Bat and Butterflies

Bat and Butterflies

We bloomed in Spring.
Our bodies are the leaves of God

The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;
but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright

they are God Himself,
we will never perish
unless He does.

St. Teresa of Avila

The body of a small bat lay at the roots of the tree.  It looked as though it had just been in flight, with its clearly defined head and body and outstretched wings.  Yet, it was on the earth not in the sky, and visible at the peak of daylight and not at night.   As I stood and observed this microcosm of our greater outer world, two blue butterflies flew by. 

Living in a semi-urban as I do, it is easy to forget that the wilderness is always nearby.   Since the onset of the 2019 coronavirus, unexpected encounters with the wild have become the new norm.  Today, it was the bat and the butterflies along the trail.  Yesterday, it was a doe and her fawn outside the kitchen window, dragonflies leading the way on a nearby trail, and a skunk scampering across a street in broad daylight.  

Throughout different cultures, the presence of wild species carries timely messages.  The bat, for example, signifies letting go of anything that comes in the way of our divine nature.  That can be old habits that cloud our thinking, clinging to the impermanent, attitudes of judgment, and self-indulgent behaviors.   For most of us, this type of letting go feels like a loss of life as we know it.   The butterflies inspire us to have the courage to let go and embrace the gentler, wiser aspects of our humanness.   

For me, there is some comfort in this ancient observation that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, and vice versa   Whenever I am not clear about what is happening within the wilderness of my own mind, I turn off my phone, put on my sneakers, and go out for a walk, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes.  As I walk, I remember that there are insects and microbes in the ground beneath me, even if it is paved over.  That helps me remember my embodiment is like a cell within the living organisms of the earth and universe.  Whether it is a bat or a butterfly, a redwood or a rose, most often some other being during my walk attracts my attention and sheds light onto whatever had moved me to the walk in the first place.  

It is nearly impossible to make sense of the scope of death and upheaval that has come with the presence of the coronavirus, but I take solace and hope from other species that if we heed their subtle messages, the road ahead will be much less painful.  It is time for us to let go of our habitual distractions, and instead step up to the responsibility of being attentive, caring, loving, and compassionate to all beings.  If we read the words of St. Teresa of Avila again and again, we may indeed discover that this is a time to rise up to our truest selves.   I am willing to try this steeper path and hope you will join me. In the meantime, please stay well.

Practice
This short practice invites an appreciation of being part of the larger whole.

Prepare – 

  • If possible, find a safe and comfortable place to be seated outside.  Inside is also fine.    
    • Wherever you are, acknowledge the surface beneath you by offering a silent appreciation for its steady support.   
    • Allow your hands to rest on your thighs or on your lap.
  •  Acknowledge the space around you – front, back, sides, and above.  Invite awareness that as you sit and move through the world, this space is always there.  It offers you complete awareness of your surroundings. 
    • Note:  We often only relate to what is directly in front of us, especially when using our technological tools.  Yet, we take in and share information holistically.

Practice – 

  • Soften your gaze and the area around your eyes.  Imagine you are looking from the back of your head rather than from the surface of your eyes. 
  • Keeping your 360° awareness, allow your breath to move into your lungs – front, back, sides, lowest and uppermost parts of the lungs.
    • Without forcing, breathe with this awareness for six breaths.
  • For three breaths, invite your arms to move with your breath:
    • As you inhale, allow your arms to move out to the sides, slightly back, and overhead.  If you have shoulder conditions, please adjust as needed.
    • As you exhale, allow your arms to return to the sides of your body.
  • For three breaths:
    • Bring your palms into a soft lotus bud shape (gentle prayer position) in front of your heart. 
      • Pause for a breath
    • Keeping your palms in prayer position, inhale your hands overhead, taking them up the center line of your torso and face to overhead. 
      • Pause there for a breath.
    • Keeping your palms in prayer position, exhale your hands back to your heart center.  Repeat.
  • Allow your hands to rest in your lap.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • Then, consider ways you might move through your day with awareness of the world around you.
  • 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 73, 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 personal reflections. 

