Resilience

Resilience

u
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i
v
e
r
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Tukuram

Within the last few weeks the sky has grown clearer and the plants more vibrant. Wildflowers are blossoming on vacant lots and tree branches are reaching across walkways, causing pedestrians to bow down or walk aside. Fragrances from the lilacs, jasmine, and roses add a sweetness to the air. Throughout the day, the sound of songbirds has replaced the usual murmur of traffic.

I am deeply grateful for the luxury to pause and notice nature as our species grapples with unfathomable levels of change and loss.  Even those of us with basic comforts are jarred into discovering new patterns and rhythms, letting go of a sense of predictability and control, and having courage to face the emotional and mental effects of our separateness from touch and togetherness. 

It has been a gift to observe nature’s dynamic and multi-dimensional response to the slowing of our human activity.  It reminds me that we are part of a dynamic bio-organism, with inbuilt systems and feedback loops for adjusting to disturbances and changes. While our protocol of physical distancing supports our bodily and mental immunity, the rest of nature is actively practicing resilience.  

Each part is part of a resilient whole.  When we look at the word “universe,” we see this word no longer holds any meaning if any of the letters were missing.  All is part of a larger family with a collective of diverse, individual stories.  Natural intelligence weaves all of life together.  The pandemic challenges us to shift our inner dial toward more conscious living with shared values of honoring our nature-, human- and ancestral-kin, as we reconnect with the transformative and caring qualities of gratitude and love.    

When we tune into a reverent, holistic attitude toward life, then perhaps we will find that the universe that we thought was out there somewhere has always been within.  Until then, I wish you safety, resilience, and wellness.

Practice
This short practice supports bodily awareness.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair.
    • If you are on a chair, rest the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Inhale and sweep your arms out to the sides and up overhead.  On an exhale, sweep your arms down to your sides.
    • Soft, gentle, movements and breath.

Practice – 

  • Still seated, acknowledge the different parts of your body.  Lightly place one hand on each part of the body in the following sequence.  
    • Torso area: Heart, lower belly, navel, upper chest, throat.
    • Upper Limbs: right hand, left hand, right arm, left arm.
    • Lower Limbs: both feet (if you can’t touch your feet, no worries, Instead, just point toward them), both legs.
    • Head: nose, mouth, eyes, cheeks, ears, crown of the head. 
      • Note:  For the areas around your face, e.g., eyes, you can just imagine the touch.
  • Pause and breathe 6 breaths.
  • Repeat.  At each part of the body, say “You are an integral part of the whole.”

Transition back into your day – 

  • Come to a seated position.  
    • If comfortable, close your eyes.  Otherwise, invite a soft focus to your gaze. Invite your breathing to be gentle and comfortable.
  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 103, 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. 

NOW AVAILABLE!!   My new book “Our Inherited Wisdom”  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry  (click for online purchase).  This is a perfect companion for your homestay. 

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.

New Moon Night

New Moon Night

There is a desert

I long to be walking,

a wide emptiness,

peace beyond any

understanding of it.

Rumi

I felt welcomed by the still darkness of the new moon sky.  All the universe seemed to be in a slumber.  The atmosphere was quiet as an invisible cloud cover shielded any light from the stars. The birds and neighborhood dogs had yet to stir.  Even the trees were soundless in the quiet, breezeless air.  

Although I was far from the Great Plains where I grew up, the boundless night evaporated all the miles and years to bring me home.  That place of home is where the dark nights absorb the sky and the land and erase any sense of separateness.  As a child, I would stand in awe of the immensity of such nights and felt that somehow a supreme, loving presence was everywhere, filling the darkness.

It seems fortunate to have a warm, childhood memory written into the shrouded nights.  It has the familiar and comforting texture of home, where you can settle in and ponder. The vastness seems like an empty stage, open to endless possibility.  Here, my own thoughts often ease into the calm stillness.  Nothing to know and nothing to need to know. Past, present, and even “the now” have no allure.

As the light of the day arises, I watch my thoughts come to life.  It has been a temporary respite.  I have had a glimpse of what Rumi calls “peace beyond any understanding of it.”   As the day moves on, I will carry that peaceful memory like a camel with its water.  It won’t be lost or hoarded – just carried along to be shared along the way.  Please join me.

