WALKING – joy in connectedness

WALKING – joy in connectedness

Keep walking, though there ’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings. Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

I like to take walks through my neighborhood’s redwood groves and hillsides.   My real joy on these walks is the simple gift of walking and imagining being in sync with the pulsebeat of the earth.  Within walking, some part of my body seems to resonate in the invisible kinship of all earthly beings.

My experience of walking is one of grace. There is a communing of connectedness, humility and generosity.  The trees, the soil, the birds and every being, including me – and you – are walking together.  My sense is that as a human I am welcomed with endless earthly gifts – breath, water, shelter, food, creative inspiration and profound beauty.   My human gift in return is to joyfully and reverently receive these gifts and be a living expression of divine reciprocity among all.

For those moments in walking, I am experiencing unhindered belonging and togetherness.   I am feeling the interdependence of my human embodiment mirroring the universe.  Part of me are both everything that has come before and all that now is.  From what I understand, there is relationality even with the stars and planets.  This overall experience is one where the macro and micro are reflecting one another.  Walking, for me, is a reminder of the mystical and integrated flow of life, e.g., the simultaneous movement of sap in the trees and plants, blood within mammalian bodies, water of the ocean and streams and even the stary river of the Milky Way in the sky.

My hope is that within walking I might more fully recover a sensibility of my two-leggedness within this very diverse and conversant earthly realm.  Beyond me, my hope is that all of humanity will opt to revive an understanding that early humans had of the vibrancy within respect and reverence for all dimensions of living.  This will take a conscious surrendering of our human-centric ideals – e.g., dominance, greed, ownership, separateness, control – and the resulting economic and political systems that intentionally thrive on inequity, fear, cruelty and violence.   Each step is a step toward that aspiration.  I hope you will join me in walking.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of joy within connectedness

Prepare— 

  • Move your digital devices, including any wrist devices, to another room.  For the device you are using for this practice, please turn it to airplane mode.
  • Standing, brush yourself off.  Imagine you are covered in flour and need to brush it off.  Take your time.
  • Gently and loosely shake your body, including your legs and arms.  Allow your pelvis and shoulders to be loose and relaxed.

Practice— 

  • Standing, allow your arms to relax by your sides.  If you are more comfortable being seated, please feel free to find a comfortable seated position with the soles of your feet resting evenly on the floor.
  • Pause and appreciate the support beneath you.  Appreciate that you are being generously held by not only the floor but the earth and all the layers of the earth.  As you breathe, imagine on the inhalation you are drawing in the energetic support of the earth, and on your exhalation, you are sending your joyful appreciation for such loving support.
  • As you ground into your earthly connection, imagine you have long fingernails reaching toward the earth.  Then, with open palms reach down and gather up the gifts of the earth and lift them upward toward the sky.  At the top, bring your palms together and drawn them down the centerline of your trunk to the earth.  Repeat this movement three times.  Pause and appreciate you are the embodiment of heaven and earth.
  • (If you are seated and needing to remain seated, please stay here and breathe until you are ready to transition back into your day.  If you are standing or able to move in a standing position, please continue.)
  • Feeling this awareness of your intimate connectedness with sky, earth and all of life, slowly begin walking.  Invite your shoulders and pelvis to move freely.  Perhaps invite a gentle smile.
  • Allow your walking to continue to an imaginary song.  Perhaps invite a feeling of all life fluidly moving, each in their unique way, with a sense of loving care, compassion and reverence for one another.
  • Pause and simply breathe for a few breaths.  Then, in any way that is comfortable to you, spontaneously create gestures and movement that express joy and appreciation for the seen and unseen gifts that generously support you.   For example, if you were three years of age, you might jump for joy, twirling around laughing.

Transition Back into Your Day

  • Find a seated position.  Sit quietly for a few moments.
  • Then, when you are ready, transition back into your day.

This poem is from Mala of the Heart:  108 Sacred Poems, page 2, by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt (editors), published by New World Library.   The practice is inspired by a workshop with movement artist and choreographer Meshi Chavez.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon on katevogt.com.  KateVogt©2024.

 

LIGHTNING – joy in the darkness

LIGHTNING – joy in the darkness

Friend, wake up!
Why do you go on sleeping?

