MIST

MIST

What
Is the
Root of all these
Words?

One thing: love.
But a love so deep and sweet
It needed to express itself
With scents, sounds, colors
That never before Existed.

Hafiz
Trans. by Daniel Landinsky

 

The morning sky has been grey and misty this past week. People scurry along the sidewalks with their chins tucked into the fronts of their jackets. In the coffee shop, the conversations are about the gloomy weather, with wishes that it would get a little brighter.

Instead of feeling dreary, I feel joyful within the grey. It is as though the earth has merged into the vast sky. Or, that the sky has come to visit the earth, to show us that it is always there, holding and flowing through us. The grey-ness softens edges and boundaries. It gives everything a quality of being infinite.

When the grey gives way to a clearer sky, the world begins to sparkle in its different colors and shapes. Birds sing, and the steps of people on the street seem to lighten. Surprisingly, some even pause and look up at the sky in a way that appears they are seeing it for the first time.

The grey invites us to realize anew the beauty of the world.  Being enveloped in grey along with our surroundings can feel like a tender caress. It can stir a sense of a sweet, loving Presence that is more immense than any other love we have known. This love is love itself, luminous; omniscient; virtuous; and everlasting.

Prophets, sages and great poets like Hafiz remind us that our world is an expression of a love that never ends. As an integral part of the world, we too, in our heart of hearts, are love. We forget this and go looking for the love that we already are. There is still our pain and discomfort, but beneath it all is the love that sustains.

Sacred poetry and misty mornings are outer reminders that we are living expressions of love.  A complete shift into this knowingness takes long-term, continuous practice of daily meditation and/or prayer.  Yet, little things also help. This inspires me to feel a little lighter and more hopeful every time I say, hear, write, or see the word “love.”

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of love from the inside out.

Prepare—

  • Hug yourself. Shift so that your other arm is on top, and re-hug yourself.
  • Gently squeeze each arm, one arm at a time, using the opposite hand. Begin at your shoulder, then move down to your elbow and then your wrist and hand.
  • Pretend to wash your face with your fingertips.
    • For example, gently brush your fingertips up from the eyebrows to the hairline, and then down across the temples and cheeks.

Practice—

  • Find a comfortable seated position, either on a chair or on the floor.
    • Allow your spine to be in a neutral, upright position and your breath to be free and unhindered.
  • Rest the back of one hand, i.e., palm upward, in the center of your lap.
  • Then, as though holding hands with yourself, rest the other palm in the palm in your lap (i.e., the palm is upward on your lower palm; and downward on the upper. The palms are at a 90-degree angle).
    • Imagine that your lower palm is the hand of your most loving friend.
      • Relax the muscles in that arm. Let that relaxation stem from your heart-center, shoulder blades, shoulder, entire arm, and fingers.
      • Let the other hand relax and receive the loving support.
    • Allow your eyes to gently close, or find a soft gaze. Relax the muscles across your face. Allow your breath to be soft and smooth.
    • Stay for as long as comfortable, preferably at least three minutes on each side.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Place the backs of both hands on your thighs. Invite a few full, gentle inhalations and exhalations. Allow for a slight pause between your inhales and exhales.
  • Sit quietly for a few moments.
  • Give yourself a hug and sincerely say to yourself, “I love you.”
  • When you are ready, transition back into your day.

 

This HEARTH is an excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry, by Kate Vogt, pages 315-318, available through Bookshop, or order through your local independent bookstore.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

FALL LIGHT – elemental meeting

FALL LIGHT – elemental meeting

I went everywhere with longing
in my eyes, until here
in my own house

I felt truth filling
my sight.

Lalla
Translated by Coleman Barks         

 

As I stepped outside the front door this morning, I was immediately reminded of the elemental liveliness of the fall season.  The length of daylight may be shorter and the skies may be cloudier, but the landscape felt joyfully vibrant.

The first rays of sunlight were freely pouring across the hillsides and onto the trees and rooftops.  It seemed that every blade of grass and leaf glowed, showing off their uniqueness yet fully celebrating one another.  Some leaves rotated with the gentle breeze, revealing their changing colors from greens to reds and yellows.  The redwoods and other evergreens seemed peacefully calm as the light slipped through the open spaces between their limbs.

As the sun-rays streamed further into our neighborhood, the seasonal aliveness was even more palpable.  This was mostly because of the lingering presence of the rainstorm from the previous night.  With raindrops still attached, the bushes and spider webs glistened and seemed to radiate from the inside out.   The earth was soft, a tapestry of rich brown colors and textures.  And, the air had an almost divine sweetness of being beyond time.