Practice

This short practice offers quietude in the pre-dawn. If you have fear of darkness, please skip this practice.

Prepare – 

  • In early morning before sunrise, find a comfortable place where you can sit quietly in the dark.  
    • If inside, cover as much ambient light as you can, and leave the overhead lights off.
    • If outside, be wise about where you can sit undisturbed by outside lights, e.g., passing car lights.  Ensure you have chosen a place where you feel safe.  

Practice – 

  • With your eyes open, relax around the corners of your eyes and across the lids.
  • Imagine you are slowly easing yourself into the fresh sweetness of this early pre-dawn.
    • If helpful, systematically ease any unneeded tension in your muscles:
      • Across your face, your chest, your arms, your legs, and then your shoulders and back.
  • Then, just sit. 
  • Remember the sun will soon rise out of this quiet time of the day.

Transition back into your day – 

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

This poem  is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 69, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by Jeremy Bishop 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.

Loving-Nature

Loving-Nature

What must come, comes.

Face everything with love,

as your mind dissolves

in God.

Lalla

The neighborhood where I was walking was quiet.  A flock of birds flew far overhead and a pair of doves were snuggled next to one another on a telephone wire.  Occasionally, a squirrel scampered soundlessly across a lawn and into a tree.  

Just as I turned the corner to a busier street, the silence was broken by the sound of a screen door slapping shut and a patter of footsteps.   A woman, who I later learned was named Irene, was running toward a faint sound of a high-pitched mewing.  Two grey kittens sat near the curb.  Nearby on the street was their mother, lying immobile on her side.

Irene must have sensed that the news was not good.   She had brought two shoeboxes with her.  Asking if I could help, I was handed a box, and she pointed to the kittens.  There was a soft cloth inside.  She headed toward the mother, knelt down, and then took a photo of the cat’s serene face before wrapping the cloth around her and placing her in the other box.   

Noticing my curiosity, Irene said, “The photo is for humility.  I want to remember that part of my humanness as I care for these kittens and help them grow.”   She paused and then continued, “It is too easy to forget that one of the roots of our human species name is humus, or earth, or dirt. Instead, we (as humans) often center the story around ourselves as being the rescuer when all I am doing is temporarily stepping in on behalf of another species.  The photo helps me remember that.”  

Irene’s words reminded me of my ancestors, particularly those on my father’s side of the family who had old-world farm values.  My dad Bob was keen to remind the younger generations that we don’t take any of our material possessions with us when we die, and we should do the best we can in looking after whatever is in our care.  As children, we were given chores such as feeding the farm cats in the barn.  Each chore inbred a sense of loving humility and responsibility toward the greater whole.  

It is no wonder that the name Irene is sometimes equated with “she who knows,” or “peace” in Greek mythology.  This Irene whom I met on the street carries the beautiful timeless value of humble lovingness.  Later I found out that she is a full-time city councilwoman, a regular volunteer and advocate for housing and employment for all, a mother of two, and a wonderful mentor to the neighborhood children.  She and her husband live simply, regularly feed stray humans and animals, yet stay healthy in their own bodies and minds.  The cat that died was one that Irene had raised after its mother had died of a similar car accident.  

The interruption to quietude on my morning walk offered unexpected insight into navigating life with an old-fashioned, but not outdated, attitude and perspective of the power of humanness to be more than just the sum of our products, possessions, and inventions.  We have the potential to remember and to care for this earthly home that we all share.  And, to remember that God and sacredness is within every life gesture and expression.   I endeavor to approach the coming year with a more loving and reverent spirit, and hope you will join me.

Practice

This short practice supports your awareness of interconnectivity.

Prepare –

  • Free your hands and wrists of any personal devices.  Place them out of arms’ reach and find a comfortable seat. 
  • On both hands, slowly touch the tips of each fingers with your thumb. 
    • Pause for a breath or two as you with each finger.
    • Invite a sense of appreciation for the gift of having hands.

