Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


1 Comment

Look up to see the Beauty

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Israel 139

Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.

I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

~ Louisa May Alcott

11990676_10153605167782509_7291492798339188673_n

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The goal is to recognize yourself as the subject.

Then you get put right side up, and you directly live your life as the totality of being.

… Let the whole world break your heart (open).

~ Gangaji


Leave a comment

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.

11752605_10153630785571802_6203280134228133104_n

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.

IMG_1329

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


Leave a comment

Beneath and between the facts

IMG_1207

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

As I’ve been pondering the power and effectiveness of wholeness in healing, and in living, I find these words of writer Ian Lawton’s instructive:

“Your body’s wisdom is instinct. Your heart’s wisdom is emotion. Your mind’s wisdom is knowledge. Your higher self’s wisdom is intuition. Intuition works with, beneath and between the facts.”

I’ve appreciated his Soulseeds blog for some time now. He describes there how the multiple kinds of knowing with which we’re endowed work most effectively when they are used together.

He notes: “Being informed is necessary. Being intelligent is helpful. Being wise is essential. Wisdom is a deft combination of multiple intelligences.

IMG_1215

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

“IQ is head smart. Emotional intelligence (EQ) understands the feelings behind facts. This is heart smart. Spiritual intelligence (SQ) is the mind’s meaning maker. It connects IQ and EQ by discerning what is significant and why. This is where moral intelligence comes from, as well as a sense of purpose. Another name for SQ is wisdom. Wisdom is street smart. It has its own way of knowing that combines all your years of experience and marshals the best team of feelings, skills and knowledge for each occasion.”

I encourage reading the rest of this post, and exploring the resource of Ian’s thoughtful blog at: http://www.soulseeds.com/grapevine/2012/06/from-knowledge-to-wisdom/

IMG_1202

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

My reflections on these topics that Ian points to are also complemented by thoughts from a favorite catalyst of deep discourse, writer Christine DeLorey:

“… people have been talking about a great ‘awakening’ for a very long time now, but few envisaged the gut-level emotional route it would take to evolve as a species. We have often equated spirituality with the mind and consciousness – our electrical masculine energy – but maligned and ignored our magnetic feminine energy, without which we cannot be whole. The strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ starts right there!

“And as we seek balance and peace, the ‘wholeness’ dynamic is changing now, and we see how this inner battle between our masculine and feminine is reflected in all of our outer wars and atrocities.

IMG_1203

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

“The war on women begins with the suppression of emotion, the feminine energy within all of us. Self-expression is our greatest power, but it depends on our ability to FEEL as well as think. Everything in life moves and grows through its ability to communicate – to take reality in – and respond outwardly to it.”

Although it is in subtle ways (and what else could it be?) my forthcoming book, The Munich Girl: A novel of the legacies that outlast war, is steeped directly in these realities.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

 

 

 

 


5 Comments

The brave journey of becoming

Gleanings about art and life, found here and there:

Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-022A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book ‘means’ thereafter, perforce — both grammatically and actually — whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it.

~ James Branch Cabell

Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.

~ Craig Paterson Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-029

Though I cannot predict what I shall be able to do, I hope to make a few sketches with perhaps something human in them …

 ~ The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – 4 September 1880

… art is a power that should be aimed at developing the soul. If art does not do this job, the abyss that separates us from God is left without a bridge. …

The artist must be blind to distinctions between ‘recognized’ and ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age. He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone.       ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Artwork by Wassily Kandinsky


1 Comment

Devotee to the delight of discovery

JW61274_1650770311907_6819735_n

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?

IMG_6110

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?


Leave a comment

The trees of our hearts

Berries

Photo: Eric Olson

May you become as growing plants.

May the trees of your hearts bring forth new leaves and variegated blossoms.”  ~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Storm 223

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

Arguably, the most important question in the entire process of engaging our spiritual intelligence is this:

What sort of person do I wish to be?

It is a question most of us seldom call to mind, yet which we answer many times every day in the decisions and choices we make.