Owl

Owl

As you fill with wisdom,
and your heart with love,
there ’s no more thirst.  

There ’s only an unselfed patience
waiting on the doorsill, a silence
which doesn’t listen to advice
from people passing on the street.   

Sanai

It is the month of May, and our neighborhood is teeming with flowers of all colors, shapes, and sweet scents.   Some blossoms like the California poppy are native to this region and others have been imported from distant lands.  Their collective presence creates a sense of lightness, as though their coming into their beauty had been effortless.  Yet, their growth has been nurtured by the light and heat of the sun, insects and birds, moisture, minerals in the soil, and the phases of the moon.   

As the daytime wanes, the heightened fragrance in the air announces the coming of night.   Then, the smells give way to sounds.  On a clear night, constellations of the stars are visible, and this week there is a supersized full moon.  In the depth of the night, there is an occasional howl of a coyote and or a bark of a dog.   Within the last few weeks, an owl has settled into the neighborhood, revealing its presence with its rhythmic hooting.  

Although I couldn’t see the owl, I am sure, with its keen sense of vision and observation, that it was aware of my efforts to peer through the darkness in the hope of seeing its form glide through the sky.  After the passage of a couple minutes, I chose instead to let go of the trying to see it and just appreciate that an owl was temporarily visiting our semi-wooded neighborhood.  I stood outside and felt the cool night air on my arms and face.  Silence enveloped me, offering reminders of times of feeling simultaneously safe, yet alert, when staying in a tent in the wilderness earlier in my life.  

“Keep your wits about you,” arose into my awareness.   Immediately, a sort of sixth sense arose, allowing me to intuit the night’s wholeness.  The surrounding trees had eclipsed the moonlight so where there normally would have been shapes and forms, there was only an expanse of darkness.  I had to rely on an innate set of “wits” to detect subtle movements around me, and to be able to respond in focused and discerning ways.   I thought of the owl, and all the owls around the world who are heralded by humans for their patient ability to observe and see what most species can’t, and to move with quiet, fluid precision.   Some cultures consider them as omens of death – not only loss of embodiment, but the demise of established systems and well-worn habits.

The wings that carried this owl to our neighborhood were those of sorrow and grief.  Near and far, a large number of humans are experiencing multitudes of loss and change.  The comfortable din of busy-ness has been momentarily muted, baring all that we normally can choose not to see.  This is a sad time of transformation. 

Other species have stepped forward with timeless messages of listening to our inner guidance; paying attention to and caring for the little things, especially those that go beneath our radar and that we take for granted; revering all that supports our comforts; taking and consuming only what we need; letting go of old patterns and voices of those that feed our fears and judgments; being courageous as we face the unknown; being patient, listening, and observing, then acting with discerning focus; offering beauty, sweetness, and kindness in all that we say and do; and, being filled with lasting truth and wisdom.   At the core of these is a change in heart toward thirst-less love.  Please join me in stepping into the nighttime of love, where all belong.  

Practice
This short practice invites an appreciation of silence.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position on the earth, floor, or on a chair. 
    • If on a chair, allow the soles of both feet to rest on the floor. 
  • Invite your breath to be free and easy, again without forcing. 

Practice – 

  • Close your eyes, or keep a quiet gaze.  Breathe:
    • As you inhale, imagine your breath is radiating outward from your heart center simultaneously in all directions – back, sides, front, up, down.  Relax your belly and release tension around your shoulders, chest, eyes and jaw.  
    • As you exhale, imagine your breath is softening into your heart center, deeply nourishing the very core of your being.
    • Breathe this way for six breaths.
  • Lightly place your hands over your ears. 
    • Continue with the pattern of breathing above for another three breaths. 
  • Allow your hands to rest in your lap.  Lightly smile and continue this heart-centered breath for another three breaths.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • Then, consider ways you might move through your day with an inner sense of quietude, and how that might manifest in your thoughts, speech and actions.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

This poem is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 83, 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 personal reflections. 

