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Fearing the Destroyer of the Worlds

The barking of dogs is loud on every side . . . Where are the swords of Thy vengeance, O Destroyer of the worlds?  (Baha’u’llah, Fire Tablet, Baha’i Prayers, p. 213)

Since the war in Ukraine started, I have been absolutely terrified that World War 3 is about to start, and compulsively checking the news for evidence that the “red phones” have been picked up.  I spend hours a day, lost in phone games, totally dissociated.  Very little is getting done, especially during the Fast.

Of course, most of us are upset by the war, but a quick poll of my friends leads me to believe that no one shares my paranoia, so I have to accept that something from the past is coming up to be healed.  Fortunately, this week’s homework in my survivors of incest group, is to process a trigger, and I decided to use this one.  I realized 3 things:

  1. Because of all the abuse I was going through, I wasn’t safe in my family.
  2. Because there were 3 bomb threats at school one winter, I wasn’t safe at school.
  3. Because of the Cuban missile crisis when I was 5 years old, when the USSR put medium to intermediate nuclear missiles in Cuba and the standoff between the USA and USSR came closest the world has ever come to nuclear conflict, and because there was a bomb shelter in the basement of my middle-class suburban western Canadian home, fully stocked with food and water for 2 years so we could survive a “nuclear winter”, the world wasn’t safe either.

All of this is in my face as I relive the terror of those years.  It doesn’t help to be a Bahá’í, knowing that the world has to be brought to its knees before it will turn to Bahá’u’lláh, and much though I long for the Most Great Peace, I don’t long for the calamities that will bring us through.  It also doesn’t help to know that one of the names of God is the Destroyer of the Worlds.  So what does help?  This quote gives some clues:

I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.  Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 28-30)

It takes discipline to change my thoughts of war to stronger thoughts of peace, but knowing that it will bring me happiness, I am grateful!

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

 

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War Makes Me Sad

The problem:

I hope you are all happy and well. I am not happy, but very sad. The news of the Battle of Benghazi grieves my heart. I wonder at the human savagery that still exists in the world! How is it possible for men to fight from morning until evening, killing each other, shedding the blood of their fellow-men: And for what object? To gain possession of a part of the earth!  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 28-30)

The solution:

When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other’s hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!  Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 28-30)

This morning, I was reflecting on the state of the world with a friend whose parents and in-laws were holocaust survivors.  She shares my terror and powerlessness around the current state of the world.  We’re both in full-blown PTSD responses.  We’re both trying to help each other rise above them and learn to trust in God.  This is really hard when I’m in the grips of terror.

Yesterday I found myself feeling like Chicken Little, running around saying “the sky is falling.  The sky is falling” and finding no one as seemingly concerned as I was (which was my clue that this terror was more from a frightened child inside of me, afraid of the monster under the bed than from any immediate threat to me in Canada).

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy trying to bring those terrorized child parts into the present, saying things like:  “This is 2022.  We’re 65 years old.  Our parents died a long time ago.  Nothing is going to hurt us.  There’s a lock on the door.  No one can come in.  You’re safe.  I can’t say this anymore.

A friend of mine sent me this quote, exactly in the moment I needed it – with the solution embedded with the problem:  “When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other’s hands!”  That’s what the House of Justice is telling us in the current series of letters.  Our focus is on building a society where mothers will no longer allow their sons to go to war.  We aren’t there yet, but we know that day is coming, and we have the tools to get there.

Remembering that the solutions to the world’s current problems give me concrete steps I can take, I can relax, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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

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Love Conquers Fear

Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 58)

When referring to the Báb, he mentioned that “love had cast out fear”.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh  and the New Era, p. 22)

Everywhere in the world, humanity is going through the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In trauma, people typically react through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.  Let’s look at what each of these looks like and how love helps get us through.

Fight:  we attempt to gain control through outbursts of irritation, anger or bitterness

Flight:  we attempt escape through addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, sex, work, food, shopping etc) or suicide

Freeze:  we fall into hopeless, helpless despair leading to depression

Fawn:  we focus our attention on people pleasing, approval seeking and compulsive caretaking

While each of these are understandable, none of them are particularly helpful.  The things that help me are remembering that:

  • This pandemic is part of the disintegration of the old-world order, in order to build up something much better. To the extent that I can focus on applying the blueprint given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, I can turn away from all the things I can’t control.
  • The purpose of my life is to know and worship God. To the extent that I can develop and strengthen this relationship, laying all my affairs in His hands, I can trust what’s happening.
  • The purpose of my life is to also develop the virtues I’ll need in the next world. To the extent that I can focus on applying the virtues that I need in any given day, I can improve the quality of my life.  I find the ones I need the most often are faith and trust in God’s plan; detachment from my own response to lockdowns, stay at home orders, economic hardship, marriage and parenting problems, vaccine shortages and so on; patience with the process; and gratitude that we’re in a pandemic and not a world war, among others.

So let’s turn to love as a solution.  To love ourselves when we’re in fight mode, we can focus on what we can control and take action.  To help others we can get lots of physical exercise to dissipate the anger.

To love ourselves when we’re in flight mode, we can immerse ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings and the Dawnbreakers and biographies of early Bahá’í heros and heroines.  To love others we can make time to nurture friendships and forgive them for not being who we want them to be.

To love ourselves when we’re in freeze mode, we can get out through coming into the present by focusing on the breath, moving our bodies through exercise and/or finding ways to be of service.  To love others we can respond to invitations and get out of the house.

To love ourselves when we’re in fawn mode, we can put self-care first and spend time developing a loving relationship with ourselves. To love others we can recognize how manipulative we are when we take on roles that aren’t ours.

Seeing practical ways to overcome fear through love, 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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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