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Difficulties, Obstacles, Hardships and Adversities

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, Twenty-six Prayers Revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of His passing, number 6)

We went for a long time with the prayers we grew up with in the Faith and have recently been gifted with a steady stream of newly translated prayers, both by Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá.  If you haven’t seen them, you can find them here.

Several years ago, I was told that what had been translated so far was the mystic teachings, proofs, laws and administrative order, and that what was left was mostly encouragement.  I was really in need of encouragement at that time, and impatient to find prayers that related to my life and spoke directly to my mind and heart.  This prayer does just that.

Yes, we’re told to “remember my days” in reference to all of the tests Bahá’u’lláh went through; and yes, we’re told to read the Dawnbreakers as a way to “alleviate stress”, but these Manifestations and martyrs are so far above me that I couldn’t relate to their struggles and tests.  But when `Abdu’l-Bahá talks about perplexing difficulties, unyielding obstacles, hardships and myriad adversities, He’s talking my language, and gets my attention.

Embedded in this prayer is the solution:

  • Remember that God is my Guide and the Remover of every difficulty
  • Believe that there is no helper and succourer save God
  • Believe that God has the might and power to remove all my difficulties
  • Ask God to remove them
  • Trust that He can ease these hardships
  • Trust that He can smooth the way as I walk along this arduous path He’s set before me
  • Commit all my affairs unto His care
  • Trust that He is Wise and that He hears and sees everything I’m going through

It’s one thing to remember and believe; it’s another to ask for help and trust it will be there and yet another to commit all of my affairs to His care, not just my hardships and trouble.

Remembering and believing that God’s got my back and can help me through my tests, 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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For Every Crisis, there’s Always a Victory

Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)

When I was in the deepest despair, remembering traumatic events of my childhood, I came across this quote, which helped to lift me out of my “self”.  I was feeling a lot of “poor me” and “why did this have to happen to me”, and then I had to stop and remember Bahá’u’lláh’s days.

Bahá’u’lláh was born into a wealthy family and was expected to follow his father into an important position in the government of Persia (Iran).  He didn’t want the position or the power.  As a result, His life included a series of imprisonments, and banishments.  At one point He was imprisoned for four months in an underground reservoir for a public bath, with its only outlet a single passage down three steep flights of stone steps. When He was freed from prison, He and His family were banished four times, sometimes on foot over the mountains in the middle of winter without enough food or proper clothing.  He was discredited by His uncle, poisoned by his jealous half-brother and witnessed the death of His son.  He was betrayed by people He trusted, stoned, and isolated from the Believers.  He was the victim of ignorance, injustice, cruelty and fanaticism.  To protect the Faith from the efforts of His half-brother, He even lived as a hermit for 2 years.  But every crisis was followed by victory, and this, I believe, is what is important to remember.

Although my repressed memories included all the positive and neutral memories too, once they came back, I was able to see that, like Bahá’u’lláh, there were times in my life that were peaceful, and activities that weren’t abusive.  From anger I learned to find my voice and take action.  From poverty I was protected from materialism and learned to rely on God.  From estrangement I gained knowledge of myself, and through it, knowledge of God. From being silenced, I was protected from backbiting and gossip.

Knowing I can focus on the victories instead of the negative things that happened to 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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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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The Power of God’s Healing 

Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 261)

During this pandemic, my energy level has gone way down.  Instead of welcoming all the Zoom meetings I’m being invited to, I dread another invitation.  As an extreme introvert, I can’t cope with the volume of emails, phone calls, text messages and invitations being sent to me.  I want to respond to them all, and I can’t.  Not only that, but my bandwidth for participating in my usual meetings has gone way down.  Now instead of 5-6 events in a day, I can only handle 1 or 2.  I’m having to make difficult choices about which ones I will attend, which ones I will limit my time on, and which ones I will have to say no.  This week I found myself having to say no to a devotional gathering over the phone, which has been going on every week with a dear friend, for almost 20 years. I didn’t want to cancel but I knew I couldn’t handle it.  I was trying to talk myself out of it, saying:  “nothing is better than saying prayers and immersing yourself in the Words of the Writings.  It will be good for you.”  Everything inside of me said NO!  I couldn’t do it.

