Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Rising to that for which we’re created

 

earth

Artwork: Judy Wright

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

 

O Friends!
Abandon not the everlasting beauty for a beauty that must die, and set not your affections on this mortal world of dust.

~ Baha’u’llah

Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, or shade of political opinion.

Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

figure

Artwork: Judy Wright

 

Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed!

Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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In a Light-infused season

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Claude Monet, The Road in front of Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter, 1867.

 

O PEOPLES of the world! The Sun of Truth hath risen to illumine the whole earth, and to spiritualize the community of man. Laudable are the results and the fruits thereof, abundant the holy evidences deriving from this grace.

This is mercy unalloyed and purest bounty; it is light for the world and all its peoples; it is harmony and fellowship, and love and solidarity; indeed it is compassion and unity, and the end of foreignness; it is the being at one, in complete dignity and freedom, with all on earth.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha  944080_1103095966369547_7004980646450369999_n

 

There are two kinds of light.

There is the visible light of the sun, by whose aid we can discern the beauties of the world around us—without this we could see nothing.

Nevertheless, though it is the function of this light to make things visible to us, it cannot give us the power to see them or to understand what their various charms may be, for this light has no intelligence, no consciousness.

It is the light of the intellect which gives us knowledge and understanding, and without this light the physical eyes would be useless. 12241461_10150706218954999_7988366078325665830_n

This light of the intellect is the highest light that exists, for it is born of the Light Divine.

The light of the intellect enables us to understand and realize all that exists, but it is only the Divine Light that can give us sight for the invisible things, and which enables us to see truths that will only be visible to the world thousands of years hence.

 

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks

 


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What is Spirit calling for?

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As I’m preparing for some upcoming author visits, I’ve been reflecting on themes that are surfacing in these wildly turbulent times.

The planet, and the unfailing presence of Spirit in the world are speaking.

What are they calling for? How are we listening, or not? How are our hearts — Spirit’s intended home, by Divine design — responding, or not?

“All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory;” Bahá’u’lláh wrote nearly a century and a half ago, “yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved. Notwithstanding I have concealed thy secret and desired not thy shame.”

14671193_10155473760553902_8364308015943477763_nThe indigenous, Native peoples in every part of the planet know, and honor, the truth carried in these words. They know, too, that in so many cultures, as in their own, water represents spirit, the very source of all life.

And today, they are speaking from the “heartland” of my country.

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time,” author Terry Tempest Williams has written. “To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. … Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” 14720601_10155473760403902_8711454713838355839_n

Over the next two days, Baha’is around the world will focus our hearts on love, unity, and the oneness in which the Creator has fashioned humanity as we gather to celebrate Twin Holy Days, the Births of the Báb, and of Bahá’u’lláh.

“The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
Bahá’u’lláh
My thanks to Patricia Hupahu Locke (Patty), age 5, named for her brave-hearted Grandmother,
for the beautiful artwork here. Her family’s hearts are standing with those who, at Standing Rock, are standing for the truth of Spirit for all humanity. And my heart stands with them.


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Welcoming the wit to win

original.

Fifty-six years ago, in a little German village, my older sister, then a high-school sophomore, taught these words of Edwin Markham to me:

He drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him in!

 ~ Edwin Markham,  Outwitted

Phyllis-Nan-2-350x350At that time, I looked much the way I do in this photo that shows me outside the house where we lived. I’m accompanied by my British grandmother and my teddy bear.

Many evenings, my parents and I would climb the hillsides above that village to reach the table-like land at the top, where there were fruit trees like the ones in the photo above. It was a LONG climb, especially on short legs. The reward was the sweet fruit waiting at the end of the climb, and the sunsets visible from that vantage point. That’s a metaphor that has stayed with me for life.

Until my sister reminded me of this poem recently, I doubt I’d given it concrete thought for years. Yet when I “heard” it again, something began to play inside me like a song. All through the time and distance I’ve traversed since that German summer, this has traveled with me, setting the roots of the tree of my life into the soil that grew my view of myself, always, as a citizen of the world.

das-goldene-fass-postcardI’ve been fortunate enough to return to this village several times with my husband, and even once with our grown children. Although my family lived there a bare eight months, I realize now that the war-weary Germans there who showed me such kindness insured that it’s at the heart of all I’ve loved about their country ever since.

I also know today that because my WWII-veteran father could appreciate Germans, my British mother, injured in the Blitz, could forgive them, and my sister could be so determined to teach me the principle of oneness, my pathway of becoming a Baha’i no doubt began growing from the seed of my life that very summer.

11241717Because so many different people were willing to care about me, and about showing an open heart, I would come to recognize instantly, as though it were a song already inside me, the truth of these words:

Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity, He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us.                 ~’Abdu’l-Bahá  (Paris Talks)


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Becoming a gathering of heaven

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

~ William James

Evolution is transformation. And transformation is happening all the time. It happens as we learn new things … Evolution is not an automatic ever-ascending spiritual conveyor-belt, but the result of our ability to face reality, adjust, adapt, and change.

~ Christine DeLorey

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Quiilt: Joan Haskell

In recognizing yourself as life itself, you are put right-side up. You freshly live your life, rather than thinking it and then trying to live according to those thoughts. …The thinking mind becomes the servant — rather than the master — to the direct experience of life.

~ Gangaji

And finally, a blessing and prayer for every season:

O God! Dispel all those elements which are the cause of discord, and prepare for us all those things which are the cause of unity and accord!

O God! Descend upon us Heavenly Fragrance and change this gathering into a gathering of Heaven!

Grant to us every benefit and every food.

