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.

 

 

 

 

WILDFIRE – opening into inter-beingness

WILDFIRE – opening into inter-beingness

God blooms from the shoulder of the
elephant who becomes courteous
to the ant.

Hafiz
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

 

In driving through an area where there had been devastated by wildfires two years earlier, I had expected to see an ashy and charred expanse.  Instead, there was an abundance of new life showing up in a variety of stages of regeneration, ranging from wildflower meadows and grasslands to vibrant shrubbery sporting every hue of green.

Had I slowed down and tuned into the even subtler signs of renewal, likely my nose, ears, and skin would have been overwhelmed with a multiplicity of expressions of renewal.  Still, there was ample potency within just what my eyes could absorb.  Certainly, I felt stirrings of relief that seemingly bleak circumstances continue to carry the possibility of thriving inter-beingness.

The natural cycles and phenomena of earthly existence continually express such possibility.  Small beings such as insects live among elephants and other large forms of life.  The seasons yield one to the other as do the ocean waves.  Microbes and worms quietly shape the ground free of concepts such as nationality or ownership.

Our longest living human cultures, as well as prophets and sages, reverently hold the wisdom of wholeness and inter-beingness.  In turn, this wisdom lovingly embraces all life.  Like the sun, it illumines freely and endlessly.  Yet, as with the sun, e.g., in solar and lunar eclipses, during nighttime, and on cloudy days, this wisdom can appear absent in bleakness.

Fortunately, nature is an ever-present reminder that we live in the midst of abiding, sacred wisdom.  This earthly home is where we learn to truly love, forgive, and humbly release our micro-habits of judgment, hate, greed, and superiority.   The timeless qualities of wisdom are woven into nature, such as the resilience born out of the wildfire, wordlessly sharing teachings on ways to rediscover customs to live together with courtesy and reverence.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of sacred inter-beingness.

Prepare— 

  • Seated, place your elbows on your knees and your head in your hands.
    • Note:  If are wearing glasses, please consider supporting your head with your hands on your forehead, or removing your glasses.
    • If this strains your back, please place your elbows on a higher surface such as a table.
  • Let the weight of your head be heavy in your hands.
  • Imagine all your tension is releasing and flowing out through your fingers.
  • Breathe without forcing the breath, i.e., as easily and freely as comfortable.

Practice— 

  • Slowly, allow yourself to return to an upright, seated position.  Continue to imagine tension draining out of your facial muscles, your eyes, and your scalp.  Imagine it flowing easefully out through your arms and fingers.
  • Move fluidly through your torso, neck and arms.  Imagine you are moving in the ocean of loving, sacred wisdom.  Then, imagine you are an integral part of this wisdom – not separate, but an expression of loving beauty, reverence, and joy.
  • Slowly, come to standing and move in any way where you feel you are innately expressing lovingness, kind gentleness, and compassion to the surface beneath you and space around you.
  • Then, still standing, move as though this lovingness and other sweet, peaceful qualities are being shared and absorbed in every cell in your body.  Follow your instincts.  You may feel inclined to stretch, hug, or even kiss parts of your body.
  • Move in a way that feels like a joyous appreciation of the vast inner ecology of your being – tissues, cells, organs, bones, emotions, memory, breath, and more.
  • Then, imagine – if it doesn’t come naturally to you to feel aliveness in all life – your surroundings are as vibrantly alive as you are.  Again, move with this awareness of inter-beingness held within and expressing abiding, loving wisdom.
  • Come to stillness, standing.  Breathe and just notice the ground beneath you offering ease and stability, your bones offering ease and stability, and your breath offering ease and stability.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • When you are ready, come to a seated position.
  • Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
  • Bring your palms together in front of your chest and bow your head in gratitude for the sacredness of earthly life, perhaps vowing to live with more awareness of the pulse of sacred inter-beingness and the grace of courtesy and reverence in everyday gestures and speech.
  • Allow your hands to relax in your lap.  With a soft, loving gaze, slowly look around where you are – up, down, side to side, and perhaps behind you.
  • Then, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed awareness of wholeness.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 15, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

The Natural Commons

The Natural Commons

God is a pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here:
the less you reach for him,
the more he will appear.

