Ladybug – spark of joy in a grey world

Ladybug – spark of joy in a grey world

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.

Translated by Coleman Barks

I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy upon spotting small ladybug along the pathway.   Her distinctive coloring, with bright reddish-orange and splashes of black, stood out on this foggy summer morning.

Only minutes before I had noticed the muted tones of the foliage and the fading shades of the flowers.  Along with the soundless creeks, these were reminders of the severe drought absorbing the vibrancy of this part of the planet.

The ladybug disappeared quickly, but left a remembrance of that spark of delight which I had felt upon seeing her.  It was that raw childlike enchantment and awe of life.

There was a feeling of kinship with the surroundings, sensing the thirst of plants and the creek and simultaneously the lightness of insects and clouds.  Fueling that sense of kinship were memories, such as:  feeling ebullient aliveness emanating from others – strangers, friends, family, and pets; and, even from that which we call inanimate – stones, soil, trees.

Along with those remembrances, I found myself imagining a world infused with a large dose of pure joy, seeding hope and compassion to begin anew.  The ladybug apparently begins as a bland monochrome larva and then transforms itself into a round, colorful form.

Perhaps it is childish to imagine that we could disarm the deep grooves of hatred, greed, and jealousy with joy, but our human inventive capacity can turn wild imaginations into possibilities.  For now, I am heartened to see the pre-school children in our neighborhood carrying ladybug backpacks. Maybe ladybugs will show us the way to the future.

For now, I’ll heed the wisdom of the timeless poets, prophets and sages, and appreciate that the world and we are intricately tethered together with a collective of small joys.  Joy is not devoid of grief or sorrow: it nourishes and uplifts us like a loving mother.  It is ours to share and treasure as lovingly as it graces us in the precious journey of life.  I hope you will join me.

This practice supports awareness of joy.


  • Remove any potential distractions.  For example, remove non-medical electronic devices from your wrist and surroundings.  Place them in another room.  If you are using a device for reading, please place it on silence and/or airplane mode.
  • Standing, stretch out through your arms in any way that feels comfortable. Then, gently shake each limb, one at a time for several seconds.
  • Sigh a few times, also in any way that feels comfortable.  Invite your shoulder and facial muscles to relax and soften.  Smile for about twenty seconds.

Practice  – 

  • Seated, allow your lower body to settle into the support beneath you. Gently invite an awareness into your feet and legs that they are free to just be. For now, they do not need to be on alert in anticipation of moving of doing something.  They can relax naturally.
  • With ease in your lower body, invite a few easy breaths to flow in and out through your nostrils.
  • Pause, allowing your breath to return to its normal background state.
  • If it feels comfortable, invite a remembrance of your own personal experience of what felt like pure joy in your lifetime.
    • Again smile for about twenty seconds, this time feeling as though your whole being is infused with remembrance of that joy.
  • Then, invite a smooth, even, and gentle inhalation through your nostrils. As you inhale, imagine that joy is spreading to all of your cells – from your toes to the crown of your head.  On exhalation, allow your breath to flow out with ease while sustaining that joyfulness in your tissues, muscles, organs, and bones.   Continue this for several breaths.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
    • Perhaps touch your heart center in remembrance that joy is always within you and that it is always there for you at any time during the day.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 8, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by  Neringa Hünnefeld on Unsplash.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, I am offering an online study group, 1st Wednesday each month, 10:30 a.m. to noon PT, July, August and September 2021.  Please contact me for more information.






Forest – sacred aliveness

Forest – sacred aliveness

One instant is eternity;
Eternity is the now.
When you see through this one instant,
You see through the one who sees.

English version by Stephen Mitchell

As the seasonal cycle once again turned toward summer, the mountain forests held the quietude of winter.  For months, they had been in hibernation with their ground blanketed under mounds of snow.  The immovable settling into prayerful silence absorbed each of these in its own reverent essence:  trees, plants, boulders, and granules of dirt were still and peacefully gathered in quiet, timeless communion.

To come to this moment of transition, the days have incrementally lengthened.  The snow has been melting.  And, the seemingly insentient community has transformed into a body of diverse shapes and forms.  Brilliant greens, browns and greys have emerged.   The expansive space between the towering trees seems to have taken centerstage – perhaps because the openness sustains the memory of quietude and is home to thousands of resilient, tiny plants that later blossom into soft reds, yellows, blues and lavenders.

Crystals of snow have steadily transformed into trickles and streams of water.  By the time human visitors arrive, the water is energetically rushing downward, cascading into waterfalls.  Eventually it begins to echo its quiet origins, slowing its pace and flowing into broad bodies of water.  There, like the mountain meadows, the lakes and even human-made reservoirs inspire memories of tranquil peacefulness and reverential awe.

