Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Seed of Life

It was a spring Saturday, I was sixteen years old, my father and I were out on the front lawn, pulling dandelion weeds out of the grass. During our casual conversation, I confided I had yearnings for happiness. His response startled me: “Why should you be happy when so many people are suffering in the world?”.

My father, Richard Boone, who died two years ago, was a social scientist—a problem solver determined to bring about justice and a better world. His entire adult life was devoted to action in the social arena. He was instrumental in empowering and improving the lives of masses of people in America. He invented the term "maximum feasible participation" and used it like a mantra. A close confidant of Robert Kennedy, he helped develop President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty and the Food Stamp program, initiated the Foster Grandparent program, uplifted disenfranchised southern black people to vote and gain representation . . . started an organization called Citizens Crusade Against Poverty, became executive director of The Field Foundation, helped found the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington DC and much more.  He did not believe in God, and quoted Karl Marx: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” He told me that too much was made of Mother Theresa. She helped the poor and sick in India but did not attack the root social causes of their plight. He liked Mahatma Gandhi more.

Sometimes I am shocked to tears by news of what happens on our planet. As calamities grab the headlines I see my father’s perspective.

Enlightened beings tell us to accept sufferings along the way in life, but be happy in our closeness to our Creator. Our human side suffers, but finds mercy and light in the spiritual realm.

The other day, I heard a news story of a conflict in Africa. A village had been caught up in hatreds. A woman told how her father was tied to a tree, then had his throat cut. Next she was raped in front of her children.  How does this woman now find “happiness”? She must forever live in a broken, haunted world.

During my youth, I did summer work in the inner city in Washington DC. One day I was tasked with spending time in a school office, helping a troubled boy from the ghetto. As he sat next to me it was obvious something terrible was within him. He had no emotional animation, was crushed and could not conceive lessons. A heap of abuse scarred him from his earliest days. Though in a physical form, he seemed gone . . . liked a bombed out building that stands but is charred and desolate inside. All I could do was make simple lines on a sheet of paper and have him copy as best he could. He did that with great effort.

Bahiyyih Khánum (1846 – July 15, 1932) was the only daughter of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. She was given the title of "Greatest Holy Leaf". A saintly woman, she is regarded as an immortal heroine in the annals of the Baha'i Faith. Because of the persecutions of her Father, much of her adult life was spent as a prisoner or in exile.

During her darkest hours, she wept:

“O God, My God! 
Thou seest me immersed in the depths of grief, drowned in my sorrow, my heart on fire with the agony of parting, my inmost self aflame with longing. Thou seest my tears streaming down, hearest my sighs rising up like smoke, my never-ceasing groans, my cries, my shouts that will not be stilled, the useless wailing of my heart.
For the sun of joy has set, has sunk below the horizon of this world, and in the hearts of the righteous the lights of courage and consolation have gone out. So grave this catastrophe, so dire this disaster, that the inner being crumbles away to dust, and the heart blazes up, and nothing remains save only despair and anguish . . .
O my Lord, I voice my complaint before Thee, and lay bare my griefs and sorrows, and supplicate at the door of Thy oneness, and whisper unto Thee, and weep and cry out.”

Before she died at the age of nineteen from cancer, my daughter Naomi endured the utmost pain, misery and heartache. During the last two years of high school, she had a tube, called a port, dangling from her chest. It went into her heart for administering chemo.  At one point the drugs were administered in such great doses as to destroy her bone marrow. She was a Make-A-Wish Child, and modeled fashions on a nightclub runway in New York City. A talented artist, she was accepted to a prestigious art college but died the year she was to begin. When times were the worst for Naomi, she dug deep and wrote in her journal: "Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside of yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart."
The day before she died, Naomi remarked to a friend, "I love my body, it has been so good to me.”

I believe God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. And this is why when terrible things happen in life we carry on . . . we continue to "show up." Just as a forest that is burned down and obliterated leaving only charred earth is able to regenerate because the seed of life survives beneath the surface holding the blueprint of renewal, so too, every human being has a pureness within that is beyond destruction.

