Resilience

Resilience

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Tukuram

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

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

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

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

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

Practice
This short practice supports bodily awareness.

Prepare – 

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

Practice – 

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

Transition back into your day – 

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

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 103, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020. 

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

Stay!

Stay!

If God
invited you to a party and said,
“Everyone in the ballroom tonight will be my special
guest,”

how would your treat them when you arrived? Indeed, indeed!
And Hafiz knows that there is no one in this world who is not standing upon
God’s jeweled dance floor.

Hafiz

“Stay!”  Though an open window, I heard my neighbor Ruby’s voice.  This has been a near daily, early evening occurrence for several years.  It is one of those ordinary, everyday things that I take for granted and rarely even notice.  My normal response is to think “Oh dear, Matri has run into the street again.”  Matri is Ruby’s dog, who is consistently friendly, curious and ready to greet the world. 

After two weeks of sharing with millions of others the experience of staying at home, I am ever more attentive to routine moments.  My senses have more acuity and awareness of nuances.  For example, Ruby’s call to Matri conveyed her love for her dog.  In the sternness, there was an expression of sincere concern for Matri’s well-being. 

Maybe for the first time in our lifetimes we have become attuned to the word “stay.”  If we really peel back the layers of emotions that we are going through, we might discover that there actually is an inbuilt desire to stay.  Most of us want to stay, be alive, and continue to be connected to all that we love.  We wish the same for those dear to us, knowing we will grieve if we can no longer laugh or walk with them, or if we did not take advantage of the chances we had to do so. 

Most humans, particularly those of us with comfortable lives, are unaware of our primal impulse to stay.  We tend to be equally forgetful that while we are alive, we share a common home – the earth.  In fact, we are in a kind of communal “homestay” where we are guests living with other species and elements, which are the source of our air, heat, water, food, and even space to move about and commune.  While sages, poets like Hafiz, ecologists, and public health experts have long told us about the nature of our interconnected home, it has taken a tiny virus for us to hear the multilayered wisdom within the word “stay.” 

I thank those of you who have my book “Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” and read this H E A R T H blog.  My consistent call is for us to stay with each precious moment, and recognize we live in the midst of wisdom.  This little experience with Ruby and Matri is one of many that I have had in the quietude of slowing down, and staying. I hear the bees humming loudly, smell the fragrance of the air even at midday, and see sparkle on the leaves and grasses.  The sky is clearer.  And, on a human scale, there is amplified awareness that not all have homes, or are safe at home.  As easy as it would be to feel imposed upon and view the directive to “stay” as a lockdown, I choose to let the experience further erode those layers of unawareness.  After all, as Hafiz says, we are guests on God’s “jeweled dance floor.”   

Practice
This short practice invites grounded-ness.

Prepare – 

  • Find a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair.
    • If agreeable, remove your shoes.
    • If you are on a chair, please place your feet on the floor.
    • Note:  If you have chronic neck issues, please skip the following neck movements and simply sit and invite relaxation into your facial muscles.
  • Allow your right ear to drop toward your right shoulder.  
    • Pause. Breathe a few breaths as you invite a stretch in the opposite of your neck.  
    • Shrug your right shoulder upward to the ear, bring your head back to center, and relax that shoulder.
  • Repeat on the left side.  

Practice – 

  • Stay seated.  
    • If comfortable, close your eyes; otherwise, leave them open in a soft gaze.  
    • Bring your awareness to the surface beneath you.  Notice where your body is touching that surface.  
      • Allow yourself to accept that support, whether it is the earth, floor, cushion, chair, or bench.
    • Open your eyes if you had them closed.
  • Still seated, place your palms on your thighs.
    • Gently press your palms downward.   
    • Feel that the skin on your thighs is embracing the touch of your palms.  
    • Remember that support beneath you.
  • Stand.
    • Notice the surface beneath the soles of your feet.  Notice where your feet meet that surface.  
      • Allow yourself to accept that support, whether it is the earth or floor.
    • Walk carefully around the space where you are and feel the embrace between your feet and the surface beneath you.  