Angelus Silesius

 

A recent visit to a nearby beach brought a welcome pause from the war that humanity seems to be having with itself in so many realms.  This wasn’t the usual beach hiatus, with a feeling of getting away from reality.  Instead, it was a mini-immersion in the true fullness of life.

Being a public beach, it had a sense of wildness, with logs and seaweed strewn across the sand.  Seals glided in and out of the waves while geese flew above in their supportive formation of a “v,” allowing them to more easefully migrate in synchronicity.  Ladybugs crept near the shore.  Gophers peeked their heads out from their underground burrows near the shrubbery along the edges of the beach.  And, in the midst of all this, there were hundreds of humans of all shapes, ages, skin colors, mobilities, and sizes.

It was a tiny glimpse of the wild where all life belongs, and has always belonged.  There were no lines of demarcation.  Every being – human and non-human – was part of this microcosm of earth.   This included not just the moveable beings, but also the seemingly inanimate, such as the grains of sand, droplets of water, and air particles.   Within the communing, sharing, and inter-dynamic influencing, there was a sense of vital wholeness.

This experiential wholeness is awkward to express in the English language, which relies on nouns dividing the world into independent entities and things, i.e., subjects and objects. Yet, beautiful poetry and prose, even in translation, often finds a way to artfully convey the essence of integrated wholeness.  Ancient living languages, at least as I’ve understood them, vibrantly pulse within the unfolding of aliveness in their relational expression.

Still, even with the challenge of sharing through words, there is a vibrant richness in the memory of being in the midst of, and part of, the universal commons of the public beach.  Within that, striving, categorizing, and conquering, are void currencies.   I found renewed hope in this mini-glimpse of “God is a pure no-thing, concealed in now and here” as offered by the Polish poet Angelus Silesius.

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of letting go and allowing spaciousness. 

Prepare— 

  • Either standing or seated, gently and fluidly move your torso, as though you are plankton in the water.  Invite a sense of loosening up in your spine.  Feel free to softly hum – a song, the sound of bees, or whatever feels comfortable.  Do this as long as you wish, yet try for at least 30 seconds.
  • Slowly, come to stillness in your torso.
  • Imagine as though unneeded tension is releasing out through your skin and being quietly received and absorbed in the spaciousness around you.  Invite your breath to be easeful and supportive.

Practice— 

  • Seated.
  • Allow the tension to continue to release around the front and back of your spine, your face and head, your throat and shoulders.
    • If you find an area in your body which feels particularly tense, invite gentle, easeful movement around the surrounding area.  Perhaps hum softly as you do this, imagining the sound is caressing that area and inviting release.
  • Hold your hands in front of you with your palms facing you.  Nod your head slightly as you lift your hands up toward your face.  Then place your hands over your eyes after removing glasses, if you are wearing them.
    • If comfortable, allow the heels of your palms to gently rest on your closed eyelids and your fingers to gently cradle your forehead with your fingertips resting over the top of your head.  Allow the surface and backs of your eyes to relax backward toward the center of your skull.  Breathe here for a few breaths.
  • Invite your hands to release away from your face into your lap.  Relax across the back of your tongue and the entire inner space of your mouth, including the roots of your teeth.  Allow tension to continue to release as you inhale freely and invite a little longer, smoother exhalation.  As the breath moves outward, notice the subtle sound of hum it passes through your throat and out through your nostrils.  Take six or more breaths here.
  • With your eyes closed or open in a soft gaze, invite in a feeling of spaciousness within you.   Perhaps invite an awareness of your inner space as a vast, boundless, clear sky.  Slowly imagine that every cell of your body is spacious, free of tension, free of clinging.  Invite an easeful breath as you gradually allow this feeling of inner spaciousness.
  • When you feel ready to transition back into your day, invite a few smooth, long inhalations while allowing the exhale to flow freely outward.  Stretch your arms out into a v-position, and smile.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
  • Then, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed awareness of wholeness.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 19, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

SHADOWS – inviting wholeness

SHADOWS – inviting wholeness

If God
invited you to a party and
said, “Everyone in the ballroom tonight will
be my special
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
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

It was an early Spring morning.  The sun was still low in the sky, yet had already begun to bring warmth into the neighborhood.  A steamy mist was rising off the sidewalks and rooftops, and the few people who were already out walking or jogging were lightly dressed.  Overall, the warmth felt welcoming and prompted me to take a short stroll through a nearby park.

