Meditate within eternity.
Don’t stay in the mind.
Your thoughts are like a child fretting
near its mother’s breast, restless
and afraid, who with a little guidance,
can find the path of courage.

Lalla
Trans. by Coleman Barks

Over the past several months I’ve developed a new habit.  It is probably minor in the scheme of all the possible habits, but I’m ruminating on it because it is new.  And, because it has come about not only when a life-threatening virus is sweeping through the world, but also escalating severe natural disasters and human struggles.

Each morning, I now check on the geranium plant outside our front door – only a glimpse, but enough so that I was aware that my check had become routine.  This plant has been through many iterations.  It began as a houseplant, but because of the low light in our apartment I moved it outside to a sunny area.   Within a few days, the local deer had discovered it and eaten all but a bit of the stems.   I repotted and moved it to a spot where it grew and bloomed, until, the neighborhood crows began landing on the dirt at the edge of the pot and toppling it over; however, for the past year, it has steadily grown and formed new buds and sets of red blossoms.

I’m not sure when I began a daily acknowledgement of this particular plant.  I’m in the habit of greeting all of our indoor plants each morning, out of appreciation for the way they cleanse the air and their quiet presence.   Since the geranium is an outdoor plant, I normally would have noticed it only once or twice per week, but likely I increased that soon after the deer had eaten the flowers off the other outdoor plants.

Over time, I’ve grown to deeply respect this hardy, resilient being.   It reminds me of my grandparents and parents who survived and weathered many storms in life, including the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, a major world war and many personal disappointments and losses.  It reminds me of our collective human ancestors who survived and showed the way for others.  It reminds me of wise prophets, saints, and poet seers such as Lalla, who survived hardships with patience, kindness, and equanimity, and then compassionately shared gems of truth to uplift and guide the rest of us.

I trust this simple yet robust plant and am glad it is part of my new habit.  It continues show me ways to navigate life.  For example, it thrives on little water and care, yet it absorbs what it gets, multiplies it, and gives back abundantly.   If the deer come, it will regrow.  As a plant, it has its own way of recognizing threats, but it continues to stay rooted and freely offer the world its bright colors and fan-shaped leaves.   I hope you will join me in honoring the plant world!

Practice
This practice supports inner resilience and courage anchored in kindness.

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable standing position with your feet about hip-distance apart.
    • This may be with or without shoes.
    • If you are not able to stand for any reason, please feel free to skip to the latter third of the practice.
  • Steadily and gradually shift your weight from one foot to the other.
    • Do this a few times.
  • Stilling your movement, pause.
    • Notice the surface beneath your feet.
      • Invite an awareness of its offering of support to you at this time and in this moment.
      • Lightly walk in place, lifting one foot and solidly but gently placing it down before lifting the opposite foot.

Practice  – 

  • With your feet grounded, gently bounce through your knees – a small and barely visible bounce.
    • Invite a sense of trust of the strength in the large muscles in the upper part of your legs, e.g., the frontal ones called the quadriceps.
      • Lightly tap your palms on the front of your thighs saying, “I have confidence in my natural strength.”
  • Still standing, allow yourself to feel securely supported by the earth and the strength in your lower body.
    • For a few moments, gently sway like a plant in a summer breeze.
      • Open your arms to your sides, slightly away from your body.
        • Allow your palms to be open and facing forward, and your fingers lightly relaxed.
        • Invite a sense of openness in your torso and throat. Invite your eyes and facial muscles to relax.
      • Invite a few easy breaths into your mid-ribs.
        • If comfortable, invite a soft, sincere smile from the inside out.
      • Quietening the movement in your upper body, return to a comfortable, easy stance while retaining a sense of steadiness in lower body and ease in the upper.
      • Breathe:
        • Inhale: While inhaling allow your arms to radiate outward and upward from the side of your body.
          • Note: If you have shoulder issues, simply stand and breathe without movement.
        • Pause: Pause with your arms alongside your ears, palms facing inward.  Take a full breath.
          • Note: Allow your elbows to bend if that offers more ease in your shoulders.
        • Exhale: While exhaling, bow your head slightly and cross your palms in front of your face to bring them to the front of opposite shoulder.
          • e., your right palm to the front of your left shoulder, and your left palm to the front of your left shoulder. (Your fingertips will be lightly touching your collarbones and your wrists will be crossed.)
        • Pause: Pause with your hands touching the front of the opposite shoulder and your head slightly bowed.   If comfortable, close your eyes.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward your whole self – from your innermost self, to your body, senses, mind, and breath.
            • Breathe in and out one smooth, easy, breath.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward others while staying steady with a sense of kindness toward yourself.
            • Breathe in and out two smooth, easy, breaths.
          • Invite a sense of peaceful kindness toward all beings while staying steady with a sense of kindness toward yourself.
            • Breathe in and out three smooth, easy, breaths.
          • Gently say to yourself, “I am grounded inwardly in peaceful kindness. This offers me courage and resilience to stay inwardly grounded and steady in the midst of outer struggles and changes.   In this kindness, I am strong and supported.”

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • 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 6, 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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