Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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How the desert will bloom

Image: Judy Wright

 

With the return of each day’s light comes an invitation to investigate reality, rather than imitate the past. It arrives in a world of imperfection that can easily draw negative reactions from my lower nature.

Yet I’ve often been given the chance to learn that dwelling on imperfections, berating myself or others for them, serves only to increase how many of them I see.

I then begin to draw a circle of suffering for myself. It saps my time, energy, and attention (things over which I have choice), when I could instead offer these for something that is always calling to me: the possibility, in any moment, of contributing to building life’s goodness.

As I respond to that call, I discover how much preoccupation with negativity can surround my life, fill my thoughts, and absorb my precious resources. This is the debilitating presence of blind imitation of the past, which arises from the kind of thinking that was born in earlier, fearful experiences and has led to behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that have no basis in reality.

My encounter with imperfection extends an invitation to recognize and accept how much I don’t know, or can’t change, yet I can always discover the limitless possibilities of love in every choice available to me. Rather than reacting out of a survival-driven instinct to fight imperfection, or try to escape it, I can turn toward an indwelling response, and presence, that is better-aligned with the purpose for which I’ve been created.

As it invites me into the freedom of not fighting any thing or any one (including myself), this possibility also reminds me that every human interaction (including with myself) is either an act of giving or an act of receiving. By asking questions that encompass both giving and receiving, my sensitivity to my own needs and those of others is increased daily.

Each part of this questioning is equally important, because giving depends on someone willing and capable of receiving, and receiving depends on someone willing and capable of giving. The following two service questions are a tool that can clarify my perceptions in the course of the many choices I encounter each day:

 – At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that the other person is capable of receiving?

 – At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that the other person is capable of giving?

 

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


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A reboot of spirit

Delighted to share this Guest Post from Tracey E. Meloni:

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Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

 

After a lifetime of moving as an Army Brat, Navy wife, and Federal drifter, I settled into my present home at the end of 2000. Looking for Christmas tree ornaments that first year, I came across a box labeled, “Somebody Stole My Boots.” It turned out to be the box of the best Christmas Past.

The winter I was 19, I was a newly married scholarship student in Boston University, making ends meet on $75 a week. My in-laws sent much-anticipated plane tickets so we could go home for a Connecticut country holiday, but Mother Nature intervened.

On Christmas Eve, monster snow not even Boston could overcome brought our plans to a halt. Christmas became an impromptu event, with an empty larder and equally empty wallets.

Down the hall lived friends Joe and Noni, another married student couple also stranded by weather and not much better supplied. We decided to pool our meager resources and make the best of things.

We took the then-MTA of Kingston Trio fame to the old farmers Haymarket (now a much trendier spot) and bought as many fresh, cheap veggies as we could carry just before the vendors went home.

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Photo: David Campbell // http://gbctours.com

We also bargained for a scruffy tree and dragged it onto the subway, laughing and waving at the conductor’s halfhearted warnings that no trees were allowed.

The engineering-student guys built a terrific tree stand. We trimmed the tree with popcorn, cranberries, and paper chains and installed it in the outside hallway for all to enjoy. Then we split up the cooking duties.

My mother had sent goodies from the venerable (now defunct) S.S. Pierce. Our Haymarket bounty was transformed into hearty vegetable soup, Delmonico potatoes, and what my husband called “painless beans,” the green bean-mushroom soup casserole. Joe and Noni defrosted their famous Bolognese sauce for Christmas Eve “SpagBog,” as the Brits call spaghetti Bolognese. We heard from two more stranded couples: one had a turkey, the other had cheese – and wine! Our Christmas feast seemed assured. We all arranged to meet for midnight services at a nearby church. churchnight

At church, our little band collected two more couples (fruit and rolls, guitar and flute) and we all trudged home to my building through deepening snow, feeling quite a contented glow.

A sad and ragged man armed with a sketchpad trailed behind us. We ignored him. Back at the apartment, my husband left his $10 boots in the outside hallway by the tree to dry out.

Reg4013900705643On Christmas morning, when we went to look at the tree, the boots were gone. We found a scrawled note following the cadence of The Little Drummer Boy: “Somebody Stole Your Boots, ta rup a tum tum.” Next to the note was propped a charcoal sketch, perfectly capturing us all, laughing as we walked home from Christmas Eve services – and oblivious to our portraitist.