Transition back into your day – 

  • Come to a seated position.  
    • If comfortable, close your eyes.  Otherwise, invite a soft focus to your gaze.
  • 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 91, 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.  The photo is courtesy of the New York Public Library. KateVogt©2020. 

NOW AVAILABLE!!   My book “Our Inherited Wisdom”  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry  (click for online purchase).  This is a perfect companion for your homestay.  It is a handbook designed to support your personal reflections and practice.  There are even blank pages for you to write or draw your responses to the poems and reflections.  There are also mini practices to help ground, calm, and uplift you.  The index functions like a browser where you can search on different themes, such as inner qualities for well-being.  Enjoy!    

Gracious Embrace

Gracious Embrace

I was delighted with myself,
having offered everything I had:
my heart, my faith, my work.

“And who are you,” you said,
“to think you have so much to offer?
It seems you have forgotten
where you’ve come from.”

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

A sweetness entered my awareness as I opened the front door.  Immediately, the inner grumpiness dissipated with an infusion of fresh early morning air.  The mood change had come about because I had arisen an hour earlier than my biorhythms had expected.  It was the Sunday when time had “sprung” forward an hour for the annual shift to daylight savings time 

 Outside it was mostly dark.  A few stars lingered in the sky that was giving way to light.  Silhouettes of nearby redwood trees and rooftops were beginning to appear.  Soon, the bustle of the town would begin.  I stood still and savored this moment that I had almost missed.

This morning embrace was a humbling reminder of the gracious essence of existence.  For eons, life has dynamically folded and unfolded within an invisible, infinite unknown.   The tides ebb and flow.  Living beings are born and die.  Laughter rises and fades.  Perhaps it is the sheer immensity of reality that causes us to narrow our focus to our little irritations such as the time change and its impact on our sleep. 

 Rumi invites us not to get overly attached to our experiences or beliefs in life.  We can so easily take any one of them as our own, and then wrap it in judgment and arrogance, or fear and anger, or even delight and happiness.  For now, I’ll stick with reverence and awe.  I hope you will join me.


Practice
This short practice invites ease.

Prepare – 

  • Turn your electronic devices to airplane mode.  Remove any non-medical measuring devices, such as your watch.
  • Stand.  Stretch.  Then, gently shake out your limbs – one at a time.  

Practice – 

  • Standing, bring your hands in front of your chest and open them like a book.  Imagine that you are holding your truest self within your hands.  Let this be a reminder of your own inner sweetness and kindness.   Then, bring your hands into prayer position in front of your heart-center. (Let your fingertips and base of your palms touch.  Leave a little space in the center of your palms.)
  • In the following, you will be quietly saying the words “Namo Namaha,” which can loosely be thought of as “not mine.”  You may wish to re-read the poem by Rumi to support this practice.   
    • Inhale:  Sweep your arms out to the side and upward.  Bring your palms in prayer position over your head.  Pause.  Take a full breath.
    • Saying or chanting “Namo Namaha” (Nah-mo Nah-ma-hah), bring your hands back to prayer position in front of your heart-center.  Pause. Take a full breath.
      • Remember that feeling of holding your highest self in your hands.  
      • For the movement, you may:
        • keep your palms together and let them slide down the center of your face and upper torso;  or, 
        • sweep your arms out to your sides and back to your heart-center.
    • Repeat this six times.  

Transition back into your day – 

  • Come to a seated position.  If comfortable, close your eyes.  Otherwise, invite a soft focus to your gaze.
  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 31, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by M. Wrona.  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”   This is a perfect companion, whether you are quarantined or just need to uplift your mood and mind.  Here’s is some of what BookLife, a magazine for bookstores and libraries, has to say:  

  • ” Vogt’s calm mentorship invokes a sense of peace and gratitude. “
  • “… [Vogt] does an excellent job making the poem, personal story and practice for each element feel cohesive and mutually relevant.”
  • “[Vogt’s] practices are easy to understand and execute while remaining original and inspiring.” 
  • “Both experienced meditators and those still learning to cultivate intentionality and presence can gain much from this paean to thoughtfulness and peace.” 
Caterpillar

Caterpillar

This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.

