Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Following the spiritual breadcrumbs

As I revisit themes from my novel, The Munich Girl, during my travels in Europe over these next weeks, I am mining, inwardly, for facets of my experience in writing that book that have been calling –and loudly — for quite some time now.

Doesn’t matter whether I’m awake or asleep, they mean business, and they’re not going away. What they want even appeared like a sign on a wall in a dream: memoir.

This is always the point at which I hear a voice in my head, with a mild British accent, asking, “Whatever bloody for?” It chimed in frequently over the nearly nine years that The Munich Girl came into being. The process of that book showed me that if I didn’t flinch or back away from that question but met it head-on, that voice frequently shifted to something like, “Oh, right, then,” and actually became a helpful ally.

As a writer, I have actively avoided the prospect of memoir for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is public embarrassment. (“Who cares?” is an effective deterrent, too.) Some might argue that I’ve already gotten the embarrassment part out of the way, perhaps more than once, and I wouldn’t disagree.

When I finally understood enough about the purpose of memoir as focusing in and reflecting about a specific stage or aspect of personal experience, I had a humbling recognition. The fact is, in much the way creative process, in all its mystery, delivered every part of the novel’s story when I was willing to let it lead, it offered up, at the same time, a cache of memoir material. It was like those dual-action machines gaining popularity in Europe that both wash and dry your clothes — it had practically outlined the next book for me.

If I had the heart, and will, to follow the trail again. “Spiritual breadcrumbs,” one friend calls this, adding boldly, “Are you going to be so ungrateful as to let them go to waste?”

I hadn’t planned to write a memoir any more than I had a novel that includes Hitler’s wife . But just as the environs of that story did, something is acting on me in a way I’ve given up trying to explain, but absolutely cannot deny.  As I have more conversations with readers of The Munich Girl, encounter the deep questions they ask and the observations they make after living in the book for a time, the following passage, which played a big part in the emotional themes of the novel, is right back in front of me for re-examination.

Without a doubt, I’ll let it lead again, whatever the outcome, because my heart knows it’s too big a piece of our current dilemmas in this world — too universal a one — not to heed, and honor.

We are all of us searching for love, for the intimacy, closeness, tenderness we may remember from when we were in our mother’s arms or may have glimpsed in a lover’s embrace.

Or we may know it just as a sense of something we always wanted, something missing from our life.

This love is at the core of our being, and yet we search for it everywhere, so often causing our self pain in the process, losing our way, becoming entangled in our desires and all our images of love.

Then, one day, something makes us turn away from the outer world to seek this truth within us.

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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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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Through the heart’s doorway

HEALING REMEDIES

Photo: Lara Kearns

 

The door to my heart opens inward. I move through forgiveness to love.

~Louise Hay

We suffer because our interactions with others do not meet the expectations we did not know we had.

~ James Patrick McDonald

Self Care is … letting yourself sit on the couch an extra hour because you know that will be more productive than stressing out.

~ Soul Pancake

Both fear and faith demand you believe in something you cannot see. Have faith in the best outcome, instead of fear of the worst.

~ Law of Attraction

Within the seed of mindfulness is the seed of concentration. With these two energies, we can liberate ourselves from afflictions.

~Thich Nhat Hanh


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A season of renewal and hope

Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau: Top of the Johannisstrasse, 1908

Author and friend Reiner Lomb once shared a story about how surprising – and kind – the human heart can be.

Toward the end of World War 2, on Good Friday, some of his ancestors were expecting their tiny village to be overrun at any moment by U.S. soldiers. The German troops were retreating, and my friend’s family members, six adults and two children, were trying to decide whether they should stay put or hide in hills above the village.

In a previous war, their village had been wiped out in a similar situation, with every single person killed, so they were quite fearful.

They also had a family member who was a prisoner of war overseas, one with whom they would later be reunited, and who would become my friend’s father.

All they wanted to do was to be able to live their simple life in terrible times, during a war they’d just as soon had never happened.

