Being is not what it seems,
nor non-being. The world’s
existence is not
in the world.
The late afternoon sky suddenly darkened. Expecting a rain cloud, I looked up and saw hundreds of birds dancing in the sky. A friend had told me about the European starlings returning to this area at the onset of winter, but still I was surprised to see such a massive number of birds. So typical of the mind is that it jumped to its own visualization based on a predication, i.e., of rain.
Fortunately, I had an impulse to look skyward and not just trust my mind’s presumption. It is possible the impulse arose in response to the eerie covering over the light, thus prompting a fear of imminent danger. Or, it could have been a simple curiosity to understand. Regardless of the reason, the result of looking up was pure awe.
The starlings were pulsating and swirling into countless arrays of undulating 3-D forms. New flocks continued to arrive and join in the dazzling aerobatics. Swooping, diving, and twirling, they moved like giant amoebas creating jaw-dropping displays. Even great artists, such as Miro with his magical mobiles, couldn’t match their artistry.
Within those moments, I felt a wide range of emotions, from concern to elation. Yet, I noticed that as the starlings began to settle into a group of trees for the nighttime, I felt a shift toward quietness. It was prompted by the open expansiveness of the sky. Cloudless with no sign of rain, the sky glowed in a luminous rosiness. A sweet, calm joyfulness seeped in, leaving me with a sense that I too had settled down to roost.
Prophets, sages and wise poets such as Rumi advise us that no matter how beautiful or sensational, the world’s existence is not as it seems. On a very basic level, it can be our thoughts that skew our perception and prompt false expectations. For example, the splendor of the starlings’ group behavior in the sky can give us a distorted view that these birds are heavenly beings. Yet on the ground, they devastate farm crops and destroy the habitats of other birds.
I was grateful for the appearance of the starlings’ first summoning me into their mesmerizing movements, and then into the stillness of their roost. They inspired me to reflect on how this year of 2020 has been humbling, as time after time it has shown how things are not always as they seem. Too many comforts of our modern lifestyle are woven of a fabric of harm and unchecked appetites. My hope is that within that humbleness, I can remember that calm, joyful feeling of roosting in the rosy dusk sky – and then move, speak, and act with that remembrance. Perhaps a turn of one heart will spark that in others, and together we can move in harmonious ways for the well-being of all.
This short practice invites loving awareness.
- Find a peaceful spot where you can sit with minimal distractions or interruptions.
- If seated on a chair or bench, evenly rest the soles of your feet on the floor.
- Gently find a soft gaze. Or, softly close your eyes.
- Invite a release of tension around your face and shoulders. Relax your hands on your thighs on in your lap.
- Without judgement, notice how you are feeling. Just notice appreciating your own attention for yourself in the way you would if a good friend were listening to you.
- Still seated, slowly look around where you are.
- Allow your eyes to rest on one item with a soft gaze.
- Imagine you are looking at this item for the first time, lovingly appreciating every aspect of it.
- Take as long as you wish.
- Slowly shift your gaze back to a spot in front of you.
- Blink your eyes several times.
- Then, if comfortable, gently close your eyes again. Otherwise, invite a soft, steady inward gaze.
- Imagine that deep inside of you is an ever-present, caring friend who is observing you with pure appreciation and acceptance. You are being lovingly observed from the inside out.
- Invite an awareness of your breath:
- Inhaling – The loving observation is steadily reaching every cell of your being.
- Exhaling – The loving appreciation is roosting, settling down in each cell.
- Allow your breaths to be smooth and easy with as minimal effort as possible.
- Continue for at least six breaths. If possible, longer.
- Invite an awareness of your breath:
- Sit quietly. You are the ever-present lovingness.
Transition back into your day –
- Remain in quietude for a few moments.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
The verse is translated by Coleman Barks and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 93, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. Photo by Marcel on Stocksy. H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2020.
Kate’s Virtual 2021 Classes: 1st Quarter
Registration begins January 5, 2021 – College of Marin Community Education
- Transcendental Love (4916 | 5 Tuesdays 3:10-4:30pm | Jan 26-Feb 23)
- Key Yogic Principles: Their Vedic and Ancient Influences and Their Relevance Today (4783 | 6 Thursdays 3:10-4:30pm | Jan 28-Mar 4)
- Support Wisdom in Your Life (4880 | 5 Tuesdays 3:10-4:30pm | Mar 30-Apr 27)