"Have patience - wait, but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile while you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice. Do not yield to the overwhelming power of tyranny and despotism. Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming." ~'Abdu'l-Baha,

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sign From Spirit

I usually say my obligatory prayers before bedtime. It is a Baha'i tradition to recite Allah'u'Abha, which means God is Most Glorious, ninety-five times at least once a day.

Yesterday was a full day and I was tired from preparing for a trip to do an art festival in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As I sat on a wood chair in my kitchen saying the phrase (as I have done forty years now), I was looking down and noticed a small black beetle at my feet that seemed  to appear out of nowhere, walking slowly as if feeling its way about. I was barefoot and watched it go to my foot. I finished the prayer, rose and went in my bedroom to fall sleep.

In the morning I dressed, and went for my Sunday ritual of getting the New York Times, coffee and pastry, then reading at a table in the cafe. Afterwards, I went to my spa to swim.

After taking time in a steam room and swimming laps, I showered and was dressing in the locker room when, as I pulled my leg through my pant, I felt something—and out came the little beetle. It hit the floor with a click of its shell. I was surprised and amused. It walked along the edge of the locker room wall and stopped. I finished dressing, then bent low to scoop the critter up. It was not moving and I thought, "Must be praying for guidance." It tried to crawl away from my grasping fingers but I got it in my palm and closed around it. As I walked outside I felt the creature moving in my hand, but did not let it go until I reached a lilac shrub where I set it free.

I think the beetle appeared because of prayer and being a sign from spirit. It is a spirit guide harboring a message for me and encouraging me on my path. I am on the verge of transformation and also traveling.

"As a symbol of the spirit, the beetle carries messages that bring our attention to renewal, spiritual maturity, and the powerful influences of the invisible side of life." See: beetle symbolism

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Meet The Sun

The little room with yellow walls barely contained me. From its tiny balcony on the second floor I looked out over a field to a city street that curved and ended on the shore of the Ganges River at Varanasi, India.

One year ago, each morning before dawn, I dressed, gathered my camera and hurried outdoors in the dark to witness the chanting and prayer rituals of young men and women gathered facing the river. Dressed in shimmering silk and flowing cotton fabrics, the fragrance of devotion emanated from their being. Their gleaming hearts shone in the dark as they reverently performed their ceremony.

The Gange River is so holy it is deemed to be a goddess. In the darkness, girls sang and intoned with sweet notes of sacred love as the young men, in synchronized movements waved urns of incense billowing fragrance, blew into conch shells and created arcs of light with flames of lit oils. I stood nearby and watched, becoming more exhilarated until the conclusion when the first glimmering of daylight shone above the river.

I am typically not a morning person and usually labor out of bed around 7:30 AM.
But during my time in Varanasi the daily ritual of joining the group of devotees by the Ganges, worshiping something ancient, ever-flowing, and holy before turning to meet the sun as it rose above the horizon . . . well, it was not a chore but rather a blessing.

I miss Varanasi.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


View of the Ganges River from a Hindu Temple on its bank

How different Varanasi India is from Venice, Cinqueterra, Florence, and Rome, Italy. No longer the neat cobbled passages and thoroughfares. No longer the testimony to grandeur in high art and architecture and civic pride. Varanasi is a cacophony of sights and sounds with seemingly no order. The dense population of 3 ½ million people that live on the bank of the Ganges River are too many for the resources that exist. “Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: 'Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together' ".  "Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals."

Street life
Just being here is giving me spiritual insights and transforming my consciousness. I know that I must let go of my agenda and surrender to the Divine. Even having a slight agenda is not permissible. I will give an example in a moment.

