Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Kindness, the very effective servant of Love

New Hampshire author and librarian Linda Tiernan Kepner shared words about my novel, The Munich Girl, that strike a grateful chord in me.

She calls it “well-researched and, in its own way, kind.

It brought to mind something another reader once said about my novel, Snow Fence Road:

“One of the things I also enjoyed was that this story took place in a kind world, with supportive and loving folks, despite their past difficulties, even with each other.”

That is the reason that I write, from the stubborn belief that this is the sort of world that all of our hearts want, and that those hearts long, innately, to help bring it into being.

Because that is what they are created for.

15338851_1492828510767849_7853887363639341138_nKindness is a very effective servant of Love. Maybe that’s why the two are paired in the soul-comforting phrase “loving-kindness.”

“All of the particles of the world are in love and looking for lovers,” Rumi wrote.

Mother Teresa captured this kind essence of love quite touchingly: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

I read recently that much of what is expressed out into our world aims at a lowest common denominator.

But have we not a highest common one? A kind and willing servant of Love?

What sort of love letter to the world can be written for — and from — this treasure?

How can each and every one of us value, protect, and manifest it, like infinite candles, brighter than any darkness, whether imagined or real?

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Biding at the center of the circle

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

A friend described the rapid, often overnight changes appearing in the garden he and his wife have tended so carefully. Just days ago, there was limitless, burgeoning life in summer’s relentless sun and heat and rainfall.

Then, like a puff of breath on a dandelion gone to seed, it is spent and gone; fading away, or into decay.

In New England especially, these changes arrive as abruptly as the night chill that turns the leaves from green to scarlet.

“Stay at the center of the circle, and let all things take their course,” urges the Tao Te Ching.

Out at the sharp edges of the periphery, our very human selves can feel small and overcome, overwhelmed, in the inevitable enormity of change. The mind, confounded, struggles for purchase it can’t find.

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Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

It’s then that a way is opened through which feelings, those unexpected guests left waiting so long in a side room, can emerge.

Autumn, in particular, with its cycles of death and harvest, seems well-suited for inviting forth the grief and pain that so much effort has tried so long to avoid, or contain.

Those seeds of unclaimed treasure found only in a heart broken open.

The center of the circle, that trustworthy core, can hold these, and us, as it holds all, and remind of what Rumi saw with such kind wisdom:

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Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and scared.

Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. 
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

What is the beauty we love?

What are those hundreds of ways?


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The legacies that always outlast war

My novel, The Munich Girl, is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was Hitler’s mistress, and later wife, Eva Braun.

But its themes are really about two realities that matter a great deal to my heart.

The first is the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter in our life. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so. That privilege also allowed me to see that the benefits of achieving this inner reunion always extend far beyond our own small selves.

The novel’s second and particularly fascinating theme, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in the process of how our inner reunion occurs, often in highly unexpected ways.

As a child in Germany, and when I returned to visit as an adult, I heard little about the years of the Second World War — mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.”

Yet, similar to characters in my novel’s story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. 11072937_833787143357991_5837640068723456300_n

They found the way to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering.

And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

I believe that the example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, and that we’ve barely tapped into the spiritual gifts and lessons they offer.

As Elizabeth Sims, novelist and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest noted in her kind comments about the novel:

“Love can manifest itself in enigmatic—and unexpected—ways.”

And, as one character in the novel observes:

“Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good.

So that there can be good things again.”

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of The Legacies That Outlast War at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987


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The gifts of our unique spiritual fingerprint

The ways in which each of us chooses to show love, receive forgiveness, and express other attributes is our own spiritual fingerprint, and just like our physical fingerprint, it is unique to us.

Nobody in the past, present, or future will love exactly the same way that each of us does.

Each time that we give or receive, an attribute of God – a facet of the infinite jewel – is revealed.

In this way, we make an invaluable contribution because we have added to what can be perceived of divinity.

And because we are all capable of making such a contribution, this means that each individual is absolutely indispensable.

When we give or receive acts of service, we become engaged in the process of investigating our own reality and gradually, more is revealed about who we really are.

In that process, we gradually disperse the dust and veils of an illusory identity that has been formed by living in a culture that is immersed in blind imitation of the past.

Once those veils are lifted, we encounter and discover our true and unique individual identity.

The process begins with a genuine act of service that is always motivated by the attributes of God that are latent within each of our hearts. It is our free-will decision that brings forth these “gems of inestimable value”.

 

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

Find more about the book at: https://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I

Print version available at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html

 

 


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We meet what we are able to receive

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result,

but think of the writing in terms of discovery.

~ Gertrude Stein

I’m always searching for descriptions of what writing and creative process feel like in their essence, and haven’t found any that describe it better than Gertrude Stein does here.

She’s gone straight to the heart of what allows writing process to be a revelatory power, and a bestower.

The “price” for this is willing surrender into seeking and not knowing, rather than a holding to presumed knowledge of any kind. The fact that what she observes about the experience of writing also applies to that of living makes her simple truth seem even more sublime.

As she suggests, my experience of writing is of something to be approached on the only terms it truly allows – the terms of discovery. I know that I’m immersed back in that process when things begin to strike with notes my inner ear can hear, when my crown and scalp suddenly tingle.