Kabir

Wildfires are beginning to emerge in the area where I live, on the west coast of the United States.  I find myself longing for the fragrance of wet soil and the sound of raindrops on the leaves of the plants and trees.  Yet, recently when I awakened to flickering light on the bedroom walls, that inner longing was eclipsed by a rapt alertness.

Between the flickers of light, I could hear a slight static noise.  My mind pondered the source of the light. My ears were detecting that the buzzing was inside the room, prompting the thought that the aging electrical wiring was short-circuiting. As I listened more carefully, the sound was instead gentle rustling in the trees just outside the window.

The sound which had seemed disturbing had becoming calming. My mind eased into the quietness, allowing me to settle into quiet awake-ness.   While it seemed lightning – and possibly rain – was happening over the distant hillsides, I felt joyful being immersed in the awe of the bluish bursts of light in the room.  There was no need for pondering or ruminating, longing or desiring, or clinging or grasping.  It was more than enough to just be present within an expansive reverence for existence.

I feel confident there was lightning that night.  When I asked others the next morning whether they had been awakened by the lightning, they hadn’t.  With the flashes of light, I had been reminded that the impulse of fear is always nearby, ready to respond to life-consuming threats, such as fire.  And, that as a human, I have the capacity of discernment.  That discernment allows me to recognize whether there truly is a threat.  I can also choose whether to be cloaked by the realm of fearfulness, anger, judgment and hatred; or, I can choose to stay awake and notice the delicate messages of eternal wisdom within the awe of everyday phenomena.

My grandparents and generations before them had chosen the latter.  They lived with wakeful awareness of the grace of light. They recognized the presence of threats and fear without becoming cynical or cruel.  Instead, they chose respect for the joyous wisdom tucked within all life – e.g., the earth, plants, animals, birds, themselves and one another.  I choose to follow their choice and hope you will too.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of peace and serenity.

Prepare—

  • Turn all electronic devices to airplane mode.
    • If you are wearing a watch and/or any other wrist items, remove it/them. Ideally, place these items in another room.
  • Seated, allow your hands to relax, with the backs of your hands resting on your thighs. Relax the center of your palms and the fingers.
    • If you are seated in a chair, rest both of your feet on the floor.
  • Eyes closed, or open with a soft gaze, gently bring your attention to the movement of the breath. Without strain, slowly exhale. Slowly inhale.
  • Release any unneeded tension along your temples, forehead, and the rest of your face.

Practice—

  • Lift your hands away from your thighs.
    • Bend your elbows so that your forearms are somewhat parallel to the floor. Turn your palms downward and let your hands relax. (Fingers dangling downward.)
  • Rotate your forearms so that your hands slowly rotate inward toward one another, then upward, and then outward.
    • Keep a relaxed feeling in your hands. Elbows are softly bent and your palms relaxed and upward.
  • With your eyes open or closed, pause for a minute or so. Soft, gentle breaths.
  • Repeat above for three or more times.
    • Invite a feeling of simultaneously letting go and receptivity during the gesture and then pause.
    • If it feels comfortable, repeat silently, “I welcome eternal truth, light, and love” during the pause.

Transition Back into Your Day

  • Relax the backs of your hands onto your thighs. Allow your mind to follow the inhales and exhales for four to five minutes.
  • Then, transition back into your day.

The poem is an excerpt from a longer poem by Kabir.  The translator is unknown. The practice is an excerpt from my 2020 book Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry, pages 335-336.  The photo is by Leon Contreras.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon on katevogt.com.  KateVogt©2024.

ROAR

ROAR

Drumsound rises on the air,
its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat
says, “I know you’re tired,
but come. This is the way.”

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

A roar captured my attention.   Unlike the sound of a large truck or low flying plane, it was continuous, with no sign of fading.  In my childhood, I would imagine that the land quietly roared.  I imagined that the roar was the enduring resonance of the thousands of buffalo hooves that had freely run in the area that had become my family’s farm.

I was far from my childhood both in distance and time, yet the roar felt intimately familiar.  It had been with me my entire life, pulsing within my veins and reverberating in my footsteps.  To me, it feels like the prevailing pulsebeat of life – always there as an unbroken soundtrack of all life.

