Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The very spirit of this age

Artwork: Kathy Gilman

At the year’s final full moon, as winter solstice draws near, I’m reminded of words of Pearl Buck’s:

“It is good to know our universe.

What is new is only new to us.”

The newness of the season arriving now can be a quiet kind, and an invitation to quiet, and stillness.

To waiting, and listening, in order to hear.

Here in the northern hemisphere, the Solstice brings with it such a distinct meeting place of light and dark.

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

And yet, as with the sun’s gradually returning light, we can be warmed by the understanding that the forces at work in human life are drawing us away from a dark, centuries-old preoccupation with survival and “fighting evil” toward our highest destiny: a creative, collaborative and potentially limitless building of the good.

This is a prospect in which every one has a part to play and every culture has unique contributions to make.

Frederick Buechner expressed this reality beautifully:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

“Renewal is the order of the day,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared when he visited North America in 1912.

Photo: Hertha Götz

“And all this newness hath its source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favor from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world.

“The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.”

Completely free. All of our attention.

My reminder, as the season changes, and 2020 arrives.


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Gate to the Glory of God

 

His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold.”

 ~19th century writer A.L.M. Nicolas, writing about The Bab

 

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs

This week members of the Baha’i Faith worldwide celebrate the Bicentenary of a holy day known as the Birth of the Bab, a key figure in our faith described as “matchless in His meekness” and “imperturbable in His serenity.”

The Bab, whose name means “Gate”, also started a spiritual revolution in the mid-1800s that resulted in the creation of the Baha’i Faith.

Many of us became Baha’is because we couldn’t help but feel that divine messengers, including Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, weren’t intended to be competing factions, but rather part of a single, harmonizing, progressive process through which the Creator is guiding humanity forward. The teachings of the Baha’i Faith describe how the world’s major religions are related and united.

Image courtesy Judy Wright.

And it all began with the Bab, whose story is like a brief, intense storm that reshapes a landscape overnight, or what some have likened to a “thief in the night.”

Born Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad 200 years ago in 1819 in what was then called Persia, the Bab lived in a time of millennial zeal in which many Christians and Muslims held an expectation that scriptural prophecies were about to be fulfilled. Orphaned early in life, The Bab was raised by his maternal uncle, who was one day told by his nephew’s teacher, an esteemed cleric, that there was nothing more he could teach his prodigious and unfailingly courteous pupil.

Shrine of the Bab, Mount Carmel, Israel.

Later, in extending guidance to humanity, The Bab reminded that in order for a soul to recognize and receive divine inspiration, “eyes of the spirit” are necessary — a vision unclouded by personal attachments or preconceived notions. The promised Day of God, He declared, required new standards of conduct and a nobility of character that the Creator had destined for humanity, but which it had yet to achieve. “Purge your hearts of worldly desires,” the Bab told his earliest followers, “and let angelic virtues be your adorning.”

In a society in which moral breakdown was rampant, the Bab’s assertion that the spiritual renewal of society depended on “love and compassion” rather than “force and coercion” stirred enormous hope among all classes of people in Persia. His call for spiritual reformation — in particular, the uplifting of women and the poor, and the promotion of education for all — provoked an angry, fearful response from those who held religious and secular power in an oppressive society that had changed little since medieval times.

Persecution of the Bab’s followers rapidly ensued, and thousands were killed in brutal massacres. The remarkable courage — even joy — that many of His followers exhibited in the face of such carnage was documented by such Western observers as Leo Tolstoy. Eventually, the Bab was imprisoned and publicly executed before a crowd of 10,000 in 1850.

A century and a half later, the spirit of the Bab informs the lives of Baha’is, more than 5 million of us, who see ourselves as citizens of one world and friends of all faiths.

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

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B5MR9B0


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Wonder and mystery, and freedom

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

From the sketchbook of Kathy Gilman.

 

Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.

~ Bahá’u’lláh

It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free.

The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Photo: Kathy Gilman.

Stay ye entirely clear of this dark world’s concerns, and
become ye known by the attributes of those essences
that make their home in the Kingdom.

Then shall ye see how intense is the glory of the heavenly Day-Star, and
how blinding bright are the tokens of bounty coming out
of the invisible realm.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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To forgive the very world

Photo courtesy of N. Augusta Vincent.

