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To Be Vaccinated or Not

In recent decades, advances in medical science have led to the production of  effective vaccines, the use of which has freed humanity from many debilitating and deadly infectious diseases. Reports indicate that the coronavirus vaccines currently being developed offer great promise for protecting individuals from, and helping to reduce transmission of, the virus. As to the advisability and efficacy of the various options that may become available, the friends should follow the counsel of medical and other scientific experts.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 8 December 2020)

 

An additional point that can be drawn to the attention of the believers is that the purpose of being vaccinated extends beyond the protection it affords the individual concerned.  There is also an important social component; namely, that when a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of a disease amongst them is retarded, thereby protecting those who – for whatever reason – are unable to be vaccinated.  The friends should therefore also weigh this social obligation as they make their decision on this matter.  (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 February 2021)

 

In relation to your query about whether it would be appropriate for you to encourage the friends to be vaccinated, it would appear sufficient for you to advise them to follow the recommendations of reputable public health experts in your country.  Ultimately, this is a matter for individuals to decide.  (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 February 2021)

Although I’m not an anti-VAXXER, I have taken a conservative approach in the past, using homeopathic and essential oils to strengthen my immune system against viral and bacterial infections where possible, and have enjoyed good physical health as a result.

I appreciate vaccines and their effectiveness in eradicating many diseases that used to plague our society.  I grew up in the polio epidemic and lost my aunt to it.  My cousin, her son, survived, but has suffered with post-polio symptoms ever since.

When my son was a baby, he had all his shots, but when he was 10, he came down with red measles.  We were immediately quarantined and the vaccine he’d been given 10 years earlier was discovered to have been part of a “bad batch”.  They wanted to vaccinate him against it again.  No!  This was happening at the time when there seemed to be a link between vaccines and autism, and a friend’s son had recently been diagnosed with autism after getting vaccinated.  So I’ve been cautious ever since.  As a result, I admit that I am somewhat apprehensive and uncertain about whether to be vaccinated against COVID, and if so, which vaccine to have.

I’m in the cohort that’s being offered a vaccine that’s been banned in many countries, and if I was one year older or 9 years younger, I wouldn’t be given, which increases my anxiety tremendously.  Of course, we’re being encouraged to take what’s being offered and not to shop around, and I understand this.  There are shortages of the other vaccines, and priority has to be given to those waiting their second shots.  I’m on a waiting list but because I live in a rural community, it’s a bit of a lottery as to who gets the vaccine and in what order.  I’m not a front-line worker, nor do I have pre-existing health problem, so I’m content to wait my time until the decision becomes more clear.

While I was pondering all of this, someone sent me a couple of recent letters from the House of Justice, (relevant excerpts above) which makes my decision easier, because it’s a source I trust.

From these quotes I glean:

  • It’s my decision whether or not to be vaccinated.
  • In making my decision, I should follow the counsel of medical and other scientific experts and follow the recommendations of reputable public health experts in my country.
  • In making my decision I should consider that this isn’t just about me – that I have a social obligation to my family, friends and neighbors.
  • When a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of a disease amongst them is retarded and those who are unable to be vaccinated are also protected.
  • Reports indicate that the coronavirus vaccines currently being developed offer great promise for protecting individuals from, and helping to reduce transmission of, the virus.

Getting clarity around this issue from a source I love, respect and trust, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my books.

 

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Healing the Stress Caused by Forced Isolation

One of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

It’s absolutely true, that isolation is not our normal state, and as we go into the 4th wave of the COVID pandemic, with all of the increase in variants, it’s easy to be discouraged with no end in sight.

Baha’is are lucky because the House of Justice has kept us informed every step of the way.  Studying their letters over the past year we see their suggestions.  I especially thought the Naw Ruz letter to the Baha’is of the World a year ago gave us lots of ideas:

. . . ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • What helps you rise above your problems?
  • What helps you have illumined faces and radiant brows that people can hear in your voices and see above your masks?
  • How can you provide the light of assurance to your friends, family and neighbors?

Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquility, confidence , and reliance on God.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • How can I continue to strengthen bonds of friendship?
  • How can I foster spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence and reliance on God in myself, so I can pass these on to someone else?

The elevated conversations that have occurred as a result, whether remotely or in person, have been a source of comfort and inspiration to many.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • Who can I have an elevated conversation with today? Tomorrow?  Next week?  Make a list and work through it systematically and then repeat.

May your minds be ever bent upon the needs of the communities to which you belong, the condition of the society in which you live and the welfare of the entire family of humanity, to whom you are all brothers and sisters.  (paragraph 5)

Ask yourself:

  • To which communities do I belong (religious, social, recreational, work, school etc)?
  • What are the needs of each community?
  • What can I do to help?

