Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

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In a season of restraint


Photo: Wertheim.de

The word “relinquish” has a special attraction for me whenever it appears in prayers and passages of inspiration. In a time of fasting that has become a reprieve, as well as a “season of restraint,” I begin to notice how interrelated the experiences of restraint and relinquishment can be.

A description for restraint that really appeals to me is “self-possession.” Might that be true possession, of one’s truest self?

While restraint seems like a condition that arises from my taking responsibility for my self and actions, “relinquish” means to surrender or hand over. This almost makes these two sound like some sort of opposites—or maybe complementary partners

11014906_824910567597565_94928212601865149_nSurrender and handing over can be very tall orders. But there are two other synonyms that offer accessible first steps in that process: “let go by” and “let pass.”

Relinquishment offers an invitation to freedom—from the erroneous notions and occasional tyranny of my own thoughts. Not the thoughts I experience when engaged in focused, constructive intent, but the ones that spin round and round, either in the past or in the presumed future. They usually suggest unhelpful things and never, ever, take me anywhere new. “Noise,” some might call them.

It's A Long Way Down 374

Photo: Kathy Gilman

Something well worth restraining or moderating.

How? By choosing what meditators know is an always-available option: letting thoughts go by as they arise, like the clouds, the weather. Not identifying with them, or defining myself by them. Remembering that Reality is so very much greater than anything those thoughts are trying to reinforce; those opinions of which they’re so certain.

Choosing instead to spend my time, and attention, in what inspires and uplifts me—claiming back the resources that scattered, frenzied, fired-up thoughts often consume and using them for something better.


Cover illustration: Corinne Randall

In a book called The Seven Valleys, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth … ”

When I relinquish something lesser for something greater, I seem to catch the sweet notes of that greater kind of hearing. As insistent as my thoughts can be, when I’m willing to relinquish them, what appears in place of them feels positively eternal. And always life-giving.



Pathway to the hearing ear


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.”