Here at the beach, the ocean’s waves amplified the wild, untamable nature of this underlying roar.  I felt soothed and calmed by the rhythmic sound.  It contained the seeming paradox of living with the ups and downs of sorrows and joys.  I felt within the roar there was deep sadness toward the growing exaltation of violent harmfulness.  Yet, I also felt it held a powerful reminder of the hidden but enduring lovingness manifesting in all life’s shapes, colors, forms and sounds.

I would like to imagine that we could press pause, and then rewind, back into the apparent evolution of humanity until we reconnected to the roaring wisdom.   Until then, I will endeavor to tread a little more lightly, and live a little more prayerfully.  I hope you will join me.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of ambient sound.  

 

Prepare –

  • Remove any digital devices from the room or space where you are, i.e.., place all digital watches, earphones, computers, etc. in another room.  If you are reading this on a digital device, close all windows except this one, turn off notifications and place your device on airplane mode.
  • Then, swipe your hands along your arms, legs and torso as though cleansing your body.  Gently sweep your fingers along your face as though cleansing your face, including your eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
  • Shake out through your limbs, inviting a release of any unneeded tension.  Again, sweep your hands across your body and face.  Sweep the backs and fronts of each wrist and hand.

Practice –

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
    • As much as possible, allow yourself to settle into the support beneath you.  Imagine you are growing roots into the earth, with those roots fanning out in all directions.
    • With a sense of rootedness, invite your torso to lengthen upward.  Imagine your trunk is supported by the space behind you and around you – as though you are embraced from behind by space.  Invite a sense of trustingly leaning into that invisible support.
    • From the level of your heart center, imagine the area around your upper torso, neck and head is an aura of endless expansiveness.
  • Within that groundedness and lightness, invite awareness that air is touching your face, your clothing (front, sides and back) and any part of your uncovered skin.
  • Resting your hands on your thighs, gently turn your palms upward.  Invite a sense that your palms are filled with air.
  • Cup your palms over your ears and listen to the ever-present ambient sound, which only disappears in a soundproof environment.  Invite yourself to just listen and feel for a few moments.
  • Remove your hands and allow them to rest again on your thighs, in any position that is comfortable.  Close your eyes for a few seconds, open them and then repeat once more.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Pause and sit quietly.
  • When you feel ready, transition back into your day.

This poem is from Mala of the Heart:  108 Sacred Poems, page 48, by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt (editors), published by New World Library.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon on katevogt.com.  KateVogt©2024.

ROCKS – gentle lovingness

ROCKS – gentle lovingness

To the bridge of love,
old stone between tall cliffs
— eternal meeting place, red evening —,
I come with my heart.

Juan Ramón Jiménez
Translated by James Wright

 

The rocks were still there.  I was excited to see them again.  The winter storms have erased so many familiar landmarks – old trees had fallen, hillsides slid away and shorelines were reshaped.  I had imagined the possibility of these giant rocks breaking apart with the intense force of the stormy ocean waves.  Yet, there they were:  quiet giants standing at the far end of the beach.

My first time seeing these magnificent beings (yes, I consider rocks as living beings) was decades ago when I was visiting a friend who lived in a town nearby.  Little did I know then that I would eventually be living only a half hour away and could visit them regularly.  So, my excitement in seeing them was a visceral delight that I remember having when I would visit one of my grandmothers.

One grandmother in particular – my mother’s mother – was rock solid.   She felt sturdy with her corseted body and predictable mannerisms and routines.  Looking back, I realize her steady consistency instilled within me a deep sense of love and being loved.  It wasn’t the movie version of love, but a lovingness that showed up in her endless creativity and artistry in everyday living.  She could make beautiful things from scratch – pancakes, banana bread, jam, quilts, dollies, tablecloths, clothing and the flower garden she grew from seeds and cuttings.

Her reliable presence became an enduring touchstone of a love that feels like an inner rock, continually offering a sense of deep belonging.  I’ve been gifted with a life with few major disturbances – e.g., unexpected deaths of loved ones and moves – and one where this inner pillar has remained peacefully steady.  It has offered the ability for me to allow a growing appreciation that such love is life’s tether, between generations and all of life.  It allows me to feel this love within the rocks – knowing that as they erode, the resulting pebbles will continue to hold the love.

