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Tukaram

It was a rainy day.  My impulse was to hibernate, but a glance out the window inspired me to instead go out for a walk.  Other species had yet to take cover so I took a cue to join them.  A few sparrows hopped around on the deck, crows were flying around and a deer was calmly eating the new growth of ivy on the nearby hillside.  Raindrops glistened like jewels on the tree branches and overhead wires.

I couldn’t help but laugh at my human leeriness of getting wet.  A few days before, I was longing for rainfall to refill the creeks and temper the risk of fires in the California forests, mountains, and natural habitats.  Now, the rain had arrived, and it took a cue from other species to get me to join in the celebration of the promise of our collective relief and renewal.  

As I walked in our hilly neighborhood, I barely felt a drop.  The boughs of the redwoods and other evergreen trees reached out over the streets and pathways, offering a canopy of shelter.   There was no longer a need to be hunching my shoulders or scrunching my face – a fairly typical human habit that I have, believing those gestures will shield me from wetness.  Instead, I felt an easeful sense of belonging to life’s greater wholeness.  

“Whole rather than separate” is an ancient human experience and worldview.  Early humans were keen observers of everyday natural phenomena and saw life as a living organism, within which they lived.  The wellbeing of all shapes the wellbeing of the whole.  If one part is depleted, then the whole is disrupted.  Harmony within the greater whole reflects observable qualities such as the generosity of the rain to nourish new growth, the non-greed of the animals in leaving enough plant life for continued survival, gentleness in the step of even the largest mammals, along with kindness, equanimity, reciprocity, and non-harming.

World wisdom is always nearby, but sometimes it takes other species to stir us out of our conditioned sense of individuality and separateness.  A step outside of a boxed-in world of walls, ceilings, and online squares into the natural world is like coming in touch with a sacred poem.  There, we belong.  There, we are whole.   

Practice
This short practice invites awareness of wholeness.

Prepare – 

  • Sit in a quiet place.  Turn your device to airplane and/or silence to minimize the disruptions for the next few minutes. 
    • If you are seated on a chair or bench, allow the soles of your feet to rest on the floor.   
  • Gently, cradle your head with your hands.  
    • Do this in any way that is comfortable.  For example, rest your palms on your temples and curl your fingers over the top of your head.  
      • If you have shoulder impingements and find it uncomfortable to hold your arms overhead, then simply rest your palms in your lap.  
    • Soften your gaze or close your eyes.  Relax around your upper chest, belly, shoulders, neck, and face.  
    • Invite an easy, calm breath to arise.  (This may take a few breaths if you have had a busy or agitating day.)
  • Allow your hands to rest in your lap.  Quietly say to yourself “I am whole.” 
    • Imagine every cell in your body is listening as you repeat this three times.

Practice – 

  • This practice can be done seated or resting comfortably on your back, e.g. with support under your head and knees.
  • With a sense of wholeness, gradually move your awareness through your body from the top to the bottom.  
    • Slowly and sequentially rest your attention in one part of your body at a time.  Imagine a luminous radiance touching each area.
      • For example, your scalp, your forehead, your temples (the right, then the left), your eyes, (the right, then the left), your ears (the right, then the left), your nose, your jaw, your mouth, your throat, your arms and palms (the right, the left, then both simultaneously), your torso, your pelvis and sacrum, your hips, legs, and feet (the right side, the left, and then both simultaneously). 
    • Shift your awareness to your entire body, sensing it as a field of radiance.
  • Sustaining your awareness of being held within a calm field of radiance, quietly observe the gentle movement associated with your body’s breathing.  
    • Linger here for as long as is comfortable.  
    • If your mind begins to chatter, gently invite your awareness to return to the subtle rise and fall of your rib cage and softness around your throat and nostrils.
  • When you are ready to return to your day, slowly bring your awareness to the surface of your body and the room around you.  If you are on your back, slowly return to a seated position.

Transition back into your day – 

  • Find a place where you can sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

The verse is translated by Daniel Ladinsky and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 101, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.    Photo by Aaron Burden.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2020. 

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