O how big is my beloved, More than all the ones I know.
O how lively does my heart beat, When I only see him glow.
Love can never be forced; Treat it fondly, it will grow!
Anonymous (Swahili)


It is stormy outside.  Conversations in the coffee shops and stores have shifted to exchanges about the local weather rather than national news.  People almost seem relieved that the turn in the weather has given them a chance to connect with one another over age-old topics, such as winds and moisture.

Dramatic weather offers a raw reminder that life is unpredictable.  Change is the norm. Yet, we can easily forget this, especially if our lives are comfortable with a roof over our heads, regular meals, friends and family nearby, and we have our other basic needs met. The whirls in the weather reflect those in the rest of our lives — the socio-economic landscape, relationships, and the inner turnings in our mind.

The enigma of being human is that we live in and are part of the ever-changing cycles of the universe; yet we expect and yearn for constancy.  The earth, atmosphere, and sky nourish and hold us.  Even though we have a dynamic co-existence with the air, sunlight, rainfall, soil, plants and other living beings, our impulse is toward dominance, control, and separateness.

From the earliest times, prophets and elders considered our earthly reality as a garden. The metaphor of a garden evokes the multi-layered and multi-purpose richness of life. When we embrace life as a garden, we become aware that the outer storms reflect those problems and fears that, like weeds, cause disruptions. Instead of nourishing the weeds by dwelling on the disruptions, we fondly plant and cultivate seeds of peacefulness and clarity.  By being a responsible and caring gardeners, our hearts flourish in compassion, kindness, and love.

A European medieval root of the word “garden” is an enclosed space.  In older languages, a garden is a hidden place that is something more than an ordinary garden, i.e., a place for prayer or contemplation.  Anyone who loves gardens can confirm that there is something transformative about being in a garden. The qualities of the plants, rocks, pathways, and waters re-awaken our sense that we not only live in a garden, but a garden lives within the depths of our being.  Both are representative of divine Love that transcends all boundaries.  And, as this anonymous poet shares when we treat love fondly, it will grow.

Within the constant stormy changes, I intend to make take more time cultivating the inner garden. That means being an active gardener of my own mind. That includes the disciplines of quietude and contemplation, awareness of not consuming more than I need, and avoiding clutter of the mind with random commercial inputs. I hope you will join me.


This practice helps bring awareness to our connection to the earth.

  • Preparation –
    • Find a comfortable seat.
    • Relax the backs of both hands onto your thighs.
    • Close your eyes and relax your face, hips and feet.
  • Practice –
    • Take 7 to 10 calm, slow, calming breaths.
      • As you do, imagine that you can grow roots into the earth beneath you. At the same time lengthen your spine upward and balance your head lightly atop it.
      • Imagine the roots getting stronger as you release tension across your shoulders and chest.
    • Take another 7 to 10 smooth breaths.
      • Inhaling, visualize the earth’s nutrients and minerals in your bones.
      • Exhaling, release the muscles away from the bones, all the way from head to toe. Feel yourself supported by the earth.
        • Notice if you are holding yourself up away from that support; and consciously let go. Sit quietly for several minutes.
        • Allow any thoughts or feelings to be absorbed into the ground. Surrender yourself in the way a plant does. All that you need, you have.
  • Transition back into your day –
    • Sit for 2-3 minutes, gently draw your attention back to your breath.
    • Bring your palms together in front of your heart a bow your head. After a few moments, release the backs of your hands onto your thighs. Slowly lift your head up and gently open your eyes.
    • Stand up, knowing that you are fully supported by the earth beneath you.


This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  It appears on page 27.  HEARTH is written and released by Kate Vogt each new and full moon. ©KateVogt2018




Whatever happens. Whatever

what is is is what

I want. Only that. But that.

Galway Kinnell


It seemed odd that a gaggle of wild Canadian geese was lolling around and grazing by a nearby pond in the late afternoon. Usually they fly in early in the mornings and leave mid-afternoon.  But today, they were peacefully moseying around appearing content to be where they were.

“It’s full moon,” explained a friend who is a bird watcher when I shared my concern that the geese hadn’t left for the day.   On a clear full moon day, geese often continue to feed under the moonlight. As the lunar cycle wanes, they return to their normal arrival and departure times.

Wild geese are best known for their v-shaped flight pattern, which allows them to effortlessly migrate thousands of miles to nesting and breeding ground. They move with loving synchronicity. The wing flap creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. When one is injured, another stays with it. They regularly change positions with the ones in back, encouragingly honking to the ones ahead.