The park area seemed particularly magical on this spring morning.  Long, slender silhouettes stretched across the pathway.  They were uniformly angled, forming the appearance of someone having made large, even brushstrokes across the earth.  It gave the appearance of a musical staff, holding the notes for an invisible song offered by the redwood trees and their shadowed shapes.

As I walked along the pathway, my own shadow blended with that of the trees, and then re-emerged separately.  There was no song to be heard, but I felt my step get a little more nimble and reverent.   Instinctively, I became aware of the constant making and relinquishing sense of being an autonomous individual within each step and each breath.  This I-ness is an ongoing part of an earthly concert along with the trees, earth, waters, atmosphere, and light as well as other mobile beings – human and non-human.

While shadows are normally associated with the ominous and unrealized aspects of life, this experience reminded me of the ever-presence of shadows.  Even our way of tracking time could be said to have its roots in humans observing their shadows at different times of the day, and eventually inventing sun dials.  Shadows have different lengths depending upon the tilt of the earth, such as when it is tilted away, the midday shadows are longer.  The time for sleeping is commonly when our side of the earth is shadowed.  As the earth and moon pass through space they cast shadows, causing different eclipses.

The graceful silhouettes of the redwood trees and other shadows reveal the ever-presence of light.  Without the light, there would be no shadows; however, should humanity solely embrace the shadow as independent and un-needing of light, then perhaps there is a danger that the ominous aspect of the shadow will predominate, and we will become lost in the darkness.

I will endeavor to remember the sacred song holding all life together, in offering and receiving, in the shadow and the light, in wholeness.  As the poet Hafiz offers, all are standing in a sacred place in the universe.  I hope to heed his inspiration.


Practice

This practice supports awareness of duality within wholeness.

Prepare—

  • Either standing or seated, place your hands on your waist. Gently lengthen through your spine.
  • Move your spine a little forward and back: rounding slightly forward – enough so you feel a little broadening in your upper back; coming upright and then gently moving your shoulder blades toward one another, creating a slight leaning back in your upper body.  Breathe as you do this.  Repeat two or three times.
  • To the comfort level of your shoulder mobility, move your right arm up alongside your right ear. With an exhale, tilt laterally to your left, creating a gentle opening along your right ribs.   Breathe a couple breaths, then return to center with both hands on your waist.  Repeat with your left arm up and tilting to your right.
  • Relax your hands and arms, allowing them to be in a comfortable position. Lift your right foot and rotate your right ankle around a few times in each direction.  Gently shake out through that leg.  Bring the foot down and pause.  Repeat with your left foot.
  • If you are standing, come to a seated position.

Practice—

  • Allow your left ear to tilt a little to your left shoulder.  With a smooth, easy breath, invite ease and relaxation into the right side of your face, neck, and entire right side of your both.  Perhaps invite an inner smile.  Bring your head gently to center and repeat on the other side.
  • With a gentle lift in your spine, imagine as though you are balanced evenly between your right and left side and front and back of your body, limbs and head.
  • Invite a smooth, even in-breath through both nostrils while softening through the front and center of your throat and across your torso. Pause slightly before allow the breath to quietly flow outward, again through both nostrils.  Pause again slightly before receiving the next in-breath.
  • Repeat this gentle, even breath six times. Use a smooth, even pace with the feeling “I am whole.”  “I am balanced.”  Front, back, and sides are continually nourished with the receiving and offering of the breath.  With each breath, all is breathing.  The trees breath in as mobile beings breath out, and vice versa.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
  • Bring your palms together in front of your chest and bow your head in gratitude for this sacred earthly concert of life, perhaps vowing to live more lightly and with more awareness of the power of kindness within everyday gestures and speech.
  • Allow your hands to relax in your lap. With a soft, loving gaze, slowly look around where you are – up, down, side to side, and perhaps behind you.
  • Then, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed awareness of wholeness.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

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