The streets teem and if you are in a hurry or expect orderliness and sophistication, reality will dash these hopes in a hurry. Almost every inch of the roads and passages are with people or beasts. All the traffic is dodging other traffic, and even people must skirt around each other. Pedestrians much watch not to step in waste left by animals or trip on an upturned stone. Sometimes a strong stench is inhaled as the gutters often are sewers flowing to God knows where. Shops are everywhere, as are street vendors cooking tasty treats and offering the ubiquitous chai tea. I sometimes think to myself that the garbage and sewage are too close for comfort. Yet the people are lively and do not hesitate in living. To be in the street is also to be accosted by a rickshaw driver or someone who wants to show you something.
Daily pre-dawn prayer offerings

Now, my story about surrender:  Every morning I go before dawn to the banks of the Ganges, at the foot of Assi Ghat to be among worshipers and also to take photos in the supernal light and try and capture the poetry there. I begin at a pre-dawn ceremony of young men and women, set on a stage. The lads stand in a line, performing a prayer ritual that entails specific movements, swinging lamps, waving fans and blowing on conch shells. The young ladies stand aside, singing and chanting. Then I wander the river banks as the light changes and the sun rises over the horizon. It is a perfect time for picture taking. The other morning I sat near groups of colorfully clad women praying and making offerings, and sometimes stepping into the river to bathe. It is thought to bathe in the holy river is to wash away ones sins. I took photos as the sun rose over the opposite bank. I also took pictures of holy men while the sun rose. Alas, when I returned to the hotel, all the pictures I took from that morning were mysteriously missing, but photos from earlier remained. I had seen them all on my camera, but now, those from the morning were gone. Frustration came over me at the thought of losing some gorgeous photos. At last, I surrendered to the Divine and said, “Please accept my loss as a sacrifice to your holiness.”


I have wondered what the lesson is and think that the holy spirit is so strong here, the devotion so great, that my agenda of picture taking was reprimanded. Perhaps some holy beings were offended in some way and asked that the pictures be cleared. Truly, I have been gracefully guided to surrender while in Varanasi.
Smiling girl with the ever present holy cows.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

This Dream

On occasion, I have been able to see into another dimension—a spiritual realm of greater reality. It is a place that transcends the material world and goes beyond time and space. I had such an experience just today, but first I will describe a couple other episodes from when I was in my twenties. I was traveling with a few friends to visit a Native American man on the Navajo reservation. We had stopped outside Gallup, New Mexico to visit someone who could tell us the way. I was in a chair, not paying attention to the conversation and instead half dreaming. A vision came to me of driving on a dirt road, and arriving at a place where an Indian fellow was building a house, laying cement blocks by hand. Suddenly it was time to go, so we headed out and in about ½ hour, we were on a dirt road and then came upon the man, building his house exactly as I had seen earlier—including the wall, and him with his trowel in hand laying the blocks.

In my book, A Heart Traced In Sand, I recount another spiritual experience:
For years I had felt the presence of angels that reside in God’s other realms. When I was twenty-two, during a summer break at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, I moved to a small town in Maryland and rented a room in a YMCA. One evening while ending my prayers, I felt a change occur around me. I seemed to be wrapped in a hazy, otherworldly light, and suddenly the perfumed scent of a thousand roses filled my nostrils. Turning toward the one window in my little cubicle, I saw a shimmering light come down, pass through the wall, and then hover above me in the approximate shape of a person’s aura. Immediately I knew I was in the presence of a spirit and was frightened. The light shimmered in place, waiting for some acknowledgment, until with trepidation I said, “I am afraid. But come into me.” Then it descended into my soul and for a few dazzling moments bestirred my whole being before vanishing.

Every now an then, my third eye glimpses into the spiritual world of light. But I can't predict when the door will open or what I will see. Several times I have been praying from the depths of my soul over some important matter that is weighing heavy on me, such as when my daughter was dying and I could not bear to see it and needed help. I cried out in anguish. And then I got a glimpse of angels who were smiling and  calm as could be. This sort of infuriated me at the time—that I was so anguished and they were absolutely calm in the midst of my storm. I did not understand what help this was to me, but accepted that I was the one whose vision was limited. This happened again today, but it has come to my awareness that in fact, despite appearances here, all is well in heaven. All of us have one foot there already.

