The Flowers of St. Francis

Brother Nazario Gerardi – ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’

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Praise be to you, O Lord, and to all your creatures. 
Especially Brother Sun, through whom you light our days. 
He is beautiful and radiant and resplendent, 
and derives all meaning from you
.”
~ Canticle to the Sun

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The deepest realisations and expressions of truth in Christianity have sometimes come from words and understanding, as was the case with Meister Eckhart, but it is, by far, not the most common path. Many a man or a woman have come to embrace God’s being through the expression of profound love and surrender. Such a path was trodden by Francis of Assisi, and has been splendidly shown in Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’. And if all one knew of Francis of Assisi was through watching this supremely elegant film, one would know what needs to be known, one would meet the essential — the essence — of this man’s life, of anybody’s life when it is lived from love and humility. One would know of the pure joy of being, of trust in life’s bounty, of care and attention for every beings on earth.

Showing only a moment of Francis’ life, the film is more a parable on the qualities that were emphasised throughout his life and teachings, than the real description of his life’s journey. Through a succession of simple vignettes, we are exposed to a panoply of Francis’ various expressions of love. We are shown a man who lived with his heart, and a life that has been made into a prayer to god. We are shown that prayer is but an act of love. We are shown people coming together around a common faith in God, their daily life and turmoils, their behaviours. Francis of Assisi encouraged his disciples to access or express god’s being by being oneself an example of the presence of god. And by making this presence shine in all their daily activities, so that the brightness of god can be harvested by everybody around. These expressions are in the film like the little flowers of St. Francis. A whole bouquet of them.

Praise be to you, O Lord, 
for Sister Moon and all the stars, 
which you cause to shine clear and bright
.”
~ Canticle to the Sun

[…]

A homage to Francis of Assisi through Roberto Rossellini’s movie… (READ MORE…)

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The Surreptitious Thief

‘A Great Tree’ – J.M.W. Turner, 1796 – WikiArt

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Follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought
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~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson (from ‘Ulysses’)

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What better way is there to realise the illusory nature of something than to study its existence? So a study of the ego is really the most interesting and valuable thing to engage in. For two reasons. One, because you are attempting to describe, evaluate, and understand something that simply doesn’t exist in the form you had imagined. Therefore such a study will naturally push you to discover what lies in the place left vacant. Two, because the presence of the ego has been responsible for the near totality of man’s suffering and the mischief he has done in his desperate attempt to alleviate this suffering or cover it up. Only imagine the beneficial consequences when it is found illusory and therefore impotent. 

But what truly is the ego? This word has been used in a variety of ways, and with various understanding. In psychology, it is understood to mean a sense of being a self, a ‘person’ that is real as such and is the foundation for a healthy personality, and its subsequent functioning. In the spiritual realm, and more specifically in non-duality circles, it is often named by the general term of ‘separate self’. The ego or the separate self is the ‘person’ or ‘entity’ that we feel is present inside ourself, but whose presence is not real, but only assumed. It is a belief that we have ceased to question. Simply a derivative, a bundle of thoughts, feelings, and memories that we have shaped into a form, and from which we derive the existence of a particular being, or person, in command inside the skull. 

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An exploration into the nature of the ego or separate self… (READ MORE…)

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O Mystic Nuns!

Photo by Abee5 on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Thy love was not of earth; no woman’s soul 
For mortal love craved with such a yearning. 
So thou didst wed great God Himself! O Goal 
Beyond our ken, beyond our dim discerning! 
And soul to soul, like sunbeam unto Sun, 
Thou didst vanish away, O mystic Nun!

~ Sri Devendranath Sen

 

At all times, India has embraced the love and longing for God as a privileged access to our ultimate reality. This path of love or devotion, called bhakti, was trodden by countless seekers and poets who have offered their verses to posterity. Amongst them many women. Women who, alone, have walked the steep path to God, going against the society of men, marriage and conventions, with only one goal: to reach divine love. I present here three such women — Andal, Akka Mahadevi, and Mirabai — these mystic nuns, whose personality and poetry are an unforgettable milestone to this day in India and elsewhere.

Through devoting or directing their love to a god, be it Krishna or Shiva, these devotees were searching to experience the bliss of their own being, the happiness that is the very nature of their self. But by conditioning their love to an object, they also experienced suffering, longing, sadness, anger, which all came to feed their poetry, their songs, all these exquisite expressions. These were the very vector that supported their spiritual search. But don’t think that this is a path that is limited or lacking depth. For though directed towards an object, the love they feel is always their own. The forms of Krishna or Shiva were a vehicle to lead them to their very self, to realise that their longing is and has always been for their own unborn nature, for love itself, the oneness of their own being.

This tension between the love for God as a form, and for being or oneness as a principle, between saguna and nirguna bhakti, as it is expressed in the Indian tradition, is at the core of the bhakti endeavour, of the journey to divine love. In ‘The Embodiment of Bhakti’, Karen Pechilis Prentiss wrote: “The lord is characterized by both ‘paratva’ (otherness) and ‘soulabhaya’ (ease of access). He is both here and beyond, both tangible as a person and intangible as a principle.” These nuns were expressing this tension with various degrees in their many songs and poems. Listen to their voice. Listen to how Krishna’s forms and attributes, ramblings and happenings are only expressions of a deeper reality, of the understanding and tensions at play in the seeker’s very being. They are their paths whose completion will lead to the recognition of their own true self. […]

Listen to the poetry of Andal, Akka Mahadevi, and Mirabai… (READ MORE…)

 

Love Says…

The mind is busy, talkative, restless. Love is vast, silent, unconcerned. I share here an imagined dialogue between love and the mind, written by Tiger Singleton…

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Love seems to hurt, because love is incredibly honest.