They decided to stay in their home, and within hours, several vehicles pulled into their farmyard and U.S. soldiers climbed out and ordered them upstairs while the soldiers took over the lower floor of the house.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

What my friend’s aunt, who was among those present, most remembers is how young these soldiers looked to her at the time. As she and her sister peeked down from upstairs, she saw that the soldiers were having trouble figuring out how to light the cook stove, and so, to her family’s horror, she bounded down to help them. (Her sister would later tease her that the only reason she’d done this was because those soldiers were so handsome.)

That weekend, they all eventually feasted together on the farm’s fresh eggs and the soldiers’ rations in a shared meal around that kitchen table. On Easter Sunday morning, the family came downstairs to find the soldiers gone, along with a basket of hard-boiled eggs that the family had colored earlier that week. In the basket’s place was a huge stash of chocolate.

“My family hadn’t seen chocolate for years,” my friend says, “and this, combined with how carefully the soldiers had left everything in its place when my family had expected them to ransack the house, gave everyone great heart, and the possibility of believing that maybe things would be all right after all.”

The miracle of his father’s return a short while later was the very best evidence of that, of course, and soon spring bulbs were blooming in the yard and, despite the ravages of the war, his family knew that they’d see green fields again.

It’s no coincidence that the essence of Easter – resurrection — is about restoration and renewal.

Whatever our faith, or lack of it, spring brings that glorious reminder that, no matter what has happened, no matter how long our personal winters may have been, the spiritual pulse of springtime always offers us a new beginning.

 

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

https://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0


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Living in an eternal kind of way

 

How does coming to understand who it is we are created to be change the way we see ourselves, each other, and our world?

Perhaps this understanding welcomes in a new way of thinking and perceiving that flows out of love and attraction toward the latent spiritual gifts in myself and others that are waiting to be revealed.

Do I remember that I can always choose this love and attraction over the kind of near-instinctual reactions that arise from a fear that’s rooted in the mind’s preoccupation with mortality and physical survival? That crippling fear has kept humanity, human thinking, and our greatest possibilities entrapped for eons.

I’m not going to survive physically forever, nor is anyone else. I wonder why that aspect of life receives so very much attention? Might it be that some believe that’s all there is? All that we are here for?

12694774_1101434059887387_3146455513196508987_oVery possibly, however, we may have the chance to begin living in an eternal kind of way as we invite and employ what lasts forever – those gifts and qualities within us that await discovery, like gems in a mine. The ones that we uncover during presence, and awareness.

“Only our spiritual nature can look beyond outward appearances, first impressions and personality flaws to see `all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within’ ourselves and each other,” I’m reminded. It’s this core part of my self that has the capacity to “perceive honor and nobility in every human being”, including this one who looks back from the mirror each day.

For the first time, the realization of human oneness, in reality, is within our grasp. And each of us is invited to discover our unique, true identity as a soul, as well as our unique purpose, and our unique way of solving problems as a part of what is one reality, whatever kinds of separations we  may dream up or imagine.

“Happy are those who spend their days in gaining knowledge, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in penetrating the subtleties of pure truth,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has reminded in a book called Some Answered Questions. WTOEimage.php

Happy indeed.

 

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

More information: http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

Print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html

 

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Rising to that for which we’re created

 

earth

Artwork: Judy Wright

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

 

O Friends!
Abandon not the everlasting beauty for a beauty that must die, and set not your affections on this mortal world of dust.

~ Baha’u’llah

Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, or shade of political opinion.

Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

figure

Artwork: Judy Wright

 

Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed!

Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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A song above all other songs

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

… Let us hearken to the melody which will stir the world of humanity, so that the people may be transformed with joy.

Let us listen to a symphony which will confer life on man; then we can obtain universal results; then we shall receive a new spirit; then we shall become illumined.

Let us investigate a song which is above all songs; one which will develop the spirit and produce harmony and exhilaration, unfolding the inner potentialities of life.

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Image courtesy of Ziya Rezvani

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha

 

Shut your eyes so the heart may become your eye
and with that vision look upon another world.

~ Rumi

Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.

~ Garrison Keillor