Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The echo of contemplation

The inner call that births beginnings is our enduring reminder that it’s never too late, that the new always awaits us.

The young tree of my life was planted in a culture constrained by many limiting beliefs. It believes there is not enough for everyone, that having is being, and that age is an ending. It believes that it owns space, and place, and most often feels owned by time.

Friends from cultures close to the natural world remind that truly, it’s the reverse. Whatever we may think, we are one with space, “owned by it”, as it were. But in the matter of time, the invention of our minds, we are free to take ownership, and choose.

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

In reflecting about space, and how to direct one’s time, artist Mark Tobey said:

“The dimension that counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. This inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of the balanced mind… and the search for an equilibrium is essential—to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space.”

And where is that balance to be found? In what longs for us to hear it, and to become the ear with which it is heard, as the kind visionary knew:

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Photo: Lauren Chuslo-Shur

“Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.”

~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation


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The courage to relinquish certainties

Gleanings found here and there:

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup

Relinquish what is without. Cultivate what is within. Live for your centre, not your senses.

~ Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns

 

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

~ Erich Fromm

There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”   ~ Carl Jung


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Each day holds glimpses of heaven

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Photo: Cary Enoch

Many aspects of life these days bring a sharp edge that slices into our vulnerable hearts the way paper cuts snag us as if they’ve been lying in wait. Yet, as one friend points out, they happen because we make contact with something.

“Can’t we just try to be kind, to ease up? Can’t we just let love in?” another friend fairly gasped in despair one day recently when the onslaught of news about utterly savage things seemed too much to bear.

The simplest answer is, absolutely we can. Things can all feel so overwhelming, our small, human selves quite powerless, or overpowered — yet the real power we have has been deposited securely in a place that’s always safe from any sort of harm. And its use is designed to be easy and uncomplicated.

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Photo: Aletta Reimer Weiss

One experience that my friend Ronnie received in his work with brain-injured folks continues to bring this home to me, to really penetrate my heart with the truth of it, as the years go by.

In the day program for the clients with whom he works, activities are held in a large community building shared by several service organizations.

One day, an adult client who had been hit by a car as a child was being fed his lunch by his caregiver in the building’s cafeteria. Food was dripping down his chin onto his bib, and he was in no position to clean his own face, or even ask for it to be cleaned. Other than one arm that seems to have a life of its own, he has little control over his own body.

But he has total control over his own heart, Ronnie says.

He’d become the friend of a group of 3-year-olds who attend a pre-school in the same building. Each day, after they finished their lunch, they’d crowd around their friend’s wheelchair and tell him all about their day. They weren’t the least bit bothered by the fact that he is unable to answer them, or that bits of food fall off his bib onto the floor. After all, they often have the same problem.

11014906_824910567597565_94928212601865149_nOn this particular day, as Ronnie watched this little group, he suddenly spotted one of those glimpses of heaven we get to see, if we’re paying attention. The small, enthusiastic voices were regaling the young man in the wheelchair, and he was sitting quietly, as he has no choice but to do.

And then, in the next unexpected moment, he raised that sometimes wayward arm. There was, no doubt, some concern among the adult onlookers, as he waved it around. Then, it settled softly on a little girl’s shoulder, like a broken-winged bird.

She smiled up at him, and he smiled down at her.

Life is made up of moments, and some of those moments are pure heaven, Ronnie says. But you need to look carefully for them because sometimes they happen in a crowded lunchroom and if you are always looking up, or down, or somewhere else distractedly, you just might miss them.

Fortunately, he adds, life is very generous with the portions of these it dishes out — a veritable feast, no matter what harsh winds blow or dark clouds roll over our heads. These are the gifts waiting for us to exchange, and not a single day will withhold them from us.

coverthumbAdapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=leaofthetre-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1931847673″


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The whole sky to fly in

Spring flowers remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this invitation in each one,

then spread them abundantly about the landscape to ensure we wouldn’t miss it.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

Spring and flowers and happiness all dwell together in a snapshot scene from a long-ago Equinox.

As I packed up our Toyota for the Naw-Rúz (New Year, for Baha’is) party that night, I opened the car door to find our small son sitting in the backseat so surrounded by a mass of daffodils that I could barely see him. To ensure that the flowers traveled safely, my husband gave him the task of holding them and it was the first time he’d seen these harbingers of spring.

It’s hard to remember which was bigger, or brighter — that explosion of golden blooms, or his huge grin as he clutched his precious cargo. That smile was about the only part of him I could see.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

This scene had prophecy in it. Today, our son grows hundreds of thousands of plants and sends them out into the wide world.

As I remember that day on this spring morning nearly 30 years later, with the sounds of wild geese flying over the house, I feel a soft sadness brush against me, rather the way a dog or cat might.

Such feelings seem the inevitable outcome of simply living through the decades, a necessary component of the blessing of life, the contrast between happy memories and wistful ones, wintry days and brilliant spring sunshine, dark and light.

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

When we pause to reflect, it’s so often the contrast we come to see and recall. As one character in my recent work says, when confronted with the passage — and wages — of  time:

Didn’t it all turn out differently than we expected?

