A Seed grows into a Tree
“In the beginning, how small is the seed, yet in the end it is a mighty tree. Look ye not upon the seed, look ye upon the tree, and its blossoms and its leaves and its fruits.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
When my son was five years old, his heart was set on learning how to whistle. We would pucker up our lips for hours on end while he huffed and puffed in great concentration and determination.
Some days he would be rewarded with a tiny fleeting whiff of a faint whistle and that tiny breakthrough would set him off puffing harder than ever. Some days, he would just pretend he was whistling by blowing lightly through his teeth. Other days, he would come to me with sad eyes and a quivering chin frustrated that he was no where closer to being the World’s Best No.1 Whistler than when he first started out.
On his sixth birthday, he woke up and the first thing he did still sitting in bed was to whistle the loudest, the clearest and the shrillest whistle he had ever mustered! It was the most beautiful sound in the world.
It brought a pang of pride to his mama’s heart to see this little chappy’s dogged perseverance pay off. Today he whistles like he was born to whistle. Effortlessly. Tirelessly. Confidently. Every clear note polished to beautiful perfection from hours of practice.
And since then everytime my young son would feel like giving up at the beginning of a task which seemed so monumental to his young self, I would remind him, “Remember that time when you couldn’t whistle? Well, just take a look at yourself now.” or “Remember when you were younger and you thought you would never learn how to put on your socks all by yourself and now isn’t it the most easy thing in the world?.”
And he would nod and give me a grin and give it another go.
I have since then often thought to myself, how similar and how often I too find myself like that little child setting out in earnest to learn and accomplish great things on the inside. Taming that ego, pursuing the path of truth, trying to live honourably.
And somedays, just as it seems I have a measure of these within my grasp, I trip and fall flat on my face.
Just when I thought I had scaled that mountain and can now marvel at the view at the top, I slip and tumble.
Just when I thought I was getting spiritually transformed, I realised with a flash of clarity the ugly truth that spiritual arrogance is the worst kind there is.
Somedays, I try to whistle and all I seem able to muster is a feeble, flat, soundless flop of a sound.
And I too feel my chin quivering. I found myself in that situation this week. Doing the unthinkable in one moment of self-superiority. I don’t think anybody noticed, just myself. But that was enough. I covered my face in shame.
Oh what do we do after we bite the dust? What do we do when we disappoint ourselves the most?
“Therefore, be thou not hopeless under any circumstances, but rather be firm in thy hope.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Just as the child attempts to learn a new skill, we are all attempting to learn and master certain skills which would bring us closer to our true and highest selves. And just as a mother often comes alongside to gently guide and instruct her child to carry on, we have to become our own voice of encouragement and gentle nurturing. The voices of discouragement and defeat can be overwhelming sometimes. But always, if we listen very carefully, there is that still, small voice which whispers above the clamour. It is the voice of hope.
“I wonder at the man who does not find his own imperfections…As long as a man does not find his own faults he can never become perfect.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Perhaps in all the world, the biggest and most formidable task and the greatest achievement is to break free from the prison of self. And this work of a lifetime requires constant self-awareness, integrity, effort, endurance, perseverance and discipline. It takes stamina to keep going. To keep the mirror of our hearts constantly polished and turned towards the light of truth is a daily effort. It requires diligence just like mastering the skill of whistling. This is the inner work that transforms us.
“Day by day he must endeavor to become better…day by day he will make progress, for to stop advancing is the means of going back. The bird when he flies soars ever higher and higher, for as soon as he stops flying he will come down.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
We sometimes find ourselves in the mud and we just don’t know how to get out. For if we knew any better, we would have done it already. But sometimes and actually most times, we do know better, but the flesh is weak. And that realisation of our own weakness brings humility. And humility is a very good place to learn and to change.
It is in those moments of being utterly spent, wrestling with ourselves, navigating our inner compass towards truth, those are the moments that stretch our souls. To a place of maturity and perfection. And I do believe that those small, inconsequential steps of endeavour are engrained forever into the core of our souls.
And then we realise that the tiny seed in us has grown a little more. Well on its way to becoming a tree.
