Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Going the distance, staying the course

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.

A 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 Jack

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.”

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. And no matter what she could 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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Fanning the tiny sparks

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Artwork: Judy Wright

I like the idea of dreaming the big dream and making small steps.

I’d like to think that you reach your hand, just a little bit further than your reach, not enough so that you’ll be frustrated, not enough so that you’ll give up, but just enough so that you’ll stretch yourself.

~ Maya Angelou

Trust yourself.

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

 ~ Golda Meir

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

Sometimes we forget that we must bring presence to the as yet unmanifest dream which wants to come alive around us.

By presence I don’t just mean attention, but a certain quality of attentiveness which holds the anticipation of being met.

It doesn’t require the world to act first, to prove itself, or miraculously appear.

Instead it behaves as if the thing one is becoming is guaranteed and moves as if it carries that secret in its step. Life isn’t only happening to us, we are happening to life.

~ Excerpted from  Belonging,

by Toko-pa Turner

 


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How do we make room – for Life?

MDB105028-zuganzeige_4zu1_704x176Five years ago this week, as I followed the chapters of my novel — and the trail of Eva Braun’s life — to their conclusion, I faced a long day of train travel. It would take me from the southern edge of Germany’s border with Austria nearly to the top of Germany.

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Photo: David Campbell

The night before – the entire day before – I’d been riddled with anxiety. I had four train connections to make, and my mind was unhelpfully cataloging every single thing that could possibly go wrong.

This kind of turmoil eventually arises every time I travel alone for extended periods of time, and always for the same reason. After the dreamy honeymoon of my first few days, just the fact that I’m on my own in a place that’s out of my element triggers an inner myth that’s as unkind as it is false: I need to find some way to be in control, in order to be safe.

Since, deep down at the heart of truth, I recognize that I’m never going to be able to do that, this leads inevitably to a separated sense of aloneness that feels eternity-sized. I also know it’s an experience that’s universal, not one of us escapes it. Surely, this is what any addictive tendency seeks to squelch and suppress – anything but have to face it.Tollebooks

Reading a wonderful manuscript from a writer friend reminded me of the power question I’ll have ready next time this happens: “Is control something I ultimately even WANT?”

The night before that trip, I finally stumbled on some steadying words from Eckhart Tolle:

Your life situation may be full of problems — most life situations are — but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?

“When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.”Lenggriesexterior-view

In that cozy Bavarian hotel room, I hadn’t a problem worth noting, other than my monkey mind. It was the eve of a holiday in Germany called St. Niklaus Tag, Dec. 6, and every aspect of the setting in which I found myself was idyllic, supportive, friendly and inviting. Yet I was depriving myself of the experience with every anxious moment.

So, relaxing into Tolle’s invitation, I remembered the spirit of this holiday, one of the first I experienced in my childhood, filled with warm, lovely memories.

Suddenly the thought popped up, as brightly and boldly as a child’s would: “I wonder whether, if I put my boots outside the door, they’ll be filled for St. Niklaus Tag?” It seemed silly, and it made me happy, and for the rest of the night, I enjoyed my hours and had a restful sleep.Weihnsort4013900850022-gdcom

The next morning, when I opened the door of my hotel room to wheel my luggage out and head for that first train, there in the middle of the floor outside was a red gift bag festooned with stars. Inside were a variety of seasonal treats, including a tall chocolate “Christmas Man”, an orange, apple, tiny ginger star cookies with icing, and 2 each in the shell of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.

Exactly the contents that might fill a child’s shoes on St. Niklaus Tag.

I was so stunned, I wondered whether I’d only dreamed waking up and bundling myself out that door.

Surely they did this for all the guests? (There was a conference-worth of them staying.) But the bag outside my door was the only one I saw waiting in that hallway.

zimtsterneWhen I asked the woman at the desk about it as she checked me out, Bavarian-friendly but completely non-committal, she told me, “Oh, aren’t there always all kinds of nice surprises that can happen in a day? Have a good trip.”

As I munched my treats from south-to-north, I had so much fun watching the scenery, visiting with fellow travelers, and enjoying the journey, I forgot to worry about anything at all.

“ …make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.” So that you can LIVE it.

