The Park

Tranquil our paths
When your hand rests in mine in joy.
Your voice gives life, like nectar.
To see you, is more than food or drink.


As I sat on a park bench the other day, I appreciated the sound of laughter and conversation from the people around me.  There was a family with three young children playing tag, an elderly couple, and a group of young adults sitting in the grass talking. Eyes were beaming and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoying being together.

Ten years ago, I might not have noticed the jovial atmosphere. Not because I’ve necessarily become more aware over the past decade, but because it would not have been noteworthy to hear and see people happily conversing and interacting. The woman of the elderly couple rested her hand in the palm of the man’s hand. The parents of the young children smiled at the sound of their children’s voices.  Even the trees, grass, and flowers seemed more alive.

While savoring this rare moment, I began to fantasize that somehow this group of humans had discovered an ancient secret to happiness. It seemed that if they had had musical instruments, they would have made music together. Or, with paint brushes, they would have harmoniously created a painting together. I could only fantasize so far; like me, they have shelter, food, and access to a clean public park.   Yet, it was still striking that given their age, gender, and racial diversity, none were using digital devices. All heads were raised, hands free, happily engaged.

Humans have long experimented with and been influenced by our tools – flint arrowheads to earthenware to typewriters and robots.  None have been as overpowering and as luring as our most recent inventions.   It is rapidly becoming more commonplace to see humans interacting with screens and electronic devices than with one another or nature.   The average person is unaware that this shift is radically narrowing – rather than widening – our capacity for true happiness.

Social bonding, compassion, creativity, contentment, and the generally ability to be able to feel and care evolve from interacting with other humans and living beings. Studies of the brain show that it needs dynamic interaction. While our screen world seems to be multi-sensory, the studies show we have the illusion of being more connected but are less aware and more isolated emotionally. We need real physical social interaction, like these people in the park, for well-being and inner tranquility.

The anonymous Egyptian poet from about 1500 B.C.E. summarizes the gifts within everyday touching, listening, and seeing. When we gently hold the hand of a loved one, no words are needed. The love and support is understood. Their voice can bring us ease and a mere glimpse of their face can make us smile from the inside out. The seemingly mundane shapes our ability to trust, accept and explore, and to surrender our cravings and other obstacles that cloud our day-to-day perspective.   I will continue to take intentional cyber-breaks – some short and some long – in honor of those ancient poets and sages who preserved perennial truths about the beauty and joy to be discovered through our innate humanness.  I hope you will join me.


This practice helps renew your awareness of the sense of sight, hearing and touch.

  • Prepare –
    • Sit somewhere where your digital devices are out of reach, sound, and sight.
      • Even if they are in airplane mode, create some distance between you and them.
    • If you are in a chair or bench, place the sole of both feet on the ground. Close your eyes, or have a soft gaze.
    • Give yourself a gentle hug. If you feel fearful about being out of touch digitally, squeeze your upper arms with your hands and quietly reassure yourself that as a human you are much more than your possessions.
  • Practice –
    • Place the palm of one hand over the center of your chest.
      • (The fingertips softly point toward the opposite arm and shoulder.)
      • Allow yourself to explore any sensations or emotions. There is no right or wrong.  Just explore.
        • For example:  Does the skin on the chest – even beneath the clothing – feel differently when your hand is lightly touching the chest, resting there, or moved away?  How about the skin on the fingers and palm?  Does it feel differently in the fingers and palm when you change the weight and position of the hand?  Are there any emotions or feelings, such as comfort?
    • Keeping the hand resting on your chest.  Then, rest the other hand on top.
      • Explore any sensations and feelings that you may have in the hands.
        • Breathe here for a few moments (with one hand on top of the other). Notice any movement in the torso associated with the inhalation and exhalation.
    • Lightly place your palms over your ears.
      • Relax through the shoulders and eyes. Breathe five to six breaths.
        • Notice the sound of the breath and any sensations associated with having the hands over your ears.
    • Lightly place your palms over your eyes.
      • (The fingertips point upward and lightly curling over the top of your scull.)
      • Breathe five to six breaths.
        • Notice any sensations, both while the hands are over the eyes and when you bring the hands away.
  • Transition Back Into Your Day –
    • Rest your palms lightly in your lap.
    • Breathe calmly and peacefully for as long as is comfortable, or feasible, for you.
    • When you are ready, return to your day.


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 26 and is translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock. HEARTH is written and shared by Kate Vogt each new and full moon. KateVogt©2018.




Spring overall.  But inside us there’s another unity.
Behind each eye here, one glowing weather.
Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze, but as they sway
they connect at the roots.


In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox is near. The migratory birds have begun to return to the local waterways and the tree buds are transforming into flowers and leaves. As the days grow longer, the sun seems to glow a bit brighter and be burning away the remains of winter.

In the midst of the shifts, I find myself anticipating each sign of spring. I’m caught in the flavor of this time of year when the gray gives way to new life. My thoughts turn like seasonal changes with one seamlessly morphing into the other. The equinox offers me an invitation to pause and notice the ever-transforming cycles of life.

In Rumi’s poem, the first punctuation mark – a period – invites the reader to pause. That pause bridges the moving extravaganza of colors, shapes and sounds with the calm unity of all. Within the space between sentences there is freedom to be pleasantly suspended between hindsight and anticipation. I allow myself to linger there until my mind calls me to the next line.

