You are the sky and the ground.
You alone the day, the night air.
You are the meal that’s being brought,
the flowers and their watering.
You are all this.
Translated by Coleman Barks
The road stretched across the flat landscape like a taunt ribbon. The only rise in the land was in the distance. There, the flatness rose into hillsides and mountains. Otherwise, there was a seemingly inert expanse along both sides of the road.
Having grown up in such flatness which most view as nothingness, I felt a sense of joy being in this landscape, which was uncluttered by buildings and fences. Although my childhood home was a different place where the land was parceled and purchased for farmland, I felt a keen kinship with this desert parkland. The appearance of emptiness signaled rich fullness.
And indeed, in just slowing down and noticing, the openness was clearly full of life. Recent rainfall had formed rivulets and streams. Birds and butterflies floated overhead. The ground that had dried had an intricate jig-sawed surface of crusty shapes of all sizes and forms. Spiders and bugs crawled between the cracks of earth’s natural puzzle.
Sweet smells and colors emanated from the soil. Muddy spots had deep brown hues and patterns of paw-prints from those moveable beings who lived within the area. Their prints reminded me that I was a brief visitor to not only this place, but the earth. As if to emphasize that reminder, short-lived plants had broken open into lush communities of yellows, blues and purples.
A visitor, a shared part of the timeless earth story. That is what we have been, and are together – the land, rain, water, sky, birds, mountains, animals, flowers and insects, all supported by and belonging to the earth, spinning around the solar orb. Like the great unnamable divine, life, too, is nameless.
My human mind, with its trained hankering for name and hierarchy, was rendered mute in this landscape. Here the voiceless truth remained, preserved by countless beings over millions of years. Descendants of the earliest humans, the native people, still belonged to this land. They understood, and understand, the richness in seeming blankness, nothingness, vastness – each is part of a fluid and sacred stream of life dancing from sky to earth, and back to sky. Only the mind called me back to labels and words, but my heart lingers in the memory of home – an endless horizon between heaven and earth.
This practice supports awareness of the ground of life and takes a minimum of ten minutes.
- Find a quiet spot, either inside or outside. Remove extra digital devices around you, including any on your wrist (unless it is a medically prescribed device). For the device you might be using for this practice, set it in airplane mode.
- Standing or seated, slowly shake out one arm, then the other. Then, squeeze and your fingers of both hands a few times. Shake out your wrists.
- Allowing your hands and arms to be still, shake out one leg, and then the other. Take your time. Whether standing or seated, curl your toes under and stretch them apart a few times.
- Then, gently roll one shoulder a few times in each direction, and then the other. Try to slow down and really feel the movement in each shoulder. (If you have shoulder issues, please feel free to skip this step.)
- If comfortable, soothingly brush your palms across your face, scalp, ears and neck. Then, lovingly stroke your hands across your shoulders, torso, arms, hands, legs and, if easily reachable, your feet.
- Find a comfortable seated position. If you are seated on furniture, allow the soles of your feet to comfortably rest on the floor. Whether on the floor or furniture, without slumping, take a few moments to fully settle into the support beneath you.
- Perhaps close your eyes and invite a sense of gradual unwinding away from the chatter and distractions of the day. Imagine the earth is saying, “Welcome. Make yourself at home. Settle in and allow your body weight to be fully supported.”
- Release any holdings you may have away from that support as much as you can. The earth is the physical ground of life, continually inviting life to surrender into reverent awareness of the grace of living.
- Place your palms facing downward on your thighs. Allow the your fingers and hands to fully relax into the support of your legs and the support beneath your feet and legs. Allow yourself to notice if you are holding an alertness in your hands as though ready to reach or grasp something at any moment. If so, reassuringly pat your hands on your thighs giving them a cue that you are giving them a little break from their daily toil. They can relax and be supported.
- Once you feel some ease in your hands, invite your palms to turn upward and your fingers to softly release. Imagine you are now the earth and holding all life in your hands. Rather than being fearful of this responsibility, just imagine being the earth holding all life. You are supporting the sacredness of all life – flowers, rivers, animals, trees, insects and all beings including yourself. You hold sacredness in your hands.
- After a few moments, bring your palms to your heart center – either one over the other or together. Slightly bow your head as though looking toward the center of your heart. Invite a smooth and easeful breath. As you breathe, imagine you are being breathed by the divine, in the form you hold as your true belief or simply pure vastness. The divine is in your heart, breathing you. The breath holds you and all life.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Continue to sit quietly for a few moments.
- If you wish, silently offer a prayer for the well-being, health, safety, peacefulness of all.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
The 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 land references are: my childhood home on a family farm in the part of the Great Plains known as in Greeley County, Kansas, U.S.A.; and, the story landscape is Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California, U.S.A. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2023.
Mark You Calendar for my Summer Class “Transcendental Love”
With the help of poets from around the world we’ll explore love for the other and beyond. Logistics – 3 Thursdays (June 22 and 29, and July 6), 3:10 – 4:30 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time, Zoom Virtual Classroom #5866 with the College of Marin Community Education. (The college will begin registration on May 15, 2023.)