Even with their amazing flying capacity, I was struck by the quiet presence of the geese along the shoreline.   The sense of caring support that carries them across the sky was even noticeable on the ground.   They moved together across the lawn, several bodies forming one graceful unified movement.   It is no wonder that they ascend to great heights.

The ability of the geese to seemingly be at peace reminded me of this poem entitled “Prayer” by Galway Kinnell.   Perhaps it was because they were silent on the ground, attending to their needs, and nothing more.  Most of nature is this way – following ancient patterns – where they only want to be that, just that.   As humans, we are intrinsically woven into this natural fabric, yet we forget that we share the air, soil, sunlight, and waters with one another as well as multiple other species.

My father, who lived into his nineties, wisely began his days with a prayer to know the difference between his wants and his needs, and to take only what is needed, not more. This is not an easy path to follow, but it allowed him to have ample room for laughter and interest in the story of strangers.   Like most in earlier generations, he had missed the escalation of the longings and wants that has been cultivated by the growing marketplace. Thus, his wants for material possessions were mostly work-related, leaving him freer than most to simply long for peace.

I hope that Kinnell and my father are forever free to be like the geese and ascend to the loftiest heights. They are human reminders to look at the world around us and to listen to the messages that surround us in the everyday. We have the gift of this life to learn to know what we truly want and to live our lives accordingly.   Personally, I want to inhabit that space between the words. I want to be in that space that holds and sustains all of life.   As a step toward this vision of realizing that, during his coming year, I will daily honor those that have supported, and support, me along the way, including ancestors and sage poets. I hope you will join me.


This practice invites you to cultivate inner peace

  • Preparation –
    • Please find a comfortable seated position. If you are in a chair, please rest the soles of both feet on the floor.
    • Invite awareness of your breath. Ask yourself, “How is my breath today?” There is no right or wrong; just observing how your breath feels today.
    • If comfortable, softly close your eyes and allow the palms of your hands relax upward on your thighs.
  • Practice –
    • Exhale. Just Breathe.
      • With each inhale, silently say, “May I be peaceful. May I be joyful. May I be free.”
      • With each exhale, silently say, “May I be peaceful. May I be joyful. May I be free.”
    • Exhale. Continue with this saying eight to twelve times.
    • Sit quietly for several minutes.
  • Transition Back Into Your Day –
    • Bring your left palm over your heart center. Rest the right palm over the left.  Silently say, “Thank You.”
    • Reach the palms out to the sides of your body (palms upward) as though releasing the desire for peace, joy, and freedom out into the world.
    • Bring the palms together in front of the heart in prayer position. Pause in silence for a few moments.
    • Take your time returning to your day.


This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 110, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is written and posted each new and full moon by Kate Vogt.


What is the root of all these words?
One thing: Love.
But a Love so deep and sweet
It needed to express itself
With scents, sounds, colors
That never before existed.


The morning sky has been grey and misty this past week.   People scurry along the sidewalks with their chins tucked into the front of their jackets. In the coffee shop, the conversations are about the gloom in the weather with wishes that it would get a little brighter.

Instead of feeling dreary, I feel joyful within the grey. It is as though the earth has merged into the vast sky.   Or, that the sky has come to visit the earth to show us that it is always there holding and flowing through us.   The grey-ness softens edges and boundaries. It gives everything a quality of being infinite.

When the grey gives way to a clearer sky, the world begins to sparkle in its different colors and shapes. Birds sing, and the step of people on the street seems to lighten.   Surprisingly, some even pause and look up at the sky in a way that appears they are seeing it for the first time.

The grey invites us to realize anew the beauty of the world. Being enveloped in grey along with our surroundings can feel like a tender caress. It can stir a sense of a sweet, loving Presence that is more immense than any other love we have known. This love is love itself: luminous; omniscient (all-knowing); virtuous; and everlasting (l.o.v.e.).

Prophets, sages and great poets like Hafiz remind us that our world is an expression of a love that never ends.   As an integral part of the world, we too, in our heart of hearts, are love.   We forget this and go looking for the love that we already are.  There is still our pain and discomforts, but beneath it all is the love that sustains.

Poetry and misty mornings are outer reminders that we are living expressions of the love. A complete shift into this knowingness takes long-term, continuous practice of daily meditation and/or prayer. Yet, little things also help. Over the next few months, every time I say, hear, write, or see the word love, I will feel a little lighter and more hopeful. I hope you will join me.


This practice can be done anytime, ideally seated.