Some very wise words Sharon and lovely photographs! 🙂
Thank you Chillbrook. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this and to leave me this warm feedback. The photos were taken when we were living in Afghanistan some years back. Sharon
Wow, Sharon, you’ve captured the tortures of the inner journey beautifully. Defining ourselves as ‘the spiritual person’ has many traps because we are employing the mind and the mind is devious, interested only in preserving the ego and terribly, terribly unreliable. When we catch ourselves in an act of egoic spirituality (the mind’s version of spirituality) the self that witnesses is the True You. It is the mind that tells us that to be spiritual, we have to act a certain way. The truth is, we are only real when we move into that space of self observation, and acknowledge that everything that we think is a fabrication and that there is no human idea that is real. What I’m trying to say is that when you collapse into self-hatred for ‘falling from grace’, you are giving the mind and its devious nature too much importance. Instead, when you catch the mind in a performance, simply say, ‘there you go again,’ and realize how unimportant and non-existent it is. Laugh at it and move on immediately. This indifferent attitude works to release the ideas that trap us far more easily than focusing on it with shame. I don’t know if this makes any sense, Sharon. I’m just saying what works for me, I suppose.
I love the pictures of your little boy, and the story of his whistling ventures made me want to eat him all up! Thank you for a lovely read, and again, a sharing of the intimacies of your heart. It makes us all feel that our inner battles are ‘normal’ and that we can wake up to meet another day. Lots of love to you and your lovely family.
My dearest Yaz,
I want to thank you so much for taking the time to share with me some of the deep truths from your own inner journey. I have been reading your message very carefully and I do see and understand the point you are conveying. Yes, spirituality can also become the very vehicle for the egoic mind to thrive on.
Comparisons, judgements, conforming to preconceived ideas, rating ourselves and others.
I am reminded of this powerful quote “The human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still.” Baha’u’llah. And yet how we try to put an ocean in a bottle when we chart or measure spirituality! 😀
Indeed, the true self is the observer. The one watching the rise and ebb of every emotion, feeling and thought. Oh yes, the tricks of the ego is manifold. To be guided by a moral conscience is sacred and to be respected. However, to grovel in self-loathing or to engage in self-flogging is the device of the mind. I am learning to pick up and dust myself off after a stumble which was the purpose of this post.
Thank you so much for sharing with me from the great care and love of your heart for me! To be able to laugh and move on without becoming entangled with the workings of the mind is indeed to be free from the prison of self.
I am touched to know that my thoughts and my writings and these little bits of self-awareness and understanding matter to you enough to share with me your heart. And yes, I never knew my heart could glow because of one funny little boy 😀 So much hugs to you my dear one. Love, Sharon
Wow, I am so glad I discovered this blog! Thank you to both Sharon and Yaz for reminding me WHY not to beat myself up about my failures and shortcomings. I too am working hard to learn how to be the observer and not swept away by my ego or emotions. Those times when I see myself fail are some of my most difficult times, and I do not easily remember to laugh and move on.
Dear Jessica, it is wonderful to hear from you! I am just happy to know that some of the very things which I am learning and grappling with found resonance with you. I look forward to walking alongside and listening to your thoughts. With many warm hugs, Sharon
Beautifully expressed thoughts. I love the accompanying photos.
Dear Pat, thank you for writing. It means so much as always to hear from you. The photos were taken in Afghanistan when my son was two years old. Someone had found a wild baby rabbit on the street and brought it to our home for our son that morning. Hugs, Sharon
Your son is very cute! And he surely has got a beautiful soul, like his mother. And yes, he would eventually become a big tree than brings sweet fruit to humanity. 🙂
My dear Subhan, thank you for this beautiful blessing. My heart is touched especially because that is my prayer for my son as well. Warmest wishes, Kakak Sharon 😀
Found this to be such a beautiful and touching post. Particularly liked the sepia coloured pictures.
