Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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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:

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Nourished by the Mystery

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Image: Lauren Chuslo Shur

When the spring equinox arrives, a very special time of year comes to an end, for me.

Over these last 19 days, I’ve been more conscious than usual of the sun’s rising and setting, since between those demarcations of the day, I’m pursuing the fast I make each year at this time.

Fasting from “the appetites of the self” has made me more aware, again, of immortal words of Wordsworth’s: “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers …”

The hours have also reminded, as author Thomas Moore suggests: “We usually try to explain the mysterious. It would be better to cultivate wonder and reflection.”

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

It seems easier to feel the truth of this when the day has the added space in it that fasting can provide.

Sometimes, within that space, things can arise that might otherwise stay masked in our busy lives, things that can confuse and baffle.

After several decades of this particular blessing of the Fast, I know what Rumi says is true: “Don’t worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” IMG_3375

The end of the Fast brings Naw Ruz, literally “New Day”, as spring arrives and along with it, a new year in the Baha’i calendar.

At the threshold of that year, 19 blessed days have also reminded me of what ever-inspirational Flora Whittemore pointed out so wisely:

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”


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Our choice holds the remedy

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When I don’t invest in a lower emotional tone, don’t buttress and reinforce it, shrug it on like a cloak or a duty or a sentence, an inner vision, and a spirit of faith, are waiting to take me in a different direction.

These dwell faithfully with me and will, like blooming plants, reach, always, and with complete willingness, toward the uplifting joy of acceptance and happiness right in the moment.

Why would I imagine I want anything else, or that there’s any other choice to be made? Where else can I be right now, anyway?

dk2IMG_1562Yet it’s my choice that allows this. When I do, I feel energy arriving. This choice bestows energy rather than consuming it. Always an affirming embrace, it feels like a favorite memory.

This possibility is available in each moment, so long as some story, some made-up figment that’s never been real, isn’t allowed to convince me otherwise. The feelings that such figments may hold, or try to hide from, could be worth my consideration, though.

I have to remind myself each day that the human world offers very little reinforcement for choosing the remedy of this truthful way.

But I am capable of remembering, and turning to receive, what does.

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The All-Knowing Physician … perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy.                                                   ~Bahá’u’llah

Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.    ~ Steve Maraboli

Photos courtesy of D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.facebook.com/KirkupDesigns