invited you to a party and
said, “Everyone in the ballroom tonight will
be my special
how would you then treat them when you arrived?
And Hafiz knows that there is no one in
this world who is not standing upon
His jeweled dance
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
It was an early Spring morning. The sun was still low in the sky, yet had already begun to bring warmth into the neighborhood. A steamy mist was rising off the sidewalks and rooftops, and the few people who were already out walking or jogging were lightly dressed. Overall, the warmth felt welcoming and prompted me to take a short stroll through a nearby park.
The park area seemed particularly magical on this spring morning. Long, slender silhouettes stretched across the pathway. They were uniformly angled, forming the appearance of someone having made large, even brushstrokes across the earth. It gave the appearance of a musical staff, holding the notes for an invisible song offered by the redwood trees and their shadowed shapes.
As I walked along the pathway, my own shadow blended with that of the trees, and then re-emerged separately. There was no song to be heard, but I felt my step get a little more nimble and reverent. Instinctively, I became aware of the constant making and relinquishing sense of being an autonomous individual within each step and each breath. This I-ness is an ongoing part of an earthly concert along with the trees, earth, waters, atmosphere, and light as well as other mobile beings – human and non-human.
While shadows are normally associated with the ominous and unrealized aspects of life, this experience reminded me of the ever-presence of shadows. Even our way of tracking time could be said to have its roots in humans observing their shadows at different times of the day, and eventually inventing sun dials. Shadows have different lengths depending upon the tilt of the earth, such as when it is tilted away, the midday shadows are longer. The time for sleeping is commonly when our side of the earth is shadowed. As the earth and moon pass through space they cast shadows, causing different eclipses.
The graceful silhouettes of the redwood trees and other shadows reveal the ever-presence of light. Without the light, there would be no shadows; however, should humanity solely embrace the shadow as independent and un-needing of light, then perhaps there is a danger that the ominous aspect of the shadow will predominate, and we will become lost in the darkness.
I will endeavor to remember the sacred song holding all life together, in offering and receiving, in the shadow and the light, in wholeness. As the poet Hafiz offers, all are standing in a sacred place in the universe. I hope to heed his inspiration.
This practice supports awareness of duality within wholeness.
- Either standing or seated, place your hands on your waist. Gently lengthen through your spine.
- Move your spine a little forward and back: rounding slightly forward – enough so you feel a little broadening in your upper back; coming upright and then gently moving your shoulder blades toward one another, creating a slight leaning back in your upper body. Breathe as you do this. Repeat two or three times.
- To the comfort level of your shoulder mobility, move your right arm up alongside your right ear. With an exhale, tilt laterally to your left, creating a gentle opening along your right ribs. Breathe a couple breaths, then return to center with both hands on your waist. Repeat with your left arm up and tilting to your right.
- Relax your hands and arms, allowing them to be in a comfortable position. Lift your right foot and rotate your right ankle around a few times in each direction. Gently shake out through that leg. Bring the foot down and pause. Repeat with your left foot.
- If you are standing, come to a seated position.
- Allow your left ear to tilt a little to your left shoulder. With a smooth, easy breath, invite ease and relaxation into the right side of your face, neck, and entire right side of your both. Perhaps invite an inner smile. Bring your head gently to center and repeat on the other side.
- With a gentle lift in your spine, imagine as though you are balanced evenly between your right and left side and front and back of your body, limbs and head.
- Invite a smooth, even in-breath through both nostrils while softening through the front and center of your throat and across your torso. Pause slightly before allow the breath to quietly flow outward, again through both nostrils. Pause again slightly before receiving the next in-breath.
- Repeat this gentle, even breath six times. Use a smooth, even pace with the feeling “I am whole.” “I am balanced.” Front, back, and sides are continually nourished with the receiving and offering of the breath. With each breath, all is breathing. The trees breath in as mobile beings breath out, and vice versa.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Sit quietly for several minutes, in any way that is comfortable.
- Bring your palms together in front of your chest and bow your head in gratitude for this sacred earthly concert of life, perhaps vowing to live more lightly and with more awareness of the power of kindness within everyday gestures and speech.
- Allow your hands to relax in your lap. With a soft, loving gaze, slowly look around where you are – up, down, side to side, and perhaps behind you.
- Then, when you are ready, return to your day with renewed awareness of wholeness.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 95, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2022.