Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Out from under the old

The world is in travail, its agitation boiling over as chaos and confusion increase daily, even hourly. Some days, I barely get my eyes open before the spectre of these assails my inner and outer senses.

Thankfully, many of us recognize this time of immense transition for our human family, this new stage of inner evolution we’re being summoned to. I could say “invited”, but I must remind myself that, whether or not I accept, the big event is going to happen, with or without me.

If left to the limits of my human nature, I would surely be in despair. I would live there, like a permanent address.

“The true joy of every soul is the realization of the divine Spirit,” says Hazrat Inayat Khan. “Absence of realization keeps the soul in despair.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers an observation that is particularly timely about this process of realization:

“When woman’s point of view receives due consideration and woman’s will is allowed adequate expression in the arrangement of social affairs, we may expect great advancement in matters which have often be grievously neglected under the old regime of male dominance — such matters as health, temperance, peace, and regard for the value of the individual life. Improvements in these respects will have very far-reaching and beneficent effects.”

What remedies lie waiting if we give such due consideration and allow such adequate expression?

How does it FEEL, within us,  to contemplate what it means to be “grievously neglected”?

Artwork: Judy Wright

And what curious term did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá choose to describe something grossly imbalanced that has ceased to provide benefit and, quite often, causes harm? He calls it a “regime”.

What has any of this to do with my own choices, perception, and thoughts — the powers of my own birthright? It’s so much easier to read a passage like this and feel pulled downward, toward hopelessness, or outward, to make judgments about current conditions and others’ behavior.

Yet what keys do the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identifies here hold for the “realization of the divine Spirit”? He also said:

“The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.”

As he points to the bright possibility of this balance, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is saying that the regime of dominance, which has ruled with force, is losing that dominance. Two questions that immediately come to mind are: Do I believe that?” and “How am I working in harmony with that reality?” Other considerations might include: “Are there ways that I still resist that liberating truth — or in which I prop up that obsolete regime?”

As travail, chaos, and confusion escalate, even engulf our world, I can recognize the effective remedy that awaits me, and the world, in the qualities described here. Of course, part of the paradox is how much the social conditioning of that “old regime” degrades these very qualities, even seeks to destroy them, when it can’t co-opt them for its own self-serving agenda, most of which doesn’t sustain life, but imperils it.

The delightfully good news is that these qualities ‘Abdu’l-Bahá names are unlimited, and indestructible. Unlike that regime.

What does a world in which “mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service” are valued — even prized — look like? Feel like?

In the midst of any noisy, confused chaos, I can look for and discover this in myself and others, every day.


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Dancing with what is “impossible-to-predict”

Hot New Releases in Cultural Heritage Fiction

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The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legac...


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A planet-sized re-balancing act

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

A very — very — great reset is unfolding within these tumultuous days of our time:

” … the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy.

Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (from remarks made aboard the S.S. Cedric upon arrival New York Harbor 1912) 10356027_10204329205492350_5976384773377992338_n

John Gerzema and Amy S. Choi, authors of / contributors to a study that led to publication of The Athena Doctrine have observed:

John: ” … ‘feminine’ values don’t belong to one gender – they are a form of innovation and competitive advantage inside us all. In our surveys, 81% of peo­ple said that man or woman, you need both masculine and feminine traits to thrive in today’s world.”

Amy: ” … we’re not saying that women are ‘born this way’ or that they are ‘naturally’ more empathetic or open. Rather, these are skills that have been traditionally segregated or labeled as part of women’s domain, and thus have been historically undervalued. When in truth, being ‘feminine’ actually make all people more human, and helps them become the best version of themselves.” goddessFeature-image-185x250

Highly recommended reading about that shifting balance – find the rest of this interview about:

The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future:

http://hellogiggles.com/lead-like-a-goddess-the-athena-doctrine

 


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Beneath and between the facts

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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.

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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/

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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.

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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:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

 

 

 

 


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The pathway to the sacred gift

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Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

I’m reminded daily that faithfulness to any kind of creating process involves being present to discover what is ready to be revealed, rather than trying to impose anything.

Like all creative endeavor, writing is an invitation to authenticity — a powerful and liberating experience of investigation and discovery, as life itself is meant to be.

Creative process’s greatest gift may be the way that it leads quite naturally to the harmonizing of heart and mind as collaborators in a journey of learning and expression, in service to truth. In fact, it requires this harmonizing and partnership, this dynamic balance.

3454_10151125875427031_932845487_nAnd isn’t our world in great need of that dynamic balance — coherence — too?

I find that while my focus and intent must train in like a camera in order to make any progress with writing work, they must also merge in a kind of surrender that my mind can’t ever fully grasp or encompass, but my spirit can recognize, and respond to.

Indeed, my mind must become a servant to that surrender, and whatever it is that spirit can draw from and impart to it.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant,” Albert Einstein said, adding, “We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

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Photo: Lara Kearns

I am writing out of my own search. Authenticity comes from keeping the commitment, while not knowing, something I consider sacred practice.

I keep watch, and bide, in all the faithful presence I can muster, for what that “sacred gift” will bestow.

More about The Munich Girl: A novel of the legacies that outlast war:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448266057&sr=8-1&keywords=the+munich+girl

To receive info. about book-related events, please email:

info@phyllisring.com


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Larger than we have imagined

It’s a big gift when readers respond to a story, its characters, and its world as if they have visited and are sad to leave. Even better is when a book lingers on in their own world afterward. 

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Photo: D. Kirkup Jewelry Designs

Someone told me recently that after reading Snow Fence Road, she had a dream set in its world, among its characters.

She may never know how deep an affirmation this is for me. The book came into being through my vivid dream about the trauma that shatters its hero’s life. Then, like an accompanying mark of closure the week after I finished writing it, I dreamed of the characters in the next stage of their life, after “The End”.

That experience the reader shared is also a reinforcement because in my newest work, The Munich Girl, a character’s dream life is as important a resource for her as every other kind of knowledge. Just as dreams have always been for me. I experienced some inner debate about this when I received feedback that questioned whether it’s of any value to include dreams and their contributions in the novel’s story. I had to remind myself that, for some, dreams have little or no validity in life.

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Image: Cary Enoch / EnochsVision.com

“Dreams are the threads that weave our unconscious wisdom, wishes, knowing and foreknowing into the tapestry of our waking lives,” says Paula Chaffee Scardamalia of The Divining Muse.They often call us to live larger, to be more than we have imagined for ourselves.”

If anything sums up the call pulling at my novel’s protagonist, it is that last sentence of Paula’s.

“Life consists of two journeys: the outward journey of the body through time and space, and an inner journey of the soul,” writes Dave Tomlinson. And stories are one of the most enduring ways that humans reflect and learn on each of those journeys.

“We are, as a species, addicted to story,” says Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

Isn’t it interesting that what we call those nocturnal stories is the same name we give to our most cherished hopes and visions: dreams.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/


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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.