Sometimes afraid of reunion, sometimes
of separation: You and I, so fond of the notion
of a you and an I, should live
as though we ’d never heard those pronouns.
Translated by Coleman Barks
On first glimpse, the weather seems normal in our neighborhood. There are the usual patterns of morning and evening fog cover. The deciduous trees have large, green crowns and the midday sky is a clear blue. Yet a closer look shows troubling signs of drought, such as shallow water in the creeks and an earlier than usual appearance of deer and other wildlife searching for food at lower elevations.
I am not sure if it is merely my imagination, but it seems that with the drought, one plant form seems more prolific than ever. In recent weeks, I’ve been noticing more and more vines. They are creeping across sidewalks and stairs, wrapping trunks of trees, and enveloping gateways and fences.
Regardless of the type of vine, each has masterfully found a way to grow and flourish wherever it was planted. They move beautifully by fluidly meandering and creatively spiraling around whatever is nearby. Some of them adorn themselves with magnificent blossoms, and others produce clusters of fruit.
It is no wonder that vines have long been considered as wise models of endurance, steadfastness, and immortality. Vines are featured in the mythology of the Mayans, Aztecs and other early peoples of what is now called the Americas for their transcendent qualities and medicinal values. Ancient Celts recognized the grapevine as being a voice of interconnectivity and representing the eternal life of all things in the universe. Ivy was lauded by early Egyptians for its everlasting soul, and later by Greeks and Romans for unwavering vigor and abundance.
In their robustness, vines resourcefully thrive. Once they make a connection with something, they cling and rarely let go. Yet sometimes they are overly attached, and suffocate other plants or cause fissures in foundations and structures. Their vitality is singular in an inherent drive for survival, but successful in intact environments where they can continually bond and develop.
Hence, for me, vines are a living reminder that true wellbeing is the wellbeing of the whole and all the parts. They remind me of the delicate, relational interdependence of all living beings. A vine that overtakes too much loses the others on whom it has survived, and thus dies and is left as a dry twig. Perhaps, by paying attention to vines, I’ll be a little more aware of the grace of life and notice the ways I overreach and otherwise block its flow in everyday living. I hope you will join me.
This practice brings awareness of the interconnection between breath and subtle actions.
- Seated or standing.
- Simply notice your breath. Perhaps, notice the movements associated with your breath, e.g., in your ribs, shoulders, belly, and back. Or, notice the rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Just noticing with no need to change anything.
- Now, intentionally, invite a sense of ease in your breath, i.e., breathing with as little effort as possible.
- Between each of the following practices, take a moment to stretch out your hands. Then, shake out your arms and smile. Within each practice, notice what happens to your breath, e.g., notice if it still feels easeful and effortless. (Note: If you are feeling tension in your breath, please pause for a few moments before continuing.)
- Scrunch up your face tightly. Notice your breath.
- Glare, as though looking at your phone or a screen. Notice your breath.
- Frown, as though concentrating deeply. Notice your breath.
- Slump your shoulders and let your head hang forward. Notice your breath.
- Make tight fists and squeeze all the muscles in your arms. Notice your breath.
- Observe something beautiful around you, such as a flower. Notice your breath.
- If you have a view of nature, rest your eyes on a tree or another part of nature. Notice your breath.
- Smile, as though smiling from your heart. Notice your breath.
- Touch your fingers lightly to your lips, kiss your fingers, and then release the kiss into the air by moving your hands outward and upward toward the sky. Notice your breath.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Take a few moments to sit quietly with your eyes closed or open (in a soft gaze). Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap.
- As you are ready, transition back into your day.
This poem appears in Mala of Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 40, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. The practice is an excerpt from “Our Inherited Wisdom: 54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 273-274. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2022.