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Recently one of my readers wrote:

One of my current favorite quotes from Gleanings, pp316-317, is “God grant that your desires and unmortified passions may not hinder you from that which hath been ordained for you.”  I believe I am stuck in one of these passions and would like help breaking free.

I have been struggling with an eating disorder for over 40 years.  I have had a lot of therapy, been to two outpatient treatment centers and been involved in various programs.  I have made tremendous progress, but am not free yet and am going through a particularly difficult period with food.  My weight is low and I have trouble keeping food in my stomach.

I know what I have to do, set up a food plan that has me eating  4 or 5 times a day in small enough quantities that do not trigger purging. I often eat more than I can keep down and the eating/purging cycle begins.  My problem is with quantities and stopping eating at appropriate times.

I think the disorder is driven by habit and addiction.  This disorder has cost me dearly in lost time, loss of self-respect, lost opportunities, lost money, and countless known and unknown spiritual costs.

So, my question is, are you willing to help me continue on the road and, hopefully, become free of this consuming addiction, so that I can take more advantage of the gifts Baha’u’llah has given me I odder to become a fuller person and a more effective teacher and servant?

I replied:

I admit freely right up front that I don’t have any experience in dealing with eating disorders!

The following Baha’is specialize in eating disorders (among other things).  I don’t know them personally – just what I’ve read on their websites:

Mahsa Migalski is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in individual and couples-work, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief work, eating disorders, and self-injury

Marzi Radpour-Wiley is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in women’s mental health issues specifically related to sexual trauma, adjustment struggles, eating disorders, and personality disorders; adolescents and adults with mood and anxiety problems

I’m sorry to hear that your eating disorder has you “stuck in one of these passions” and admire your sincere desire for help breaking free!

Have you seen this article?

Baha’is with Eating Disorders

I wonder:

  • How and when was the food plan successful?
  • What stops you from setting up and following a food plan now?
  • What is going on at the moment you eat more than you can keep down?
    • Who are you with?
    • What stressors are you dealing with?
    • What thoughts are going through your head?

But even more importantly:

  • What spiritual practices are you doing?
  • Are you reciting one of the Obligatory Prayers with pure-hearted devotion each day?
  • Are you reading the Sacred Scriptures every morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought?
  • Are you prayerfully meditating on the teachings, in order to understand them more deeply, fulfil them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others?
  • Are you striving every day to bring your behaviour more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?
  • Are you teaching the Cause of God?
  • Are you selflessly serving the work of the Cause and in carrying out your trade or profession?
  • Are you participating in the core activities?
  • Are you sacrificially giving to the Fund?
  • Is your Right of God up to date?

Use this as a checklist, and make sure you focus on achieving all of these things.

Are you familiar with this story?

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed

My hunch is that this issue has occupied much of your attention for the past 40 years, and all of the treatment programs you’ve been given have focused on “the problem”.

But that’s not how things work in the Faith!  We work from “strength to strength”:

Despite the blows leveled at its nascent strength, whether by the wielders of temporal and spiritual authority from without, or by black-hearted foes from within, the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had, far from breaking or bending, gone from strength to strength, from victory to victory. Indeed its history, if read aright, may be said to resolve itself into a series of pulsations, of alternating crisis and triumphs, leading it ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 147)

I think that’s probably what’s been going on in your life too:  a series of alternating crisis and triumphs.  It sounds like you’re in a crisis now, but they are always followed by victory!  Here’s something I found on Facebook last night that appealed to me:

Just remember – even your worst days only have 24 hours!

In this Faith we turn our back to the darkness and our faces to God, and we do that through the items listed above:

He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side. The Master said: turn your back to the darkness and your face to Me.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 457)

Remember, although you probably have a lot of shame around purging, it’s misplaced.  This article will explain it better:

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Guilt and Shame

Here are some prayers you could say:

O my Lord! Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink, and Thy pleasure my hope, and praise of Thee my action, and remembrance of Thee my companion, and the power of Thy sovereignty my succorer, and Thy habitation my home, and my dwelling-place the seat Thou hast sanctified from the limitations imposed upon them who are shut out as by a veil from Thee.  Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 261)

O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Bahá. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 149-150)

O my Glorious Lord! Help me to refrain from every irregular inclination; to subdue every rebelious passion; to purify the motives of my conduct; to conform myself to that meekness which no provocation can ruffle; to that patience which no affliction can overwhelm; to that integrity which no self-interest can shake; that I may be qualified to serve Thee and to teach Thy Word.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, English Sources and Authenticity of Fifteen Prayers in the Dutch Prayer Book, Bahá’í Gebeden by Universal House of Justice 2001-10-22)

God doesn’t want you to focus on what’s wrong with you, He needs all of your attention focused on serving the Cause.  Remember, He has chosen YOU!

For I say unto you that He has chosen you to be His messengers of love throughout the world, to be His bearers of spiritual gifts to man, to be the means of spreading unity and concord on the earth. Thank God with all your hearts that such a privilege has been given unto you. For a life devoted to praise is not too long in which to thank God for such a favour.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 68)

You can’t fulfill this task if you are focused on “the problem” and feeding the wrong wolf.

I have a tendency to wallow in self-pity but when I read in this year’s Ridvan Message:

The sustained effort required will be arduous. But the outcome has the potential to be profoundly significant, even epoch making. Small steps, if they are regular and rapid, add up to a great distance travelled.  (Paragraph 4)

 In each cycle are vested fleeting opportunities for a stride forward, precious possibilities that will not return. (Paragraph 4)


In society at large, alas, the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen. How striking that, as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, you are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal. How striking that, amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, you are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity. Far from disheartening you, let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them.  (Paragraph 5)

I realized I could no longer wallow.  The world “needs the healing balm that only I can present to them” and if my attention is focused on self; then I’m going to miss the “fleeting opportunities that will not return”.  All I need to do is realize that “the sustained effort required will be arduous” and “take small steps, regular and rapid”; and if I do, “the outcome could be profoundly significant, even epoch making”.

Those are my marching orders!  Are you willing to make them yours?

It seems you’ve tried everything else!  🙂

So that would be the approach I’d take to the problem!

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below!