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How We Meditate  

It is incumbent upon you to ponder in your hearts and meditate upon His words, and humbly to call upon Him, and to put away self in His heavenly Cause. These are the things that will make of you signs of guidance unto all mankind, and brilliant stars shining down from the all-highest horizon, and towering trees in the Abhá Paradise.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 241)

Recently someone on a 12-step meeting challenged me about how I meditate, claiming that the only legitimate form of meditation is to focus on the breath.  I’ve certainly tried that kind of sitting meditation in the past, but it only caused agitation and even panic attacks.  I always thought there was something wrong with me, until recently several articles serendipitously crossed my path indicating that this is a frequent problem for those who’ve experienced trauma, particularly at a young age.  Mindfulness meditation can reopen these old wounds, and without appropriate support, those who’ve experienced trauma can easily find themselves flooded by flashbacks of deeply painful experiences.  Learning this helped me to accept that the ways I meditate are legitimate.

So what is legitimate meditation for Baha’is?  For years, I considered anything I do to improve the ways I know and worship God to be my meditation.  Sometimes it might be through listening to my YouTube playlist of Bahá’í Prayers and Writings set to music; or doing yoga or mindfully walking in the forest and hugging a tree or journaling my heart out (or even napping, where I pour my heart out to God).  All of these help me to slow down long enough to listen to the quiet, gentle and loving voice of God, guiding my movement and my stillness.

On the heels of this awareness, I came across a discussion in a Bahá’í group on Facebook, about how Bahá’ís meditate and lots of ideas were generated but not one person put forward the above quote and I wondered why.  It seems to answer the question once and for all.  Anything else we do can only be secondary to pondering and meditating on the words of God AND humbly to call upon Him, and to put away self in His heavenly Cause.

Knowing the meaning of Bahá’í meditation, I can relax into it, and 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Inviting Others to Help with Decision Making

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A Bahá’í who has a problem may wish to make his own decision upon it after prayer and after weighing all the aspects of it in his own mind; . . . he may prefer to seek the council of individual friends or of professional counselors such as his doctor or lawyer so that he can consider such advice when making his decision; or in a case where several people are involved, such as a family situation, he may want to gather together those who are affected so that they may arrive at a collective decision. There is also no objection whatever to a Bahá’í asking a group of people to consult together on a problem facing him.  (The Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179, #589)

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE this Faith?  Quotes like this remind me of the principle of moderation in all things; and how every principle is treated on its own merit; and how many ways there are of looking at issues and solving problems.

I especially like the reminder to pray, which gives us access to the entire Company on High and allows us to find solutions we might never have thought of on our own.

I remember at one time in my recovery from childhood trauma, misunderstanding “Thy Name is my healing”, thinking all I had to do is pray, yet here we’re told it’s OK to seek counsel from professional people.  I also like the idea that family members can consult together with those who are affected by a decision, which brings in the idea that younger family members have rights too.

There are pros and cons for making decisions on my own vs. with others.  On my own, I risk making ill-informed decisions; if I involve others, I risk wasting time.  Because Baha’u’llah puts so much value on consultation, I’m reminded that sometimes the process is more important than the outcome.  Sometimes the act of consulting prayerfully with others can have consequences that have nothing to do with the decision that has to be made, such as strengthening family ties; or work teams.

Knowing the options in front of me when I need to make decisions, 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 Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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Consultation Needs Several Voices

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The purpose of consultation is to show that the views of several individuals are assuredly preferable to one man, even as the power of a number of men is of course greater than the power of one man.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 176, #580)

Being both single and self-employed, I’m used to making decisions alone.  Even when I could consult with others, I’ve always thought it was easier and faster to do it myself.  When I became a Bahá’í and saw the importance of consultation I had to change my views.  I’ve come to appreciate that when a diverse group of people who understand and respect each other’s differences and contributions consult together, more can be accomplished much more efficiently.  It’s not always easy to recognize the important contribution towards the performance of the team that different members bring to the table and it’s not even easy to see the contribution I bring, when I’m used to doing everything myself.

