To learn the scriptures is easy,Lalla
to live them hard.
The search for the Real
is no simple matter.
Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.
Small things can sometimes provide fresh awareness, so over the years I have learned to slow down and pay attention. Usually, it is an unexpected encounter – for example, a swarm of honeybees along my path prompted me to choose a different direction, a spider in the bathtub caused me to pause and not mindlessly run a tub full of precious water and instead, I let the spider be. This morning it was an earthworm slithering where I was about to step. It was making its way to a pile of moist dirt that had slid off the hillside abutting our apartment deck.
Earthworms’ homes are underground. An apt reminder that life relies on humble, gritty work beneath the surface. Just on a pragmatic level, earthworms are constantly working underground. Along with bacteria and microbes, they support the growth of plants that nourish all of us humans. Literally, they do the dirty work of ingesting the organic matter in the soil so that their castes can be used for food for other creatures. Aerating and moving soil, they are some of our invisible earthly caretakers.
Outer life relies on the workings of the invisible. At life’s rawest level, we are dependent on other species for our air and our food. The sun appears and disappears, offering us a sense of the passage of time. The origins of earth and water began billions of years ago and continue as fundamental underpinnings to life. The more that our awareness filters out these hidden dimensions of our collective existence, the more likely we are to be unaware of the innerworkings of our own mind, attitudes, and perceptions. And, by extension, the more likely we are to be unaware of the countless ways our lives are supported by the hardship and labors of others.
The earthworm patiently does its part to provide health to the whole. There is a harmonic balance between what the earthworm consumes and gives back through its existence. It reminds me of the timeless wisdom to leave the world a better place than you found it. Within that are reminders of caring for the entire organism of life, and the hard and tedious discipline of constant vigilance about the hidden dimensions of our thoughts and lifestyles. I hope that through deep introspection and consistent, conscious living we will begin to shape a world of wholeness and well-being for all. Please join me in this work.
This short practice invites awareness of the unseen.
- Begin standing.
- Please minimize any possible interruptions, e.g., silence your phone, so that you can sit quietly for the next few minutes.
- If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks. It is okay to leave them on.
- Wherever you are, notice the surface beneath your feet.
- If your shoes are off, notice the quality of the texture, e.g., smoothness, coolness – just notice without judging. Lift your toes, spread them apart, and then slowly lower the toes – starting with your little toes, then your 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and big toes.
- If your shoes are on, notice the texture of your sock or inner sole of your shoe.
- Still standing, imagine the layers of support beneath whatever surface you are standing on, e.g., the foundation of the building, the soil, the microbes and moisture in the soil.
- With that awareness of the life beneath your feet, slowly walk in a clockwise circle.
- As you walk, reflect on these words –
“Walk as if your feet are kissing the earth.” Thich Nhat Hanh
- As you walk, reflect on these words –
- Find a comfortable seated position. As you settle in, again notice the surface beneath you. Silently offer a few words of appreciation for the layers supporting you.
- If you are in a chair or on a bench, allow both soles of your feet to rest evenly on the floor or earth.
- Allow your hands to rest wherever is most comfortable for you, e.g., palms down on your thigh, palms on top of one another in your lap.
- Invite a softening in the small muscles around your eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and throat.
- Bring your awareness to the sides of your torso and arms – left side and right side. Perhaps linger your awareness on one side, and then the other. Then, return to awareness of both simultaneously. Breathe with ease for a few breaths.
- Bring your awareness to the lower half of your body, remembering the support beneath you. Shift your awareness to the upper half your body (including your head). Then, of your body from head to toe. Breathe as effortlessly as possible throughout.
- Become aware of the back of your torso and head. Relax the muscles along the base of your skull, back of your neck, tops of your shoulders, and backs of your arms. Breathe.
- Imagine the inner workings of your body – e.g., your spine, bones, veins, nerves, tissues, and organs (including your brain). Imagine all those areas relaxing and saying “aaaah.”
- Place one hand on top of the other over your upper chest. Imagine infinite spaciousness deep within the core of your being offering endless support, ease, acceptance, and clarity. Imagine all your thoughts, words, and actions arise from that place. Pause here for a few moments and breathe.
Transition back into your day –
- Sit quietly for a few moments.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 99, 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.
Our Inherited Wisdom” 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry by Kate Vogt. This book is a perfect companion for your personal reflections.