Here is a poem by Hafiz:

Forgive The Dream
All your images of winter
I see against your sky.
I understand the wounds
That have not healed in you.
They exist
Because God and Love
Have yet to become real enough
To allow you to forgive
The dream.
You still listen to an old alley song
That brings your body pain;
Now chain your ears
To His pacing drum and flute.
Fix your eyes upon
The magnificent arch of His brow
That supports
And allows this universe to expand.
Your hands, feet, and heart are wise
And want to know the warmth
Of a Perfect One’s circle.
A true saint
Is an earth in eternal spring.
Inside the veins of a petal
On a blooming redbud tree
Are hidden worlds
Where Hafiz sometimes
I will spread
A Persian carpet there
Woven with light.
We can drink wine
From a gourd I hollowed
And dried on the roof of my house.
I will bring bread I have kneaded
That contains my own
Divine genes
And cheese from a calf I raised.
My love for your Master is such
You can just lean back
And I will feed you
This truth:
Your wounds of love can only heal
When you can forgive
This dream.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Unseen Hand

An unseen hand is holding my fragile life. I can feel it. A little more than a year ago my beloved father passed away, and then my wife decided to leave too. Before she left, something was prompting me to pray each day, “Oh God, satisfy my needs, redeem my debts, protect me from deceit, and help me to see the truth.” Pretty soon, all my debts had cleared away, and it became apparent that my wife was not devoted to marriage. OK, that hurt and still does, but almost immediately after our separation, abundance began increasing for me in many ways. Despite my heartbreak that re-opened the wound I have of my daughter's death in 1999 at the age of nineteen, and perhaps my father's death too, I could see good happening and it was as if I was attracting it. As if a tender gardener were lovingly revivifying a crushed flower whose stem was broken. I have been aware and thankful of this and been praying at least an hour a day . . . as well as reflecting and writing.

"The Last Drama", oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches

An example of grace relates to something I wrote about last week (See: Rain On The Parade). I am an artist and have no certain income. It fluctuates depending on if my artwork sells. At this time, I do not have a gallery representing me, but sales have been occurring anyway. I had been accepted to participate in an outdoor art festival in Denver, Colorado, and decided to go all out and have two booths rather than one. There were numerous exhibition fees involved, and travel costs including a downtown hotel, etc. but I had a feeling I might do well.

From the start the weather was bad. I mean by the middle of the second day I knew I was finished. My booth was flooded and people were barely coming to the event. The first evening had been clear for a brief period and there had been promise because I had made good contacts but it was all downhill afterward and I considered the whole affair a loss by Saturday evening. I left early Sunday, despite the sky being clear, because the forecast was for more storms and I did not want to be trapped trying to take down my art in the rain. None of the artists were happy about the show, and a few were leaving early like me. I drove one day and arrived back home in Santa Fe, calculating my loss.

But grace had something in store for me, because from a contact the first night, my biggest painting sold through email conversations! I am shipping it back to Denver to a happy couple who will hang it over their fireplace. Grace and the unseen hand.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Private Sanctuary Of Love

“Nothing do I perceive, but I perceive God within it, God before it, and God after it.” -Baha'u'llah, (Persian,  November 12 1817 – May 29 1892)

I stayed in a spare bedroom while I visited my mother in her home in Santa Barbara, California. She is weak with a slowly failing body, but her spirit is strong. Her caregivers, noticing a sudden decline, urged me to visit—yet, what was to be my final farewell trip across state borders to her bedside was nothing of the sort. She revived, was glad to see me, and we took advantage of the visit to reaffirm our eternal bond. My trip lasted one week.

Simultaneously with my mother's precarious condition, I have another serious issue pressing upon me, so I am compelled to pray far more than usual. Twice a day for a month now, I have been reciting The Long Healing Prayer of Baha'u'llah. Although the pain is not taken from me, I find my mind shifting enough that I clearly see the difference between temporal and eternal. My strength is in the eternal . . . where the discerning mind sees reality.

My last day in Santa Barbara, the weather was perfect—balmy, sunny and serene, with slight caressing breezes. My mother's home is on a corner lot, and surrounded by an immense hedge so that it is completely private. Birds are always present at the feeders, the grass is green and kept trim, and a lovely rose garden holds eighty bushes that bloom most of the year. It was my custom to walk around outdoors and pray, and as I did, the fragrance of jasmine and orange blossoms filled the air. The beautiful roses bloomed beside me, and I heard birds singing. The great trees sheltered me from above and as I concentrated on the Creator,  I felt I was in a private sanctuary of Love.