Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The longest, sweetest journey

Photo: David Campbell

A most subtle and most difficult transition for us to make is to move from the use of human traits by the human nature to the  employing of divine qualities by our spiritual nature.

This has been described as the longest journey — from the mind to the heart.

The human nature, using the limited vision of the rational mind, doesn’t have the capacity to perceive divinity and easily makes the mistake of believing that we, ourselves, are the source of such spiritually motivated actions as generosity, mercy and justice.

This misconception leads inevitably to arrogance, the hallmark of the ego, and we cannot approach God with what is essentially the exact opposite of the attribute that is required for this — humility.

In his book Love, Power and Justice, author William Hatcher notes that “We are the only creatures of God who have the capacity to be aware of our dependency on God.”

It is the spiritual nature that possesses the capacity to recognize that the amazing virtues of love, mercy, kindness originate with God and that we’re privileged to use these infinite attributes that God has placed within us in infinite combinations to enhance our lives. We can remember, when someone thanks us for being kind or merciful, to acknowledge in our heart the divine source of kindness or mercy. In this way we can grow in humility instead of arrogance. We can carry in our awareness the source of these qualities and thus draw closer to that source.

The animal and human nature each ask the same question in all our interactions with the world: “Do I eat it or does it eat me?” The human nature wears better clothes and couches the same question in more sophisticated language, such as, “Do I win or do you win?’”or “Who controls who in this relationship?”

The spiritual nature always asks the same question: “What do I need to do to approach the Divine?” Or perhaps more specifically: “What act of service do I need to give or receive in order to approach the Divine?”

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality? https://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I

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So great a favor

 

Photo: Kathy Gilman

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free.

The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

I have lots of wonderful company these days, as I ponder the mysteries of inspiration and creative process while I also pursue some new writing work. The pathway of The Munich Girl was an eight-year journey of discovery that always reinforced the utter uselessness of expectations. It also revealed the surprising value of open-hearted expectancy. This newest work is doing much the same.

As I reread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I’m reminded that: “ … When you walk a path you love, there is something deeper calling you forward on it, like a beautiful question that can never be answered. In the hard times you may turn away from it, but a part of you knows you’ll always turn back because you can’t give up on what you love, even if you try.”

Author Toko-pa Turner, who has recently released a soul-nourishing book called Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, has shared some wise words about creative process:

“In the end, I think the real work is not finding inspiration, but attuning to it. So when I’m not feeling inspired, I know somewhere along the line I’ve been distancing myself from life.

“This feeling of being separate from ‘something greater’ is usually brought about by numbing habits; so I’ll take myself to the forest and let my senses be reawoken and warmed back to life. I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.”

Hers is a reminder of just how abundant grace and guidance are, and how they long for us to meet them. Both nature and artistic life are a part of that worship.

Image: Judy Wright

As the words of St. Francis declare:

“Such love does the sky now pour, that whenever I stand in a field, I have to wring out the light when I get home.”

Lest I think myself unworthy to receive, especially a bestowal that is so abundant, in a book called Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Baha urges:

“Try with all your hearts to be willing channels for God’s Bounty. For I say unto you that He has chosen you to be His messengers of love throughout the world, to be His bearers of spiritual gifts to man, to be the means of spreading unity and concord on the earth. Thank God with all your hearts that such a privilege has been given unto you. For a life devoted to praise is not too long in which to thank God for such a favor.”

 

 

 


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Presence as prayer

Image courtesy of Tarot by Cecelia

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

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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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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Presence dissolves the past

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Painting: “Ice Flow” by Diane Kirkup / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns

As you become more conscious of your present reality, you may suddenly get certain insights as to why your conditioning functions in those particular ways; for example, why your relationships follow certain patterns, and you may remember things that happened in the past or see them more clearly.

That is fine and can be helpful, but it is not essential.

What is essential is your conscious presence. That dissolves the past. That is the transformative agent.

So don’t seek to understand the past, but be as present as you can. The past cannot survive in your presence. It can only survive in your absence.