  • Prepare –
    • Hug yourself.  Shift so the other arm is on top, and re-hug yourself.
    • Gently squeeze each arm, one arm at a time using the opposite hand. Begin at you shoulder, then move down to your elbow and then your wrist and hand.
    • Pretend to wash your face with your fingertips.
      • For example, gently brush your fingertips up from the eyebrows to the hairline and then down across the temples and cheeks.
  • Practice –
    • Find a comfortable seated position, either on a chair or the floor. Allow the spine to be in a neutral, upright position and the breath to be free and unhindered.
    • Rest the back of one hand, i.e., palm upward, in the center of your lap.
    • Then, as though holding hands with yourself, rest the other palm in the palm in your lap.  (i.e., the palm is upward on your lower palm; and downward on the upper.  The palms are at a 90 degree angle.)
      • Imagine that your lower palm the hand of your most loving friend.
        • Relax the muscles in that arm. Let that relaxation stem from your heart-center, the shoulder blades, shoulder, entire arm, and the fingers.
      • Let the other hand relax and receive the loving support.
    • Allow your eyes to gently close, or find a soft gaze. Relax the muscles across your face.  Allow your breath to be soft and smooth.
    • Stay for as long as comfortable, preferably at least three minutes on each side.
  • Return to Your Day –
    • Place the backs of both hands on your thighs. Invite a few full, gentle inhalations and exhalations.  Allow for slight pause between your inhales and exhales.
    • Sit quietly for a few moments.
    • Give yourself a hug and sincerely say to yourself, “I love you.”
    • Transition back into your day.


This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, published by New World Library.  It appears on page 67, and is translated by and reprinted with permission of Daniel Ladinsky.   HEARTH is offered by Kate Vogt each new and full moon.


You are the sky and the ground.
You alone the day, the night air.
You are the meal that’s being brought,
the sandal knot, flowers and their watering.
You are all this.
What could I possibly bring You!

As I opened the front door, a bird flew upward from the porch railing. Its brilliant red feathers were so striking that I forgot any hurrying. Instead, I felt peaceful and absorbed in awe.   It landed on a branch and looked down at me as if to remind that there is nothing more important than this moment.

The bird was Northern Red Cardinal. Like many brightly colored birds and insects, they engage our attention. They are angelic-like messengers lifting us out of our habitual patterns. In the same way that they announce and awaken us to the rising sun, a sighting can awaken us – even if momentarily – to our innate beauty and voice.

In early cultures, cardinals were aptly referred to as “red bird” and signaled a reminder that life is eternally cradled and nourished. The color red reflects the redness of the eastern sky at dawn and reminds of the ever-present connection between ground and sky. Even the more modern name for this bird, cardinal, implies redness as a carrier between earth and heaven. The word cardinal stems from the Latin cardo, meaning hinge or axis, around which everything moves.

Lalla, a 14th century mystic poet, was radical in her times. Her poetry sings of the presence of the divine within the world of birds, flowers, sandalwood, and all physical forms. Instead of receiving her knowingness through institutionalized human interpretation or rejection of the world, her revelations arose through sensory knowledge of the manifest in its many different forms. Her joyous exaltations invite us to join her on the hinge, or cardo, of life.

The cardinal and Lalla inspire me to slow down, keep my feet on the ground, and heart in the sky. Ironically, humans, especially when we are in an upright position, are constructed like hinges between earthly and heavenly awareness.   Messengers are always near, offering insight and guidance to sing the song that I am meant to sing in the world. Neither the cardinal nor Lalla camouflages their presence. Both boldly message that humble authenticity is important to the well-being of the whole. In the coming year, I endeavor to be my cardinal best for the benefit of all.   I hope you will join me.



This is a short practice spanning over two week. It is best done alone out-of-doors.

  • Preparation
    • Set aside at least 5 minutes a day to be out-of-doors over the next two weeks.
    • Before going out of the door, leave your phone, ipod, tracking devices, camera, watch, pen and paper, and any other non-medically prescribed tools. Also, leave your water bottle, coffee, or any other beverage or food item.
  • Practice
    • Go outside. If you are with someone, agree to be silent for at least the first 5 minutes.
    • Walk or sit somewhere out-of-doors for at least 5 minutes.
    • Relax your jaw and shoulders.
    • Smile and look around.
    • Without judgment: Listen, smell, and observe.
    • Notice what you notice
      • Repeat, ideally in the same location each day for two weeks.
  • Transition
    • After being out-of-doors for a minimum of five minutes, return inside.
    • If time allows, sit in a quiet place for several minutes. Breath.
    • When you are ready, return to your day.


This poem is translated by Coleman Barks and with his permission reprinted in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, and published by New World Library.  The Northern Cardinal resides in Kona, Hawaii.  HEARTH is published each full and new moon by Kate Vogt.



