Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The sheltering stronghold of unity

Photo: Mike Stevens

Deep in each of our hearts, we already know oneness, because we are created in it.

Every atom of existence embodies and reflects this truth.

More than a century and a half ago, Baha’u’llah, in the gift of a revelation intended for each and every soul, wrote:

“The incomparable Friend saith:

‘The path to freedom hath been outstretched; hasten ye thereunto.

The wellspring of wisdom is overflowing; quaff ye therefrom.

Say: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers.

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.

“Verily I say, whatsoever leadeth to the decline of ignorance and the increase of knowledge hath been, and will ever remain, approved in the sight of the Lord of creation.

“Say: O people! Walk ye neath the shadow of justice and truthfulness and seek ye shelter within the tabernacle of unity.”

~ Baha’u’llah, The Tabernacle of Unity

 

“Through the power of Baha’u’llah all will be united. He upraised this standard of the oneness of humanity in prison.

Artwork: Jeannie Hunt

“When subjected to banishment by two kings, while a refugee from enemies of all nations and during the days of His long imprisonment He wrote to the kings and rulers of the world in words of wonderful eloquence, arraigning them severely and summoning them to the divine standard of unity and justice. He exhorted them to peace and international agreement, making it incumbent upon them to establish a board of international arbitration — that from all nations and governments of the world there should be delegates selected for a congress of nations which should constitute a universal arbitral court of justice to settle international disputes. He wrote to Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Germany, Napoleon III of France and others, inviting them to world unity and peace. Through a heavenly power He was enabled to promulgate these ideals in the Orient. Kings could not withstand Him. They endeavored to extinguish His light but served only to increase its intensity and illumination.”

~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace


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Beyond the prison of self

 

The spiritual nature has a value system that places priceless relationships above any object or hoped-for outcome.

But the human nature, if left in charge, does not.

The sign that we’re in a situation that requires a shift from the eyes of our human nature to the vision of our spiritual one is when we find ourselves focusing on the imperfections of others to such an extent that we experience an increasing intensity of negative emotions that, in turn, causes deterioration in personal relationships.

The only escape from this vicious cycle is to change what we see, to elevate our perception, and to begin looking at others with the sin (imperfection)-covering eye of the spiritual nature.

The spiritual nature doesn’t dwell on perceived imperfections but instead seeks the missing spiritual attributes that the situation is calling for and creates an act of service designed to release those latent virtues, which exist within the heart of every soul.

When that happens, the destructive negative emotions and imperfections begin to dissipate. They are, after all, merely perceptions and `decisions’ of the mind or human nature, and the resulting emotion is the energy of those thoughts in motion.

Image: Cary Enoch Reinstein

However, in the survival-motivated blind imitation that is the human nature’s customary behavior, our mind and emotions can liken our current experience to one that has registered as negative in the past. In order to truly investigate the reality of the matter, we need the spiritual nature and its vision to come into the driver’s seat, to interrupt this reflexive imitating of what happened — or what we perceive to have happened — in the past.

If we are unwilling to do this, we will remain prisoners of that past, and of what, in essence, is actually an imagined past, the perspective of the mind alone.

A sign that we’re progressing away from imitation towards investigation is that negative emotions we’ve experienced are replaced by positive ones, and there is also a noticeable improvement in the way we feel, and within the tone of our relationship  with others.

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

Find the book here:


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“The path that is my duty now”

“I must pray more and more for courage, as I certainly have neither the courage or strength to follow the path that is certainly my duty now.

With the fears and rages, that possess many confused people, if I say things that seem to threaten their interests or conflict with obsessions, then I will surely get it.

I need patience to listen, to learn, to try to understand, and courage to take all the consequences and be really faithful.

This alone is a full-time job.

I dread it, but it must be done, and I don’t quite know how.

To save my soul, by trying to be one of those who spoke and worked for peace, not for madness and destruction.”

