by Dr. Elizabeth Ihsan Rose UOS Faculty I meet so many people kind, caring people with holy hearts, with a beautiful longing to give and receive love, to bring hope, joy, love, light, and beauty to others. Yet many feel their hearts have been covered over by “old baggage,” painful pictures and voices, old patterns of behavior, they carry from challenging earlier experiences. It is easy for them to recognize God’s light and beauty in all the rest of creation, yet they are often harsh with themselves. And they describe the place in their hearts where they could be receiving love as being tight, constricted, or as though it’s covered over by a gate that’s been rusted shut for years. I often see this pattern in nurturing, caring people, such as mothers and people in healing professions: they give to and care for everyone else, but find it difficult to care for themselves and let themselves receive. The problem of course is that when we are giving and giving to others all day long, but don’t let ourselves receive, eventually the well begins to run dry, leading to feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion and burnout. Part of the healing journey involves leaving those old harsh voices and pictures and stories from the past and returning to the truth that Allah’s mercy encompasses all things, including our deepest wounds, and to let ourselves begin to receive what our hearts are crying for. We begin to remember that we are created from the light and spirit of the Most Generous, Loving, Merciful, Beautiful, Wise Lord. We remember that everything in our lives is in the hands of Divine Love. We learn to trust that when we return our awareness back to Him, Allah can transform everything in a moment, erase our past, and create a present and future for us that is more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. When I think about this process I am often reminded of the roses in our garden, symbols of the soul in so many spiritual traditions, and a symbol of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) in the Islamic Sufi tradition. Roses show us how easy it can be to give and receive beautifully, in complete grace and balance. Even when the blossom is still tight in a bud, the rose is drinking in everything it needs of soil, water, air, and sunshine, to completely feed its being. And it does all this effortlessly. A rose doesn’t have to “try,” in order to drink in sunlight and photosynthesize it into food. It just happens, because roses are designed to do so. The rose simply follows its own nature. The same with blossoming. A rose doesn’t have to “try,” in order to open. It just does. And each stage of that unfolding, from the tightest closed bud, to the gloriously unfurled full blossom, is exquisitely beautiful. We recognize the beauty even in a rose that’s completely closed, and we see only beauty, as petal after petal unfolds. If we got impatient and tried to open the rose before its time, we would wound it. Instead, we trust the process and we recognize that every moment of this unfolding is beautiful and perfect in its own way. And we would not complain to the rose that it should have been born a lilac or a lily or a daffodil! So it is with our souls and our healing, even though we often do not recognize this. Every step on our spiritual and healing journey is beautiful, each unfolding of the petals of our deep heart is full of grace and mercy. Beloved soul, longing to know your Lord, let your heart be like the rose unfolding. Your unfurling is perfect and holy and exquisitely beautiful just as it is. Surrender to the truth of your essential nature and let yourself drink in all the light, the water of love and mercy, all the nurturing that is being sent to you from your loving Creator in every moment. Let yourself be fed until you are full. Say yes to the divine beauty within you and trust the process of your blooming. Trust the beauty of your blossoming and the sweetness of the perfume your Beloved is exuding through you. The angels delight in your holy fragrance!