Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
the whole of the flower,
the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom;
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

Zenkei Shibayama
Translated by Sumiko Kudo


It is an early morning, and the skies are gray for the first time in days. The grayness is from a heavy, misty cloud cover.  For the prior week the morning greeting had been a different, smoky shroud, which brought a sad reminder of the wildlife and human habitats being consumed by wildfires north of this coastal area.   This silvery hued sky signals a sense of an old pattern of normalcy,  an indication that the summer was beginning to morph into the fall season, with eventual rain and some hope for the end of this year’s fires.

As I open the front door, the crows caw and a squirrel rushes toward a nearby tree trunk.  With the moistness in the air, the colors of the late summer blossoms seem especially vibrant.  The muted browns and greens are speckled with clear reds, yellows, and purples   I spot a patch of frilly hollyhocks swaying in the gentle, morning breeze.

Even in the gray, their pink petals are open and turned slightly upward toward the invisible sun.  Their stalks are untethered, giving the appearance of these hollyhocks growing freely in the grassy shoulder of the road.  They seem to boldly reveal their innate constitution of earth, water, sun, and air, belonging to all and yet to none, not even themselves.

I feel reminded of my own embodied substrate:  a body composed of the elements, forming a unique container for experiencing these ever-shifting seasons of life.   The gift of communing is through these more basal and shared commonalities of each morsel of life arising and returning to the earth, nourished and sustained by the elements.   The hollyhock spurs an awareness that within each precious container – whether flower, body, mountain, or the entire earth – there is a timeless, essence of eternality: pure spirit.

No wonder the first part of the name hollyhock gives a nod to “holy” or holiness.  Its perfect circle spiraling inward and outward from its base seemingly praises the infinite: both in terms of the ever-present divine untouched by the whirls of time; and, the ever-changing worldliness where one ending is continually merging into a beginning.  Perhaps this is why clumps of hollyhock pollen have been found in human burial remains dated up to sixty thousand years ago.  The holy is always present within the outer form, the outer container, even if we cannot see it.

At this moment, I am grateful for the grace of living reminders, especially in nature.  Amidst the devastation and sadness of wildfires and all the other heart-breaking issues and events occurring on our planet, there is the eternal heartbeat of life.  These natural reminders feel like messengers to slow down, to grow qualities of gentleness, ease, steadiness, and to let go of clinging to that which was never ours in the first place.  Smells are borrowed, flavors are borrowed, sights are borrowed, textures and sounds are borrowed.  Perhaps the hollyhock is inviting us to practice surrender to each touch, word, thought, and breath, just in the way it appears and disappears, as a simple offering of all that it is and is not.

Practice
This practice supports awareness of inner sweetness

Prepare— 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
    • Take a moment to shake out and stretch through your limbs.  Feel free to move in any way, or as long as you feel is needed for your own comfort.
  • Pause.
    • Imagine you are a plant gently rooting down into, and being supported by, the surface beneath you.
      • Allow your roots to branch out, easing their way downward and outward in all directions, offering a stable and nourishing base.
    • From this sense of connection to the surface beneath you, invite your spine to gently lengthen upward.
      • Imagine that, as a plant, your stem is slowly and evenly growing from your roots upwards through your spine.

Practice  – 

  • With this sense of rising upward while firmly grounded, bring your hands over your heart center, one hand resting gently on top of the other.
  • Take a few breaths.
    • Imagine on the inhalation that your breath is expanding and radiating outward in all directions from the core of your heart.    On your exhalation, it slowly lets go and effortlessly recedes on its own.
  • Pause.
    • Allow your breath to be free and easy as you shift your awareness to the depths of your being.
    • Imagine that, as a plant, all your energy is gathered in there – at the very core of your heart.
    • Imagine flowery petals emerging from there, creating a frilly and light, almost ethereal, blossom.
  • Sustain your awareness at the core of you heart:  the home of your sweet, eternal essence, which is always there.
    • If comfortable, breathe here for a few more breaths, your inhalation gently expanding outward into the world, and your exhalation returning home to the sweetness within.

Transition Back into Your Day— 

  • Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
  • When you are ready, return to your day.

 

This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 121, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  Photo by Jay Rosner.  HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.   KateVogt©2021.

 

Please consider joining me this fall for one of my fall online classes.
– Support Wisdom in Your Life – This short class offer insight and tips for self-management of fears and desires related to daily life. 3 Thursdays, September 9 – 30 (no class on the 16th), 3:10-4:30 p.m. PT.
– Pathways to Peace: Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Compassion, and Other Universal Principles – This five week class delves into timeless human principles as keys for personal, planetary, and collective well-being.   We will refer to an Eastern text called the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.  5 Tuesdays, October 19 – November 16, 3:10-4:30 p.m. PT.

Registration is now open for these classes through the College of Marin Community Education.

 

 

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