Practice
This practice supports gratitude for help you have received in life.

Prepare—

  • Begin seated.
    • Gently shrug your shoulders up and down a few times.
    • Open your mouth wide and yawn, or try to yawn.
    • Shake through your wrists. Open and squeeze your fingers.

Practice—

  • If comfortable, close your eyes. Otherwise, keep your eyes slightly open, with a soft gaze.
  • Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap.
  • Bring to mind someone who has helped you in your life. This might be someone who genuinely wanted the very best for you.
    • Allow yourself to wholeheartedly think of that person. If your mind wavers, gently bring your thoughts back to thinking about that person.
    • Imagine every cell in your body thinking of that person who truly loved and helped you.
    • Take 3-to-4 smooth, even breaths.
    • Then, silently utter “thank you” a few times, from the depths of sincerity.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly, for as long as you feel comfortable.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem is from Mala of Love:  108 Luminous Poems, page 50, by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt (editors), published by New World Library.  The practice is an excerpt from my book Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry, pages 287-288.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon on katevogt.com.  KateVogt©2024.

RIVER CONNECTIONS

RIVER CONNECTIONS

losing its name
a river
enters the sea

John Sandbach

 

“I want to jump in the river.”   That is how a young boy decided to engage two strangers in a conversation.  He smiled as he spoke and playfully watched to see how we would respond.  My friend Jay and I were sitting on a bench and the boy was with an outing of pre-school children.  The group had momentarily paused.  Other than the boy, the children were quiet and seemingly unaware of the large river and the ships that passed nearby.

Before either Jay or I could respond, the teachers began to encourage the children to move forward.  The boy turned and looked at us, smiled and said, “I can’t swim.”  And, then he disappeared among the other little bodies and large backpacks.  The group moved toward a large grassy area where they silently sat and began eating their lunch.

One of the adults from the group joined us on the bench.  In the few moments while she was getting seated, I was absorbed in the words spoken by the boy.  Even though he was young, his short statement was an opening to many possibilities.  My first instinct was that to jump into the river would mean death – physical death.  Yet, so many sages from around the world speak of another death – one of being like the river.  One who jumps into the river is free of clinging, self-centeredness, anticipations, judgments, hatreds and fears.  The river gracefully surrenders to the ocean.

Like the boy, the woman only had a few moments.  As she spoke about her medical conditions and life experiences, the river made gurgling sounds as the water moved against the banks.  A barge passed by, and the river moved on.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of fluid vitality. 

Prepare –

  • Standing, pause and notice your energy and how you feel, e.g., calm, agitated, dull.
  • Gently shake out through each of your limbs, one at a time.  Imagine that you are releasing tension from your muscles.
  • Invite your body to spontaneously move.  If nothing naturally arises, lightly twist your torso from side to side a few times, move your hips in circles, or dance around.
  • If comfortable, give yourself a big hug and invite an inner smile.

Practice –

  • Continue with a more playful form of movement in any or all of the following ways, for about a minute:
    • Move as though you are piece of kelp in the ocean, moving with the ebb and flow of the waves.  If comfortable, invite arms to slowly swish around as you sway from side to side; or,
    • Imagine you are walking downstream through a shallow creek.  The bottom is sandy and a little uneven, so you need to use your torso and arms to stay balanced; or,
    • Rest on the floor on your back.  Imagine you are floating on a quiet and calm pond on a warm summer day.
    • While doing any or all of these, notice the sensations and feelings, albeit imagined, of being moved or moving within the water.
  • Pause, standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms relaxed at your sides.  Take note of any shift in your energy from when you first began.  There is no right or wrong, just noticing.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Come to a seated position.  Invite your lower body to be supported by the surface beneath you, and your spine to rise gently upward.
  • Lightly close the lids of your eyes, bow your head slightly, and place your hands over your heart center (one hand over the other).
  • Invite your awareness to the gentle ebb and flow of your breath – a slight expansion of your torso and belly on an inhalation, and a gentle relaxation on an exhalation.  Stay here and breathe for a few breaths.
  • Relax your hands in any position that is comfortable, e.g., palms upward on your thighs.  Pause and sit quietly.
  • When you feel ready, transition back into your day.