Nature is a continual expression of sacred wisdom that abides in every morsel of life.  A visit to the mountain forest is a visit into the vastness of our own inner wilderness.   We are Nature.  The seasons move within us and we move within the seasons.  Nature’s voice is a quiet wordless offering of predominately subtle reminders of our temporal worldliness, being woven around the sacred Infinite.   The less subtle reminders are the turbulent storms – whether outer or inner – that uproot our confidence in predictability.

Within the pallet of worldly opposites of rising and subsiding, and offering and receiving, there is spacious, all-fulfilling serenity generously and equally holding all.  My hope is that we all rediscover what ancients have long observed, which is that the life’s essence is always nearby.  As the poet Wu-Men offers, Eternity is the now.

This practice supports awareness of the universality of the five elements. 


  • Find a comfortable seated position.
    • If you are in a chair or on a bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the surface beneath you.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your awareness to your breath in any way that feels pleasant for you.
  • If possible, invite a sense of ease and openness.  Relaxing the muscles around your jaw and shoulders, your navel, and the base of your skull.

Practice  – 

  • With your eyes in a soft gaze or lightly closed, take a moment to reflect on five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space.
    • With each, slowly and gently:
      • Whisper the name of the element three times.
      • Invite an awareness of the sensations and feelings associated with the element. Silently say the name of the element as you inhale.  Imagine as though your awareness of the element is expanding with your inhalation.  Perhaps notice its presence within and beyond the boundaries of your skin.  On your exhalation, smile slightly and feel as though you are completely letting go of all stresses, thoughts, and any clinging.  Repeat with each element.
      • If the above practice seems inaccessible to you, perhaps try the following:
        • Invite an awareness of your inner sensations associated with that element. Imagine with your inner eye you are scanning the inside of your body from your toes to the inner surface of your head.  In your scan, be open to areas of the body where there is a seeming predominance of that element.
          • For example, the solidity of earth within the bones, the fluidity of the blood and moisture on the tongue for water, warmth for fire, lightness for air, and spaciousness for space.
        • Gently shift your awareness to your outer environment – nearby and then extending as broadly as comfortable for you – and invite an awareness of areas of the environment where you perceive to be a predominance of that element.
          • For example, the ground beneath you for earth, the interior of your home and the expanse of the night sky for space.
          • As you scan the environment, simultaneously invite an awareness of your inner sensations and feelings that arise. Allow yourself to let and just feel and notice without labels and judgment.
        • Again, whisper the name of each element three times.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • When you are ready, return to your day.
  • As you go about your day, invite a view of the world as a composition of the elements continuously and seamlessly manifesting in innumerable ways – inside and out.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 80, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.



Light – generosity of being

Light – generosity of being

Like a great starving beast
My body is quivering
On the scent

Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky


It seems fanciful that a new moon can appear to shimmer. Yet, about once every eighteen months, there is a radiant glow around a new moon. It occurs when the two orbs of the moon and the sun seem to mate in the daytime sky, and the moon partially obscures the sun.

I admire the odd and wondrous relationship between this unlikely pair. They couldn’t be more different in their natures. The moon is tiny and constantly mobile, whereas the sun is massive—about four hundred times larger than the moon— and ever-steady and luminous. Still, they have an intimate inter-connection, and model balance and altruism despite their unique and vast differences.

The sun, even with its center-stage prominence in the solar system, freely offers warmth and light to all. In some cultures and religions, the sun’s radiance is an archetype of the immortal, supreme light and love that holds life.  And, the moon is its partner, reflecting light into the nighttime. It helps stabilize the earth’s rotation and regulate our tides.  Together, they provide us with energy, illumination, inspiration, and our sense of the passing of time.

Ancients recognized the magnificent power and significance of these two spherical bodies. Nowadays, we need a cosmic jolt to renew the awe of our raw link to them and the rest of life. When the dark moon covers the sun, it is like a power outage, especially in the locations where an eclipse will be visible.

For days, and some human lore says for months, things can be turned upside-down before and after a solar eclipse. There can be distressing energies, turbulence, and waves of negativity and misfortune. Plants, animals, humans and the elements can be affected. The change in the gravitational pull may cause earthquakes and other terrestrial phenomena. We may feel forced to leap into the new. Still, all is not gloomy with an eclipse; the sun reveals its radiant presence by giving the moon a glimmering appearance.