Also, I simply feel good. If the pathway of shaping a novel taught me anything, it is that when I welcome a better-feeling inner emotional tone, it becomes a bridge to what inner life and intuition have to offer up to me. Before I reach that however, there’s the unavoidable surrender to that great blank that seems that it will never yield, no matter how I push on or try to break through it. And that is because I’m the one who’s meant to do the yielding.

This was reinforced for me one afternoon while I swam with a friend, and remembered that in order to even be able to do this, I must meet the water where it is. I don’t take hold of it or try to manage it, but rather I yield to and work with how it envelops and supports me.

Every aspect of the story in my novel, The Munich Girl, every theme, revelation, and scene, came to meet me in a similar way when I was ready to receive it, after I had immersed myself in its atmosphere and waited, listening, watching. Trusting.

Believing that I “know” anything about a story before it has fully shown itself is the only “writer’s block” I’ve ever placed in my own way.

Every story I’ve accompanied through to completion began with seeing or hearing something in the daily noise of life that stayed with me and took root inside, or was like a silent presence that followed me home. Just as with an animal for whom we would offer a home, it requires that a relationship of mutual trust be built.

Part of that trust for the soul who surrenders to creative process is that we will be met by what we are able to receive, and to integrate, on the deepest levels. A swimmer flailing in fear will not find herself very well supported by the water, even though its quality of buoyancy is always there. We learn to swim by learning to respect the qualities of the water, and shape our own ability to working with it. In a way, we become one with it.

Creative process, when met with regard and respect, brings a very similar kind of connection with our own wholeness, and that of the whole world.


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The weight of the secrets we carry

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Wassily Kandinsky, “Houses in Munich,” 1908

 

As I was setting up a book promotion recently, I noticed that the site already had a link to Barb Taub’s insightful review of The Munich Girl.

Once again, I thank her for the real service that this review continues to offer to my novel:

“With her book, The Munich Girl, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring points out that an entire nation can’t be understood or explained with one label.

‘She does this by examining the life of one almost-invisible woman: Eva Braun, the “Munich Girl’ who was Hitler’s mistress from the time the seventeen-year-old girl met the man over twenty years her senior until their wedding followed a day later by her suicide at his side when she was 33. image13_zps7eb8aca8

“Although The Munich Girl has the feel of a memoir, it is a historical fiction that tells the story of three women. We first meet Anna, an American woman married to history professor Lowell. Anna has grown up in a house full of secrets, one of which is her father Rod’s war-spoils portrait that has hung in their dining room all her life.

The second is her mother, Peggy, who has died just before the story begins. And of course, the third is Eva, and her doomed relationship with Adolf Hitler. As Anna is clearing out Peggy’s house, she comes across a manuscript that tells both Peggy’s story and that of her unlikely friend, Eva.

image-58034-galleryv9-bfrq-277x300“Anna’s story is told in alternating points of view. First we have her own experience as a child born in Germany at the end of the war, but raised in the United States. Having grown up feeling like an outsider and desperate to belong, she subverts her entire life into supporting her husband Lowell’s career and goals. When he orders her to work at an inherited family magazine that he thinks will help his career, she is at first reluctant but then captivated by her assignments, including Eva Braun’s story. But most of all she’s drawn to the magazine’s German-American editor, Hannes. But when Anna finds that her mother knew Eva Braun, and when she starts to suspect that Peggy’s secrets go beyond the portrait signed with Adolf Hitler’s initials, Anna’s interest becomes an obsession.

“This is an amazing story full of layers and meaning. The settings are beautifully detailed and seem both timeless and perfectly anchored in their little bubbles of time. But within those stories, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring has created three fully-realized women who are very different, but who manage to have so many themes in common. 12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_n

“One theme is the deals women make with themselves to allow others to achieve happiness or satisfaction, often by denying themselves those very things.

“Another theme is the secrets we keep from others and from ourselves. The one question that history demands of Germany—how could you follow a monster like Hitler?—is brought down to the personal level. Why would Eva remain with Hitler?”goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70

 

Find the rest of Barb’s review at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show?id=1499833670


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Entering the soul of the matter

 

When you live at the periphery of your being, your thoughts are often scattered, pulling you in different directions, and draining your energy.

Too much mental activity leads to overload and, oftentimes, burnout.

When you take the time to ‘go within’ each day, by breathing deeply and fully, feeling the ‘space’ inside yourself, and witnessing your thoughts and emotions without judgment, you return to a very natural, deep sense of aliveness, which is actually your true nature; then your thoughts naturally slow down, and simultaneously gain more power and cohesiveness.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

Think of the small, choppy waves that dance across the surface of the ocean; these represent your scattered thoughts.

Then visualize the huge waves that rise up from underneath, much like the giants the pro surfers ride. Note the difference in power.

~ Jaime Tanna

It [the struggle with evil] makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail.

“Tree Hugger” by Tobey A. Ring

~ Helen Keller

Become subtle enough
To hear a tree breathe.

Succumb to warmth in the heart
Where divine fire glows.

~ John O’Donohue

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