Didn’t it once seem there would be the whole sky to fly in?”

It did, no doubt for all of us. It’s not what we thought, or perhaps planned or expected.

And yet, like the flowers and other plants that bloom and reappear so faithfully around us each year, there is fresh beauty and possibility in each new day. Even in the cells of the moments that make them up.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

No, it’s never what we thought, because it’s so very much bigger. When we look. And see. It really is the whole sky, and it will come to meet us when we stop hurling ourselves against it.

In their essence, daffodils, like so many spring flowers, remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this special invitation in each one and then spread them abundantly about the landscape to make sure we wouldn’t miss it.

May each new springtime remind us we are truly unlimited  beings, however earthly our journey often seems.


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The universe folded within us

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Image: Jane E. Harper

I’m delighted to share this guest post from author Jane E. Harper.

Jane’s The Universe Within Us, an inviting synthesis of science, religion, and personal experience, offers n-e-w (non-ego wrought) insight and perspective about our place and purpose in the universe.

It invites – and makes an excellent case for — the understanding that every human being possesses a spiritual nature. What we recognize and choose to do in relation to that is at the very core of life.

From Author Jane E Harper:

 

Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form

when within thee the universe is folded?*

Within you

is that which binds every atom in your body together.

ATTRACTION

Within you

is that which divides cells, turns food into energy, and grows.

AUGMENTATION

Within you

is that which is aware of its environment and learns.

PERCEPTION, EMOTION, INTELLIGENCE

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Image: Jane E. Harper

These powers are nested, one within the other. The power of attraction makes possible the power of augmentation. The powers of attraction and augmentation make possible the powers of perception, emotion and intelligence.

But I am not done!

From these powers springs another power, unique to the human being.

Within you

is that which contemplates the world and unlocks its hidden secrets.

You solve problems.

INTELLECT

There is yet more!

Within you

is that which turns your focus of concern away from yourself.

You solve problems for others.

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caring • forgiveness • tolerance • love • service • wonder • perseverance • respect • creativity • detachment • faith • courtesy • reliability • justice • mercy • sacrifice • assertiveness • loyalty • friendliness • openness • thankfulness • truthfulness

This puny form is the ground in which all these capacities are cultivated and bear fruit, its highest yield — your virtuous qualities.

Within you every quality of the universe is folded.

Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form

when within thee the universe is folded?

_____

*Quote attributed to the Imam Alí, the Prophet Muhammad’s appointed successor, as quoted in Bahá’u’lláh’s The Seven Valleys, p. 34.

Learn more about Jane and her book, The Universe Within Us at http://janeeharper.com.


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Allowing room for solutions

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Kloster Bronnbach – Photo: http://Wertheimer-Portal.de

 

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.    ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

 

Your life situation may be full of problems — most life situations are — but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now.

Do you have a problem now?  When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.    ~ Eckhart Tolle

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

 

No matter how it seems out there, humanity IS evolving from war-like competitiveness to peaceful and loving connectedness and CO-existence.

… the chaos we are experiencing in the outer world is nothing more than our own resistance to freedom and peace.

And notice that the deeper ‘resistance to change’ digs in its heels, the more irrational it becomes.

~ Christine DeLorey


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The ear wherewith he heareth

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Painting: “River of Life”, Diane Kirkup

The word “relinquish” has a special attraction for me whenever it appears in prayers and passages of inspiration. In this month of fasting that has become a reprieve, as well as a “season of restraint”,  I’m noticing how interrelated both restraint and relinquishment can be.

Synonyms for the first include words and phrases like “self-control” and “self-discipline”, as well as “moderation”. (As in moderating one’s self toward balance?)

One description for restraint that really appeals to me is “self-possession”. Might that be true possession, of one’s truest self?

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Painting: “Waves” by Diane Kirkup

Where restraint seems like a condition that arises from my taking responsibility for my self and actions, “relinquish” means to surrender or hand over. This almost makes the two sound like some sort of opposites — or maybe complementary partners.

Surrender and handing over can be very tall orders, of course. But there are two other synonyms that sound like accessible first steps in that process: “let go by” and “let pass”.

What I now hear in the possibility of relinquishment is an invitation to freedom — from the erroneous notions and occasional tyranny of my own thoughts. Not the thoughts I experience when engaged in focused, constructive effort, but the ones that spin round and round, either in the past or in the presumed future. They usually suggest unhelpful things and never, ever, take me anywhere new. Noise, some might call them.

Something well worth restraining or moderating.

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Image: Kathy Gilman

How? By choosing what meditators know is an always-available option: letting thoughts go by as they arise, like the clouds, the weather. Not identifying with them, or defining myself by them. Choosing instead to spend my time, and attention, in what inspires and uplifts me — claiming the resources that scattered thoughts so often consume and using them for something better.  

In a book called The Seven Valleys, Baha’u’llah wrote, “A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth … “

When I relinquish something lesser for something greater, I seem to catch the sweet notes of that greater kind of hearing.

As insistent as my thoughts can be, when I’m willing to relinquish them, what appears in place of them feels positively eternal. 

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Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=leaofthetre-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1931847673″

 

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