Poets like Hafiz remind us that light is always there. It will always illumine us, even if we ignore or forget about it, or when we think it has abandoned us in our bleakness. Like the moon, we have the capacity to reflect or eclipse the light, with the former a more normal way of being and the latter, temporary and occasional.

In our daily lives, the orbs in the sky are always there—day and night—inviting us to remember our own inner luminosity steadily shining, even during the eclipses of life.   And, with that remembrance is an awareness of our endless capacity of generosity, reciprocity, equanimity, and all other loving qualities of light.

This practice supports awareness of your inner light.


  • Invite quietude—Turn your phone to airplane mode and put it aside.
    • Remove items from your wrists, such as your watch or any non-medical monitor.
      • However, if you know you only have a set amount of time, please feel free to use an alarm.
    • Sit comfortably—Come to a seated position, either in a chair or on the floor, where your spine is effortlessly upright.
      • If seated in a chair, place the soles of your feet on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, please place a cushion or a block under them.
    • Relax your hands—Give a gentle squeeze to each hand by placing the thumb of the opposite hand on the palm and wrapping the other fingers over the back of the hand, and squeeze.
      • Then, let the hands relax on your lap in any position that is comfortable.
    • Relax your eyes and face—Either close your eyelids or have them open. If open, let your eyes rest in a soft, gentle gaze. Relax your forehead, jaw, and chin.


  • Imagine a steady, radiant glow of light similar to that of the early morning or late day sun. Imagine that with that light, there is an overwhelming presence of well-being, protection, and love.
  • Sequentially, imagine that the building that you are in is infused with light—every wall, ceiling, floor, window, and door, as well as the roof and foundation.
    • the room you are in is made of light.
    • the cushion or chair that you are seated on is made of light.
    • you are bathed and enfolded in light.
    • you are luminous…you are the steady, radiant glow of light.
    • there is only light.
      • Note: You may wish to open your eyes, silently read a line, e.g., “the building…,” and then sit quietly imagining that layer before moving to the next line.
      • Follow your pace of awareness. Savor the light.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • If your eyes were closed, slowly open them.
  • Allow the awareness of your breath to seep in. Notice the gentle movement of the chest and ribs associated with the breath.
  • After several breaths, slowly lower your chin to your chest and rock your head from side to side in half-circles. Shrug through your shoulders. Stretch through your palms and squeeze your hands. Before standing up, stretch through your toes and feet.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.


This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 32, 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.  This post is an excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry.  KateVogt©2021.

If you are interested in exploring more about an perspective on the interweaving of our mind, senses, and our inner orientation to life, please consider joining me in my virtual community education class “Path to Quietude” starting June 17 for 5 Thursdays.  Register before June 14, 2021.



Clouds and winds of change

Clouds and winds of change

Observe your life, between two breaths.

Breath is a wind, both coming and going.

On this wind you have built your life–
but how will a castle rest on a cloud?

Trans. by David Fideler and Sabrineh Fideler

The skies have been intermittently cloudy over the past few days.  The clouds arrive on the wind, swirl around, morph into different shapes, and then fade into the expanse of the sky.  An hour or so later, another set of clouds appear.

This ever-changing pattern of the clouds amplify my awareness of my mindscape in which thoughts come and go.  Some linger a little longer than others, and some seem to disappear as soon as they arise.  Although very few of them offer any useful insight, I am grateful for this assorted parade.  The pauses between offer glimpses of an underlying peaceful quietude.

My thoughts, like the clouds, reveal the presence of the winds of life dancing on the infinite spaciousness known as the heavens and the human heart.  The breezes, the gales, the breath, and our thoughts herald aliveness and its constantly changing nature.  Within these currents of air there is opportunity to come to know and trust abundance, reverence, love, and compassion.

Prophets, sages, and wise beings around the world, such as the poet Avicenna, inspire us to remember that true wealth belongs to no one, yet benefits all.  It is not within accumulation or the ephemeral moments of fame or power or accomplishment, nor is it lauded with awards or breaking news.

I feel that the gems of knowingness are tucked within the spaces between Avicenna’s words and phrases.   In that openness, the clouds of avarice, conceit, and superiority have faded and dissolved, leaving only divine spaciousness where there is room for you, me, and all life.   May we meet one another there.

This practice supports awareness of peacefulness beneath the changing clouds of the mind.


  • Sit quietly for a few moments.

Practice (early morning) –  (Standing.)