~ Eckhart Tolle

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The minute you say, ‘My memory isn’t what it used to be’ or ‘I can’t remember a thing today,’ you are actually training your brain to live up to your diminished expectations.

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Photo: Fran Berman

Low expectations mean low results …

But what if you do the opposite? What if you teach your brain to be unlimited?

Think of your brain as being like a Steinway grand piano. All the keys are in place, ready to work at the touch of a finger.  Whether a beginner sits down at the keyboard or a world-renowned virtuoso like Vladimir Horowitz or Arthur Rubinstein, the instrument is physically the same. But the music that comes out will be vastly different.

The beginner uses less than 1 percent of the piano’s potential; the virtuoso is pushing the limits of the instrument.”

~ Deepak Chopra


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Devotee to the delight of discovery

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Artwork: Judy Hughey Wright

The greatest gift in creative process may be the way in which it leads so naturally — and enjoyably — to the harmonizing of heart and mind.

Show up for any blank page, canvas, or other creative endeavor and it quickly becomes obvious just how much our heart and mind are designed to be collaborators on a journey of learning, and expression, in service to truth. A lot of cultural influences set heart and mind against each other as adversaries, which may explain a lot of anguish in human experience.

In reality, the process of creating anything requires the harmonizing and partnership of these aspects of ourselves in a dynamic coherence and balance. And — the paradoxical bonus, if we’re brave enough to step onto the high wire of creating, which often has so much of the unknown looming underneath — is that it feels good. And so do we, when we experience it. Because wholeness is what we’re made for, and, mercifully, we can’t do it wrong.

Immersed in a book’s writing process again, I’m reminded that faithfulness to this process involves being present to discover what is ready to be revealed, and what I am ready to receive, rather than trying to force or impose anything. There is an invitation here, which, like any invitation, asks me to accept and receive it on its terms, rather than any agenda or desired outcome of mine.

When I’m able to comply, what comes to meet me feels powerful and also mysteriously subtle; encircling, and, at the same time, wholly liberating. It feels something like what life is meant to be, rather than what so much unhelpful information tries to convince us that it is.

A recent study that’s getting a lot of mileage right now describes how the experience of writing (and we could substitute any creative experience that attracts us) can lead to a greater sense of happiness and personal meaning. When the study engaged participants in writing activities, it found that they were shifted “from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” according to Timothy D. Wilson, University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the study.

Creative process apparently not only helps us feel better, but also broadens and elevates our worldview. The title of Wilson’s book, based on the study, seems to catch the gist of why and how this matters: Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By. Perhaps an important question is: just who or what is creating those stories?

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Image: D. Kirkup Designs

On my own path of creative experience, I find that in order for a story to take its fullest shape, which necessarily involves my coming to know what I haven’t seemed to know before, my mind must surrender. As it does this, almost like an observing dreamer, it seems to merge with, and serve, something else. I’ve yet to find words that describe this more completely than Albert Einstein’s:

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

Just what would our world, and our lives, be like if we did remember that sacred gift, and the rational mind became able and willing, to serve it?

Perhaps that surrender that I experience, an easing up of the rational mind, with its “certainties” and limits, is what helped those study participants break through to a better-feeling place as they engaged in creative process.

What if the creative process itself is what helps us to remember that gift, and to treasure it, and remember just how it is meant to be served?


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The state of mind that approaches prayer

It's A Long Way Down 374

Photo: Kathy Gilman

Gleanings found here and there:

The important thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer.

~ Henri Matisse

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

~ Wendell Berry

The practice above all practices is to relinquish the immature desire to be taken care of (by our parents, spouse, government, guru, church, etc.), and to parent our own originality. To give ourselves the support that we may never have received.

To get behind the creation of one’s life is to recognize your influence in ‘the way things are,’ and nurture your vision with protective discipline until it is strong enough to serve in the world on its own.

~ Toko-pa

Wertskyline10628299_827947707229100_5000927020300862535_nWe must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for in our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.

~ Hermann Hesse

The mind asks, the heart is the answerer.

~ Elizabeth Peru