This was all in a matter of seconds.  Yet, I felt these seasonal gestures offered a precious glimpse of the otherwise hidden substrate of physical existence.  Within any season, any time, any form of life, there is a continuous meeting of the elements – earth, water, fire and air – giving rise to sights and other sensory experiences.  Their presence remains largely hidden in the normal everyday patterns.

Along with the sense of surrender and letting go, the fall season also offers the grace of seeing the abundance and mystery of life.  Perhaps it is no wonder that this is the season where the light reveals the greater wisdom and truth.  Whatever the reason, I feel humbled to appreciate the gift of this fall morning.

Practice
This practice fosters elemental awareness

Prepare—

  • Remove any potential distractions—for example, take off your watch, and put your phone on airplane mode. If comfortable, remove your shoes.
    • Stretch out and move in any way that your body seems to need, e.g., from side to side. Take your time.
    • Gently, alternate between bending your knees and rising upward onto the balls of your feet. Repeat two more times.  Please adjust the movement to your ability.

Practice—

  • Standing or seated. Evenly connect your feet with the surface beneath you.
    • Reach your fingertips toward the floor. Silently say, “thank you, earth” three times.
    • Reach your arms overhead. Silently say, “thank you, sun” three times.
    • Reach your arms to your sides. Silently say, “thank you, space” three times.
    • Reach your arms in front of you. Soften your elbows and wave your forearms in and out as you wiggle your fingers.  Silently say, “thank you, water” three times.
    • Reach your arms in front of you. With your palms upward at the level of your mouth, gently blow air from your mouth toward your hands.  Silently say, “thank you, air.
  • Pause with your arms and hands in a comfortable position. Breathe comfortably for a few breaths.
    • Place your palms facing downward on your thighs acknowledging your bones and larger muscles as more earthly expressions.
    • Place your palms over your belly, acknowledging your digestive fire and body warmth as more fiery expressions in your body.
    • Place your hands wherever they are comfortable, acknowledging the spaciousness within all parts of your body, e.g., the skull, rib cage.
    • Place your hands wherever they are comfortable, acknowledging the fluidity within your body, e.g., blood flowing, saliva.
    • Place your hands wherever they are comfortable, acknowledging the in- and out-flow of air within your body.
  • Again, pause. Place your hands over your heart center.  Silently say, “thank you” three times.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly for a few minutes.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 24, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The photo is by healer and meditation teacher Kelly Galland.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

WEB – glimmers of self

WEB – glimmers of self

What has risen
from the tangled web of thought and sinew
now shines with jubilation
through the eyes of angels
and shouts of
Infinite existence
itself.

Hafiz
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

It seems that everywhere there are signs of being in the heart of the fall season.  Besides the posters with reminders to vote in the upcoming election, there are goblins and ghosts appearing outside of homes in anticipation of upcoming Halloween.  The daytime light is shortening, the creek beds are dry, squirrels are gathering acorns, persimmon and pomegranate fruits are ripening, and the deciduous trees are releasing their leaves.

Along with these more obvious fall markers, there is the subtle arrival of spider webs.  They are abundantly present, yet are designed in such a way that they remain nearly invisible.  Usually, it takes a particular angle of sunlight to reveal their location.  In the early morning, their silken threads can glisten in rainbow hues or appear other-worldly in their translucence.

Yesterday morning, I found myself caught in a web.  Actually, it was my shadow that was caught as I was out walking at sunrise.  As the rising sun’s rays poured across the pathway onto the trees and buildings, they literally shed light on several well-hidden spider webs – anchored between branches, along window sills, across streets to power lines, and in the eaves.  In the center of the nearest web was my shadow.

I moved forward to allow the light to reveal the full web.  For a brief moment, the light was the divine light.  Through its grace, I was reminded of the intricate web of life and its infinite interconnections.   Every thread glimmered, connecting with every other, symbolically forming a sacred web of relations.  With a shift in light, the web disappeared.  May its presence linger in my memory.

Practice
This short practice invites appreciation of wholeness.

Prepare – 

  • Standing.
    • Slowly and gently, shake out your right leg for about a minute.  Then, your left leg, followed by each of your arms.  As you shake, imagine you’re are releasing and letting go of tendencies toward jealousy, resentment, selfishness, anger, and overconsuming in all aspects of your life, e.g., food, ideas
    • Quietly walk in a clockwise circle, as small or large as you like.  Then, stand in the circle’s center.  Turn toward the east and pause.  If you don’t know where to face, just choose to face in one direction.

