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.

LEAVES – endless community

LEAVES – endless community

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 morning air is cool and damp.  Scattered around the ground are fallen leaves.  They are mostly gathered in small mounds with a few solo ones spread in between.  Their groupings seem to mirror the patterns of the leaves on the overhead tree branches, which allow for ample space for everyone.   Above the space, sunlight  shines through the branches and below, is revealed the underlying support – the earthen soil.

Within these mini communities of leaves on the ground, there is a wide variety of hues.  While a few are evenly green, most are a mixture of shades of yellows, greens, and browns.  Their bodies are varying shapes and sizes, yet all are still held together by a fine network of veins extending out ward from their central midrib.  Some are small, others large.  Some have frilly edges, and some are smoothly tapered from base to tip.

Like their kin still living on the tree, these leaves’ mobility relies on the shifting air currents.  With stronger winds they swirl and rustle.  With light breezes they flutter, with their movement evoking barely more than a whisper.  When the air is still, they also are still, and seemingly content to be just as they are and where they are.  There seems to be no longing to anything otherwise.

Their peacefulness inspires me to wonder about my inclination to clear them away.  Not only do these leaves emit echoes of those still attached to the tree, but their presence seems to represent a microcosm of the broader web of existence.  They cause me to pause, and acknowledge that these leaves are part of a living cycle offering nutrients and support to the next generation of leaves.  I leave them be.

 

Practice 
This practice supports awareness of community. 

 Prepare— 

  • Standing, face toward the East (or, if you are unsure, face what feels like the East).  Reach your hands outward in the eastern direction, palms upward.  Imagine you are reaching into infinitely.  Make a quarter turn to your right and again reach your hands outward, this time to the southern direction.  Repeat this two more time and then return toward facing the East.
  • Pause there. Feel your feet supported by the ground beneath you.  Appreciate the strength of your legs and their role in holding you upright.

Practice— 

  • Slowly walk clockwise three times. Imagine you are spiraling from your center outward, i.e., with concentric circles, each one slightly larger than the prior one.
  • Still standing, again pause, facing each direction.  Acknowledge and offer gratitude to those who support you in each direction – human and non-human.  This includes strangers, the land, the plants, trees, and others.
  • Then, walk counterclockwise three times. Imagine you are retracing your steps, spiraling inward toward your original position at the beginning of practice.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Come to a seated position.  If you are in chair or on a bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the ground.  Allow your hands to relax in any position that is most comfortable for you, e.g., on your thighs – palms upward or downward, in your lap.
  • Take a few quiet breaths, inviting a relaxed and easeful quality to your breath.  Allow your rib cage to gently expand outward in all directions as you inhale and slowly recede inward as you exhale.
  • After a few breaths, slowly lengthen your inhalation.  As the air enters your lungs, silently offer gratitude for the air and its continue presence.  If you have a particular faith, allow the air to be infused with the presence of that which you hold most supreme.  Continue with several more slightly longer inhalations, in reverent stillness.
  • Then, slowly invite your exhalations to lengthen.  With each exhale, imagine that as the air flows outward, the air is radiating in all directions, and is filled with loving gratitude.  Invite an awareness that this loving gratitude is touching all realms of your earthly community from, near to far.  If you have a particular faith, surrender into the feeling of infinite support from that which you hold most supreme.   Continue for several breaths.
  • Allow your breath to return to a natural breath, and then sit quietly for several minutes.
  • When you feel complete, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 73, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The photo is by Michal Janak.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

GROUND

GROUND

You are the sky and the ground.
You alone the day, the night air.

You are the meal that’s being brought,
the sandal knot, flowers and their watering.

You are all this.
What could I possibly bring You!

Lalla
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

The early morning seemed oblivious of the weather prediction of uncomfortably high temperatures and winds later in the day.  Instead, everywhere seemed awash with messages of loving comfort and peacefulness.

Overhead the clouds still carried faint traces of lavender and orange.  The air conveyed soft cooing sounds of doves and a light rustle of the cottonwood and elm trees.  A monarch butterfly glided between a row of stately red cedars.

