are the leaves of God.
The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;
but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:
they are God
we will never perish
St. Teresa of Avila
The morning air is cool and damp. Scattered around the ground are fallen leaves. They are mostly gathered in small mounds with a few solo ones spread in between. Their groupings seem to mirror the patterns of the leaves on the overhead tree branches, which allow for ample space for everyone. Above the space, sunlight shines through the branches and below, is revealed the underlying support – the earthen soil.
Within these mini communities of leaves on the ground, there is a wide variety of hues. While a few are evenly green, most are a mixture of shades of yellows, greens, and browns. Their bodies are varying shapes and sizes, yet all are still held together by a fine network of veins extending out ward from their central midrib. Some are small, others large. Some have frilly edges, and some are smoothly tapered from base to tip.
Like their kin still living on the tree, these leaves’ mobility relies on the shifting air currents. With stronger winds they swirl and rustle. With light breezes they flutter, with their movement evoking barely more than a whisper. When the air is still, they also are still, and seemingly content to be just as they are and where they are. There seems to be no longing to anything otherwise.
Their peacefulness inspires me to wonder about my inclination to clear them away. Not only do these leaves emit echoes of those still attached to the tree, but their presence seems to represent a microcosm of the broader web of existence. They cause me to pause, and acknowledge that these leaves are part of a living cycle offering nutrients and support to the next generation of leaves. I leave them be.
This practice supports awareness of community.
- Standing, face toward the East (or, if you are unsure, face what feels like the East). Reach your hands outward in the eastern direction, palms upward. Imagine you are reaching into infinitely. Make a quarter turn to your right and again reach your hands outward, this time to the southern direction. Repeat this two more time and then return toward facing the East.
- Pause there. Feel your feet supported by the ground beneath you. Appreciate the strength of your legs and their role in holding you upright.
- Slowly walk clockwise three times. Imagine you are spiraling from your center outward, i.e., with concentric circles, each one slightly larger than the prior one.
- Still standing, again pause, facing each direction. Acknowledge and offer gratitude to those who support you in each direction – human and non-human. This includes strangers, the land, the plants, trees, and others.
- Then, walk counterclockwise three times. Imagine you are retracing your steps, spiraling inward toward your original position at the beginning of practice.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Come to a seated position. If you are in chair or on a bench, please rest the soles of your feet on the ground. Allow your hands to relax in any position that is most comfortable for you, e.g., on your thighs – palms upward or downward, in your lap.
- Take a few quiet breaths, inviting a relaxed and easeful quality to your breath. Allow your rib cage to gently expand outward in all directions as you inhale and slowly recede inward as you exhale.
- After a few breaths, slowly lengthen your inhalation. As the air enters your lungs, silently offer gratitude for the air and its continue presence. If you have a particular faith, allow the air to be infused with the presence of that which you hold most supreme. Continue with several more slightly longer inhalations, in reverent stillness.
- Then, slowly invite your exhalations to lengthen. With each exhale, imagine that as the air flows outward, the air is radiating in all directions, and is filled with loving gratitude. Invite an awareness that this loving gratitude is touching all realms of your earthly community from, near to far. If you have a particular faith, surrender into the feeling of infinite support from that which you hold most supreme. Continue for several breaths.
- Allow your breath to return to a natural breath, and then sit quietly for several minutes.
- When you feel complete, return to your day.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 73, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. The photo is by Michal Janak. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2022.