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The Importance of Conquering Myself

 

I want to say a few words now about the Guardianship.  “And when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ passed away, the whole world became dark for him (Shoghi Effendi). All light had gone out. And when he came to the Holy Land, he had in mind, from the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ had said to him, and I am telling you what he said, that ‘I had in mind that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ would give me the honor of calling the great conclave together which would elect the Universal House of Justice. And I thought in His Will and Testament that that was probably what He was instructing be done.’   ” ‘But,’ he said, ‘instead of that, I found that I was appointed the Guardian of the Cause of God.’ He said, ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian of the Cause. In the first place, I didn’t think I was worthy. Next place, I didn’t want to face these responsibilities.’ ” ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian. I knew what it meant. I knew that my life as a human being was over. I didn’t want it, and I didn’t want to face it. So as you’ll remember, I left the Holy Land. And I went up into the mountains of Switzerland, and I fought with myself until I conquered myself. Then I came back and I turned myself over to God, and I was the Guardian.’ ” ‘Now,’ he said, ‘Every Bahá’í in the world, every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing. Whether you’re a Hand of the Cause, whether you’re a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, whether you’re a member of a national Assembly, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a pioneer, whether you’re an administrator, regardless of what you are, with anything in the Cause, every Bahá’í must fight with himself and conquer himself. And when he has conquered himself, then he becomes a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God. And not until then! This is what every Bahá’í in the world should know.’  (A Talk by Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas Transcribed from a recording made in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 31, 1958)

This is one of my favorite stories and the part that has always resonates with me is “I fought with myself until I conquered myself” and “every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing”.

I’m sure I first heard this when I was a new Bahá’í, and God knows, I tried!  But here I am, 40 years later, with a much deeper appreciation of what exactly that means.  The older I get, the more I understand myself and my motives, and the better I see the veils between me and God; the more I have to “fight with myself till I conquer myself”.  As I set the bar higher and even higher with every Writing I read; and every letter from the House of Justice I strive to understand; and every Ruhi book I tutor, I often collapse under the weight of so mighty an effort.

Recently I watched the new movie the House of Justice commissioned on the occasion of the Centenary of the passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá (Glimpses of a Hundred Years of Endeavor),  and what stood out for me was that all the progress of the Faith stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and as we die, the progress of the Faith will stand on our shoulders.

I get inspired by stories of the early believers, and long for my service to match theirs, but I’m not them.  As important as they were in their day, they alone were not responsible for establishing the Most Great Peace, nor am I.  I just need to keep conquering myself, one day, one decision at a time.

Knowing that the more I struggle to conquer myself, the more I become a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

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The Definition of Heroism

These, indeed, are the days when heroism is needed on the part of the believers. Self sacrifice, courage, indomitable hope and confidence are the characteristics they should show forth, because these very attributes cannot but fix the attention of the public and lead them to enquire what, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered, leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion? (From a letter dated 26 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 17)

When Shoghi Effendi wrote these words in 1941, the world was in a very different place.  When I think of heroism, I often think of the soldiers fighting in World Wars 1 and 2, or the firefighters who rushed to save people on 9/11.  So  many acts of bravery and heroism that came out of those times.

In this wonderful age, we’ve been given a new definition of heroism.  Today’s heroes are the community builders, who sacrifice their time, money, and sometimes even their educations and careers to focus on engaging the wider community and winning the goals of the plans.

I’ve learned just how much courage is needed for me to step outside my comfort zone to invite people to participate in the core activities.  I have faith, hope and confidence in the plans set before us by our beloved Universal House of Justice, and somedays I can even reach between the veil of now and the future, and see people engaged in all the core activities in every street of my neighborhood.  I long to find the stamina needed to help these community building initiatives keep going, sometimes in the face of the world’s indifference and contention.

I’m thrilled to see in learning sites all over the world, Baha’is and non-Baha’is are working together for the betterment of their communities, and to witness first hand how these activities act as magnets, drawing the confirmations promised by the Central Figures.  In communities such as these, we see first hand how the general public are wondering what leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered and long to join in.

Knowing what it takes for me to be a hero in today’s world, and seeing heroes all over the world, I am grateful!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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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

 

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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