  • Place your palms over the center of your chest.
    • With an easy, smooth breath, pause here for a few breaths.
      • Imagine that infinite peace and joy reside deep within you.
  • Allow your arms to lower alongside your body.
    • Pause for one breath.
    • Then on an inhalation, reach your palms forward and upward.  On your exhalation, allow your arms to return to the sides of your body.
      • If comfortable, pause for one to two seconds at the end of your exhale.  Soften and relax, releasing any un-needed tension in your face and shoulders.
      • Continue for five breaths.
  • Slowly bring your hands together in front of the center of your chest.
    • Invite further softness and ease into your face, shoulders, arms, hands, and mind.
    • On your inhalation, imagine loving peace radiating outward from your heart to every cell within your body.
    • On your exhalation, invite a sense of settling into the depths of your heart.

Transition Back into Your Day— (Seated.)

  • Sit quietly.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 55, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by Hester Qiang on Unsplash.  The practice is from “Clouds” in Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

If you are interested in exploring more about an perspective on the interweaving of our mind, senses, and our inner orientation to life, please join me in my virtual community education class PATH TO QUIETUDE starting June 27 for 5 Thursdays.  Register before June 18, 2021.


Gophers – honoring interconnectivity

Gophers – honoring interconnectivity

Then there
A little noiseless noise
among the leaves,
Born of the very sigh
that silence heaves.

John Keats


As spring matures, the days grow longer, inviting more late afternoon excursions.  Yesterday it was a short drive to a large public beach.  Instead of taking the usual stroll along the tide-line, I took a cue from my loving life partner Jay, who said he was feeling like nap and was in search of a perfect spot on the sand to spread out a blanket.  It seemed wise to be still and absorb the immense presence of the ocean, sand, and sky, so I tagged along behind him, sitting next to him as he napped.

We were nestled next to some shore vegetation with its diverse species of grasses and other plants, all conditioned to thrive and support one another in the harsh winds and salty waters.  A few were in bloom with soft purples, yellows, and pinks, but all offered a rich and nuanced palette of greens.  Not surprisingly, wild mammal and bird species are nourished by this verdant plant membrane separating the parking lot from the shifting beach sands.

While pondering an earlier encounter with a coyote emerging out of this dense greenery, I sensed a subtle movement nearby.  My mind spun into high alert, with a readiness to awaken Jay and respond to whatever being was nearby.  My peripheral vision registered sand cascading into an opening in the ground.  A sand-covered face briefly arose out of the hole and then vanished.

Dragonflies and butterflies danced in the air, small sand bugs scurried across the rippled surface of the sand, and now I also had glimpsed one of the gophers who lived in a hidden network of tunnels underground.  It seemed ironic that I was the nuisance who had interrupted this particular herbivore’s “top-side” visit to feed on a plant.  In a city backyard or garden, the gopher would be labelled as a pest.

It also seemed somewhat serendipitous to encounter a gopher after a COVID-year of staying closer to our human burrow with minimalized socialization.  This expanded gopher-like time has spurred “digging,” in a metaphorical sense, for a better capacity for understanding and nurturing the deeper, quieter truth tethering all life.  A gift of this year has been a renewed awareness of the hidden, fragile, and rich inter-relationship with one another and the rest of the earthly beings, all woven of a fabric of energies.  The mounds of damage caused by human attitudes, fears, and greed are more visible, calling for re-learning the timeless lessons of silence and love.

As Jay stirred from his slumber, the gopher re-appeared, perhaps as a greeting to this other intruder.  Or, perhaps as a reminder to tread lightly and more gracefully with a heart anchored in the silent love holding the tears, as we grieve in remembrance of that which we’ve lost, and cherish the joy in rediscovered awareness of every moment.

This short practice invites awareness of interconnectivity.

Prepare – 

  • Standing:
    • Gently shake out one limb at a time.  Imagine as though you are releasing unneeded tension as you do this.
      • If comfortable, do this without shoes.
    • With stillness in the body, gently move your head around, e.g., from side to side, up and down.  Then, pausing the movement of your head, make faces with your mouth and facial muscles.

Practice – 

  • Standing or sitting, quietly remind yourself that:
    • Your feet are connected to the ankles, the ankles to your lower leg, your lower leg to your knees, your knees to your upper legs, etc. – all the way through each part of your body until you reach your head.
    • Your back is connected to your sides, and your sides are connected to your front.
    • All your inner systems are connected – your respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive, reproductive, etc.
    • Your emotions, thoughts, and actions are connected.
    • Your body and mind are a living network of connections.
  • Still, standing or sitting, bring your awareness to:
    • Your feet being connected to the earth.
    • Your mouth being connected to the plants, water, and nutrients of the earth, rivers, lakes, and aquifers.
    • Your nose being connected to the air.
    • Your body and mind being part of a broader living network of connections.
    • Your life constituting a web of living relationships.
  • Walk around wherever you are with reverence for this interconnectivity of all earthly life, holding and being held by inner love and silence.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for as long as comfortable.  Invite a soft awareness of your breath.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.


