Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


2 Comments

A girl, a bat, and a story about courage and compassion

NEW RELEASE

Life delivered a very sweet gift when my children’s book, illustrated by wonderful Maine artist Leona Hosack, came into the world this week, published by Baha’i Publishing.

Jamila finalsketch1

Illustration: Leona Hosack

Jamila Does Not Want A Bat in her House is the story of a little girl frightened by the bat swooping around inside her house, especially when her parents can’t get it outside.

It flies out of their reach, over their heads, and disappears where they can’t see it. Jamila does not like this game of hide-and-seek at ALL.

jamilafinalsketch14

Illustration: Leona Hosack

When she finally sees the bat up close, she discovers that it’s very small, and that it might be as scared as she is.

That’s when she finds the compassion, and the courage, to help the bat, her family, and herself. Along the way, she learns about perseverance, cooperation, and the real power of prayer to help us meet the challenges that can arrive in our lives like unwelcome visitors.

Bats have visited my family’s Victorian house regularly through the years. Over time, as our family solved the challenge of freeing them, we learned a lot, as Jamila does, about the value of empathy, and of working together for the benefit of all (including the bat).

Find more about Jamila Does Not Want A Bat in her House here:

http://www.bahaibookstore.com/Jamila-Does-Not-Want-A-Bat-In-Her-House-P8761.aspx

 


3 Comments

Welcoming the wit to win

original.

Fifty-six years ago, in a little German village, my older sister, then a high-school sophomore, taught these words of Edwin Markham to me:

He drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him in!

 ~ Edwin Markham,  Outwitted

Phyllis-Nan-2-350x350At that time, I looked much the way I do in this photo that shows me outside the house where we lived. I’m accompanied by my British grandmother and my teddy bear.

Many evenings, my parents and I would climb the hillsides above that village to reach the table-like land at the top, where there were fruit trees like the ones in the photo above. It was a LONG climb, especially on short legs. The reward was the sweet fruit waiting at the end of the climb, and the sunsets visible from that vantage point. That’s a metaphor that has stayed with me for life.

Until my sister reminded me of this poem recently, I doubt I’d given it concrete thought for years. Yet when I “heard” it again, something began to play inside me like a song. All through the time and distance I’ve traversed since that German summer, this has traveled with me, setting the roots of the tree of my life into the soil that grew my view of myself, always, as a citizen of the world.

das-goldene-fass-postcardI’ve been fortunate enough to return to this village several times with my husband, and even once with our grown children. Although my family lived there a bare eight months, I realize now that the war-weary Germans there who showed me such kindness insured that it’s at the heart of all I’ve loved about their country ever since.

I also know today that because my WWII-veteran father could appreciate Germans, my British mother, injured in the Blitz, could forgive them, and my sister could be so determined to teach me the principle of oneness, my pathway of becoming a Baha’i no doubt began growing from the seed of my life that very summer.

11241717Because so many different people were willing to care about me, and about showing an open heart, I would come to recognize instantly, as though it were a song already inside me, the truth of these words:

Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity, He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us.                 ~’Abdu’l-Bahá  (Paris Talks)


4 Comments

The water seeks the thirsty one

10259918_685768931566288_5884985949559585494_n

Photo: D. Kirkup Jewelry Designs

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Biding in a refuge of Rumi:

 

Don’t be sad! Because God sends hope in the most desperate moments.

Don’t forget, the heaviest rain comes out of the darkest clouds.

 

Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our heart.

As you live Deeper in the Heart, the Mirror gets clearer and cleaner.

11805699_10155840072640181_725430136_n

Photo: Lara Kearns

 

Surrender.

 

Be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

 

Try something different –

Surrender.

 

Not only the thirsty seek the water,

the water as well seeks the thirsty.

 

I open the window

and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Rumi


1 Comment

The ways of a greater part

12075060_10207836794503992_1089614144949779724_n

 

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul.

It is not easy… To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

Discipline is not a means of accomplishing more, but a stance of patience and curiosity to witness more of the faces of God in which we are already contained and cared for.

~ Andrew Shier

11329830_987819617919145_6411517965831340097_n

With image thanks to Following Atticus: http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.

I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.

It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

~ Henri Nouwen

tobeytreehugger

Image: Tobey A. Ring

Yin is the receptive, feeling, compassionate force within.

It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead.

For Yin, withdrawing is entering. … Like an ecosystem, Yin considers all counterparts essential.

So ideas that emerge from this level of imagination serve more than the individual cause – they serve the great ecosystem upon which we are all dependent.

~ Toko-pa


Leave a comment

Each day holds glimpses of heaven

COPYRIGHTEDBYENOCHSVISIONDOTCOMWIL74304WILM05604O

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.

10169204_10153163177054252_4753344878896865361_n

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″


2 Comments

A useful kind of going astray

During the weeks I spent in Europe last spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind in order that my heart will be able to hear at all. For the voices that assist and guide it are soft and subtle, and are drowned out by the din of life and the world.

Because of the wide-open nature of so many European settings, the sky is a constantly-changing panorama I found myself stopping to watch like a movie, and there was always something on the horizon that I would set out on a long walk simply to see up close.

A Well Groomed and Tidy Land 86

Photo: Kathy Gilman

Ironically, more often than not I never made it there because I was waylaid by something magnificent along the way.

It could be the slant of the light on a field; the shape of a lone tree in the midst of hectares of rolling hills; one small, stunning blossom on a branch that brushed me as I walked past, like a woods creature trying to get my attention.

Diedenbergen_signs“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience,” wrote Saint Teresa of Avila

Astray from what? I wonder.

My preconceived notions? Insistent, certain ideas or opinions?

When I leave room for wonder or miracles, it leads me back to something Pema Chödrön has summarized beautifully in her book,

Practicing Peace in Times of War:

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.

We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.

DCchapel10245370_10152498072556802_2471127218286685802_n

Photo: David Campbell. http://gbctours.com

That’s the true practice of peace.”

And Pema has also captured the very fulcrum of living:

“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”


2 Comments

The treasures in the moments

photo 2

Image: Judy Hughey Wright

GLEANINGS FROM HERE AND THERE:

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.

~ Thomas Merton

The Universe does not know whether the vibration that you’re offering is because of something you’re observing or something you’re remembering or something that you are imagining. It just receives the vibration and answers it with things that match it.

~ Abraham-Hicks

photo 3

Image: Judy Hughey Wright

Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world. 

~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

photo 1

Image: Judy Hughey Wright

O God
Whenever I listen
to the voice of anything you have made —
The rustling of the trees
The trickling of water
The cries of the birds
The flickering of shadow
The roar of the wind
The song of the thunder,
I hear it saying:
God is One!
Nothing can be compared with God!

~ Rabi’a  717–801, Sufi saint, woman mystic