Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Patience a key on the soul’s map

Photo: David Campbell / GBCTours.com

It was a turning point when I realized that patience isn’t something I “should” cultivate or practice, but a bearer of grace and mystery that deserves to be warmly welcomed into my life.

More things require — demand — it in my days now. Much like the better-informed choices that can help preserve my physical well-being, patience is too vital a resource to overlook in these rapidly changing days.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

When I open to patience like a flower, receive its remedy, and practice restraint with the personal tendencies that want to trample it underfoot, I feel protected from things that could become stressors and irritants. Eventually, many of them stop hitting my inner radar screen at all, which suggests that, without patience, those previously mentioned tendencies actually go looking for unhelpful things. Patience is a key that opens a door that leads beyond them.

Of course, intercepting those tendencies often leads to encountering feelings, ones that the tendencies seem determined to avoid. That’s when I remember that patience, when welcomed like a kind, benevolent friend, rekindles something I love very much: a quiet, steady believing feeling that things are going to turn out as they need to, and all is well. The whole experience of living feels reassuring. Soul-sized, from a liberating overall perspective, rather than the ruts those old tendencies of mental habit might drag me through. They won’t stop trying to drag me there, but I don’t have to go.

Recently, someone who works hard, does a lot to help others, and has challenges, just like the rest of us, stood beside me and breathed, “I have a good life.”

It was like a blessing. It definitely felt like words that come from the other side of that door that patience, with its resulting assurance, invites us through.

John O’Donohue expressed this kind reality beautifully:

“The soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

 

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Patience: time to dream of how the light will feel

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Photo: David Campbell / GBCTours.com

Our times, for all the unseeing blur of their speed, require patience, at the heart of it all.

Patience as a means, like a receptive channel, for Love to flow into, and through.

If any one particular wisdom seems to echo through these days, it is what New Hampshire poet Bob Moore conveys here.

This Guest Post is a Guest Poem, like a strong, sustaining infusion of light, for times when winds blow cold. A heart’s reminder of how our relations, the trees, teach us how to wait, to leave room for what the mystery in creation will quietly enter, and unfailingly fill with all that new beginnings need. 5x7pondforphyllis

 

Patience

by Bob Moore

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Image: enochsvision.com

The trees stood still. They knew enough to wait.

They knew that every season wasn’t great

for blooming, so they slowed down, and they dreamed

of what the light would feel like when it streamed

for hours in the warmth of a summer day.

When asked if they felt cold, they wouldn’t say.

But given the chance, they wore a coat of snow,

and waited for the length of days to grow.

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Photo: David Campbell

They watched the squirrels and chipmunks fetch their meals,

but never spoke a word of how it feels

to while away the time and not complain,

or worry if the forest would sustain

their young, or fret about the need for room.

Instead, they held out for a chance to bloom.

 

Reading Bob’s words, I’m reminded of those of W.B. Yeats:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Waiting for our inner and outer senses.


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The ways of a greater part

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GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul.

It is not easy… To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

Discipline is not a means of accomplishing more, but a stance of patience and curiosity to witness more of the faces of God in which we are already contained and cared for.

~ Andrew Shier

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With image thanks to Following Atticus: http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.

I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.

It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

~ Henri Nouwen

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Image: Tobey A. Ring

Yin is the receptive, feeling, compassionate force within.

It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead.

For Yin, withdrawing is entering. … Like an ecosystem, Yin considers all counterparts essential.

So ideas that emerge from this level of imagination serve more than the individual cause – they serve the great ecosystem upon which we are all dependent.

~ Toko-pa


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Accepting the pace life wants

Sometimes, as one friend has described, we’re simply “riding the donkey”.

Decades ago, this was how one got from one place to the next and in many places, it still is. It could be tedious. It can be tiresome, taxing of heart and testing of patience — even of confidence and faith, when the going is especially slow.

Eventually, inevitably we all face such biding and abiding (ask any pregnant mother). Ideally, we make peace with it, yield to receiving what it brings – what our own ideas and designs often chafe against.

mjackA heroine of mine, Marion Jack, learned a lot about this. When I need inspiration for staying the course, going the distance, perhaps when I most want to quit, I remember what her life demonstrates about accepting this price of some of life’s most valuable outcomes, even though our urge may be to flee, dodge, or fight.

 Marion stayed the course, consciously, willingly in very trying times, and places. One was Nazi-occupied, and filled with treachery. She could have left – she had opportunity. She chose to stay for others’ sake, and for commitments she’d made.

“As I have the capacity of suffering much, so I also enjoy much,” she once observed. She also noted with real pleasure, “It seems wonderful, what one can do without.”

Other words of hers hit close to home: “Each one has his own little work to fill in the great scheme of things. Mine seems to be to work quietly in new fields or in assisting the real [workers]. So I always think it wisest to try and do one’s own work and not think of attempting the line of other people.”

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Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

She was well-experienced with riding life’s donkey. I imagine her as thankful for the steps it covered on her behalf, however much the movement may have sometimes seemed backward. Or, at best, like treading in place.

She didn’t forget that, whatever circumstances felt like around her, she was being carried, moved — even led. And no matter what she could or could not see, things were advancing.

Often, the biggest of those was love, just as the real means of their advance was love, too. She knew from experience that the pace that took, even when it resembled a donkey’s, was always exactly right.


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Author of wild, unpredictable circumstance: my dad

2005 China Slide Show 001Eight years after my father’s death, a memory of him blooms as faithfully each June as the flowers erupting all around.

Days after his death, I was lamenting the achingly empty rooms of his house when something pulled my attention to his back garden.