Practice –

  • With your palms relaxed, open your hands upward at a level, e.g. level of your waist or chest, where you can observe your hands.
    • Soften your wrists and your gaze.   Just observe your hands as though you are seeing them for the first time in your life.
      • Notice what you notice.   For example, the space between your fingers or the way the fingers and thumb connect into the palm. 
      • Perhaps recall how a baby observes his/her hands.
    • Imagine as you observe your palms, you were able to see all that has passed across these hands of yours – perhaps kittens or puppies, favorite treats, beloved family, flowers, trees, books, steering wheels and more. 
    • Consider gestures – soft and harsh – and other ways that you have expressed emotions with your hands.
    • All life is in your hands.   Stretching back eons, your hands arise from a long chain of connections.
    • Take a moment to bring your palms together in front of your heart.  Bow your head.  As the poet Lalla suggests, vow to touch everything with love and reverence. 

Transition back into your day –

  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 38, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Jacayln Beales. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2019.

Paradise

Paradise

The heart has its reasons which 

Reason knows nothing of.

Blaise Pascal

The ramp off the freeway was like a parking lot.  The road fed into a nearby shopping center, which was a sea of cars, both parked and in motion with drivers who were in search of parking spots.  I had forgotten that it was one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  Most of those with whom I had spoken over the last couple of weeks had declared a hiatus from shopping, so it wasn’t in my awareness to change my driving route.

To the east and across the road from the stores is a large preserve of wetlands.  When the tide is in, streams of water meander through the brass-colored expanse.  During the spring and fall, flocks of migratory birds make this a stopover on their way to their destination.  During the winter, the most visible bird is the egret with its white and graceful shape.  It is common to see moms or nannies with children, and people walking their dogs along the pathway.

As I sat in the traffic line, I turned my attention toward the open landscape.  There was a break in the otherwise grey sky.  A band of brightness shined through.  It reminded me of a similar pattern earlier that morning when a stretch of cloudless sky was bright orange.  Both felt a little like some greater force – God or cosmic intelligence – was sending a little seasonal wish for clarity to anyone who was noticing.  

Ironically, the road between the wetlands and the shopping center is called Paradise Drive. Each of us in the row of cars had our own experience of being there together.  And likely, most of us felt that paradise was something ahead –certainly, not where we were at the moment.  Yet, there we were, in a place given the name “paradise.” 

It was humbling to be forced to stop in the midst of the everyday flow of life.  Instead of sitting quietly at home in meditation or prayer, I was sitting in stalled traffic with nowhere to go but into that moment.  There was no other choice or option. Had I been zooming down the road, I would have missed the parting of the clouds and the play of paradoxical duality.  For no rationale reason, I felt there on Paradise Drive that I had glimpsed life’s heartbeat, or that which is neither here nor there, yet everywhere.  

This event inspires me to consciously step out of our cultural tendency to value the rationale mind and its capacity to analyze, categorize, and quantify all that comes near. Rather than measuring my breath or my steps or judging one direction as being better, I will cultivate a bit more reverence, compassion and loving respect as I breathe, walk, observe, listen, and move within the landscape of all life.  I hope you will join me. 

Practice

This short practice is a reminder of your expansive and divine nature.

Prepare – 

  • Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for a few minutes.  
    • If in a chair, place the soles of your feet on the floor.
    • If you have had a busy day, take a moment and shake out through your arms and legs – one at a time.

Practice – 

  • Place one hand over the center of your chest.  Place your other hand on top.
    • Feel the touch of your hands on your chest. 
    • Allow your hands to relax.
    •  Invite a sense of ease in your face, shoulders, chest, and breath.
  • With bent elbows and open palms, open your arms to the sides.    
    • Imagine you are holding the entire universe in your hands. 
      • If comfortable, feel as though you are holding the most beautiful and precious baby in your hands.  
      • Breathe softly and gently.
  • Again, place your palms over your chest, one hand on top of the other. Breathe.  
  • Again, with bent elbows and palms upward, open your arms to the sides.
    • Imagine you are holding the most sacred and divine presence in your hands.
    • Breathe softly and gently.
  • Allow your hands to relax in your lap.  
    • Breathe softly and gently.
    • Pause for as long that is comfortable.

Transition back into your day – 

  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 3, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2019.

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