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Presence of God

March 27, 2017

How can the heart be illumined

while the forms of creatures

are reflected in its mirror?

How can it journey to God

while shackled by its passions?

How can it desire to enter

the Presence of God

while it has not yet purified itself

of the stain of its forgetfulness?

~Ibn ‘Ata’illah al-Iskandari

(1250-1309, Egyptian Malikite jurist,

muhaddith and the third murshid

of the Shadhili Sufi order)

Revolutionary Love

March 26, 2017

Revolutionary love

is not the absence of anger.

There is a role for anger

in social change work.

It is to let anger and anguish

burst forth into forgiveness,

because forgiveness is not forgetting.

Forgiveness is freedom from hate,

because when we are free from hate

then we can begin to hear the story

of even the murderer

and those who disagree with us.

Once we hear the story,

then we can start to transform

the communities and the cultures.

You may feel in this moment

that the future is dark.

But what if this darkness isn’t

the darkness of the tomb,

but the darkness of the womb?

What if America is not dead

but a country waiting to be born?

~Valarie Kaur

(American interfaith leader,

lawyer, filmmaker, Sikh activist,

founder of The Revolutionary Love Project

at the University of Southern California)

Attributes

March 25, 2017

Continuous attention to God

through divine remembrance

produces the gradual transmutation

of the attributes

of the lower self

into the Attributes of God

~Shaikh Javad Nurbakhsh

(1926-2008, Psychiatrist and Sufi Mystic,

Pir of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order)

Training

March 24, 2017

We are very good

at training ourselves.

If we train ourselves

to reach for a snack

or pick up the phone to text-message

whenever we feel frightened or bored,

this is definitely training.

Then, the next time

we feel uncomfortable

we will also tend to reach

for some comfort outside ourselves,

eventually establishing

a deeply ingrained habit,

another brick in the wall

of our mental prison.

~Gaylon Ferguson

(Cultural Anthropologist and Buddhist Teacher)

To Reach God

March 23, 2017

You do not have to struggle

to reach God,

but you do have to struggle

to tear away

the self-created veil

that hides him from you.

~Paramahansa Yogananda

(1893-1952, Indian Mystic)

Burning Desire

March 22, 2017

Many people pass through life

never realizing who they are

and never certain about

the purpose of their existence.

In times of trouble

or in the face of death,

they may raise these questions,

but may not follow them through

to a fulfilling conclusion

or else may abandon the process

when the bad times pass.

But those who have a burning desire

to find the answers

to the mysteries of life

can find them.

~Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj

(1946 to pres., Author, Scientist, Mystic,

Leader of Science of Spirituality and

International Movements for World Peace)

 

RETURNING THE GIFT

March 21, 2017

RETURNING THE GIFT
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In the teachings of my Potawatomi ancestors, responsibilities and gifts are understood as two sides of the same coin. The possession of a gift is coupled with a duty to use it for the benefit of all. A thrush is given the gift of song—and so has a responsibility to greet the day with music. Salmon have the gift of travel, so they accept the duty of carrying food upriver. So when we ask ourselves, what is our responsibility to the Earth, we are also asking, “What is our gift?”

As human people, most recently evolved here, we lack the gifts of our companion species, of nitrogen fixation, pollination, and 3000-mile migrations under magnetic guidance. We can’t even photosynthesize. But we carry gifts of our own, which the Earth urgently needs. Among the most potent of these is gratitude.

Gratitude may seem like weak tea given the desperate challenges that lie before us, but it is powerful medicine, much more than a simple thank you. Giving thanks implies recognition not only of the gift, but of the giver. When I eat an apple, my gratitude is directed to that wide-armed tree whose tart offspring are now in my mouth, whose life has become my own. Gratitude is founded on the deep knowing that our very existence relies on the gifts of beings who can in fact photosynthesize. Gratitude propels the recognition of the personhood of all beings and challenges the fallacy of human exceptionalism—the idea that we are somehow better, more deserving of the wealth and services of the Earth than other species.

The evolutionary advantage for cultures of gratitude is compelling. This human emotion has adaptive value, because it engenders practical outcomes for sustainability. The practice of gratitude can, in a very real way, lead to the practice of self-restraint, of taking only what we need. Acknowledging the gifts that surround us creates a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of enough-ness which is an antidote to the societal messages that drill into our spirits telling us we must have more. Practicing contentment is a radical act in a consumption-driven society.

Indigenous story traditions are full of cautionary tales about the failure of gratitude. When people forget to honor the gift, the consequences are always material as well as spiritual. The spring dries up, the corn doesn’t grow, the animals do not return, and the legions of offended plants and animals and rivers rise up against the ones who neglected gratitude. The Western storytelling tradition is strangely silent on this matter, and so we find ourselves in an era when we are rightly afraid of the climate we have created.

We human people have protocols for gratitude; we apply them formally to one another. We say thank you. We understand that receiving a gift incurs a responsibility to give a gift in return. The next step in our cultural evolution, if we are to persist as a species on this beautiful planet, is to expand our protocols for gratitude to the living Earth. Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity, to the act of giving back.

 Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, writer, and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Kimmerer is an enrolled member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild. Excerpted from Returning the Gift.