(May 2020 – NATURE WISDOM FOR OUR FUTURE (video length is 1 min 47 sec)

Gentle Giants

Gentle Giants

Our hands imbibe like roots,
so I place them on what is beautiful in the world, 

And I fold them in prayer, and they
draw from the heavens light. 

St. Francis of Assisi

As I stepped outside to feed the birds, the neighborhood redwood trees were bathed in the early morning light.  In this bucolic view, there was no visible trace of the pain and suffering in the world.   There was only light, and sky, and treetops. 

It made me wonder if such beauty always carries a sense of hope for harmony and peacefulness among all earthly beings.  Certainly, the redwoods themselves are living reminders of the power of equanimity.  Their strength and ability to weather storms is ever-present in their graceful, columnar trunks and evergreen needles.  

There is a hidden beauty to these Coastal Redwoods.  Rather than their prominence or grandeur, their secret charm is in their natural way of being.   Unlike the giants in most of our human mythology, the redwoods are gentle sentinels.  For thousands of years, they have modeled true generosity, kindness, and steadfast devotion to the wellbeing of the whole.  They support all life around them from beneath the ground to the uppermost regions, e.g., other plants, insects, worms, mammals, reptiles and birds, along with the health of the soil and air.  At their roots, they intertwine with and nourish one another from generation to generation.  

Almost everywhere on earth, there is some part of nature with similar altruistic qualities of the redwood.  The soil itself offers the ground for us to live and move, not to mention being a source of our food.  It has mostly been in the last couple of centuries that our human species has experimented with shaping economies and group attitudes in opposition to our earthly inherited values of cooperation, altruism, non-greed, and being grand in our gentleness.

Now with our global pause on this Earth Day, we are challenged as humans to reflect.  We have a choice as to whether we can humbly acknowledge our own ancient, human ancestors who gave us the ethical roots on which we grow and stand.  Ironically, their tenets reflect those natural ones of our earthly home.  Or, do we choose to continue the path on which name, fame, impatience, and indulgences are all that matters?   

The choice is ours – individually and collectively.  I’m choosing to listen to the ancient beings – human sages and saints, and earthly caretakers like the redwoods.  I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice invites gratitude for our earthly home.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position on the earth, floor, or in a chair.
    • Allow your spine to lengthen upward.  Try to gently lift from your pelvis, navel area, and then lower ribs.  
  • Wherever you are – inside or outside – acknowledge one or two parts of the natural earth that sustains your body, e.g., the ground beneath you. 
    • Pause for each and imagine as though you are holding them in your hands.  Notice how that feels, for you e.g., scary, calming, reverential. 
  • Invite your breath to be free and easy, again without forcing.  Perhaps smile to further support ease in your breath. 

Practice – 

  • Lightly place your hands on:
    • Your thighs, acknowledging the grace of solidity within you.
    • Your lower belly, acknowledging the grace of beauty within you.
    • Your navel area, acknowledging the grace of vitality within you.
    • Your chest, acknowledging the grace of transformation within you.
    • Top of your head, acknowledging the grace of equanimity within you.
  • Bow your head with your hands in front of your heart with gratitude for these gifts that are represented in the gentle giants and the rest of natural world around us.  
  • Then, allow your hands to relax lightly in your lap or on your thighs.  Sit quietly and allow yourself to breathe with an even length between your inhalation and exhalation.  

Transition back into your day – 

  • Gently rub your hands together.  As you do this, invite a sense of loving, caring attentiveness not only to your hands, but to all that they touch, create, and express.
    • Then, if you wish, hold your hands, palms open and upward, in front of your chest. Imagine you are holding the entire earth with caring, loving attentiveness.
  • Relax your hands into your lap or on your thighs once again.  
  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  And, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed appreciation for your embodiment and earthly home.

This poem is translated by Daniel Ladinsky and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 86, 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. 

Resilience

Resilience

u
n
i
v
e
r
s
e
?
?
?

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.

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