 

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that had accumulated like small mountains in our house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns.

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible.

Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows.

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

A bird’s-eye view of the German town where I lived with my military family.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was.

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

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


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The Source of all bestowals

Artwork: Julie Bond Genovese / Nothing Short of Joy

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

We must not consider any soul as barren or deprived. Our duty lies in educating souls so that the Sun of the bestowals of God shall become resplendent in them, and this is possible through the power of the oneness of humanity.

The more love is expressed among mankind and the stronger the power of unity, the greater will be this reflection and revelation, for the greatest bestowal of God is love.

Love is the source of all the bestowals of God. Until love takes possession of the heart, no other divine bounty can be revealed in it.

 ~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace Image: Kelly DuMar

The mind likes to feel that it knows, that it’s right, that what it has to say and feel is Truth–with a capital T.

But that’s not how the Soul works.

It comes to us in our deepest moments of silence.
Reflection, awareness — and the innermost awakening of self-realization.

These are moments where the mind dissolves.
And there is only presence.

~ Bairavee Balasubramaniam

Neither our violence nor our transcendence is a moral or ethical matter of religion, but rather an issue of biology. We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation and, as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed. While this ability can lead us to transcendence, paradoxically it can lead also to violence; our longing for transcendence arises from our intuitive sensing of this adaptive potential and our violence arises from our failure to develop it.

~ Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence

When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.

~ William Temple

 


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Taking a longer, deeper view

I’ve had the blessing this year of accompanying several thoughtful writers as they advance their book-writing process.

Each of their projects is soul-sized, and each is the unique distillation that only that particular writer could bring forth from experience, observation, inspiration, and the facets of creating that help bring a story to life.

My experience of living within the worlds in their pages has me reflecting once again on the power of expression in our world, the double-edged qualities of words and speech, the timeless gifts that good questions and good listening can bring us, and the potential of art to convey the wholeness of our experience.

As I do, I’m inspired by words like the following ones from writers with soul-sized perspectives.

In the company of focused writers in a workshop of the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG).

“Writing about one’s own or another’s life poses serious challenges. A writer trying to represent his life in a book engages himself in ongoing negotiations about what information to include and what to withhold, what he believes is true and what he wants readers to think is true,” says Helena Hjalmarsson.

“The need for synthesis–coherence, connections between past and present–is a constant struggle … ” Hjalmarsson notes.

“Often, the sense of life as a logical, purposeful unfolding becomes more important to the autobiographer than objective truth.

“Also vital to writers of autobiographies is the drive to make their work relevant and accessible to their readership–as well as a desire for connection, a social and spiritual need to ‘reincarnate,’ to have their hard-won perspective exist outside themselves.”

Courtesy Justice St. Rain

Jhumpa Lahiri writes, “It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life.

“And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself.

“Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me.’ ” Lahiri cuts right to the core of the matter, in this.

Author Elizabeth Sims shared timely words about this process in a blog post called “A Real Writer’s Duty”:

“These days when extraordinary, historic events occur, everybody becomes a writer. Social media enables all of us to spew impassioned opinions—joy, outrage, elation, despair—if we want to. And so many do. And free speech is great. 

“But a real writer of either fiction or nonfiction takes a much longer and deeper view of human affairs and human nature than most people.” (How I love this. Indeed, I live for it.)

“A real writer is more curious than defensive,” she continues.

“A real writer explores. A real writer is ready to be surprised. A real writer never panics. A real writer knows the world is in the work.”

 

Find Elizabeth’s Zestful Writing Blog here:

http://esimsauthor.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-real-writers-duty.html


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May the flowers remind us …

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

 

There is no need to choose between science and spirituality.

But there is certainly a need, as there has always been, to choose between materialism and spirituality.

~ Mario Beauregard

 

Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It’s becoming critical.

Photo: Lara Kearns

We don’t need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what’s already here.

It’s becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times.

The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence.

This is the best way that we can benefit others.

~ Pema Chödrön

 

Photo: Lara Kearns

Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.

~Eckhart Tolle

 

 

If we can stay true to the sacred substance and sacred meaning of the seed, it will help us to be a place of rebirth: a place where the inner and outer worlds meet, where real nourishment can once again be born and flower.

Working together with the Earth, with its wonder and mystery, we can help in its healing and regeneration.”

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee