One instant is eternity;
Eternity is the now.
When you see through this one instant,
You see through the one who sees.

Wu-Men
English version by Stephen Mitchell

As the seasonal cycle once again turned toward summer, the mountain forests held the quietude of winter.  For months, they had been in hibernation with their ground blanketed under mounds of snow.  The immovable settling into prayerful silence absorbed each of these in its own reverent essence:  trees, plants, boulders, and granules of dirt were still and peacefully gathered in quiet, timeless communion.

To come to this moment of transition, the days have incrementally lengthened.  The snow has been melting.  And, the seemingly insentient community has transformed into a body of diverse shapes and forms.  Brilliant greens, browns and greys have emerged.   The expansive space between the towering trees seems to have taken centerstage – perhaps because the openness sustains the memory of quietude and is home to thousands of resilient, tiny plants that later blossom into soft reds, yellows, blues and lavenders.

Crystals of snow have steadily transformed into trickles and streams of water.  By the time human visitors arrive, the water is energetically rushing downward, cascading into waterfalls.  Eventually it begins to echo its quiet origins, slowing its pace and flowing into broad bodies of water.  There, like the mountain meadows, the lakes and even human-made reservoirs inspire memories of tranquil peacefulness and reverential awe.

Nature is a continual expression of sacred wisdom that abides in every morsel of life.  A visit to the mountain forest is a visit into the vastness of our own inner wilderness.   We are Nature.  The seasons move within us and we move within the seasons.  Nature’s voice is a quiet wordless offering of predominately subtle reminders of our temporal worldliness, being woven around the sacred Infinite.   The less subtle reminders are the turbulent storms – whether outer or inner – that uproot our confidence in predictability.

Within the pallet of worldly opposites of rising and subsiding, and offering and receiving, there is spacious, all-fulfilling serenity generously and equally holding all.  My hope is that we all rediscover what ancients have long observed, which is that the life’s essence is always nearby.  As the poet Wu-Men offers, Eternity is the now.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of the universality of the five elements. 

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
    • If you are in a chair or on a bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the surface beneath you.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your awareness to your breath in any way that feels pleasant for you.
  • If possible, invite a sense of ease and openness.  Relaxing the muscles around your jaw and shoulders, your navel, and the base of your skull.

Practice  – 

  • With your eyes in a soft gaze or lightly closed, take a moment to reflect on five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space.
    • With each, slowly and gently:
      • Whisper the name of the element three times.
      • Invite an awareness of the sensations and feelings associated with the element. Silently say the name of the element as you inhale.  Imagine as though your awareness of the element is expanding with your inhalation.  Perhaps notice its presence within and beyond the boundaries of your skin.  On your exhalation, smile slightly and feel as though you are completely letting go of all stresses, thoughts, and any clinging.  Repeat with each element.
      • If the above practice seems inaccessible to you, perhaps try the following:
        • Invite an awareness of your inner sensations associated with that element. Imagine with your inner eye you are scanning the inside of your body from your toes to the inner surface of your head.  In your scan, be open to areas of the body where there is a seeming predominance of that element.
          • For example, the solidity of earth within the bones, the fluidity of the blood and moisture on the tongue for water, warmth for fire, lightness for air, and spaciousness for space.
        • Gently shift your awareness to your outer environment – nearby and then extending as broadly as comfortable for you – and invite an awareness of areas of the environment where you perceive to be a predominance of that element.
          • For example, the ground beneath you for earth, the interior of your home and the expanse of the night sky for space.
          • As you scan the environment, simultaneously invite an awareness of your inner sensations and feelings that arise. Allow yourself to let and just feel and notice without labels and judgment.
        • Again, whisper the name of each element three times.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • When you are ready, return to your day.
  • As you go about your day, invite a view of the world as a composition of the elements continuously and seamlessly manifesting in innumerable ways – inside and out.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 80, 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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