The mind screams… “I want your love.”

Love says… “I’m sorry, but you can’t, because in order to want me, you think I’m not already here. So you deny yourself, by looking for me where I am not. Demanding, I show up in ways that say you are more important than everything else I touch.

The mind cries, and says… “But don’t you love me?”

Love whispers back… “No, It’s not like that, my love isn’t personal, my Love IS. You want to be special, rather than being what is, which is where I Am.”

The mind… “I don’t understand.”

Love… “You never will. To think you understand me, is to define me, which is to restrict my flow, saying some are worthy and some are not and you desperately want to be the worthy one. You want me to come to you, rather than you, falling into what I already am”

The mind… “How can I surrender into you?”

Love… “You can’t, because I’ve already surrendered, everything, including you. You are free, it’s already done.”

The mind… “What should I do?”

Love… “It doesn’t matter, I love you regardless, I support you regardless, I am always with the present moment, so rest here. Feel me. And then see what happens. In this space, you simply cannot go wrong.”

The mind… 🙏🏽

 

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Text by Tigmonk

Photo by Alain Joly

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Tiger Singleton (Tigmonk), founder of InLight Connect, is an inspirational public speaker, satsang facilitator, and author who shares wisdom and insight from the heart. With an open heart, Tiger holds space for a profound exploration into the art of being (you). 

Bibliography:
– ‘An Explosion of Love: The Color of All Things Beautiful’ – by Tigmonk – (The Blooming Heart Center)
– ‘Intimacy, with the Silent Nothing that is Everything’ – by Tigmonk – (The Blooming Heart Center)

Websites:
Inlight Connect (the art of being)
Tigmonk (All… is Incredibly Well)
Already Done (The Poetic Life of Being)

 

Rumi

“We are all returning.”
~ The Koran

 

“On the seeker’s path, wise men and fools are one.
In His love, brothers and strangers are one.
Go on! Drink the wine of the Beloved!
In that faith, Muslims and pagans are one
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~ Rumi, Quatrain 305

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در راه طلب عاقل و دیوانه یکی است
در شیوه‌ی عشق خویش و بیگانه یکی است
آن را که شراب وصل جانان دادند
در مذهب او کعبه و بتخانه یکی است

 

Rumi is a giant. Somebody whose words resonate with the perfume of truth, but about whom we paradoxically know very little. At least I didn’t. Quoted far beyond the small circle of spiritual seekers, he is taken for granted, like a distant angular stone of spirituality. His verses are shared, loved as so many gems of human history, but without showing off. And yet, what depth of understanding they convey! In what subtle and intricate ways they describe the torturous alleys of spiritual endeavour! And with what simplicity!

 

Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always 
widening rings of being
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~ ’The Essential Rumi’ (Translated by Coleman Barks)

 

Rumi was a Sufi. He was born Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, in 1207, in Balkh in present day Afghanistan, in a family of Sufi tradition. Sufism, which could be defined as ‘the inward dimension of Islam’, has its origins shrouded in mystery. How did it suddenly grow, nobody knows. The word comes from ‘sūf’ which refers to the woollen garment worn by the first mystics who broke away from the mainstream Islamic religion. Sufism didn’t grow in opposition to Islam, the religion that gave it birth around the 9th century, but as a deepening, a going back to the very source and meaning behind traditional Muslim orthodoxy. The Sufi devotee wanted to feel, to know God as the true presence in the heart, not putting an illusory figure at a distance to be worshipped. That’s how Sufism placed love, the love of god, at the centre and expressed it in the most exquisite poetry. That’s how music and dance were allowed and praised. Sufism is understanding and living this primary statement of faith in Islamic religion: ‘There is no god but god.”

Immerse yourself in Rumi’s path of divine love and poetry… (READ MORE…)

 

Bhakti, the Song of Love

Don’t forget love;
it will bring all the madness you need 
to unfurl yourself across the universe
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~ Meera Bai (1498-1546)

 

I intend here to continue exploring the three different pathways towards realising our true nature. I have some time ago given my attention to Jñāna, which in the Indian tradition is the name given to the means of attaining truth through the investigative qualities of the mind, which are mostly thinking and the power of discrimination. The two other paths towards realisation are the tantric path, which involves the senses, and the path of love, which involves feeling, and is the subject of this essay.

The path of knowledge requires a certain steadiness, orderliness, being thorough, constant. But even somebody set on this logical path of knowledge will be exposed to ineffable, timeless moments of pure love. Some people are best suited to a more loving, encompassing pathway, that would allow them to be just as they are, with all their confusion and overwhelming feelings. I can be the me that I am, as long as I am too this loving, embracing presence to which I can offer myself. In love there is no theory, no guidelines to follow. And it is not a surprise to find this expression of truth as one of the means to the realisation of our true self. This pathway of love has been called ‘Bhakti’ in the tradition of India. All the Indian faith, at least in its more popular expression, is of a devotional nature, and has elevated this simple love for god or truth to the rank of art. That seemed to me a good starting point to embark on this path of devotion, which the Śivānanda Laharī (verse 61) describes as: “The way needle seeks magnet, the way creeper seeks tree, the way river unites with ocean and the way the mind seeks the lotus feet of Śiva.”

An exploration into Bhakti, the path of love and devotion (READ MORE…)