The ground stretched beyond the sounds and movements into a smooth, even horizon.  It was a wide expanse of flat land that allowed for an undisturbed evenness.  There, the sky and earth calmly held one another and all life.

For me, there was an overwhelming sense of belongingness in this early morning moment.  There was a visceral feeling that the outer horizon is a continuum of the inner horizon.  And within that feeling was a twinkle of the divine everywhere – seemly invisible but continually visible in the profound miracle of the ordinary.

I am moved by such moments to steadily listen to and surrender into the messages of loving comfort and peacefulness for the whole of life – each grain of soil, each tree, every insect and bird, and every human and other moveable being.

 Practice
This practice supports awareness of reverence within everyday life.

Prepare—

  • Gently close your eyes. Imagine that you can release any tension in your eyelids and your eyeballs. Slowly move your eyes up to down, left to right, and then diagonally (first, upper right to lower left, and, then upper left to lower right).

Practice—

  • Open your eyes with a soft gaze. Slowly let your eyes scan around the area where you are.  Silently acknowledge the gift of the space around you.
  • Allow your eyes to rest on the floor or ground beneath you. Then slowly shift your gaze to a few other spots. As your rest your eyes in a particular spot, notice the textures, colors, etc., without judgment.
  • Return your gaze to the first spot.
  • Note: If you are indoors, let your mind take note of the source of the materials.  For example, a natural wood floor would come from trees. A concrete floor would likely come from sand that has been ground and mixed with water.
  • Then, lightly close your eyes and sit quietly for a few moments with a feeling of great reverence for life.  (Please feel free to keep your eyes open, if that is more comfortable for you.)

Transition Back into Your Day

  • Continue to sit quietly for a few moments.
  • Notice the gentle rise and release of your breath.  Acknowledge the gift of breath as an ever-present reminder of your constant link to all of life.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 91, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The practice is an excerpt from Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry, page 217-218.  The land reference is my childhood homelands in Greeley County, Kansas in the Great Plains U.S.A.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace of Dew

Grace of Dew

What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

W. B. Yeats

 

It may be difficult to find hope in the swirl of contemporary events; yet, the rhythms of the seasons and day and night continue.  Here, in northern California, dew magically arrives overnight.  Although tiny and almost imperceptible, dew carries countless messages of hope.

Dew feels like the voice of divine grace.  These ephemeral watery beads are living expressions of the temporariness of each moment, each life.  Almost indiscernibly they appear and then disappear.  Their fullness glistens in the early morning light, allowing us a glimpse of impermanence as a precious gift to be treasured with each breath, step, and gesture.

The glimmering allows a momentary portal for noticing how the presence of dew quickens withered leaves.  Hardened soil softens.  Without bruising or harming, dew gently – and freely – offers moistness to all.   The gracious softness blossoms into countless gifts of beauty and nourishment for other beings.  Each translucent drop offers the promise of abundance, regeneration, and transformation.

In his praise to teachers, the poet Yeats offers a nod toward the magnanimity of dew.   In these times, I feel drawn to more intimacy with wordless messages of the divine that are written into the everyday landscape.  Dew, sunrise, sunset, mountains, rivers, oceans, insects, birds, and other sacred manifestations model ways to live and be. I feel these living beings are timeless teachers inviting humans to be in relationship with oneself, one another, and all life.

Dew has endless lessons, such as the power of interconnectivity, transience, lightness, and equality.  It also invites a connection with moisture, and during these times, the dew of the eyes.  And, when spelled in reverse, dew is wed, offering inspiration for life to be loving marriage between heaven and earth.

 

 

Practice
This practice supports awareness of sadness and dewy eyes. 

Prepare— 

  • Find a location free of interruptions for about ten minutes.  Allow yourself to settle into a relaxed position – e.g., seated on a chair or on the floor, resting on your back.
  • Allow yourself to tune into the support of the earth beneath you.  Then, invite your body to relax into the supportive awareness that the earth supports all life forms.
  • Gently place your hands over your face with your fingertips lightly resting on your eyelids.  Invite your senses to take a mini vacation – your eyes can soften and look inward; the back of our tongue can relax with no need to speak for the next several minutes; and, your skin can just sense the quiet support of the earth.
  • After a few breaths, remove your hands from your face and allow them to rest over your heart center in any way that is comfortable.  Invite some easefulness into your breath.
  • Allow the weight of your hands to be like the dew, lightly resting on your chest.

Practice— 

  • Allow yourself to notice your general state of your emotional being. No judgement, just feeling and noticing.  Your senses and body are relaxed.
    • Please note:  If you discover that you are feeling extra vulnerable, anxious or uncomfortable, I recommend you skip this and the remaining part of this practice.  Instead, I recommend you return your awareness to the support of the earth beneath you, and the light touch of your hands on your chest, allowing yourself to notice the gentle movement of the breath.
  • With your hands placed wherever they are comfortable, scan back through your body, senses and breath while inviting ease throughout.  Breathe there for several breaths.
  • Then, slowly, slowly invite a connection to the feeling of sadness.  Just noticing the qualities of sadness, where you feel it in your body, senses, or breath – noticing without judgment, allowing yourself to sincerely explore this emotion.   Perhaps allow for moisture – a dewiness – to form in your eyes.  Stay here for a few breaths – inhaling in, exhaling out.
    • To aid your connection to sadness, you may wish to recall what gives rise to this universal emotion: for world events, those who don’t have enough food, water, or shelter, personal loss or losses, or general sorrow.
  • Transition your hands to your belly, allowing them to lightly rest there.  Breathe in.  Breath out.  On your inhalation, invite in understanding and compassion.  On your exhalation, invite understanding and compassion to lightly settle in every cell in your body – like dew on the grass.  Breathe here for a few breaths.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Stretch out.  Imagine as you stretch that you are stretching understanding and compassion outward to the earth, the sky, and all beings.
  • Relax from your stretch.  Imagine as you relax, the dew of understanding and compassion has settled everywhere.
  • Reach your hands to the opposite shoulders and give yourself a hug.  Smile.  Imagine you are both whispering and hearing the words, “Thank you.  I love you.”
  • Pause.  When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 28, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   Photo by Josuha Hoehne.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2022.

Ancient and timeless wisdom is more relevant than ever!  Join me in virtual classes for in depth study in how to focus your inner vision toward peaceful wholeness.

 

 

Shadow – an invitation to belonging

Shadow – an invitation to belonging

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
Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

In recent weeks dragonflies, butterflies, and occasionally a hummingbird have floated alongside me for part of my regular neighborhood walk.  That always sparks childlike delight within me.  Yesterday as I walked in our neighborhood, a shadow traveled beside me.  It was only for a few steps, yet long enough for me to try to ascertain my visceral response from among some of these possibilities: fear, indifference, curiosity, etc.

Oddly, the shadow generated a feeling of comfort.  It enlivened my awareness of belonging to this small part of the planet where I know the undulations and curvatures of the land.  It is much different here from the land where I was raised and will always be my true home.  There, pure openness of the prairie expands in all directions, with wild winds and ever-changing displays in the sky of colors, clouds, and constellations.  That is living on the vast Great Plains of North America. Here, along the coastal west, redwood trees and ferns give way to the wetland grasses along waterways flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

I’d like to believe that more and more humans are beginning to remember our elemental belongingness not only with one another but with all beings – large and small.  Our embodiment is delicately woven of the earthly nutrients, warmth and energy of the sun, patterns of the moon, fluidity of the waters, and grace of the air and space that holds all.  There are the words “kind” and “kin” at the end of the name for our species, beautifully speaking to our innate nature of reciprocity and interrelationship and capacity for compassion.

I was feeling a sense of kinship with my companion shadow.  With its wings evenly stretched to the sides around a perfectly oval core, it glided alongside me.  There was a warm feeling of being shown how to tune inward and synchronize with the harmony that was already pulsing inside me, as well as around me.  This was a neighborhood crow.  Within those few seconds of its presence, I too was gliding and feeling the inseparability and wholeness of the universe, and belonging.

Perhaps this is the divine universality and equality that poets like Hafiz gracefully nudge us to remember through their poetic elegance.  Whether it is the crow, some other part of nature, or Hafiz’s timeless words of wisdom, I welcome reminders to live and move with more awareness, reverence and gratitude for each morsel of life.  I hope you will join me.

