On the path to contentment

Green Acre Baha’i SchoolLast week I returned from a wonderful visit to the Green Acre Baha’i School. It is a place of warm memories as this is where seven years ago I first became aware of not only the physical but also the spiritual beauty of my wife. It is a place of spiritual comfort and nurture, where saying a prayer at the room of Abdu’l Baha brings memories of a spiritual pilgrimage. Beyond the charm of the place, though, the days there were highlighted by a wonderful seminar on the “Path to Contenment” presented by Linda Kavelin Popov and Dan Popov, founders of The Virtues Project.

The seminar was based on Linda Kavelin Popov’s book “Pace of Grace” which focuses on strategies for sustainable life. One of these strategies is dedicating time for reconnecting with nature and through it with the spiritual in our life. To practice that strategy, we were advised to follow an old Native American tradition called “Spirit Walk”. We were to go outside and look for something that would stand out and seek the message it might have for us…

Pine trees at Green AcreWhen I left the meeting hall, my first glance was at an old apple tree which I had noticed earlier. It was covered with small apples and reminded me of a tree from my childhood. I am not sure why I had not noticed that tree on my previous two visits to Green Acre but now it was almost calling towards me as if to remind me of stories from my childhood. However, on my way I noticed a woman sitting in contemplation under the apple tree, so not wanting to bother her I continued towards the grove of pine trees which solemnly stand in semi-circle. All but one of these trees were straight; one was very crooked. As I noticed its huge side branch, I thought to myself “This tree is overcompensating for its crookedness”. I wondered if this is a message that I have been overcompensating in my life, or that I should be overcompensating (or maybe both), but I continued towards the tree and gave it a tight hug.

I have always loved hugging trees although for some reason I had not taken the time for this simple pleasure lately. But there I was standing in a close embrace of this majestic tree, crying silently, being comforted by support of the tree, letting myself let go of fears, guilt, ego, and surrendering into God’s graceful hands.

As I opened my eyes, right there infront of my face I saw a little caterpillar crawling very slowly up the tree. It was totally oblivious of how huge the tree was. It was crawling up, not discouraged by the task at hand. It was being very content on its way up. I thought to myself, the message for me must be “Don’t give up”.

As I was thinking of that, thinking of how slow this crawl was, I noticed that there was another, smaller, caterpillar which was crawling even slower and was soon overpassed by the first caterpillar. So, I thought, everyone has their own pace and as long as we walk our own path, it does not matter if our pace is slower or faster than others’. Soon, I noticed that there were many other little bugs and creatures crawling up the tree in no competition but simple contentment that they were there, experiencing their life.

I was so grateful for the simple but wise lesson that crooked tree provided. I was reminded that in the orchard of humanity there is place for crooked trees too, and that God’s grace cover all equally, whether we have done only good things or not in our lifetime. Equally importantly, perhaps, I sensed that the only way to have noticed the wisdom that nature had provided was by taking the time to observe. Without slowing down, I wouldn’t have noticed these things. Without coming closer to the tree, I wouldn’t have seen these things.

The path to contentment is a slow one but walking on it is a graceful adventure, for which I am grateful.

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