It literally shapes our life, so it is worth pausing occasionally to give it some conscious thought.  ~ Dave Tomlinson

The spirit, I think, is a stream, a fountain, and must be continually poured out, for only if it is poured out will more and clearer streams come.  ~ Brenda Ueland


3 Comments

Pathway to the hearing ear

IMG_5698

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.”


Leave a comment

Creativity and Spirit shape each other — and us

My deepest thanks again to the insight-filled members of the Rochester, NY, book club who received Snow Fence Road and its author so kindly last month.

The fact that each of you serves in the field of social work probably explains why you can give a story and its inhabitants the kind of generous hearing ear that all of us long for, as souls. garden2photo-3

In this bright autumn week, I’ll be moving between many seasons each day as I take a writing retreat in Maine. While it surrounds me in the settings of the novel that I’ve already sent out into the world, it will take my inner scribe far from New England, into scenes and rooms an ocean away and 70 or more years ago.

It will also take me inward, one of the reasons I especially look forward to this journey. As long as I’m faithful, as long as I show up for the work each day, I will find myself drawn into discoveries I can’t possibly predict (or try to control) but that I know from repeated experience will lead both to a story’s coming whole and, mysteriously, my own deepest self.

EB pix Germany and more 121

Ponderings I’ll take with me:

How does creativity require faith in the way that spiritual life does?

How does creativity hone my abilities as a participant on the path of life?

How does creativity help me adjust as information or circumstances change?

How does creativity act as a remedy for mental tests?

How does engaging with creative process help me learn more about my truest self?

 


Leave a comment

The ways encouragement “gives heart”

Happy to share some thoughts this week

in a Guest Post at

Women of Spirit and Faith’s The Divine Feminine:

To “encourage” each other, meaning literally “to give heart”, is one of the most timelessly beautiful gifts we can share.

Perhaps the very scarcity of encouragement in daily life is what has so many feeling weary, fearful, and uninspired. 

 

Read the post at:

Sharing the heart-swelling gift of encouragement.


2 Comments

Learning to fly, again

DCcathedralsky391562_10150775737141802_1898235249_n

All Photos: David Campbell

I was discussing the ebb and flow of life with a friend recently. Naturally, a topic like that led to thoughts about the weight of the world’s pain, and the often contrasting lightness of the things a soul feels called, attracted, toward.

The conversation turned up the possibility that sometimes our doing what we do is a kind of imitation of our own past, a habitual need or effort to control what goes on around us to eliminate surprises or feelings of powerlessness. But that doesn’t relieve pain.

At times like these, I’m reminded of a phrase from a prayer I’ve been saying daily. It’s a kind of acknowledgement that I — and others — can feel like a bird struggling to fly again:

” … grant that this broken-winged bird attain a refuge and shelter in Thy divine nest that abideth upon the celestial tree“.

DCdove427315_10150775762841802_1281660509_nMy friend wondered whether our part, in relation to what this passage points to, is a matter of following our heart, and keeping that heart connected to what is its Source. A bird, we recognized, flies in accord with the forces that make its flight possible, in spite of what may pose obstacles or threaten to impede that.

When in such a heart-open, flight-focused mode, my companion noted, “I understand that what we do is like a river. It flows and moves, it changes its course according to conditions … I have to flow with it — and I never arrive.

She cited a passage she especially loves:

I am the royal Falcon, on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird, and start it on its flight.”

“I realize,” she said, “that the unfolding of the wings of this broken bird is from moment to moment. There is not some moment in the past when I was broken, and my wings were unfolded, and that was it. No, moment by moment by moment, my wings are unfolded and I am started on my flight.”

DCGanse996728_10151804325191802_146979027_nThat unfolding, she suggested, brings with it a changing of our perception, an inner knowing that helps us remember that we are never stuck, earthbound, if we don’t choose to be.

A willingness to have our wings “unfolded”, to listen and hear with our heart, seems to awaken and increase our capacity to respond, and to respond differently.

To fly free, again.

 

Cited passages from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.