And in your quiet moments, when no course of action other than prayer seems possible, then we invite you to add your supplications to our won and ardently pray for the relief of suffering.  (paragraph 5)

Ask yourself:

  • Which prayers can I say?
  • Who can I pray with?
  • Who can I study a prayer with?

I think carefully studying this letter and answering the questions above and acting on them will be the best possible healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

Knowing there are practical things the House of Justice is asking us to do during the pandemic, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Hardship and Tribulation Are Necessary

We should not, however, forget that an essential characteristic of this world is hardship and tribulation and that it is by overcoming them that we achieve our moral and spiritual development. As the Master says, sorrow is like furrows, the deeper they go the more plentiful are the fruits we obtain. (From a letter dated 5 November 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 7)

Recently someone asked me: “I thought I’d healed from anxiety and depression and I didn’t.  I had some tests and difficulties and I got very anxious again with panic attacks.  I don’t think I will ever heal.  Is it me or is it that God doesn’t want to heal me?”

I replied that whenever I fall back into anxiety, these are the things I remind myself:

  • When I let anxiety win, I’m in self-will, believing I have to solve all my problems and do everything by myself.
  • When I let anxiety win, I’m living in the future, imagining “what if’s” that may never happen. In this present moment, I have everything I need.  I am safe.
  • God loves me whether I’m anxious or not, but when I get scared, I am far from God and need to remember He’s way bigger than my problems and standing ready to solve them for me.

I also pull out this checklist, which is a summary of all the things I teach about overcoming anxiety.  I use it to see the areas which need strengthening, in order to overcome anxiety again.

It helps to remember that all of us have tests and difficulties.  Severe mental tests such as anxiety and depression are the polish God uses to help with my moral and spiritual development, but I often forget, and think I’m the only one suffering.  When I’m stuck in that prison of self, quotes like the one above remind me that there is a purpose, and I have a choice, and I can rededicate my life to God, and implore Him to use these tests so my fruit can nourish the people around me.

Knowing there’s a purpose to my suffering, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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A New Prayer for Parents

O Divine Providence!  Immerse the father and mother of this servant of Thy Threshold in the ocean of Thy forgiveness, and purge and sanctify them from every sin and transgression.  Grant them Thy forgiveness and mercy, and bestow upon them Thy gracious pardon.  Thou, verily, art the Pardoner, the Ever-Forgiving, the Bestower of abundant grace.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Twenty-six Prayers Revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of His passing, number 13)

When I was first looking at the effects of my childhood trauma, I knew I had to forgive but I wasn’t ready yet.  The best I could do was to ask God to forgive them for me.  Because the Bab had told us that “It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents” and that “Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!”  (The Báb, Lights of Guidance, p. 230).  Recognizing that praying for my parents was in my best interest, I was highly motivated to memorize the prayer for parents and say it frequently, though I’m still not remembering to to it after every prayer!

When I was looking at the newly released prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, I was happy to see a new prayer for parents and wanted to compare the two.

In the earlier prayer we’re really just asking God to “submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace”, but in the new prayer we’re asking so much more:

  • immerse them . . . in the ocean of Thy forgiveness
  • purge and sanctify them from every sin and transgression
  • grant them Thy forgiveness and mercy
  • bestow upon them Thy gracious pardon

For this abuse survivor, this asks so much more from God, specific to what I would want for them and for myself.  I think I’ll memorize this one too.

Knowing how to ask God to forgive them and me, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Removing Difficulties and Obstacles

O Divine Providence! Perplexing difficulties have arisen and formidable obstacles have appeared. O Lord! Remove these difficulties and show forth the evidences of Thy might and power. Ease these hardships and smooth our way along this arduous path. O Divine Providence! The obstacles are unyielding, and our toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities. There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself. We set all our hopes on Thee, and commit all our affairs unto Thy care. Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Newly Translated Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, March 2021, number 6)

Have you had a chance to look at the 26 newly translated prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha yet?  If not, you can find them here.

In reading through them during the Fast, this was the first one which jumped out at me.  Maybe I’m more depressed than I realize!  I liked it because it speaks my language:

  • perplexing difficulties have arisen due to COVID and my apparent loss of purpose
  • formidable obstacles to my ability to teach or be of service in the ways the House of Justice are asking us to do, have arisen because of total exhaustion and burnout
  • the obstacles are unyielding and seem to be worsening instead of getting better
  • my toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities including 2 broken ribs that prevent me from doing a lot of what I would like to do

But I don’t have to stay stuck here.  I can ask God to:

  • Remove these difficulties
  • show forth the evidences of Thy might and power
  • Ease these hardships
  • smooth our way along this arduous path

And in case I think there’s something I have to do myself, I am reminded that:

  • There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself
  • We set all our hopes on Thee and commit all our affairs unto Thy care
  • Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.

Knowing God can relieve me of my difficulties and hardships through His might and power, I am grateful!

 What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive