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.

 

 

Rain Commons

Rain Commons

Being is not what it seems,
nor non-being.
The world’s existence
is not in the world.

Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Plop. Plop. Plop.  A sound of renewal reverberated through the bedroom window.  Small rain droplets fell smoothly from the eaves onto tree leaves.  Plop (silence), plop (silence),  each droplet was giving voice to the underlying pulse of life.  Like notes of the song of time, each one was offering sweet praises from whence it came and where it will arise again – from heaven to earth and earth to heaven.

There had been no thunder or lightning announcing the rain.  Yet, there was no need for a weather report.  The sky had greyed, while chilly winds swirled in the treetops. Spiders began weaving webs in protected areas, the birds culled and pecked more vigorously than usual, and squirrels disappeared.  Even the smell within the air sweetened.

The steady plops on the leaves told the story of this rain shower.  Moisture from the earth had risen upward toward the sky, helping form clouds that then stretched across the sky.  Because clouds naturally dissipate, the moisture returned downward as rain.   It was a simple story, without dwelling upon the delicate nuances of the grace of rain.

Still, the rhythmic plopping felt like a reminder that the basal story of life is held within each raindrop.  As moisture returns from the sky, it feeds the rivers, streams, aquifers, and other natural bodies of water.  It nourishes the soils, bringing a banquet of fresh textures, shapes, aromas and sounds.  It contributes to nutrients and breath for the earth’s rooted, winged, finned, and roaming beings.  A single raindrop carries timeless stories – that the whole is collective of all its parts, and the parts reflective of the whole.

Beyond the eaves, there was an enclave of raindrops.  They were a community of belonging in which each carried the title of “rain.”  Every droplet was rain.  Every one – plop, plop, plop – inviting us to hear its story, to listen, and to understand we too are rain.

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of water.   

Prepare – 

  • Standing:
    • Stand on one foot, lift the other foot and move your ankle around.  Shift sides.
      • If comfortable, do this without shoes.
    • With both feet on the floor, curl your toes under.  Then, lift them up and spread your toes wide apart.
      • Repeat three times
    • Bend your knees with hips back far enough so you can see your toes.
      • Pause here for three breaths. 

Practice – 

  • Imagine you are outside after a big rain.  The sun is shining and the air is warm.  There are puddles of water all around you.
  • Walk around the perimeter of these imaginary puddles.  See the ground as wet, but firm.
    • Notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
    • There is no right or wrong.  Just noticing your feet and how they are connecting to the surface beneath you.
    • Continue, and notice how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
  • Approach one of the imaginary puddles.  Step one foot in and then the other.  The water is ankle deep, not deeper.
    • Begin to walk around in the puddle.
      • Again, notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
      • Notice how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
    • Pause.
    • Now, invite yourself to step and make splashes in the puddles.
      • Again, notice the rhythm and quality of your step.
      • Be aware of how the rest of your body feels and responds as you do this.  Perhaps notice any sensations or feelings.
      • Perhaps step into another puddle and continue.
      • When you are ready, step out of the puddle back to the firmer ground.
    • If comfortable, say “thank you” to the water.
  • Still standing, reach your hands out in front of you, palms upward.  Imagine it is raining.  Allow your palms to fill with water.  Then, holding the water, slowly lift your hands upward into a V-shape and offer the water back to the sky.
    • Holding your arms in the V-shape, breathe for three breaths.
    • Open your fingers so the water can flow back down to the earth.
    • Bring your hands over your heart – one hand over the other.  Bow you head slightly.  Allow your eyes to rest in a soft gaze or closed.
      • Silently:
        • Thank the rain.
        • Thank the waters that flow across the earth.
        • Thank the waters and fluids that flow within you.
        • Thank the water keepers and caretakers who work to preserve the flow of water for the well-being of all.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Seated.  Sit quietly for as long as comfortable.  Invite a soft awareness of your breath.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  This  poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 93, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  The photo is by “kahika” on Unsplash.   KateVogt©2021.

 Spring Wisdom Circle – If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, this Spring I am offering an online study group, 5 Thursdays, 3:15-4:45 p.m. PT, May 6-June 10, 2021.  Please contact me for more information.

 

 

 

Remembrance

Remembrance

Dear God, please reveal to us
your sublime
beauty

that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere

so that we will never again
feel frightened.

St. Francis of Assisi
Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky

 

A loud siren was booming throughout our neighborhood. I was inside the house, putting clothes into the washing machine, but the sound fulfilled its purpose. As with most people who suddenly hear an alarm, my mind immediately shifted into high alert and sifted through the possibilities for its activation. Even though my husband and I live in an area prone to earthquakes and fires, I quickly dismissed either of those options, as there had been no ground shaking, and rain was pouring down. The neighborhood dogs began to howl. Then I remembered that a prescheduled test of our town’s firehouse siren had been announced some days ago.

While it is an absolute necessity that we alert one another to impending danger—especially with the preponderance of natural disasters—I wonder what our world would be like if humans had invented “sublime beauty” alerts. If we had regular sirens for every stunning natural occurrence, we’d be enveloped in constant awe of everything that sustains us.

Instead, we have used our ingenuity for threat alerts. Not the necessary ones like my neighborhood firehouse alarm, but a stream of promises to soothe every fear—be better looking, more productive, healthier, richer, more balanced, calmer, or happier. The modern commercial space subtly taps into our woes and wraps us into the comfort of their brand’s product, app, or service. As a result, our lifestyles and habits rarely bring us in direct touch with nature.  Our food is pre-packaged, our outdoor exercise requires equipment, our contemplation relies on apps.

Somehow, humanity has allowed itself to become enamored with cleverness—forgetting that homo sapiens refers to “wise human,” not “clever human.” Other species sing praises to the co-existence of all of life in an abundance of glorious shapes, forms, sounds, and fragrances. There are upheavals and invasiveness in other species, but we are unique in our trail of efforts to conquer, outsmart, and ignore the sacredness of all of life.  We need the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi more than ever to bring us back in sync with one another, the planet, the divine, and ourselves.

The daffodil is where I choose to begin the re-righting of my human perspective, from a separatist to a holistic view. It is among the first spring blooms and is lauded around the world as a messenger of renewal and abundance. Its trumpet-shaped crown is an uplifting announcement of the unfolding of new energy and hope.  It inspires me to tune into the wise messages that nature has to share.   I hope you will join me.

Practice
This practice supports appreciation of your everyday surroundings.

Prepare—

  • This practice involves both being seated and standing. Choose a place that has minimal distractions. If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks.
  • Begin seated, with a gentle lift through the spine.
    • If in a chair, place both feet on the floor.
  • Look around the room, listen to the sounds, feel the air and the texture of your clothing on your skin.
    • Do this as though you are looking at, listening to, and being with cherished friends.
  • Place one palm on your heart and then the other on top.
    • Breathe a few breaths.
    • Relax through your palms, jaw, eyes, shoulders and torso.
  • Release your hands to your thighs.
    • Breathe free and easy.
    • Breathing, say to yourself, “I am in the midst of friends. The earth is supporting me, the breath is nourishing me, the space around me is enfolding me with love.”

Practice—

  • Remember, you are in the midst of friends who support, nourish, and enfold you in love.
  • Slowly begin to walk around the room.
    • Let each step be a gesture of your respect for the floor.
      • If it is wooden, acknowledge the trees that were the source of the wood.
      • If concrete, acknowledge the riverbeds and water formed the rocks and sand for the concrete.
      • Acknowledge the workers and their hands that built the floor.
    • Keep a gentle breath. After couple dozen steps, pause.
      • (No worries about counting the exact number of steps. An approximate amount is fine.)
    • Walk for another dozen or so steps.
      • Acknowledge the walls, the ceiling, and their sources. Acknowledge the air and the trees that cleanse the air. Pause.
    • Stand by your chair.
      • Acknowledge the source of all life. Acknowledge God, or whatever you consider to be most supreme.
      • Imagine you are filled with love and kindness.

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Seated, place both of your feet on the floor.
    • Relax your palms in your lap.
    • Allow your eyes to close, or to be gently open with a soft gaze. Breathe.
  • After a few moments, return to your day.

H E A R T H reflections are posted each new and full moon.  In celebrating the one-year anniversary of Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt, this post is an excerpt of that book, pages 9-12.  The photo is by Marian Kroell.

If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, this Spring I am offering an online study group:  “Spring Wisdom Circle,” 5 Thursdays, May 6-June 10, 2021, 3:15-4:45 p.m. PT.   Please contact me for more information.

 

 

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