Practice – 

  • With an inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and overhead.  Pause for a breath with your arms overhead as though greeting the expanse of the heavens.
    • If you have shoulder impingements, please adjust this movement to your comfort level.
  • On your next exhale, bring your arms to your sides with your palms facing inward toward your body.  Pause for a breath as though acknowledging the stability of the earth.
  • Repeat the following four times:
    • On your next inhalation, stretch your arms out in front of you, palms upward.  Pause for a breath in appreciation of all that life in that direction to the furthest distance.
    • On an exhalation, bring your palms together over your heart center.  Pause for a breath in gratitude for all the nourishes you from that direction.
    • Take a quarter turn to your right.  On your last turn, you will be facing your initial position.
  • Pause.  Acknowledge the full cycle of breath, i.e., each exhalation seamlessly arising as the inhalation ends, and v.v.  Take several breaths with this awareness.
  • Come to a seated position.  Allow your hands to rest in your lap or on your legs.  Become aware of your surroundings in all directions.  Imagine that all those directions are come together at the core of your being.  Simply breathe in, and out.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly.
  • Bring your palms together in front of your heart center, and “thank you.”
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 41, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Meditation Teacher and Healer Kelly Galland.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

 

MOUSE – unshakable humility

MOUSE – unshakable humility

The Angel that presided o’er my birth
Said ‘Little creature, form’d of joy and mirth,
Go, love without the help of anything on earth.’

William Blake

 

The fall season seems to offer new experiences.  Most recently, it was a rare sighting in our neighborhood.  We expect to see the deer eating the ivy, spiderwebs spanning across open spaces and squirrels hiding acorns.  In the fall there is an occasional family of wild turkeys walking along the street, yet our year-round rodents usually remain invisible.

So, I was surprised to see a grayish-brown mouse making its way across the sidewalk.  And even more surprised that the mouse paused and looked at me, perhaps as curiosity; or, perhaps the pause was a reminder that I was the invader of the territory of this small mammal whose ancestors have lived on the planet much longer than my human ones.

I had grown up being frightened and somewhat repulsed by the sight of a mouse.  Yet, somehow the brief meeting with tiny being left me feeling humbled.  Yes, mice are considered invasive for consuming gardens, crops, and other human food sources.

Yet, looking into the eyes of this neighborhood mouse, I saw a representative of a creatively resourceful and diligent community.  As a group, they collectively adapt to ever-changing conditions, and value cleanliness.  They move swiftly with agility, yet are able to be completely still.  I find these qualities inspiring and humbling.

The presence of this mouse seemed like an invitation to notice the nuanced shifts of the fall season.  Not only had the colors of the leaves changed, but the sounds and smells have become more muted over the past few weeks.

This awareness infused me with an unshakable sense of humility for the grace embedded in the fall season.  Life begins.  Life recedes.   Fall represents a slowing down and a returning to the earth.   It brings gentle reminders that the words human and humility are closely related through the root word humus, or dirt, soil, earth.

The mouse disappeared into its hidden underground world.  Perhaps it was a divine messenger carrying boundless wisdom, or at least a reminder to humbly notice the subtle, the spurned and the small.  Whatever the reason, I thank the mouse for pausing and getting me to pause and be a little more aware.

Practice
This practice fosters awareness of the nature of fall.

Prepare—

  • Remove any potential distractions—for example, take off your watch, and put your phone on airplane mode. If comfortable, remove your shoes.
  • Either standing or seated, curl your toes under and then lift them up. Do this a few times.
  • Gently shake out one leg a few times, Then, the other. Shake out both arms, either one at a time or simultaneously
  • Breath in through your nostrils while inhaling.  Then, quickly exhale through your mouth while making the sound of a quick “hah.”  Repeat three times.

Practice—

  • Reach your arms into a v-position, palms rotated toward one another (i.e., not facing forward). Stretch out through your fingers.   Inhale deeply a few times.  Exhale through your nose in any way that feels comfortable, e.g., quickly, slowly, etc.
  • If comfortable for your back, bend forward, bringing your fingers down toward the earth. Then, come to an upright position sweeping your arms outward and upward, back to a v-position.  Exhale, return to a forward fold, hands toward the earth.
    • (Optional: Simply stay upright through your spine and move your arms upward and then to the sides of your body.)
  • Repeat this forward fold movement six to twelve times.
    • As you exhale and bend downward, silently say to yourself, “I let go of all thoughts that are troubling to me or to others. I let go of all behaviors that are troubling to me or to others.  I let go of all forms of self-knowledge that are troubling to me or to others.”
    • As you inhale and rise upward, silently say to yourself: “I reach up and outward.  I am whole.”    (Feel free to modify and personalize the wording.)

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly for a few minutes.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 11, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The photo is by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

LAMB’S EAR – gentle presence

LAMB’S EAR – gentle presence

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.

František Halas

 

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.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of gentleness. 

Prepare— 

  • 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.

Practice— 

  • 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.

 

 

PRE-DAWN ~ loving transition

PRE-DAWN ~ loving transition

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.

Practice
This practice invites you to slow down and notice transitions.

Prepare—

  • 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.

Practice—

  • 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.

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