Finding that note and the sketch brought memories flooding back. My coat was emerald green, even though it is shown in black and white. The images of my husband’s young and carefree face, and mine, make me smile – we did not know, when our unknown artist captured us, what horrors half a world away would derail our lives just a few months down the road. The charcoal, so hastily done, preserved our young innocence for all time.

Beyond that, the Christmas “Somebody Stole My Boots” taught me a most important lesson. Sometimes having no money is not a curse – it means you can’t blur spirit with commercialism. Still, even that year, I blindly overlooked someone much more needy than I, and will never forget the shame I felt that Christmas morning. Not only did Boot Man forgive our indifference – he rewarded it, and so perfectly.tracey_edgerly_meloni

Rediscovering the boot memory helped renew an old tradition in a new house. Once again, I’m putting out a modest pair of boots for needy Santas.

 

Tracey Edgerly Meloni won first prize in Ingenue Magazine’s short-story contest when she was 14 and just kept on writing. Her most recent award is a first place in feature writing from the Virginia Press Association. Formerly press secretary to three California Congressmen and Virginia’s senior Senator, she contributes regularly to several magazines, writing about food, health, the arts, and travel.

 


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Possibility arrives anew in each moment

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

With the return of each day’s light comes an invitation to investigate, throughout the span of that day, rather than imitate the past.

Do I accept it, and apply myself to what it invites?

It arrives in a world of imperfection, one that can easily draw negative reactions from my lower nature, which must find its way in that world.

Yet I’ve surely had opportunity to learn that dwelling on imperfections, berating myself or others for them, serves only to increase my perception of them. It’s a circle of suffering I draw for myself. It saps my time, energy, and attention (those aspects of life over which I have choice) when I could instead offer them for something that is always calling, if softly, at times: the building of the good that I’m invited into each day.

In responding to that call, I discover how very much there is to become aware of and relinquish—how much preoccupation with negativity can surround my life and fill my thoughts and absorb my personal resources.

This, in many lives, is the debilitating presence of blind imitation of the past, including the kind of thinking that was born in earlier, fearful experiences and has led to attitudes, behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that have no basis in reality—nor, indeed, anywhere near it.

My encounter with imperfection extends an invitation, too—one urging me to recognize and accept how much I don’t know, or can’t change, yet I can always discover the limitless possibilities of love in the most essential kind of response I’ve been designed and equipped to make. Rather than exercising my survival-driven instinctual reaction to fight imperfection, or try to escape it, I can turn toward an innate, indwelling response—the possibility of it—that is better-aligned with the purpose for which I’ve been created.

As it invites me into the freedom of not fighting any one or any thing (including myself), it also reminds that every human interaction (including with myself) is either an act of giving or an act of receiving. By asking questions that encompass both giving and receiving, my sensitivity to my own true needs and those of others is increased daily.

Each part of this questioning is equally important, because giving depends on someone willing and capable of receiving from me, and receiving depends on someone willing and capable of giving to me.

The following two service questions have been conceived as a way to help us focus on and clarify reality for ourselves in the course of the countless decisions we are called upon to make each day.

These junctures of possibility arrive moment by moment, and as I seek to draw away from blind imitation of the past toward the true investigation of my own and others’ deepest reality, I return to these questions again and again:

WTOEimage.php

  1. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that the other person is capable of receiving?
  2. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that the other person is capable of giving?

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

Find more about the book at: http://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


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Toward the territories of spirit

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The pain of yesterday is the strength of today.

~  Paulo Coelho

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

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Photo: David Campbell / http://www.GBCTours.com

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

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Artwork: Judy Wright

~ John O’Donohue

When you resist the flow of life, what you are actually resisting is your own inner nature, for everything that happens to us is a reflection of who we are.

This isn’t a mystical statement; it is part of the apparatus of perception. To perceive is to grasp the meaning of something.

~ Deepak Chopra


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The freedom in not fighting

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Photo: Lara Kearns

With the return of each day’s light comes an invitation to investigate, throughout the span of that day, rather than imitate the past. Do I accept it, and apply myself to what it invites?