The brilliance waiting there nearly bowled me over — I remember literally gasping to get my breath back. Every bush, shrub, and bulb he’d ever planted seemed to be in bloom at once, ecstatic testimony to the indomitable nature of life itself.

That indefatigable blooming brought to mind the last bit of gardening we’d done together the year before. Dad had a little strip of land on which he planted impatiens each year. That June, I’d spied two trays of them on his patio and realized that, since he could barely walk any longer, there was no way he could plant them. September 2007 225

We were quite a team that day, “helped” by his ever-eager miniature schnauzer, Patsy, namesake of the saint on whose day she was born. Dad churned up the soil with a long-handled trowel while I followed, nestling the little plants into place. It had just rained so the job was messy, the mosquitoes thick, and Patsy a determined quality-control inspector (i.e. right in my face) as I hunkered over those beds.

I knew the task was one of the very last things we’d do together.

Year by year, I discover the many intangibles my father helped bring to bloom. The day of my UMass graduation, he pulled the car to the side of the road on a rise that overlooks Amherst (he was inclined to try and execute things with a flourish), turned around to where I sat in back, and announced: “You graduated. And you did well. But most important is that you kept going. You didn’t give up. In time, you’ll value that more than anything else.” 11010530_988410544523863_8454246950852480917_n

This June’s new bloom is the next book that will take wing soon, the one on which I’ve been working since right after I met his eyes and watched him take his last breath that June day in 2007. As steeped as The Munich Girl is in Germany and World War II, he unquestionably had something to do with the wild combination of unpredictable circumstances that steered me headlong into it. (Wild combinations of unpredictable circumstances were one of his hallmarks, too.)

And yes, yet again, he was absolutely right about the value of perseverance, whose importance always becomes more visible in the light of time.

IMG_7118Thinking about plants and growth, I’m reminded of an instance in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá counseled someone who’d experienced the loss of a loved one that while the pain of physical separation remains for those left behind, for the one who dies, it’s as though a wise and kind gardener has transplanted a struggling plant to a wider, more welcoming place where it can reach a whole new level of growth.

Many things in life, as well as death, bring that home to us each day.

Bloom on, Dad. And thanks for that reminder, much more useful than my degree ever was.

coverthumbFrom Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.

More about the book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details/dp/1931847673/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1FYGVM9S5BGBZH2TJHR4

   


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Entering the soul of things

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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Photo: Saffron Moser

Become subtle enough
To hear a tree breathe.

Succumb to warmth in the heart
Where divine fire glows.

~ John O’Donohue

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

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


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“The Spirit of God is working in your midst.”

There’s a string of days that glimmer like pearls for me. They occurred around this time of  year, when my friend Marian shared the last stage of her earthly life.

A deep love of spiritual life brought us together. I was 20,  she was 80, and from our first encounter, my young eyes saw that her ageless spirit had found its way far past the world’s pain and confusion and wasn’t limited by them any longer, in any way. How, I wondered, do you find a life like that?

The answer she shared out of her experience became my own: the path of the Bahá’í Faith. I watched her example of being a willing, hopeful, and incredibly creative servant of the human family who was also gifted at helping others feel the limitless possibilities of love. She helped me understand that most often, human souls don’t recognize the potential that’s been treasured in each of us — and that life gets better and better as we encourage and welcome this in ourselves and others.

Marian treated everyone like precious little mines of gems, and maintained a happy, positive tone in this treasure hunt that simply left no room for negativity to make a nest. I’m so thankful I had this reality reflected for me while I was so young, because it’s given me more time to try to share it in my own life.

The mystical experience that accompanied her affirming love could be startling. I’d often receive a call or letter in which she addressed matters that were precisely what I’d been struggling with — but hadn’t shared with anyone. Her gentle suggestions or ideas — sometimes, simply helpful questions — were always an absolutely perfect remedy.

I hadn’t seen her for almost a year the day I first drove over to the small apartment she’d rented after her husband died. Her face was a vivid gold when she met me at the door. I noticed that she talked animatedly about finishing all of the projects she was working on.  Two weeks later, surgery revealed an inoperable tumor on her pancreas.

DCwondersky419732_10151485192181802_265278193_nShe set about the projects she had yet to complete, wanting to be sure that others could carry on the work that was her heart’s desire, which encouraged seeing spirituality and science as allies. She believed that just as religion and science were created to embrace and inform each other, so, our rational and spiritual selves are meant to be collaborators for our own benefit, and our world’s. The educational programs she developed usually reached first toward those whom society tends to overlook or forget.

During those days after her diagnosis, she thanked God continually for the mental clarity that allowed her to pursue her work in the last weeks of her life. “Prayer, and the Word of God, can be mighty powerful nourishment,” she’d tell me with a huge twinkle in her eye. She was tremendously kind and patient with her physical self as it grew weaker each day, an example of loving-kindness I will always value.

On one especially difficult day, she suddenly beamed at me with what felt like an in-rushing of great, surging force and declared,  “We continually overlook the power of love.” IMG_6181

Neighbors and friends still talk about those last hours in her home, when the room seemed to fill up with love and happiness and they didn’t want to leave.

Surprisingly, she used to tell me that, at an earlier time in her life, being ungrateful and impatient had been two of her most difficult spiritual battles, something I found impossible to imagine.

“Then, when I was ready to completely give up on this life, something told me that it was time to stop my fighting, and I heard those words, what Jesus promised: ‘The Spirit of God is working in your midst.'”

From the day she accepted this reality, I believe she became an unfailing channel for its truth. I can still feel her love at work in my life today, and feel my undying connection with her most strongly when I strive to do the same.

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

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1385482351