Oh thank you so much. I appreciate your warm and generous review of this post especially since I have just recently been over to your place and found it to be deeply inspiring and your thoughts insightful. I look forward to getting to know you! With warm blessings. Sharon
Felt so good after reading this post….you have put your thoughts so beautifully and in such a simple manner that a guy like me could understand. ( I am not joking ) ..my best wishes to your son…and looking forward to your next post…
Your comment made me smile. I am happy that I was able to translate my thoughts into words. Thank you so much for your best wishes. A mother’s heart is always full when it receives such blessings for her young one. Sharon
Sharon my dear one, I embrace this piece. Today may you know the beauty that you bring to others. The photographs are priceless and your message strokes my brow.
A big hug, D.
I am touched to know that we are all connected in experience and that what touches one, touches the other too. Thank you Diane for your sweet messages which renews me every time. With hugs to you and wishing you a beautiful and meaningful time of rest. Love, Sharon
Thank you so much for this post….exactly what I needed to read today.
much love and hugs,
My dearest Rosa! Oh, to hear from you and to know that this post somehow meant something to you is very precious for me. I think of you and the boys and I am sure this must be a special time before the big move. Call me, write, anything at all. I’m looking forward to talk till our ears become pancakes again! 😀 hehehe. Sharon
I love the photography 🙂 lovely post
Dear Makagutu, thank you so much for enjoying this post and the photos! Sharon
Perfectly expressed, Sharon! It’s amazing what we learn from our kids. I recall a similar moment with my eldest when she was three except it wasn’t whistling, but rather, with trying to blow a bubble with chewing gum. She tried and tried. She persevered and eventually was able to blow perfectly big and round bubbles.
The photos of your boy and the bunny are adorable too!
I love your story! How very true your sentiments. As mothers, we not only give and guide, soothe and encourage but also learn. We learn who they are, what they are capable of and through them, who we are and what we are also capable of. Thank you so much for this wonderful message. From one mother to another with love, Sharon
Thank you, Sharon, for your sensitive and gentle (as always) reflection on our humanness and the circle/.spiral journey of the spirit. I love the connection made to the “Good Enough Mother” within, who offers peace when we slip, fall,or spectacularly and publicly demonstrate our imperfection. She offers mercy and encouragement when the humiliated ego, that sees life in terms of goals and gains and wins and losses, wants to shame us for our errors.
The metaphor of your sweet son persevering in his pursuit of whistling, while his loving mother nurtures and embraces, without controlling, is beautiful. Thank you so much…
My dear Catherine, your words encapsulate so beautifully and accurately the inner voice of a Mother who lifts and stirs us up when we fall leave me with a deep satisfaction. Thank you for understanding a mother’s heart so intimately and how we too must sometimes nurture ourselves as a mother gently nurtures her young. With love, Sharon
Ah Sharon, to come visit you here is to seek solace and know my heart will be lifted. This piece of writing and photography with perfect quotes is profoundly beautiful. And if I may quote you, I want to make this into a Sharon poster for my office: “The voices of discouragement and defeat can be overwhelming sometimes. But always, if we listen very carefully, there is that still, small voice which whispers above the clamour. It is the voice of hope.” This entire post is amazing. Thank you so much for bringing such brightness to my heart, and reminding me to be thankful for how far I’ve come. And to give thanks for my enjoyment of whistling. Love and gratitude, Gina
Dearest Gina! You have been missed! Welcome back. Above the din of the many voices in the world and sometimes in our heads, I have learnt how important it is to choose to pay attention to the right voice. The voice of truth. Of integrity. Of love. I am touched to know that the words from this post will serve as a daily reminder in your office many miles away to always listen to the voice of hope. So good to have you back again my happy whistler! 😀 Hugs xx Sharon
You always challenge us to be our best in the sweetest, kindest ways, Sharon. Thank you.
It brings a deep satisfaction to my heart to know that you were blessed in some measure by this post. Always a pleasure to have you here. Many hugs, Sharon
What a beautiful post. Those photographs are among the sweetest I have ever seen.
Oh thank you so much. These photos were taken in our home in Afghanistan when my son was two years old. It was a very special morning that day when someone found that wild baby rabbit. It was a special time in our lives. Sharon
Beautifully written. Great message. I also find myself often frustrated about falling into the same trap, that of my own ego. I let go of the frustration. Remind myself not to be perfect, but allow myself BE as I am. Love the whistle story! Aww, your son is so cute with the bunny. 🙂 kind wishes.