It arrives in a world of imperfection, one that can easily draw negative reactions from my lower nature, which must find its way in that world. Yet I’ve surely had opportunity to learn that dwelling on imperfections, berating myself or others for them, serves only to increase my perception of them. It’s a circle of suffering I draw for myself. It saps my time, energy, and attention (those aspects of life over which I have choice) when I could instead offer them for something that is always calling, if softly, at times: the building of the good that I’m invited into each day.

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Photo: Lara Kearns

In responding to that call, I discover how very much there is to become aware of and relinquish—how much preoccupation with negativity surrounds my life and can fill my thoughts and absorb my personal resources. This, in many lives, is the debilitating presence of blind imitation of the past, including the kind of thinking that was born in earlier, fearful experiences and has led to attitudes, behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that have no basis in reality—nor, indeed, anywhere near it.

11122548_10155778229175181_1725221388_n

Photo: Lara Kearns

My encounter with imperfection extends an invitation, too—one urging me to recognize and accept how much I don’t know, or can’t change, yet I can always discover the limitless possibilities of love in the most essential kind of response I’ve been designed and equipped to make. Rather than exercising my survival-driven instinctual reaction to fight imperfection, or try to escape it, I can turn toward an innate, indwelling response—the possibility of it—that is better-aligned with the purpose for which I’ve been created.

As it invites me into the freedom of not fighting any one or any thing (including myself), it also reminds that every human interaction (including with myself) is either an act of giving or an act of receiving. By asking questions that encompass both giving and receiving, my sensitivity to my own true needs and those of others is increased daily. Each part of this questioning is equally important, because giving depends on someone willing and capable of receiving from me, and receiving depends on someone willing and capable of giving to me.

WTOEimage.phpThe following two service questions have been conceived as a way to help us focus on and clarify reality for ourselves in the course of the countless decisions we are called upon to make each day. Those junctures of possibility arrive moment by moment, and as I seek to draw away from blind imitation of the past toward the true investigation of my own and others’ deepest reality, I return to these questions again and again:

  1. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that the other person is capable of receiving?
  2. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that the other person is capable of giving?

Adapted 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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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.


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The divine art of living

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Photo courtesy Thomas Tufts

 

Sixty years ago today, during a brief 24-hour lull between two hurricanes, my mother-in-law delivered her first child at the hospital of the Kittery Naval (not to be confused with navel) Shipyard in Maine. (I’d make my own appearance in the world at another Navy hospital in Queens, NY, 15 months later.

The photo to the right, taken on the roof of my husband’s childhood home (one of them, anyway) embodies his spirit, for me. Second from the right, he’s facing the photographer almost completely, in a stance that suggests balance, and ease. I seldom write about him — go out of my way to avoid it, more likely, as a means of respecting both sanctity and privacy.

photo-1But on this day that marks six decades of life for him, I’ll go out on a limb (or a peak) and suggest that while he may not always feel balance and ease within himself, (and who of us does?) I can say with certainty that it is his heart’s desire for everyone else.

On one of many journal-writing days, he captured (photo left) some of the feel of that as he contemplated words of writer Anne Lamott’s about being part of the tapestry of life and of relationships and the pathway by which souls learn and grow and evolve.

It reminded me of this: “Heirloom is a compound word, with its roots in heredity + looming. Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive. And as we put all of our lostness and longing into the beauty we make, we do so knowing that we may never hope for more than to pass on these heirlooms to the young ones so they may find their way home across the songlines, as we have been found by those who made beautiful things before us. If even one generation is denied their inheritance, the story and the way home may be lost. As it is said in West Africa, ‘When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.’” ~ Toko-paWertturm1913314_10152219867207641_1323240910_o

After nearly six decades of my own life, I’m finding more and more each day that the most pervading art form and inheritance we leave in the world may be summed up in the following questions, for which I thank author Ronnie Tomanio — and my husband, for years of willingness to live them together:

At this moment in time, what is the act of service that I am capable of giving that will build up the good in in this relationship?

At this moment in time, what is the act of service that I am capable of receiving that will build up the good in this relationship?
The title of this post is borrowed from that of a wonderful compilation of guidance and reflection about the living of our one wild, precious, sacred gift of a life. Find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Divine-Art-Living-Selections/dp/1931847185/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409243358&sr=8-1&keywords=divine+art+of+living