Find more about The Munich Girl here:

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

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


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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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At the shores of discovery

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result,

but think of the writing in terms of discovery.

~ Gertrude Stein

I’m always searching for descriptions of what writing process feels like at its most essential level, and haven’t found any that describe it better than Gertrude Stein does here.

She’s gone straight to the heart of what allows writing process to be a revelatory power, and a bestower, rather than a distraction or plaything. The difference between these is a willing surrender into seeking and unknowing, rather than a presumed knowledge of any kind. The fact that what she observes about the experience of writing also applies to that of living makes her simple truth seem even more sublime.

As she suggests, my experience of writing is of something to be approached on the only terms it truly allows – the terms of discovery. I know that I’m immersed back in that process when things begin to strike with notes my inner ear can hear, when my crown and scalp suddenly tingle.

Before I reach that however, there’s the unavoidable surrender to that great blank that seems that it will never yield, no matter how I push on or try to break through it. And that is because I’m the one who’s meant to do the yielding.

Recognizing this — rather early, thankfully — is probably the reason I’ve continued writing at all. It was reinforced for me one afternoon while I swam with a friend, and remembered that in order to even be able to do this, I must meet the water where it is. I don’t take hold of it or try to manage it, but rather yield to and work with the way it envelops and supports me.

Every aspect of the story in my novel, The Munich Girl, every theme, revelation, and scene, has come to meet me in a similar way when I was ready to receive it, after I had immersed myself in its atmosphere and waited, listening, watching. Trusting. Eva_Braun_by_PrinzessinHeinrike

Believing that I “know” anything about a story before it has fully shown itself is the only “writer’s block” I’ve ever placed in my own way. “Save it for the page,” one character tells another about the experience of writing. “You know that it will lose its edge — its charge — if you don’t.” Save yourself, your willingness to not know, for what the page — or the day — will reveal, is how I might express that today.

Every story I’ve carried through to completion began with seeing or hearing something in the daily noise of life that stayed with me and took root inside, or was like a silent presence that followed me home. Just as with an animal for whom we would offer a home, it requires that a relationship of mutual trust be built.

Part of that trust for the soul who surrenders to creative process is that we will be met by what we are able to receive, and to integrate, on the deepest levels. A swimmer flailing in fear will not find herself very well supported by the water, even though its quality of buoyancy is always there. We learn to swim by learning to respect the qualities of the water, and shape our own ability to working with it. In a way, we become one with it. Creative process, when met with regard and respect, brings a very similar kind of connection with our own wholeness, and that of the whole world.


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The grace that wakes my heart

When I awake with a prayer running through my head like a song, I know that my day is already wide open to happiness.

Instead of finding myself awash in thoughts run rampant — or consciousness dragging to life like sluggish motor oil, here is a mild, reassuring rhythm already oscillating inside me. All-embracing, and transporting.

This affects me so deeply that when it’s time to read the prayers I customarily say with my husband each morning, the mere sight of words like “the All-Merciful, the Ever-Forgiving” and “the ocean of Thy nearness” overwhelm me to astonished tears, like immersion in an ocean of light.

I am embarking upon what members of the Bahá’í Faith sometimes call the “Season of Restraint.” This is a period at the close of our calendar year when, for 19 days, we are asked to undergo a material fast from food and drink during daylight hours as “an outer token of the spiritual fast … the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.” 

Fasting from the appetites of the body reminds me how insistent these appetites can be; how unsatisfied, and unsatisfying.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

And it also helps me be aware of how much time the business of survival can consume in my day, and my awareness — especially when it’s overemphasized by the culture around me to the point at which I might begin to forget that I have a spiritual life at all.

Fasting reminds me that there is an entirely other possibility waiting in my living that’s like a portal to a wider, kinder refuge. One in which I am visited and accompanied by a grace like the prayer that woke my heart.

coverthumbAdapted 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=&qid=


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An excellent and priceless Heritage

Storm 230

The thin eyelid prevents the eye from seeing the world and what is contained therein.

Then think of the result when the curtain of greed covers the sight of the heart.

~ Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet To The Persian Zoroastrian Believers

 

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Image courtesy Jane E. Harper

Although the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage.

Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail.

By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. … Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.

~ Bahá’u’lláh