This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 116, 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 on    KateVogt©2021.

 If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, this Spring I am offering an online study group, 5 Thursdays, 3:15-4:45 p.m. PT, May 6-June 10, 2021.  It is not too late to join.





Rain Commons

Rain Commons

Being is not what it seems,
nor non-being.
The world’s existence
is not in the world.

Translated by Coleman Barks

Plop. Plop. Plop.  A sound of renewal reverberated through the bedroom window.  Small rain droplets fell smoothly from the eaves onto tree leaves.  Plop (silence), plop (silence),  each droplet was giving voice to the underlying pulse of life.  Like notes of the song of time, each one was offering sweet praises from whence it came and where it will arise again – from heaven to earth and earth to heaven.

There had been no thunder or lightning announcing the rain.  Yet, there was no need for a weather report.  The sky had greyed, while chilly winds swirled in the treetops. Spiders began weaving webs in protected areas, the birds culled and pecked more vigorously than usual, and squirrels disappeared.  Even the smell within the air sweetened.

The steady plops on the leaves told the story of this rain shower.  Moisture from the earth had risen upward toward the sky, helping form clouds that then stretched across the sky.  Because clouds naturally dissipate, the moisture returned downward as rain.   It was a simple story, without dwelling upon the delicate nuances of the grace of rain.

Still, the rhythmic plopping felt like a reminder that the basal story of life is held within each raindrop.  As moisture returns from the sky, it feeds the rivers, streams, aquifers, and other natural bodies of water.  It nourishes the soils, bringing a banquet of fresh textures, shapes, aromas and sounds.  It contributes to nutrients and breath for the earth’s rooted, winged, finned, and roaming beings.  A single raindrop carries timeless stories – that the whole is collective of all its parts, and the parts reflective of the whole.

Beyond the eaves, there was an enclave of raindrops.  They were a community of belonging in which each carried the title of “rain.”  Every droplet was rain.  Every one – plop, plop, plop – inviting us to hear its story, to listen, and to understand we too are rain.

This short practice invites awareness of water.   

Prepare – 

  • Standing:
    • Stand on one foot, lift the other foot and move your ankle around.  Shift sides.
      • If comfortable, do this without shoes.
    • With both feet on the floor, curl your toes under.  Then, lift them up and spread your toes wide apart.
      • Repeat three times
    • Bend your knees with hips back far enough so you can see your toes.
      • Pause here for three breaths. 

Practice – 

  • Imagine you are outside after a big rain.  The sun is shining and the air is warm.  There are puddles of water all around you.
  • Walk around the perimeter of these imaginary puddles.  See the ground as wet, but firm.
    • Notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
    • There is no right or wrong.  Just noticing your feet and how they are connecting to the surface beneath you.
    • Continue, and notice how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
  • Approach one of the imaginary puddles.  Step one foot in and then the other.  The water is ankle deep, not deeper.
    • Begin to walk around in the puddle.
      • Again, notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
      • Notice how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
    • Pause.
    • Now, invite yourself to step and make splashes in the puddles.
      • Again, notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
      • Be aware of how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
      • Perhaps step into another puddle and continue.
      • When you are ready, step out of the puddle back to the firmer ground.
    • If comfortable, say “thank you” to the water.
  • Still standing, reach your hands out in front of you, palms upward.  Imagine it is raining.  Allow your palms to fill with water.  Then, holding the water, slowly lift your hands upward into a V-shape and offer the water back to the sky.
    • Holding your arms in the V-shape, breathe for three breaths.
    • Open your fingers so the water can flow back down to the earth.
    • Bring your hands over your heart – one hand over the other.  Bow you head slightly.  Allow your eyes to rest in a soft gaze or closed.
      • Silently:
        • Thank the rain.
        • Thank the waters that flow across the earth.
        • Thank the waters and fluids that flow within you.
        • Thank the water keepers and caretakers who work to preserve the flow of water for the well-being of all.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Seated.  Sit quietly for as long as comfortable.  Invite a soft awareness of your breath.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  This  poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 93, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by “kahika” on Unsplash.   KateVogt©2021.

 Spring Wisdom Circle – If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, this Spring I am offering an online study group, 5 Thursdays, 3:15-4:45 p.m. PT, May 6-June 10, 2021.  Please contact me for more information.




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