Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The time we own, the space we inhabit

Image: courtesy Tarot by Cecelia

The young tree of my life was planted in a culture constrained by many limiting beliefs.

It believes:

there is not enough for everyone,

that having is being,

that age is an ending.

It believes that it owns space, and place, and most often feels owned by time.

Photo: Liz Turner

Friends from cultures close to the natural world remind me that, truly, it’s the reverse.

Whatever we may think, we are one with space, “owned by it,” as it were. But in the matter of time, the invention of our minds, we are free to take ownership, and choose.

In reflecting about space, and how to direct one’s time, artist Mark Tobey said:

“The dimension that counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. This inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of the balanced mind… and the search for an equilibrium is essential—to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space.”

And where is that balance to be found? In what longs for us to hear it, and to become the ear with which it is heard, as the wise visionary knew:

“Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.”

~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation


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Pathway to the hearing ear

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Photo: D. Kirkup Designs

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

~ Hans Hofmann

If I practice silence, even for small moments each day, what might I hear that is otherwise drowned out by my voice, or my thoughts? How can this allow what I express to move beyond the mind’s running commentary? How might it help me to imbibe, investigate, and reflect, and draw me into deeper, richer soils in which to plant seeds of viable ideas?

Lama Willa Miller, spiritual director of New Hampshire’s Wonderwell Mountain Refuge retreat center, describes how retreat, and silence, are gifts available to us each day — if we receive them. “Taking such a sacred pause allows us to draw away from the busyness of everyday life …. “That’s where we can check in with ourselves about what we’re doing and where we’re going, and why; where we can ask the kinds of questions needed for living a meaningful life.”

This, it seems, is where we have the most needful and life-sustaining conversation of all. “Once you find that quiet,” she says, “you also discover that it gives you space, and with that comes peace, and clarity.”

In an address given at the Westminster Friends’ Meeting House in London in January of 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Bahá’u’lláh says there is a sign from God in every phenomenon. The sign of the intellect is contemplation, and the sign of contemplation is silence; because it is impossible for man to do two things at the same time – he cannot both speak and meditate.

It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit, the spirit answers, the light breaks forth, and reality is revealed …

Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.”

This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.”


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Become subtle enough

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Photos: David Campbell / http://GBCTours.com

Become subtle enough
To hear a tree breathe.

Succumb to warmth in the heart
Where divine fire glows.

~ John O’Donohue

It [the struggle with evil] makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail.

~ Helen Keller

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Photos: David Campbell / http://GBCTours.com

When you live at the periphery of your being, your thoughts are often scattered, pulling you in different directions, and draining your energy. Too much mental activity leads to overload and, oftentimes, burnout.

When you take the time to ‘go within’ each day, by breathing deeply and fully, feeling the ‘space’ inside yourself, and witnessing your thoughts and emotions without judgment, you return to a very natural, deep sense of aliveness, which is actually your true nature; then your thoughts naturally slow down, and simultaneously gain more power and cohesiveness.

Think of the small, choppy waves that dance across the surface of the ocean; these represent your scattered thoughts. Then visualize the huge waves that rise up from underneath, much like the giants the pro surfers ride. Note the difference in power.

~ Jaime Tanna