I decided to say the short healing prayer by myself instead.  It’s a prayer I’ve memorized and said many times over the 35 years I’ve been a Bahá’í, and yet several phrases really stood out for me:

  • Thy name is my healing . . . remembrance of Thee is my remedy: Sure, immersing myself in the Writings is healing.  Participation in the core activities is healing.  But so is remembering Him and repeating His Holy Name.  I don’t have to do more than that.
  • Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor: I don’t have to do anything to please God.  If I don’t attend the devotional gathering (or Feast or a Holy Day), I’m not going to lose out on His love.  There’s nothing I have to do to earn His love.  His mercy to me is my healing; not what I think I have to do to deserve it.

Knowing I can relax into God’s mercy and stop judging myself, 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 God – Strengthening Your Relationship with God

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Becoming More Steadfast

I supplicate God that day by day thou mayest become more steadfast, so that like unto an impregnable stronghold thou mayest withstand the surging of the ocean of tests and trials. The people of the world are like unto trees. Those that are rootless are toppled by the slightest breeze, while those that grow deep roots and become strong and firm are not shaken by violent winds, and in time bring forth leaves and blossoms and fruit. (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [22])

What does it mean to be steadfast and how do we know we’re becoming more steadfast?  These are two questions I ask myself when I read this quote.  The dictionary uses the following words to describe steadfastness, which gives me some clues:

  • adherence to something to which one is bound by a pledge or duty
  • attachment, commitment, dedication, devotion, faith, loyalty
  • fondness and affection for
  • determination, resolution, firmness
  • reliability, trustworthiness

So I can use these as benchmarks to assess how steadfast I’m becoming.  When I became a Bahá’í, I agreed to follow the Covenant.  The more committed I became, the more attached I became to “doing the right thing”.  This increased my dedication and devotion and I became more and more loyal as I increased my teaching and service.  As I met more and more Bahá’ís, I developed a real fondness for being around “my people”, but sooner or later my faith was tested.  That was the moment I really needed to lean on my determination, resolution and firmness.  People needed to know I would be reliable and trustworthy, even in moments of severe tests.

The imagery in this quote reminds me of a song written in the late 1990’s by Nancy Ward, a Canadian Bahá’í singer-songwriter called “The Grass Endures”.  In it she shares why she doesn’t want to be an oak tree, which gets upended in a storm.  Instead she wants to be a blade of grass, which bends in a storm and endures.

It also reminds me of a song written by a friend of mine, called “This Love is a Weed”.     In it, he makes a case why it’s better to be a weed than a rose, because the rose blooms and fades, but the weed is hard to kill.

Recognizing the need for steadfastness, I stand taller, 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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How to Love One Another

The purpose of the appearance of the holy Manifestations hath ever been the establishment of fellowship and love in the world of humanity. The friends should therefore lay down their lives in this arena that they may exhilarate the people of the world with the wine of love for one another and may gladden the hearts of the whole human race. (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

Bahá’ís easily accept that Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world.  I don’t know about you, but I often get lost in the Ocean of details in the Writings, forgetting that every aspect leads back to this one principle.  Even when I can wrap my head around it, I frequently forget that to get to unity, I need to manifest fellowship and love, not only among my friends and family, but even more importantly, to those who hurt me and reject the Faith.

It’s easy to get so lost in my own problems and the day-to-day minutia of my “to do” list and need to be productive, that I forget all about the importance of building relationships.  I get scared at the thought of laying down my life in learning how to have fellowship and love for others.  It’s easier when I think about laying down my “to do” list for a minute, and reach out to someone who might need help.  I can be the change I want to see, one kind action at a time.  If each of us does it, surely the whole human race will become gladdened and exhilarated and want what we have.

Remembering that teaching is easier when I take time to build relationships, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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