Practice
This short practice supports childlike playfulness

Prepare— 

  • Standing, loosely shake out your limbs one at a time.  For example, relax your right arm and shake it out and move it about for thirty seconds or so.  Then, move on to your right leg.
    • Take your time.
    • If you have injuries, please take care and adjust these movements to support your well-being.
  • Then, rotate each of your wrists and ankles, ending with a slow rolling of your chin downward from one side to the other.

Practice  – 

  • Still standing, stretch your arm to the sides, opening up your palms and breathing in deeply.  On an exhale allow your arms to slowly relax to your sides.  Continue let your arms open up like the wings of a bird on an inhalation and relax on an exhalation two more times.
    • Again, please take care if you have any joint issues.
  • With your arms continuing to gracefully move like wings, allow yourself to glide around the room or whatever space you are in, letting your footsteps be light and playful.
  • Continue this for as long as is comfortable, improvising and spontaneously following your playful inspirations.
  • When you are ready, imagine you are coming to rest on a branch.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.  Slowly allow your breath to settle down.
  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo from the Getty collection on iStock.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

 

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Life Trail

Life Trail

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

 

The sky was a deep blue and the earth was covered with swaths of green.  Among the low growing plants, soon to bloom into a rainbow of wildflowers, there was a narrow dirt trail.  It was an offshoot of a larger trail, but it looked inviting in the way it meandered and flowed through the open mountain meadow.

Within just minutes of being on the trail, I felt the quiet community of boulders, rocks and vegetation.  It seemed appropriate to pause and acknowledge their pristine presence.  From the condition of the path and the lack of footprints in the patches of snow crossing over the path, it was clear that few humans had tread this way.

The pause allowed my ears to attune to the avian melodies but also to any possible reptilian or mammalian movements in the grasses.  A subtle rumbling of the wind in the treetops prompted a mental scan of the contents of my backpack, ensuring there was extra layers of clothing and water and food for both my husband Jay and me.  All was well.  We could move onward.

Being in the wilderness is a more normal human experience than we think.  The trail ahead is always unknown.  Even with maps, preparedness and fine-tuned planning, the unexpected is the journey of all life.  Yet, few humans choose to take the road less travelled – the one where we embrace each moment with a keen awareness of the vulnerability and simultaneously pure wondrousness of our embodiment.

There is sweet, but difficult, surrender in accepting that the only certain pattern is change.  Wise poets such as Rumi remind us to keep walking, yet not to follow the more familiar pathway lined with fear.  I would like to believe that instead, he and other sages are inviting us to courageously follow the road of love and its expressions in compassion, equity, and equanimity. And, in doing so, come together for the benefit of the well-being of all.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of walking

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Invite an awareness of your surroundings – the space around and above you, and the earth beneath you.   Feel free to look around or even touch your surroundings.
  • Slowly shift your awareness to your skin – back, sides, front, top and bottom – and then the inner surface of your body.  Notice any places where you might be holding unneeded tension and gently invite those areas to relax.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your awareness to your breath in any way that is comfortable for you.  Notice the quality of your breath today – smooth, ragged, deep, shallow – inviting acceptance of this awareness.

Practice  – 

  • When you are ready, come to standing.
    • If comfortable, remove your shoes.
  • Standing evenly on both feet, notice the soles of your feet and where they touch the surface beneath them.  If you are on a floor, imagine you are standing on the earth.
    • If you chose to leave your shoes on, imagine you can feel the surface of the earth through the soles of your shoes.
  • Silently say to yourself, “The earth is a living organism.  Even though I am standing on its skin, I am part of its life.”
    • Repeat this three times.
    • Pause and in a non-judgmental way, notice any emotional response you may have to considering the earth as a vital, living being.
    • Silently greet the earth and say “thank you for allowing me to stand and walk on you.”
  • Slowly begin to walk, taking each step with gratitude and appreciation of the gifts of the earth.
    • Walk as long as you wish.  Invite an awareness of your inner experience.  Feel free to pause or move in any way that seems appropriate for you.
  • In your own time, return to a seated position.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

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

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 2, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.

 

 

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