by KateVogt | Sep 25, 2022 | Life Inspiration, Love, Nature
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.
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.
This practice supports awareness of gentleness.
- 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.
- 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.
by KateVogt | Sep 10, 2022 | Life Inspiration, Love, Nature
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.
This practice invites you to slow down and notice transitions.
- 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.
- 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.
by KateVogt | Jul 13, 2022 | Life Inspiration, Love, Nature
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.
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.
This practice invites awareness of living with a steady yet light presence.
- 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.
- 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.
by KateVogt | Jun 28, 2022 | Life Inspiration, Love, Nature
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?
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.
This short practice supports awareness of the grace of light.
- 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.
- 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.
by KateVogt | Jun 14, 2022 | Love, Nature, Wisdom to Live By
You are the sky and the ground.
You alone the day, the night air.
You are the meal that’s being brought,
the sandal knot, flowers and their watering.
You are all this.
What could I possibly bring You!
Translated by Coleman Barks
The early morning seemed oblivious of the weather prediction of uncomfortably high temperatures and winds later in the day. Instead, everywhere seemed awash with messages of loving comfort and peacefulness.
Overhead the clouds still carried faint traces of lavender and orange. The air conveyed soft cooing sounds of doves and a light rustle of the cottonwood and elm trees. A monarch butterfly glided between a row of stately red cedars.
The ground stretched beyond the sounds and movements into a smooth, even horizon. It was a wide expanse of flat land that allowed for an undisturbed evenness. There, the sky and earth calmly held one another and all life.
For me, there was an overwhelming sense of belongingness in this early morning moment. There was a visceral feeling that the outer horizon is a continuum of the inner horizon. And within that feeling was a twinkle of the divine everywhere – seemly invisible but continually visible in the profound miracle of the ordinary.
I am moved by such moments to steadily listen to and surrender into the messages of loving comfort and peacefulness for the whole of life – each grain of soil, each tree, every insect and bird, and every human and other moveable being.
This practice supports awareness of reverence within everyday life.
- Gently close your eyes. Imagine that you can release any tension in your eyelids and your eyeballs. Slowly move your eyes up to down, left to right, and then diagonally (first, upper right to lower left, and, then upper left to lower right).
- Open your eyes with a soft gaze. Slowly let your eyes scan around the area where you are. Silently acknowledge the gift of the space around you.
- Allow your eyes to rest on the floor or ground beneath you. Then slowly shift your gaze to a few other spots. As your rest your eyes in a particular spot, notice the textures, colors, etc., without judgment.
- Return your gaze to the first spot.
- Note: If you are indoors, let your mind take note of the source of the materials. For example, a natural wood floor would come from trees. A concrete floor would likely come from sand that has been ground and mixed with water.
- Then, lightly close your eyes and sit quietly for a few moments with a feeling of great reverence for life. (Please feel free to keep your eyes open, if that is more comfortable for you.)
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Continue to sit quietly for a few moments.
- Notice the gentle rise and release of your breath. Acknowledge the gift of breath as an ever-present reminder of your constant link to all of life.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 91, 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, page 217-218. The land reference is my childhood homelands in Greeley County, Kansas in the Great Plains U.S.A. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2022.
by KateVogt | May 15, 2022 | Love, Nature, Spiritual - Inspiration
God blooms from the shoulder of the
elephant who becomes courteous
to the ant.
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
In driving through an area where there had been devastated by wildfires two years earlier, I had expected to see an ashy and charred expanse. Instead, there was an abundance of new life showing up in a variety of stages of regeneration, ranging from wildflower meadows and grasslands to vibrant shrubbery sporting every hue of green.
Had I slowed down and tuned into the even subtler signs of renewal, likely my nose, ears, and skin would have been overwhelmed with a multiplicity of expressions of renewal. Still, there was ample potency within just what my eyes could absorb. Certainly, I felt stirrings of relief that seemingly bleak circumstances continue to carry the possibility of thriving inter-beingness.
The natural cycles and phenomena of earthly existence continually express such possibility. Small beings such as insects live among elephants and other large forms of life. The seasons yield one to the other as do the ocean waves. Microbes and worms quietly shape the ground free of concepts such as nationality or ownership.
Our longest living human cultures, as well as prophets and sages, reverently hold the wisdom of wholeness and inter-beingness. In turn, this wisdom lovingly embraces all life. Like the sun, it illumines freely and endlessly. Yet, as with the sun, e.g., in solar and lunar eclipses, during nighttime, and on cloudy days, this wisdom can appear absent in bleakness.
Fortunately, nature is an ever-present reminder that we live in the midst of abiding, sacred wisdom. This earthly home is where we learn to truly love, forgive, and humbly release our micro-habits of judgment, hate, greed, and superiority. The timeless qualities of wisdom are woven into nature, such as the resilience born out of the wildfire, wordlessly sharing teachings on ways to rediscover customs to live together with courtesy and reverence.
This practice supports awareness of sacred inter-beingness.
- Seated, place your elbows on your knees and your head in your hands.
- Note: If are wearing glasses, please consider supporting your head with your hands on your forehead, or removing your glasses.
- If this strains your back, please place your elbows on a higher surface such as a table.
- Let the weight of your head be heavy in your hands.
- Imagine all your tension is releasing and flowing out through your fingers.
- Breathe without forcing the breath, i.e., as easily and freely as comfortable.
- Slowly, allow yourself to return to an upright, seated position. Continue to imagine tension draining out of your facial muscles, your eyes, and your scalp. Imagine it flowing easefully out through your arms and fingers.
- Move fluidly through your torso, neck and arms. Imagine you are moving in the ocean of loving, sacred wisdom. Then, imagine you are an integral part of this wisdom – not separate, but an expression of loving beauty, reverence, and joy.
- Slowly, come to standing and move in any way where you feel you are innately expressing lovingness, kind gentleness, and compassion to the surface beneath you and space around you.
- Then, still standing, move as though this lovingness and other sweet, peaceful qualities are being shared and absorbed in every cell in your body. Follow your instincts. You may feel inclined to stretch, hug, or even kiss parts of your body.
- Move in a way that feels like a joyous appreciation of the vast inner ecology of your being – tissues, cells, organs, bones, emotions, memory, breath, and more.
- Then, imagine – if it doesn’t come naturally to you to feel aliveness in all life – your surroundings are as vibrantly alive as you are. Again, move with this awareness of inter-beingness held within and expressing abiding, loving wisdom.
- Come to stillness, standing. Breathe and just notice the ground beneath you offering ease and stability, your bones offering ease and stability, and your breath offering ease and stability.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- When you are ready, come to a seated position.
- Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
- Bring your palms together in front of your chest and bow your head in gratitude for the sacredness of earthly life, perhaps vowing to live with more awareness of the pulse of sacred inter-beingness and the grace of courtesy and reverence in everyday gestures and speech.
- Allow your hands to relax in your lap. With a soft, loving gaze, slowly look around where you are – up, down, side to side, and perhaps behind you.
- Then, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed awareness of wholeness.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 15, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2022.