There, Rumi again draws attention back to the endless center of all. That center externalizes itself into another point and creates a relationship between the two. The center stays steady, allowing the words and movements to brush over its surface. I am reminded that we too have a calm essence, which is said to reside and glow deeply within us.

When I was a child, I loved to sing the phrase, “this little light of mine, let it shine, let it shine.”   At the time, I had no awareness of how easily life and all its experiences can cover over that little light.   Nor did I realize the effort and courage it would take to truly let that inner radiance shine into the world.   Yet, Rumi and other poets artfully reveal the way to live within the pauses. There I can realize the truth of my being.

As springtime unfolds, I will linger between yesterday and tomorrow, night and day, and the space between the words. On the surface, the swaying of thoughts and activities will still happen, but I’ll leave room for the sun to shine between the branches in my mind. I hope you will join me.


  • Prepare –
    • Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Relax your palms in your lap. Close your eyes, or have a soft gaze. Allow your breath to be calm and natural. Release any unneeded tension in your neck, shoulder, and face.
  • Practice –
    • Take a few moments to imagine each of the following:
    • Imagine seeing into the distance behind you.
    • Imagine seeing into the distance beneath you.
    • Imagine seeing into the distance behind you and beneath you.
    • Imagine that you are expanding that and letting it wrap around your sides and above your head.
    • Pause there.
      • Allow yourself to be cradled in your own awareness of that behind, beneath, above, and to your sides. Quietly breathe.
  • Transition Back Into Your Day –
    • Bring your palms over your heart.
    • Breathe calmly and peacefully for as long as is comfortable, and feasible, for.
    • Gently allow hands to rest on thighs.  Return to your day.


This poem is from Mala Of The Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. This poem, which appears on page 85, was translated by Coleman Barks and reprinted with his permission.   HEART is written and posted by Kate Vogt each new and full moon. © KateVogt2018






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




I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog “God.”
First he looked confused,
then he started smiling, then he even
I kept at it: now he doesn’t even

I am wondering if this
might work on


In the Northern Hemisphere, the daylight hours are slowly growing longer. Buds are beginning to fatten on the tree branches and migratory birds will soon reappear. Even with the unusual shifts in the weather patterns, it is somehow comforting and uplifting to watch springtime ease back into our lives.

With the brightening of the days, I’ve been thinking how the shift in seasons is just one of many common experiences. We all have bodies, need food, air, and water. Viral infections touch people of all ages, backgrounds, and classes. We all have the capacity for a wide range of emotions. Stories weave our lives together with ancestors near and far, our environments, and more. And, we are innately susceptible to laughter.

Laughter is one our most contagious human experiences. It sparks the release of endorphins, which are our natural feel-good chemicals promoting a sense of overall wellbeing. It relieves physical tension, boosts the immune system, lifts our mood, and strengthens our capacity to learn new things. There are some studies that suggest that it betters circulation and offers relief from the experience of pain.

The poet Tukaram offers some further insight into laughter. He playfully invites us to smile and laugh with the image of a happy and joyful dog. For any of us who have had pets, we know that dogs know when and how to offer comic relief. They are loyal, loving and accepting.

Though a simple story of his dog, Tukaram offers us laughter in the spirit of rejoicing. He allows us to rejoice with him. He reverses the word “dog” to “God” as a reminder that the eternal truth and happiness are found in the simplest moments. If we go chasing after, or away from, true happiness, we’ll miss it. That is part of the delight in looking in the mirror of our humanness. At the core of our being is childlike, pure joy.

As humans we have, and have always had, our own direct line to laughter. It comes with a warning to beware that laughter is infectious.   When used respectfully it can make you and others happy. However, if used for malice or at the expense of others, it can bring misery.   The root of “to laugh” from 14th century Old English is to deride, or to rejoice.

As I move forward through this year, I intend to follow this wisdom passed to me from my dad: “Your happiness comes from within yourself.” Perhaps it will help me laugh more often in the spirit of rejoicing. I hope you will join me.


  • Prepare –
    • Sit with your spine in an upright, neutral position. If you are seated in a chair, rest the soles of the feet on the floor.
    • Head movements
      • Drop your chin down toward the center of your chest. Pause and smile. Breathe.
      • Lift your chin up toward the ceiling. Pause and smile. Breathe.
      • Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Pause and smile. Breathe.
      • Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder. Pause and smile. Breathe.
  • Practice –
    • Arm movements
      • Open your palms outward and upward toward the ceiling (your arms will be in a V-shape). Imagine that pure joy is being poured into your palms. Receive that joy in the palms of your hands.
      • Move your arms down and lightly place your palms:
        • on the crown of your head. Imagine the joy is pouring into the spaces between your thoughts.
        • over the front of your throat, imagining joy seeping into your voice.
        • over your heart, imagining pure joy rushing into your heart center.
        • Each area, smile and breathe 2-3 breaths.
      • Let your hands rest in your lap. Imagine as though every cell in your body is joyful. With slightly upturned corners of our lips, bathe in that joy.
  • Transition back into your day.
    • Sweep your palms and arms upward and outward. Turn the face slightly upward. Imagine that your are overflowing with joy and sharing the abundance with the universe. Smile and breathe.
    • Transition back into your day when you are ready.


This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 17, edited by Ravi Nathwani, and Kate Vogt, and published by New World Library.  HEARTH is written and posted by Kate on the new and full moon.


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.