Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

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Presence as prayer

Image courtesy of Tarot by Cecelia


Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.

~ Bahá’u’lláh

We can trust that there is a knowing that is out of the realm of thoughts or emotions or circumstances. When we deeply trust, our minds open to discover what is true, regardless of what we are feeling.  

~ Gangaji

The single most important thing we can do is stop and get off the train of our own obsessive convictions and move into awareness of some sort of presence or the present time … and breathe again. That’s about as prayerful as life gets. That is about as faithful and spiritual as I mean. And everyone can relate to that.              ~ Anne Lamott

Let go of what you are not and be who you truly are. When you let go, you create space to receive more.

~ John Whiteman

Words from Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul are also helpful:

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

“ … identify as the observer, not the experience; don’t let painful experience influence the present; you are not the thoughts you observe; a life of joy and love follows from a commitment made to a life of joy and love. Learn to live from your heart, not your ego. Take refuge in the Divine, not the temporary. Learn to control your mind rather than letting it control you. It’s just a mass of thoughts. It is possible never to ‘have’ a problem again.”

The journey that matters most to me requires that I review the events in my life for the wisdom and purpose they carry. This inventory brings questions like:

~ What are my true needs, and what is my inner “enough”?

~ How do I remember that strength, and every resource I require, arrives increment by increment, as I am ready?

~ How do I remember that inspiration and assistance will arrive, but need me to ask for them, acknowledge that I need them, and be willing to receive and act upon them?

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What shall we keep room for in our hearts?


“Evolution is transformation. And transformation is happening all the time. It happens as we learn new things … ” notes author Christine DeLorey.

“Evolution is not an automatic ever-ascending spiritual conveyor-belt,” she adds, “but the result of our ability to face reality, adjust, adapt, and change.”

A key element of our transformative path is contrast, whose intensity and extremes can sometimes seem — and feel — shocking. Even disheartening.

10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_oHow can we maximize its effectiveness, by seeing what it is pointing to, for our heart’s understanding? What is it helping us remember? And how is it reminding us of all that we do not yet know?

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” urges poet Mary Oliver, and theologian Paul Tillich reminds, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

“ … if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody,” writes Gangaji.

“It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.”

11798178_10155840072870181_1562789834_nOnce this happens, then perhaps we are equipped at last for what these words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s invite:

“Make ready thy soul that thou mayest be like the light which shineth forth from the loftiest heights on the coast, by means of which guidance may be given to the timid ships amid the darkness of fog …”

Including those often-timid ships of our own small selves.


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Beneath and between the facts


Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

As I’ve been pondering the power and effectiveness of wholeness in healing, and in living, I find these words of writer Ian Lawton’s instructive:

“Your body’s wisdom is instinct. Your heart’s wisdom is emotion. Your mind’s wisdom is knowledge. Your higher self’s wisdom is intuition. Intuition works with, beneath and between the facts.”

I’ve appreciated his Soulseeds blog for some time now. He describes there how the multiple kinds of knowing with which we’re endowed work most effectively when they are used together.

He notes: “Being informed is necessary. Being intelligent is helpful. Being wise is essential. Wisdom is a deft combination of multiple intelligences.


Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

“IQ is head smart. Emotional intelligence (EQ) understands the feelings behind facts. This is heart smart. Spiritual intelligence (SQ) is the mind’s meaning maker. It connects IQ and EQ by discerning what is significant and why. This is where moral intelligence comes from, as well as a sense of purpose. Another name for SQ is wisdom. Wisdom is street smart. It has its own way of knowing that combines all your years of experience and marshals the best team of feelings, skills and knowledge for each occasion.”