How very lovely to hear from you! I have missed you. Yes, how wonderful to be able to BE when we are swept away by the swelling tides of emotions and the voice of the accusing ego. There is a time to learn from mistakes made. There is a time to observe the continuation of blame. Thank you so much for writing. Hugs, Sharon
Sharon: This is so intensely beautiful and honest. It reminds me of something I learned a few years ago that I have to keep reminding myself of. Part of the learning on this journey is taking on the task of re-parenting ourselves. I can now embrace myself wherever I am, offer compassion and kindness to myself, and nurture all of who I am. These are gifts my family did not know how to give me so my child learned to do without. How beautiful that we can heal our wounded Self. Great post.
My dear Brenda,
That was exactly the message I wanted to put across in this post. It came to me one evening as I was tucking my child in bed and we had talked about the day’s events and some of the little disappointments of the day in his little young life. And I realised how swift and readily a mother opens her arms to embrace her child. To soothe away the confusion and tiredness. To comfort. To encourage.
It all comes so naturally to me as a mother. That tenderness underlying every touch, every word. In that moment, it dawned on me how I need to give myself that sort of care and compassion. To stir within myself that voice and that equal tenderness. Thank you for embracing yourself as Life had intended it to be.
How wonderful it is to no longer hold another accountable for what they could not give. For what they did not know they had in their power to give. And to take responsibility for our own life. My admiration for you grows each time I know you a bit more. Love, Sharon
Thank you, Sharon. Your son is a very lucky little boy.
This is one of those days when my favorite bloggers are writing just for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for picking up my lost self and putting me down, facing the right direction.
It means so much to know that our lives are intertwined in this amazing way. That our thoughts and lessons learnt can touch another miles away. I am thankful to know that you found respite and rest here. I cherish your words deeply. Hugs, Sharon
“But always, if we listen very carefully, there is that still, small voice which whispers above the clamour. It is the voice of hope.” The photos were just beautiful but what you wrote here even more so. Such a wonderful story of your son learning to whistle…a lesson to revisit when times get tough. The still, small voice seems like a whisper or even a breath sometimes underneath all the others who like to shout, say bad things and even lie to us. It’s so comforting when the loving voice comes through! We all fall down, dust off the knees and get back up! 🙂
It is always so good to hear from you! I recently learnt this one important lesson of what voice I will choose to listen to when I fall down. Because it occured to me that when a child trips and falls, the mother’s response is always calm and gentle. Never belittling. Never scornful. We have to learn to treat ourselves as a tender mother would treat her child. May we always keep our ears open to that still, small voice of hope. Always. With many hugs to you. Sharon
Beautifully said Sharon! The gentle, loving inner voice I hear more often now than I ever have is a lot like a loving Mother! What’s funny is it changes depending on the circumstances though. For example. One hot day after a movie, I told my husband and his little brother I’d walk back to his Mom’s house (they wanted to go shop for video games lol). Anyhew I was fine until I realized I was lost and then “drill sergeant Momma” kicked in and she guided me back into the right direction. No matter what tone though….always with love lol.
OH Shaz. I just love your writing. YOU truly are an amazing Lady and a kind soul. “voice of hope”………..Yes, we fall down and pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on. Forgiving ourselves is a huge one as well. I always hope to learn from my mistakes. Your son is adorable and I am so happy he is a terrific whistler. hugs. Renee ♥
My dearest Renee, if there is one person who is solidly grounded in the most wholesome of ways it is you! I’m not just saying this but 43 years of being married and still glowing says a lot, if you know what I mean! 😀 I really love what you wrote here – “I always hope to learn from my mistakes.” YES. I know there is this popular saying that “love means never having to say I’m sorry.” To me, having to say sorry is a very important part of life and love. It is that sacred conscience which guides and teaches us. That little boy brings me so much joy I still pinch myself in wonder! 😀 So much love, Shaz
Oh Shaz, thank you so much. You continue to warm my heart with your kindness. I thank God everyday for the love and cares my Man and I share. We had our ‘growing pains’ and yes we did have to say ‘I am truly sorry’ a time or two, and thankfully it only made us stronger as a couple. We have quite the laughs when we talk about our younger years and are pleased on how we have grown and matured throughout the years. We are blessed to continue growing older together and never take each other for granted. My hubby has a terrific sense of humor and has me laughing often. Have a super day and hugs to you my friend. Have a wonderful day with your beautiful boy. 🙂 ♥ Renee
Your seed is turning into a magnificent tree from where I sit. Keep on going.