This poem is from Mala of Love:  108 Luminous Poems, page 107, by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt (editors), published by New World Library. Photo by Justin Wilkins.  HEARTH reflections are offered on each Full and New Moon by Kate Vogt.

MOONLIGHT – love loving love

MOONLIGHT – love loving love

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

I awoke to what seemed like a timeless love story. At first, I thought it was the gentle hoot of the neighborhood owl or the sweet fragrance of freshly moistened earth from earlier rains. Yet when I opened my eyes, I realized that dawn was patiently making her way around the globe and still far away. The light that had pulled me awake came from the full moon.

Moonlight bathed the surrounding area.  For as far as I could see, the ground seemed transformed into a glistening expanse.  It was as though the starlight that was rendered nearly invisible by the brilliance of the moon was instead shimmering across the land.   The trees, especially those with springtime blossoms, sparkled like twinkling stars.

I felt embraced in the sacred communion between heaven and earth.  I experienced them as divine lovingness arising long before the limits of the ideas of time, space and separateness. Although forgotten and dismissed by much of humankind, the loving pulse of existence is seamlessly interwoven within all planetary beings and phenomena. This divine essence tenderly expresses itself through the gentle give and take of compassion and kindness.

Within this communing spirit, I felt the Earth and the Moon were inviting humans like me to wake up and – even if momentarily – view life from an interconnected perspective in which all existence is sacred.   After all, it was the eve between Earth Day and the day of the Pink Moon, both human-constructed reminders, on which we recalibrate our minds and actions for the well-being of all life.  This means a radical re-shifting of our inner radar from one of accumulation and domination to one of trust in communal reciprocity.

The natural world is a constant source of wisdom.  Along with wise sages and saints, our nature-kin and universal phenomena are continual voices of inspiration to nurture ageless values, such as compassion, in our lives.  Through that there is the promise of rediscovering that love is always within love – there is no separateness.  The love is there all along.

Practice
This practice is more like a prayer of appreciation for the all- pervasive support of love in life.

Prepare—

  • Sit upright on a chair or the floor.
  • Notice and release any tension around your legs, hip creases, belly, chest, throat and face.
  • This practice involves placing one hand on different parts of the body, and then quietly acknowledging ways love touches our worldly life. You may wish to read through this a few times and then personalize it.

Practice—

  • Place one hand on your lowest belly.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge the soil, its capacity to hold and nourish me, and all those who protect and care for the soil. I acknowledge the plants, insects, birds, and animals, their strength and vulnerability, and those who protect and care for them. And, I acknowledge my digestive system and its ability to process food to nourish my body. I appreciate my feet and legs and my ability to stand and to make choices to do the least harm possible.” Take a few breaths.
  • Place one hand below your navel.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge water, its capacity to sustain and cleanse me, and all those who protect and care for the waters. I also acknowledge my renal system and its role in nourishing and cleansing my body. I appreciate my ability to move and to create.” Take a few breaths.
  • Place one hand on your navel.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge the sun, its capacity to nourish and warm me and the world around me, and the light it provides for me to see. I also acknowledge my emotions and the ability to feel and experience the world.” Take a few breaths.
  • Place one hand on your throat.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge the air and wind, their capacity to nourish me through sound and breath, and all those who protect and care for them. I also acknowledge my throat and its capacity to carry the breath, food, my voice, and the messages in the nervous system to and from the brain. I appreciate my brain and senses for the capacity they give me to compassionately interact in the world.” Take a few breaths.
  • Place one hand on the center of your chest, the symbolic heart center.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge ever-present love and its sister qualities of compassion, peace, joy, kindness. I appreciate the capacity to feel, and act with, true compassion for those who are suffering from war, violence, abuse, hunger, dislocation, injury, and illness. I acknowledge the teachers, poets, and writers who inspire true love and the grace of peace and freedom.” Take a few breaths.
  • Place one hand on the top of your head.
    • Silently say, “I acknowledge the ocean of love.”
  • Take a few breaths.

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. Invite a sense of sealing into your awareness of acting and speaking with compassion and love.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 42, 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.   Photo by Jakkapan21.  This practice is an excerpt from in my book Our Inherited Wisdom: 52 Inspirations from Nature and Poetrypages 341-343,  KateVogt©2024.

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