Prepare for us the Food of Love! Give us the Food of Knowledge! Bestow on us the Food of Heavenly Illumination!

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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Roots of hunger, role of justice

munichgirl_card_frontI have read a lot about about hunger — and destruction — on the road to my novel The Munich Girl.

There was a lot of hunger, in a lot of places, before, during, and after the second World War. I have an abundance of first-person accounts from people in my own family who have never forgotten what it feels like.

Many of them paid a big price for it with their health, or lived in fear afterward with cupboards they can never empty before the contents spoil. From my earliest days, I listened to stories of what it feels like — what you feel like — when you don’t have enough to eat.

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Photo: David Campbell

I wonder what those who sought to remake the world with justice after the war would think of where we find ourselves as a world today? There is still hunger. There is unbearable savagery.

There is a collective consciousness that remains unconscious of the reality, precious value, and imperative of soulhood.

In fairness, it’s hard to remake a world in “justice” in the midst of unimaginable destruction. If you only operate out of what you think you know about justice, what you think history and experience have shown it to be, the possibilities in such imitation are, inevitably, quite limiting.

If you don’t know what the very purpose of justice is, it’s like traveling without a map, or even a polar star.

The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.

~ Bahá’u’lláh

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Photo: David Campbell

Unambiguous, this declaration is. And doubtless, very difficult to conceptualize — and apply — if you act only from what you believe you know about human beings, and potential, based on what you believe you know about human history and experience.

As I continue to study the war that launched our world into entirely unimagined directions, many of which have congealed in blighted possibility, like plants insufficiently watered, I think I’m discovering what the root of all hunger really is. There is much we have not yet mined, nor learned, from “history.” History itself often remains a narrow category deliberately designed to keep certain things in, and certain things out — essentially what has always led to violence of every kind.

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Photo: Diane Kirkup

But there is also a legacy that always outlasts that — a brilliant jewel of indestructible power whose facets reflect those qualities of justice and unity that Bahá’u’lláh has pointed to. I believe that it is the only reason there is any possibility of either survival or advancement, just as I believe that humanity continues, if blindly, to let itself be convinced to treasure trash, while overlooking the one true treasure it has.

John O’Donohue has recognized what it is, and why it triumphs, and why we suffer so deeply — every kind of hunger we know — when we betray ourselves by depriving ourselves of it:

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Photo: Timothy Jette

Our time is hungry in spirit. In some unnoticed way we have managed to inflict severe surgery on ourselves. We have separated soul from experience, become utterly taken up with the outside world and allowed the interior life to shrink.

Like a stream disappears underground, there remains on the surface only the slightest trickle. When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. We become accustomed to keeping things at surface level.

The deeper questions about who we are and what we are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth.

If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.  

~ John O’Donohue


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The same winds blow on us all

There’s a game I used to share in my conference-planning days because it could quickly unite a diverse group of people who didn’t yet know each other.

Called “The West Wind Blows,” it has players sit in chairs arranged in a circle while one person in the middle calls out different sorts of descriptors such as “The West Wind blows on everybody wearing socks” or “The West Wind blows on everyone who’s ever gone skiing.” If the description applies to you, you stand up and scurry to another place in the circle.

In order to be a good sport and keep things lively, you have to move out of the “safe” comfort zone of simply swapping places with someone next to you and strike out into the circle itself. If the chairs are all filled before you find a new one, you get the privilege of being the one in the middle trying to think up the next description until you’re able to rush to an empty seat again.

11014906_824910567597565_94928212601865149_nAt its best, this game keeps everyone moving around, often for quite some time, and just about all ages can play it together. Within minutes, this resource can weld a motley group of 50 adults and children into a bustling, giggling mass of happy humanity all focused on the same thing. It’s one of those opportunities that gives everyone permission to let down barriers to knowing each other when we’re sometimes not even sure why those barriers exist in the first place.

As many games do, it also offers chances to model or reinforce positive kinds of behaviors. You have to cooperate and pay attention. You have to move skillfully and quickly while being considerate and careful of others’ movements.

And in order for the game to really be enjoyable, it absolutely has to avoid becoming competitive. In groups that can include grandparents, teens, schoolkids, parents, and toddlers, it doesn’t usually take long before big people start helping the very small ones and kids suddenly start giving up their seat to an elder or peer who’s having trouble getting out of the middle. (Not that being in the middle is such a bad thing.)

The variation and balance of similarities and differences is what seems key in this game, what keeps everyone attentive, and ensures that all will be included. Curiously, your best chance at getting out of the middle is to be as inclusive as possible. The greater the number of people you get up and moving, the greater your chances of finding a chair — and the more fun everyone has. You might say that inclusiveness is the game’s objective, and the way you reach it is by focusing on how much more similar we are than different.

A coming together of the world’s peoples in a relationship as harmonious, open, and welcoming as a good game of The West Wind Blows is clearly a need of our times, if a far more complex prospect. There seems little doubt that creating such a universal culture of collaboration and conciliation will require great, persevering effort on our part, as well as creativity, and compassion.

The job is big, the tasks complex, and many of the elements quite daunting. But the promise is big, and the reward unprecedented, if we can find the wisdom and will to truly embrace the diversity with which the Creator has gifted us and let it be the path to unity it’s intended to be.

Bahá’u’lláh reminds: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. … Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”

And, lest we forget, feel frustrated, or think this all may not be achievable, it helps to remember the darkness it will dispel: “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” LAFS6377506

No matter what kinds of winds may blow on us, or how hard, it does appear that we’ll benefit far more by facing them together.

From Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details

Find more about the book at:

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