I encourage reading the rest of this post, and exploring the resource of Ian’s thoughtful blog at: http://www.soulseeds.com/grapevine/2012/06/from-knowledge-to-wisdom/


Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

My reflections on these topics that Ian points to are also complemented by thoughts from a favorite catalyst of deep discourse, writer Christine DeLorey:

“… people have been talking about a great ‘awakening’ for a very long time now, but few envisaged the gut-level emotional route it would take to evolve as a species. We have often equated spirituality with the mind and consciousness – our electrical masculine energy – but maligned and ignored our magnetic feminine energy, without which we cannot be whole. The strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ starts right there!

“And as we seek balance and peace, the ‘wholeness’ dynamic is changing now, and we see how this inner battle between our masculine and feminine is reflected in all of our outer wars and atrocities.


Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

“The war on women begins with the suppression of emotion, the feminine energy within all of us. Self-expression is our greatest power, but it depends on our ability to FEEL as well as think. Everything in life moves and grows through its ability to communicate – to take reality in – and respond outwardly to it.”

Although it is in subtle ways (and what else could it be?) my forthcoming book, The Munich Girl: A novel of the legacies that outlast war, is steeped directly in these realities.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:







The balance creative process offers us

eva-braunSeven years ago, I made a bid on an eBay item that would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time. The portrait of Eva Braun had been drawn by an artist who never gained acclaim for his work, though his infamous name is branded on humanity’s history forever. Eva Braun chose to die with him 70 years ago this spring.

I’d been writing for most of my life but had no awareness of the surprising turn that day was launching for my work. That portrait is at the heart of everything that’s become a part of my novel’s story ever since. Among the many things I didn’t yet know was that the experience of this book would show me that, rather than being something I “do”, writing process is something that acts upon me, strengthening a sense of connection with my own wholeness, and with that of others. My role — my responsibility — is to listen and watch for its revelations, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story — or on anything else.

th1Along the way, I’ve been thankful to discover that this is also a kinder and generally more effective approach to living, and it brings with it an unmistakable cycle of three distinct stages. Writer Penney Peirce offers a helpful model of them in her book, The Intuitive Way. She describes how, moving from a centered place of being, where we can receive what comes to meet us there, we are inspired toward doing, and this takes shape in action that eventually leads to a condition of achieving or having.

We may then begin to notice a tailing off, energetically, which is the reminder that it’s time to do what our very cells know they must: rest, recharge, and be restored again to a state of being that’s ready and inspired for the next cycle of expression and activity. Ready to receive, and then express. Cells do not restore themselves after they expend their energy, but are restored by something beyond themselves. Cells seem to know innately the wisdom of returning to their fullest being through the “re-sourcing” of what truly sustains them.

IWay3rdEdMedShad72So often today, the world and the insistence of its demands can make it very easy to get caught in just one segment of this cycle – stuck on a repeating, depleting loop of constantly attempting to do and to have. I hear of so many creative souls collapsing in a kind of disheartened burnout, and I think a misunderstanding of this cycle may be at the heart of that. If we follow the cycle all the way through, we will naturally realize when it is time for replenishment so that we can again be ready to express, expend, and be effective, with joy.

Creative process is as much a matter of balance — of finding a stable stance — as any other meaningful experience. It arises both from within us and without, and requires the fullest kind of trusting attention (i.e. presence), which, in a way, is a repeated act of surrender. And of faith. I know that, for many people, hurling themselves at creative process can follow patterns similar to the ways in which they might hurl themselves at life by trying to force or control things. But life, and creative process, are each waiting for us to meet them, I believe, just as our feelings await this, so that they can help us know and understand what it is we need, and what might come next.

11009861_10153163174884252_7953194271910406762_nThis is not the rational mind’s style, of course. But I’ve come to feel that the mind serves best when it’s not trying to lead, or force, but to follow, as we pursue the things we feel drawn and called to do. When we honor that reality, the things that sustain and help us arrive in ways that will also unfailingly surprise us, because they are beyond anything that our minds, which are confined only to previous experience, could imagine or predict.

When we open up to meeting the greater possibilities of what we don’t yet know, our minds will be repeatedly astonished by what is disarmingly precise,  unfathomably generous, and remarkably right.