Silent Song

Silently a flower blooms, in silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
the whole of the flower, the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom;
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
Zenkei Shibayama


In a few days, the North Pole will be tilted furthest away from the sun. This phenomenon, called solstice, has a different affect on the earth’s hemispheres. It signifies winter in the north and summer in the south.

Even with the increasing number of natural disasters and unseasonal temperatures, the solstice is a reminder of the ongoing cycle of life. Days grow longer on one side of the planet, and shorter on the other. Flowers bloom and they fade. The moon waxes and wanes. As I saw in my own family this past year, loved ones die and new ones arrive.

Solstice also reminds us to pause, to be still. The word solstice stems from two Latin words sol and sistere, translated as “sun” and “to stand still.”   This is because the angle of the earth’s axis in relationship to the sun stops at either the northern- or southernmost limit before it reverses directions. There is stillness in the swaying.

Throughout the world, prophets and sage masters amplify our earthly message. Our earth’s lullaby quietly rocks us from side to side. It invites us to know that her silent song is our song. Silence is at the heart of all. We are encouraged to rejoice in stillness, and be rejoiced.

Cues to eternal joy are everywhere, and I find a certain humor in that. We are always searching, or inventing, new ways to find what is already there. A flower, as in Zenkei Shibayama’s poem, speaks the silent life of all things. In our breath, there is a pause as the air moves in and out.  Silence invigorates life and is the fountainhead of peace. For this solstice, I will pause and smile. Then, repeat again and again. I hope you will join me.


This practice helps bring awareness that all directions radiate from the heart.

  •  Prepare –
    • Place your phone and other digital tools in airplane mode. Remove watches and activity trackers from your wrist. Remove your shoes.
    • This is a standing practice. Have a chair nearby.
    • Shake out through your right side, first your right arm and then your right leg. Repeat, on the left side. Shake each limb for about a minute.
    • Playfully, dance around for a few moments.
  • Practice –
    • Staying in one place, slowly turn in a circle counterclockwise.
    • Staying in one place, slowly make quarter-turns to your right.
      • Pause at each quarter turn.
      • Elbows bent, palms upward and to the sides as though holding flowers in the palms in your hands.
        • Note: if you cannot visualize quarter-turns, try imagining you turning to the four horizontal directions. Or, imagine that are standing in the center of an analog clock. You begin facing the number 12, and then, turn and pause at the numbers 3, 6, 9, and 12.
    • Standing, reach the fingers toward the earth. Then, overhead.
    • Bring your palms together in front of your heart. Take three breaths. Imagine that all directions meet at the core of your heart. Smile.
  • Transition –
    • Come to a comfortable seated position. Pause and sit quietly for a few minutes before returning to your day.


The poem appears on page 121 of Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, translated by Sumiko Kudo, and published by New World Library.


Even after all this time the sun

never says to the earth, “You owe me.”

Look what happens to a love like that –

it lights up the whole world.



December is filled with holidays celebrating light. In spite of any gloom in our lives – loss of a job, illness, cultural shifts, or simply the longer nights in the Northern hemisphere – there are continual reminders that light illumines our lives and the world.

Of the over 170,000 words in the English language, one of the more commonly used words is light. Its linguistic roots from Old English echo back to leoht, which refers to daylight as well as spiritual illumination.   Someone we cherish, whether the divine or another person, is the “light of our life.” An awakening to the truth is “to see the light.”   As a noun, light can mean the energy producing brightness, a glow, or symbolically God or the Inner Light. It brightens, kindles, animates, highlights, and reveals the way.

Sages and saints tell us that our natural essence is light. We are at heart radiant beings. One who realizes this is often referred to as “enlightened.”  With such realization, we light up the world around us with no expectation of return.   Just as the holidays and traditions celebrate light, the sun is a steady reminder of this eternal truth. Our luminosity can shine with playful laughter and joy in the simple tasks and occurrences of daily life.

During this season of light, I will explore ways I can lighten up my life, such as de-cluttering my home and attitudes. I will also be aware of every time I say, hear, or read the word light and let that ignite and inspire more ways to be the light that I already am.  I hope you will join me.


This practice is best done at the beginning or end of the day when you have the fewest distractions.