The nine kinds of people who work best together on a team are people who:

  1. come up with ideas I might not have thought of
  2. assess the risks
  3. focus on details and logistics
  4. come up with all the reasons something won’t work
  5. are skilled in listening between the lines and hearing what isn’t being said
  6. provide motivation and encouragement
  7. are willing to do the work
  8. support and step into any gaps that might arise
  9. won’t give up when the going gets tough

When I look at this list, it’s easy to see my strengths and weaknesses, and relax into the idea that I don’t have to do everything myself, and 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 newly published book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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Trials are Essential for Establishing the Will of God

“In such an afflicted time, when mankind is bewildered and the wisest of men are perplexed as to the remedy, the people of Bahá, who have confidence in His unfailing grace and divine guidance, are assured that each of these tormenting trials has a cause, a purpose, and a definite result, and all are essential instruments for the establishment of the immutable Will of God on earth. In other words, on the one hand humanity is struck by the scourge of His chastisement which will inevitably bring together the scattered and vanquished tribes of the earth; and on the other, the weak few whom He has nurtured under the protection of His loving guidance are, in this formative age and period of transition, continuing to build amidst these tumultuous waves an impregnable stronghold which will be the sole remaining refuge for those lost multitudes. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Iranian believers resident in various countries throughout the world, February 10, 1980)

Over the past couple of weeks, different Baha’is have sent me information that could be considered COVID conspiracy theories, asking me what I thought of them, or worse, asking for my support in spreading this material to others.  On the one hand, I’m usually open to learning new things and in the grand scheme of things, am often left-leaning in my beliefs.  On the other hand, in this case, I’m definitely on the side of balancing religion with science, and obedience to government, so I take great comfort in quotes such as this one.

Even the most credentialed epidemiologists have been bewildered by the nature and scope of this virus – the list of symptoms keep expanding, and the age of those effected keep lowering.  Even the wisest of scientists are perplexed as to the remedy as they try to determine why some immune systems of seemingly healthy individuals cause all sorts of life-threatening complications; while others considered “high risk” experience a milder version of the disease or have no symptoms at all.  Because the “rules” of this pandemic seem to keep shifting, it’s easy for people to grab onto conspiracy theories.

But what if, instead of grabbing onto the ideas of these alarmists, we accept that this new virus has a cause, a purpose, and a definite result, and that it’s all essential for the establishment of the immutable Will of God on earth?  What if we saw it as another evidence of the inevitable decline of the old world order, bring humanity to their knees, to ultimately being us to the Most Great Peace we all long for?  What if, in this formative age and period of transition, we focus our attention on continuing to build an impregnable stronghold which will be the sole remaining refuge for those lost multitudes?  I think this is what the House of Justice is leading us towards, as they help us navigate these tumultuous waves.

Knowing I can listen to the voices of science and the guidance of the House of Justice as I navigate this 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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The Darkness of this Gloomy Night Shall Pass Away 

The darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away. Again the Sun of Reality will dawn from the horizon of the hearts. Have patience, wait but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile when you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice….Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 141)

Is anyone else feeling COVID fatigue?  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of being scared and tired of the uncertainty about what to expect going forward. I’m angry at people who are going about their business, without masks or social distancing and feel guilty for not being a better representative of the Bahá’í Faith, elevating conversations and being loving and accepting of other people’s choices.  I’m glad I know that a lot of these negative thoughts are keeping me stuck in my lower nature.  Without quotes such as this one, I wouldn’t know how to help myself move into my higher nature.  Here `Abdu’l-Bahá gives us some concrete tools I can use.  I can:

  • remember that the darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away
  • have patience
  • work while I am waiting
  • smile when I am wearied with monotony
  • be firm while everything around me is being shaken
  • be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at me
  • speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush my mind
  • be valiant and courageous while men all around me are cringing with fear and cowardice
  • continue this journey to the end
  • trust that the bright day is coming

The easiest ones for me to do are to work while I’m waiting and continue this journey towards the end.  The hardest is to be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at me, speaking aloud to others in an uplifting, accepting loving way.  What are the easiest and hardest for you?  

Knowing there are things I can do to combat COVID fatigue, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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Showing Our Love by Obedience

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

During this worldwide pandemic, a lot of people around me, including some of my closest friends, have been taking a lot more risks than I’m comfortable with and I have found myself filled with criticism and judgement, leading to a lot of estrangement between us.  This morning, I find myself wanting to talk to one of them, and am rehearsing in my head what I want to say – mostly centered around the fact that there’s a big difference between being afraid that I might get or give the virus to others, and being obedient to the government.  I want to align with and honor the sacrifices of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, or in Germany during the Nazi regime or in South Africa, during apartheid, where Baha’i’s might not approve of the government’s policies, but have steadfastly been obedient at horrific expense to themselves.

Obviously, I can’t make the call when I’m feeling so critical and judgmental.  I don’t want to even reach out to others for support in what to say, because that would be backbiting, which is a sin far worse than the risks they are willing to take in their lack of obedience to the government.  I may not like what others are doing, and I may even feel alone in my decision to adhere to the directives and feel lonely as a result, and even still, I will take a deep breath and give all of it to God, so that I can stop even breathing in the sins of others.

Reading the Writings morning and night and finding exactly the right quote when I need it the most, 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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