Rumi
Trans. by Coleman Barks

It was one of those transformative moments. As I rounded the street corner near my home, my five- and-a-half-year-old neighbor Emma greeted me with a big smile.  She held up her palm and said, “Look.”  Her younger sister Ali quickly rushed forward, one hand upward, and with delight said, “Meet Magenti.”  Teeny, hairless, caterpillars were gliding across both girls’ hands.  

Instantaneously, warm memories flooded into my mind.  I found myself marveling at how something so distant in time can be so present.  I could feel the feet of the caterpillar creeping across my arm.  Yet, that was a memory from decades ago when my older sister Gail and I would sit on the sidewalk outside our back door and wait for the caterpillars to crawl onto the warm concrete.  

We could be completely absorbed in watching their patient and quiet movement.  Even though they moved slowly, they made steady progress.  When we picked them up to place them on our limbs, they would continue advancing to fearlessly explore the foreign terrain of our skin.  

In hindsight, these insects were great life teachers.  Whether they knew it or not, they were headed to winged transformation.  Some would become moths and others magnificent butterflies, but they didn’t try to rush ahead, or bypass their caterpillar stage.  They relied on their entire being to navigate their immediate environment.   

When unchecked, caterpillars are harmful to gardens and crops.  Yet, their graceful and light presence inspired my sister and me to be gentle, peaceful, and take care not to cause them any harm.  They sparked some of our deepest feelings of attentiveness and tenderness toward another being.   I saw the same caring behaviors in my neighbors Emma and Ali as they showed me their caterpillars.  

Life’s wisdom is tucked within these small and least glamorous moments.  They have the potency to be like a flash of lightening that melts the boundaries of time and space, shape and form, age and size.  We are able to instinctively recognize that this ever-changing outer whirl of measurement and judgment is a projection of our inner architecture of desires, aversions and fears. Such moments offer a glimpse of what Rumi calls, “many beings in one being.”  

It may seem boring, or maybe even arduous, to be more attuned to small moments.  Our human minds like to be entertained and dazzled, but also disengaged and slothful.  We have an extra challenge to attune our inner antennae toward transformative qualities of lightness, steadiness, patience, and quietness.  Yet, in addition to my regular inner contemplative focus, I will endeavor to be attentive to the little moments every day.  I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice invites sensory awareness and relaxation.

Prepare – 

·         Turn your electronic devices to airplane mode.  Remove any non-medical measuring devices, such as your watch.

·         Stretch out through the palms of your hands and arms.  Roll your wrists and ankles around. Then, find a comfortable place to sit.  For example, this could be on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair or bench. Breathe a few smooth and easy breaths.

Practice – 

·         Gently stroke one hand with the other.  Then, lightly stroke your legs, arms, and face. 

·         With awareness of being human with multiple ways of experiencing the small moments of life, lightly touch 

  • Your nose, acknowledging it is the portal of breath and smells.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your nostrils.
  • Your mouth, acknowledging it is the portal of taste, nutrition, speech, and kisses.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your mouth, and at the root of your tongue into the throat.
  • Your eyes, acknowledging they are the portals of sight – colors, shapes, and forms.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your eyes and at the back of your eyes.
  • Your skin, acknowledging it is the portal of touch.  Invite a quality of relaxation on all surfaces of your skin, especially in the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, back of your body, and your face.
  • Your ears, acknowledging they are the portals of hearing.  Invite a quality of relaxation around your ears.
  • Your head, acknowledging it is the CPU of memory, thought, and processing.  Invite a quality of relations in the center of your skull.
  • Your heart center, acknowledging it is the seat of your eternal self.  Invite a quality of relaxation around the center of your chest.

·         Invite a quality of softness and gentleness into your inhales and exhales.  If comfortable, close your eyes.  Otherwise, leave your eyes in a soft gaze.  

·         Sit quietly.  Imagine you are being breathed – the breath comes in, then goes out. 

Transition back into your day – 

·         When you are ready, return to your day.

This poem  appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 80, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Bankim Desai.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020.

NOW AVAILABLE! Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt. BookLife Review: “Both experienced meditators and those still learning to cultivate intentionality and presence can gain much from this paean to thoughtfulness and peace.” 

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