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Greedy for God’s Approval

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during his pilgrimage to Haifa in 1905; Star of the West, Vol. VI, No.6, p. 43; Compilation: Lights of Guidance)

 

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (Words of Abdu’l-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time; Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, June 24, 1915)

This morning I was reflecting with some friends on how we look to other people for external validation, to earn people’s love and respect or to prove our worth.  A lot of people I know define their self-worth by how many “likes” they get on a social media posting.  Many of us hang out with people who have similar tastes and compatible opinions in order to have fulfilling relationships and feel loved by friends and family.  We tend to avoid or rebuff criticism or unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning.   I’m coming to appreciate that creating this false face and trying to please everyone else before myself not only stunts real intimacy, but it makes me an invisible chameleon and drains me of my energy.

Changing my behavior isn’t easy, when I am immersed in a sea of gossip and am greedy for the approval of others.  I know how to get that drug that never satisfies.  I understand all this, but what I don’t understand is how I can get even more greedy for God’s approval and what would it look like if I found it?  How would I recognize it when it comes?

I don’t hear Bahá’ís talk about this much, so I’m baffled about what to look for, so that I can move from my lower nature (looking for the approval of others) to my higher nature (looking for God’s approval).  I took a poll and some people mentioned feeling the quiet satisfaction of a job well done; or having a feeling of peace and serenity at the end of a day; or feeling grounded and in the flow; or being grateful for fresh insights that could only come from God.  Any other ideas?

Finding ways to recognize and become greedy for God’s approval, 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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The More Difficulties We Have, The More Perfect We Become 

You are encouraged to continue to keep in mind the spiritual dimension of your struggles. We are assured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words:  “The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire, the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the more greater his knowledge becomes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties . . . Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.”  (Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in a letter to an individual, 23 October 1994, published on-line as Childhood Abuse, Ritual)

Whenever I fall into that “why me, God?” whine, I love to be reminded of this quote, with all its practical answers to this question.

Let’s look at each of these concepts from nature one at a time:

  • the more difficulties we see, the more perfect we become
  • the more we plow and dig the ground, the more fertile it becomes
  • the more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow
  • the more we cut the branches of a tree, the higher and stronger it grows
  • the more we put the gold in the fire, the purer it becomes
  • the more we sharpen the steel by grinding, the better it cuts
  • the more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing, the greater his knowledge becomes

None of these things are easy.  It’s hard work to plow and dig the ground (and the ground or the tree doesn’t feel good about it either).  The heat of the fire or the grinding of the steel is excruciatingly painful.  Spiritual growth is like that, as we learn to turn our ships and our vision from the lower nature to the higher.  If we can accept the above examples to be true, doesn’t it also make sense that the more sorrows we have, the more perfect we become?

I love the last two sentences and can imagine ‘Abdu’l-Baha saying them with a twinkle in his eye:  “I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties . . . Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.”  This helps me withstand the onslaught of tests, difficulties, frustrations and sorrows.

Knowing there’s a purpose to it all, 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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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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

Perfecting Our Life and Character

Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect” and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

The current pandemic has activated my “compare and despair” as I look around to see what I’m doing to self-isolate and judging those individuals and businesses who are not.  This morning I realized that my lifestyle lends itself easily to isolation but for others, the situation is a lot more complex.  Not everyone is able to work from home; not everyone has the luxury of a guaranteed income; not everyone is used to doing grocery shopping once a month or every 6 weeks; not everyone is used to spending large amounts of time alone; not everyone has a spiritual core to draw on.  In so many ways, I’m luckier than many of my family and friends.  I want to focus on being grateful for what I have and compassionate and forgiving of those with less.

COVID-19 is calling on all of us to let go of the need to be perfect; to let go of expectations of ourselves and others; to see the good in others and reflect it back.  As the House of Justice says in the Naw Ruz letter, it’s our job to:

  • Rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows
  • Obliterate the gloom of fear and consternation
  • Let the light of assurance dawn above the horizon and shine resplendently
  • Bring hope and strength of spirit
  • Nurture the attributes of unity and fellow feeling
  • Nurture knowledge and understanding
  • Nurture a spirit of collective worship and common endeavor
  • Strengthen bonds of friendship
  • Foster tranquility, confidence and reliance on God
  • Provide elevated conversations to bring a source of comfort and inspiration to many
  • Focus our prayers on the health and well-being of all the Friends of God and for the relief of suffering

Knowing what’s expected of me during 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

Cleansing our Hearts of Estrangement and Conflict

Root out the sources of dissension and raise up the foundations of harmony. Cling tenaciously to the hem of the love of God and cleanse your hearts of any trace of estrangement or conflict. Thus may the light of divine bestowal shine resplendent, and ye become the recipients of the effulgent glory of the Sun of Truth. (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])

The other day I learned that someone in our community had decided not to have any more contact with the Bahá’í community.  I shouldn’t have been surprised because we haven’t seen her out to anything in many years, but the comment took me by surprise and I took offense.  Not only that, I began to blame myself, wondering what I might have done to cause this reaction.  Suddenly her estrangement became my own.  Now instead of one person upset, the numbers had doubled.  I may not have caused her initial problem, but I was certainly now the source of dissension.

I find it interesting to learn the wisdom in letting go of the inner conflict and desire for estrangement.  It’s so I can receive divine bestowals and become the recipient of God’s glory.  To receive these gifts, I don’t have to do anything to change my attitude towards her.  I don’t have to detach from my righteous indignation and hurt.  All I have to do, is cling tenaciously to the hem of the love of God.  I can do that!

Knowing the many benefits of clinging to God’s love, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

 

The Strongest Spiritual Test We Can Meet

Yet who can doubt that all the central Figures demonstrated to the whole of mankind an assured and happy way of life? Here is where their example seems particularly precious. To rise above the disappointments, obstacles, and pain which we experience in serving the Cause is difficult enough, but to be called on, in doing so, to be happy and confident is perhaps the keenest spiritual test any of us can meet. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

O dear!  I don’t like that not only do I have to find a way to rise above disappointments, obstacles and pain, but I also have to be happy and confident too?  Sometimes I really think God asks too much of me!  That’s how I feel today, in the middle of feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, believing I was acting on a prompting from spirit, I tried to tackle a 2-person job all by myself.  I failed miserably and made the problem worse, and sunk into hopelessness, despair and self-pity as a result.  Fortunately, I don’t indulge in those emotions as often as I used to, because I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, as this quote seems to imply.  I identified the feeling, got up and walked for 10 minutes, praying for my neighbors as I walked and came back feeling ready to tackle the next meeting, grateful to have had the opportunity to be of service to someone.

Learning how to behave from the central figures of our Faith, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

Help Keep This Site Alive