Mountains are steadfast but the mountain streams
go by, go by,
and yesterdays are like the rushing streams,
they fly, they fly,
and the great heroes, famous for a day,
they die, they die.
Translated by Peter H. Lee
A new month has waltzed in, causing me to turn the page of my old-fashioned paper calendar. The holidays of the month hold promises of remembrance of love and spiritual sacrifice as well celebrations of the praised and unsung heroes. To the right of my calendar is my sketchbook, which holds a different form of promise – one of remembrance of the everyday beauty and grace in the natural world.
I am shy about sharing my sketches. They are a sort of personal diary of my attempts to register the feelings of communing with another living being – a tree, a flower. To an outsider, the image may or may not be recognizable, but for me, the blank space punctuated with a random set of lines is like a record of celebration of my heart.
One such sketch was of a hibiscus flower. The drawing itself barely looks like a flower, but I still feel a rush of having been immersed in the presence of pure, delicate sweetness. This was a complete sweetness of spirit – free of any traces of malice, greed, or prideful-ness. That sweetness felt powerful, almost like a condensed essence of the timeless potentiality of all life. There was an inner stirring within me of the feeling of the grace of true beauty – ever-present, independent of form.
In being in the presence of the hibiscus flower, I felt like I had tuned into the real news channel. The “breaking news” alerts were messages for my soul and reminders of the fleeting nature of existence. Within one breath, there is an entire universe, reaching across all time and boundaries. Similarly, within a blink of an eye, there is all time: waking, sleeping, and dreaming; and, sunrise, high noon, and sunset.
As I journey through this month, I will remember the message of the hibiscus – that each moment blooms and then fades. In the blooming, there is a wholeness and completeness. There is a grounded-ness in what is, rooted in the present. There might be insects or hummingbirds that come to rest on the petals, or other potential disturbances, but the blossom blooms fully. I hope you will join me in being more attentive to thoughts, words, and gestures in each moment.
This practice supports awareness of the loving support in the world around us.
- Set your phone on airplane mode.
- Interlace your fingers, stretch your fingers out in front of you, and reverse your palms. Invite two to three full breaths into your lungs.
- Let your hands relax into your lap and notice their natural weight on your thighs.
- With your hands resting in your lap, recall being in a place, or situation, where you felt completely safe, trusting, supported, calm, joyful, and maybe even in the presence of unimaginable magnificence.
- If you have difficulty doing this, slowly look around at your surroundings and find something from the natural world that you find beautiful—a flower, a plant, a wooden floor, a cotton fabric. (Ideally, the choice is not an image of another human.)
- Invite this memory (of being totally safe, trusting, supported, in awe, and/or being loved) to seep into your awareness. Imagine this sweet memory is spreading throughout your entire being.
- You may wish to imagine that with each inhale, this sense is slowly expanding outward from deep within your heart center. Like rays of the sun, it radiates out in all directions. And, with each exhale, you can savor the sweetness as it nourishes each cell of your body. Take your time with this. You may feel or notice resistance. If you do, try to gently coax your awareness toward this subtler, more peaceful memory.
- Once you feel the sweetness having gently filled your entire being, sit quietly.
- Imagine: awakening into this feeling; moving through your day; eating your meals; talking and interacting with others; and then, falling asleep, still with this feeling.
- Know that this sweet, gentle part of you is always there.
- Throughout the practice, invite the facial, neck and shoulder muscles to release tension. Invite a soft gaze into your eyes. Your breath is easy and relaxed.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Invite this feeling to settle into the tips of each of your fingers.
- Take your time before returning to your day. Instead, consider sealing in this practice within the environment around you through touching your surroundings. (If you are in a public place, you can imagine touching your surroundings.)
- When you are ready, return to your day.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 60, 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 Poetry and Nature, pages 329-330, authored by Kate Vogt. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2023.