  • Prepare –
    • Invite quietude – Turn your phone to airplane mode and put it aside. Remove items from your wrists such as your watch or any non-medical monitor. However, if you know you only have a set amount of time, please feel free to use an alarm.
    • Sit comfortably – Come to a seated position, either in a chair or on the floor, where your spine is effortlessly upright. If seated in a chair, place the soles of the feet on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, please place a cushion or a block under your feet.
    • Relax your hands – Give a gentle squeeze to each hand by placing the thumb of the opposite hand on the palm and wrapping the other fingers over the back of the hand and squeeze.  Then, let the hands relax on your lap in any position that is comfortable.
    • Relax your eyes and face – Either close your eyelids or have them open. If open, let your eyes rest in a soft, gentle gaze. Relax your forehead, jaw, and chin.
  • Practice –
    • Imagine a steady, radiant glow of light. This could be similar to that of the early morning or late day sun.   Imagine that with that light there is an overwhelming presence of well-being, protection, and love.
    • Imagine that
      • the building that you are in is infused with light – every wall, ceiling, floor, window, and door as well as the roof and foundation.
      • the room you are in is made of light
      • the cushion or chair that you are seated on is made of light
      • you are bathed and enfolded in light
      • you are luminous…you are the steady, radiant glow of light
      • there is only light.
        • Note: You may wish to open your eyes to quietly read aloud each layer of imaging light. Then, sit quietly imagining that layer. Follow your pace of awareness.  Savor the light.
  • Return to your day –
    • If your eyes were closed, slowly open them. Allow the awareness of your breath to seep in. Notice the gentle movement of the chest and ribs associated with the breath.
    • After several breaths, slowly lower your chin to your chest and rock your head from side to side in half circles. Shrug through your shoulders. Stretch through your palms and squeeze your hands. Before standing, stretch through your toes and feet.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 52, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.



The great sea has set me in motion, set me adrift,

moving me like a weed in a river.

The sky and strong wind have moved the spirit inside me

till I am carried away trembling with joy.



The road darkened as we wound our way toward the coastline just north of San Francisco.    In the minutes prior to this recent turn in the road, the surrounding hillsides had glistened as the plants basked in the midday light.   But, the stand of eucalyptus trees in this section of the highway had swallowed most of the sunshine.

These large trees harken back to Australia where their fossils date back to 35 million years ago.   Their journey to North America was in the late 1800s when some of the 600 species of eucalyptus were imported for timber farms.   The timber project withered, but the eucalyptus remained.   Today, they are as much loved and wanted for shade and windbreaks as they are an unwanted presence. For the latter, their flammable oil can serve as gasoline to wildfires. And, their fast-growing nature stifles endemic plants by blocking out sunlight and out-competing other plants for water and other nutritional resources.

I was raised to believe that weeds are part of life. They may be undesirable, but they exist and are to be removed as lovingly as seeds are sown. Weeds are adaptable, tenacious, and wild. They grow abundantly and multiply easily. Weeds are not always weeds. When plants are called “weeds,” they are growing in the wrong place and are interfering with the growth of preferred plants, such as a crop, lawn, or garden. In a different location, those “weeds” might be cultivated for beneficial qualities. For example, pigweed often is an invasive plant, but it is also cultivated as amaranth, which is a food high in protein and minerals.

The word weed normally refers to plants, but it also can refer to anything, anyone, or any being that is perceived to be troublesome or unprofitable. On a micro level, weeds can be our thoughts.   Wise prophets and sages remind us that all of life is flowing and moving together.  It is up to us to be attentive and care for the innermost space of our heart by nourishing it with meditation, love, and prayer. This will help neutralize the tenacious weeds of the mind, such as fears, worries, hankerings, and judgments. Once free, our heart will sing in joy like Uvavnuk, a 19th century Netsilik Eskimo woman, who was a great shaman.   Her glowing joy brought delight and relief to others.

Over the next few weeks, I will listen to myself in conversations to see if I am feeding the tenacious weeds of the mind through inattentive talk. I hope you will join me.



This simple practice can be done anywhere at any time.

  • Prepare –
    • Find a comfortable seated position. Your eyes may be open or closed. Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap.  If you are seated in a chair, place both feet on the floor.
  • Practice –
    • Inhale a smooth and even breath.
      • As you inhale, silently say to yourself, “I am glowing with joy.”
      • Imagine that every cell in your body is radiant joy.
    • Exhale a smooth and even breath. Not forcing.
      • Bask in the glow, as though you were a flower in full bloom absorbed in the light.
    • Repeat for 12 breaths.
  • Return to your day –
    • Bring your left palm over your heart. Place your right hand on top.
    • Pause here for a few breaths.  Invite a gentle smile on your lips, in your eyes, in your heart, and in every cell of your body.
    • Transition back into your day.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart, page 70, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, and published by New World Library. The photo credit is the Presido, San Francisco, CA. HEARTH is produced and posted by Kate Vogt each new and full moon.