in a smallish circle clockwise.  Walk for a couple minutes, or as long as is comfortable for you.
    • Imagine you are stepping on the skin of a living being whom you adore and who adores you.  This being is the soil and can handle you weight but treasures the chance to commune with you – and adore you – through your feet and footsteps.  Invite your breath to be easeful as you walk together with the earth.
  • Return to a seated position.  Silently acknowledge the soil, all life forms, and the gift of communing through your feet and lower body with the earth.
    • I offer these words for your inspiration: “I acknowledge the soil.  I acknowledge the soil’s endless capacity to hold and nourish me.  I offer gratitude to all those who protect and care for the soil – e.g., the small farmers, farm workers, gardeners – and endeavor to do my part in caring for the soil in the way it cares for life.   I revel in and honor the belongingness of all beings sustained and nourished by the soil.   And, I acknowledge my digestive system and its ability to receive and digest the offerings of the foods from the soil.   I am grateful for my feet and legs and my ability to stand and to make choices to do the least harm possible.  I offer reverence to the Divine for these gifts.”

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly for a few moments, with the eyes and ears tuned inward.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

The  poem by St. Francis of Assisi appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 94, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The practice is a modified version of a practice in “Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 341-43, available through Bookshop, or order through your local independent bookstore.
H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.  Please visit katevogt.com for my current and upcoming groups and classes.

 

 

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