~ Thomas Merton, November 12, 1961

Image courtesy Judy Wright

“Man has two aspects: the physical, which is subject to nature, and the merciful or divine, which is connected with God. If the physical or natural disposition in him should overcome the heavenly and merciful, he is, then, the most degraded of animal beings; and if the divine and spiritual should triumph over the human and natural, he is, verily, an angel.

The Prophets come into the world to guide and educate humanity so that the animal nature of man may disappear and the divinity of his powers become awakened. The divine aspect or spiritual nature consists of the breaths of the Holy Spirit.

The second birth of which Jesus has spoken refers to the appearance of this heavenly nature in man. It is expressed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he who is baptized by the Holy Spirit is a veritable manifestation of divine mercy to mankind. Then he becomes just and kind to all humanity; he entertains prejudice and ill will toward none; he shuns no nation or people.”

~ ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, Talk in Washington, D.C., April 21, 1912

 

“The foundations of the divine religions are one. If we investigate these foundations, we discover much ground for agreement, but if we consider the imitations of forms and ancestral beliefs, we find points of disagreement and division; for these imitations differ, while the sources and foundations are one and the same. That is to say, the fundamentals are conducive to unity, but imitations are the cause of disunion and dismemberment.

Whosoever is lacking in love for humanity or manifests hatred and bigotry toward any part of it violates the foundation and source of his own belief and is holding to forms and imitations.

Jesus Christ declares that the sun rises upon the evil and the good, and the rain descends upon the just and the unjust—upon all humanity alike. Christ was a divine mercy which shone upon all mankind, the medium for the descent of the bounty of God, and the bounty of God is transcendent, unrestricted, universal.”  ~ ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, Ibid.


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What cannot be sequestered

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 — especially in sequestered times like these — 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. And about the great mysteries of truth.

In this 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.

That illusory identity of our human nature takes form, and is reinforced, through the ways in which we allow cultural conditioning, worldly attachment, and fear to determine what we see, feel, believe, and choose.

Curiously, the higher, truer perception from which, and for which, we are created is unfailingly and limitlessly generous and kind. If we choose it. And it appears that the “clock” and schedule for doing this, while we live on this earthly plane, is a daily one, often appearing hour-to-hour, moment-to-moment.

If anything seems called-for in a time like this one, it is N-E-W (non-ego-willed) awareness that can open the way to possibilities and solutions we haven’t yet been able to envision. That awareness will also bring the humbling grace of helping us to perceive and come to understand what has never been true, but has succeeded in keeping us from our highest reality.

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

The process can begin in any moment, 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”. And these gems will light our way, in this season of change, growth, and renewal.

 

Portions 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

 

 


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What waits, beyond limits

Photo: Liz Turner

The sky is not the limit.

The mind is.

~ Bruce Lipton

Don’t confuse the limits of your mind with the limits of possibility.

~ Davis Icke

The options for finding peace are many. …

How you heal is your choice, but you must consciously decide to rest and process.

~ Chris-Anne Donnelly

It’s hard to grasp that a breakthrough can be about Being when you’re in the midst of the Doing and Having parts of a creation cycle. Solutions look like they must be about more doing and having: If I had different neighbors. If I made more money. If I could get enough healing clients. The ego wants a full-blown strategic plan in ten clearly defined steps to be accomplished in a week.

Without entering the Void, however, we miss the kindness, magic, and miracles in life. Your home frequency will surface as soon as you stop paying attention to what isn’t in alignment with your truest, deepest self. It will surface in silence. It will surface so you can feel it as soon as you turn your thoughts toward soul qualities. It’s waiting for you when you stop. It meets you halfway when you walk toward it.

~ Penney Peirce, Frequency


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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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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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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


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Seed of Reality, Tree of Life

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

From the seed of reality religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken, and a universal brotherhood in reality itself will be established.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Artwork: Tobey A. Ring

Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another.

Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reaches perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect.

There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity.

We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation.

In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.”

 ~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 230