Thank you for taking time to read this and for your beautiful encouragement. I appreciate your kindness… Sharon
This is a very timely post for me. The evangelist Joyce Myers has recently illuminated for me the dfference between conviction and condemnation, an important distinction and one that you are touching on here. When we are weak in the flesh, God convicts us by speaking to our hearts because He loves us and is urging us to grow. He does not condemn us because it would cause us to cower, rebel or, as you suggested, inflict punishment on ourselves.
Your son is beautiful. He appears content enough to be the next Dalai Lama. Thank you for those beautiful photos.
My dearest Vivian,
I love Joyce Meyers! She sure doesn’t mince her words when she speaks and yet there is so much truth in what she teaches. Thank you for the great reminder between being convicted and beind condemned. I too recently saw the light, hence the post. Sometimes, from a false sense of repentance, we feel we need to prolong our own self-punishment to somehow absolve our wrongdoing. And that is taking the position of God for ourselves and for others. Thank you so much for writing. I cherish your insights and you know it is always an absolute pleasure to hear from you! All my love, Sharon p.s. yes, that little one was a very contented baby and is now a very happy little man 😀
The description of your son’s learning how to whistle brought back a similar experience of mine, when I was a little older than him. I tried to read a book, that I understood was filled with wisdom, but I was not ready yet to understand the contents of that book. I put it on the shelf, and every few weeks I would try, again and again to read it and understand it. Eventually, enriched by my other studies, I was able to understand it. But it took me a while. Throughout the years, ever since, I have remembered this incident, every time I had difficulty learning something. I wish your son life long success at learning. Regarding your own struggle with vanity, I would suggest that nothing is more practical than to focus on those things you wish to do, and those things you wish to learn. The more one focuses on the objectives, the less we are obsessed with ourselves. Of course, we have to care for the body that carries us, as we would for any prized tool or instrument. But I believe in minimal looking at the mirror, and maximum focus on our objectives.
My dear Shimon,
Thank you for the beautiful story of you as a young boy. I could just picture it in my mind, this steadfast perseverance even as a child in gaining mastery of something which required more subtle effort. Thank you for your well-wishes for my son. It means a lot to me.
I have also thought long and hard about your advice. Thank you for taking the time to share with me what obviously you must have learnt over a lifetime of experience on this eternal subject of self-mastery. I understand that excessive self-introspection and self-absorption is not conducive to the development of self. My warmest wishes to you, Sharon
Sweet Sharon ✿, Beautiful Boy, beautiful photos, beautiful post (as always). JUST BEAUTIFUL!
On a different note ♪… I am taking off for Australia (for the next 6 weeks). I will be checking for your posts believe me! Now I am addicted to them. I can sense my heart. Love, Fae. 😀
Hello my dear Fae! So good to hear that you are now safe and sound in Australia and I am sure enjoying the new continent to the fullest! It always brighten my day to see you here, I mean this from my heart. Thank you for always being so good to me. I look forward to news and photos from your holiday! Much love, Sharon
What a beautiful piece, Sharon. I like to use the word “piece” when I speak of your words because that is what they evoke for me, “a piece of peace”.
I have an adorable two year old grandson whom I am lucky enough to look after for two days a week. It has been a privilege and a pleasure watching him grow, witnessing his mastery of each new skill. I learn much from watching him. He is on the brink of speaking, each new word added to his vocabulary widening and stretching his mastery of his world.
And you are right. We too struggle to make progress. And when we are hurting, when we are paining with this struggle I like to bring to mind the expression that a blogging friend has for them. She calls them “growing pains”. And that’s lovely isn’t it? We have “growing pains” because we are growing.
My dear Corinne,
These photos of my son were taken when he was two. I can just imagine how much delight your little grandson must bring you when you look after him!! And in many ways, just as a child starts off on a fresh slate on so many areas in life, we too start off on a fresh slate on yet so many things we are learning and mastering for the first time in our adult lives. Isn’t it so that self-mastery is a work of a lifetime.
Thank you for your wonderful feedback. I am reminded of this quote “Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own ego. We can never afford to rest on our own oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again.” ~ Shoghi Effendi.
Yes, indeed just as growing pains is an indication of growth, struggle is a sign that we are stretching ourselves towards the light. Always good to have you here. I am sure your little grandson enjoys his time with Granma as much as you cherish his sweet self! Hugs, Sharon
It seems that we are on the same journey…even tho we are miles apart. Pema Chodron tells me over and over again to be gentle with myself. Thank you for saying it again in such beautiful words.
I too am learning the valuable practice of being gentle with myself. While I would consider myself a gentle person and it pains me if I had even unwittingly caused hurt to another, I find myself a whole lot more relentless with myself. I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing where we Chinese push ourselves very hard. I am learning the importance and depth of moderation in all things. So good to hear from you as always. Sharon p.s. I shall check out Pema Chodron, thank you.
It’s interesting to think of our self-judgement as a cultural thing. I perhaps always considered it a human thing until I heard Buddhist teachers talk about it being more pronounced in the western world. Maybe I’m back to thinking it’s a human condition. I do think that I will always have to guard against being judgmental with others as long as I am judgmental with myself.
Beautiful, Sharon.. simply profound and beautiful. Thank you.
I am so glad this post resonated with you my dear Carolina. Your feedback always matters to me. With love, Sharon
This is a very beautiful post – your thoughts , your photos and your chosen quotations. Thank you for this 🙂
My dear Sally, how very wonderful to hear from you! I am always touched to know that from some of my life’s journeys find a place in the hearts and minds of others out there as well. Thank you so much for this warm message. Many hugs, Sharon
Sharon, you have certainly written the truth. It is always our ego and its thoughts and wishes that creates problems, but it is also a lifetime journey to live increasingly from our spirit to make our way in this world. And I agree … the best we can do is to forgive ourselves and accept that we are always learning, as difficult as that sometimes is. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
See you on the road …. Jeanne
Dear Jeanne, it always makes the journey more meaningful when others share it with us. Thank you for coming alongside. Thank you for understanding. And see you on the road. Hugs, Sharon
I think the story of your son and his perseverance will stay with me. May I too have the grace to forgive myself when I stumble, and keep moving forward from that much-needed stance of humility.
I love how you intertwined his determination to whistle with your determination/longing to achieve a higher sense and purpose. I think though, that sometimes, introverts like us, tend to beat up ourselves more than we should. I am my worst critic. Yet, that helps me discover more of myself, and the world, and helps me become a better person. I guess, still it is necessary to find a balance, that I may not become proud, that I will not become too critical/judgemental of myself or others…. and yet love myself, as I was formed in my mother’s womb by a Higher being.
To me you are already a mighty tree, Sharon. A towering redwood who shelters, protects, and comforts a whole diverse community in your humble grandness. You plant seeds of understanding, kindness, gentleness, wisdom, beauty, and much more, for the world to experience, grow, and be all the better for.
May you forever grow tall and proud, yet humble. Proud in the knowing of what you bring to your family and the world. Humble in your knowing that even the greatest tree has imperfections.
Thank you also for sharing your imperfections as they help us to better understand the whole you, and they make your positive attributes shine all the more by contrast, and they add to your uniqueness.
Great big hugs to you, my friend.
Beautiful words and wisdom, Sharon! Every little step forward counts!
(By the way, I still cannot whistle) 🙂
That`s a beautiful and insightful way to encourage your son in Sharon. Very cute pictures too. You`re right, it`s more difficult with oneself though.