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Adjusting our Motives 

First and foremost, one should use every possible means to purge one’s heart and motives, otherwise, engaging in any form of enterprise would be futile. It is also essential to abstain from hypocrisy and blind imitation, inasmuch as their foul odour is soon detected by every man of understanding and wisdom.  (From a letter dated 19 December 1923 to the Bahá’ís of the East—translated from the Persian, in Living the Life: Excerpts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi, Third Edition (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1997), p. 2, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [5])

For so many years, I turned myself into a pretzel, trying to be whoever “you” wanted me to be, so that I could get the love and respect I didn’t get as a child.  I didn’t even know I was doing it.  I looked at other people who were successful and I copied what they were doing, and mostly I did it so well that I fit in and felt as if I belonged.  Sometimes I felt like a fraud, but mostly I believed I was on the right track.  Then I found this quote, and in studying it, several things came to my mind:

  • When I looked at my motives, I could see that I was trying to manipulate others into liking my falsely created self.
  • The hypocrisy was that when I was in “blind imitation” of other people, I wasn’t being the Susan that God created.

But having this awareness, didn’t stop the behavior, because who was I if I wasn’t the person I thought I was?  It’s taken several years in 12 step recovery to let go of this false self, strengthen my relationship with God, and learn to take my direction from him.  This process is taking me further away from who I wanted to be, and I’m not sure where I’m going, but I trust God with the process.

One day at a time, I’m reclaiming my nobility 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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False News

One of the unfortunate features of the present age is the difficulty of attaining truth, which seems to be an inherent characteristic of the process of disintegration that is assailing humanity in its transition to a new order. “In these days truthfulness and sincerity are sorely afflicted in the clutches of falsehood,” Bahá’u’lláh lamented, “and justice is tormented by the scourge of injustice.” Of course, there are a number of Bahá’í teachings that directly bear on this dilemma. To the extent to which the friends imbibe and hold fast to these teachings, they can guard themselves and their communities from the tumult buffeting society and contribute to its protection and transformation.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 11 February 2021)

How do we find truth quickly online in this day and age?  Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation and fake news shared on the web and on social media these days and it’s sometimes hard to know the truth without a lot of fact-checking and digging.  Some fake news websites are structured to make visitors believe they are visiting trusted news sources.  Facebook alone has over 2 billion users (over a quarter of the world’s population), making it hard to police.  Anyone trying to sway people to their own point of view finds an eager, ready, and waiting audience online.  Sadly, the fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are only a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of tabloid journalism as well as shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting.

I was happy to see the House of Justice direct this issue head on recently, as we see in the quote above.  It came as somewhat of a relief to be reminded that finding truth seems to be an inherent characteristic of the process of disintegration that is assailing humanity in its transition to a new order.  I should have figured this out on my own, but I didn’t and this helped.

Although we may think that fake news is a new phenomenon, the House points us to a passage where Bahá’u’lláh lamented in the 1800’s: “In these days truthfulness and sincerity are sorely afflicted in the clutches of falsehood, and justice is tormented by the scourge of injustice.”  Surely we see evidence of this in the persecution of the early believers up to this day.

The House of Justice reminds us that there are a number of Bahá’í teachings that directly bear on this dilemma.  This begs the question, which teachings specifically are they thinking of?   Perhaps studying quotes on truth, truthfulness, independent investigation, and lying would be good places to start.  Why, because we’re told in this quote that the extent to which we imbibe and hold fast to these teachings, we can guard ourselves and our communities from the tumult buffeting society and contribute to its protection and transformation.

Knowing where to focus my morning and evening study of the Bahá’í Writings for the tools to contribute to the protection and transformation of our communities, 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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A New Prayer for Parents

O Divine Providence!  Immerse the father and mother of this servant of Thy Threshold in the ocean of Thy forgiveness, and purge and sanctify them from every sin and transgression.  Grant them Thy forgiveness and mercy, and bestow upon them Thy gracious pardon.  Thou, verily, art the Pardoner, the Ever-Forgiving, the Bestower of abundant grace.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Twenty-six Prayers Revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of His passing, number 13)

When I was first looking at the effects of my childhood trauma, I knew I had to forgive but I wasn’t ready yet.  The best I could do was to ask God to forgive them for me.  Because the Bab had told us that “It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents” and that “Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!”  (The Báb, Lights of Guidance, p. 230).  Recognizing that praying for my parents was in my best interest, I was highly motivated to memorize the prayer for parents and say it frequently, though I’m still not remembering to to it after every prayer!

When I was looking at the newly released prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, I was happy to see a new prayer for parents and wanted to compare the two.

In the earlier prayer we’re really just asking God to “submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace”, but in the new prayer we’re asking so much more:

  • immerse them . . . in the ocean of Thy forgiveness
  • purge and sanctify them from every sin and transgression
  • grant them Thy forgiveness and mercy
  • bestow upon them Thy gracious pardon

For this abuse survivor, this asks so much more from God, specific to what I would want for them and for myself.  I think I’ll memorize this one too.

Knowing how to ask God to forgive them and 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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One Soul Can Illuminate a Continent

Human frailties and peculiarities can be a great test. But the only way, or perhaps I should say the first and best way, to remedy such situations, is to oneself do what is right. One soul can be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent. (From a letter dated 30 September 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 39)

The thing that’s always stood out for me when I read this quote is “one soul can be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent”, and o how I long to be that soul!  How I long for my life to matter and to make a real difference in this world.  I used to think this required big things (like bringing large numbers of people into the Faith or finding a cure for cancer), but I’ve since come to believe that when I’m given my life review at the pearly gates, the highlight of my life might have been that I smiled at the right person at the right time.  None of us know.

I’ve been a homefront pioneer in one place or another, for most of my Baha’i life, and whenever I am overcome by my human frailties it really helps when people remind me that I’m a bright light in a dark place, if nothing else.  But what does it mean to “do what is right” and how can this be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent”?  My hunch is that just by integrating the Baha’i Writings to the best of our ability, we all have a far greater impact on way more people than we realize, and maybe that’s a good thing because it keeps us humble.

When one person influences a few others, there is a ripple effect that, over time, can actually impact thousands of people over many generations.  I’m reminded of the “butterfly effect”, where a simple event can cause a cascade of other events, even on the other side of the globe.  Or the the “hundredth monkey effect” where there is a spontaneous transference of knowledge throughout a species once a certain number of individuals has learned a new idea.  Both of these have been proven scientifically.

Think of ten people who, just by saying or doing one thing at the right time, have had a profound impact on your life. Some of them may be people you hardly even know.  The same thing works in reverse. We have no idea how many people we can influence and help just by sharing our experiences and insights.  Simply talking to our neighbors can start a chain reaction.

The House of Justice is continually giving us guidance on what we can do to make a difference – it can be as simple as doing a home visit, or elevating the level of discourse around us, encouraging the people around us to stay focused on the long-term goal and by being the one person they can turn to for hope.

Knowing I can make a difference in spite of my frailties and peculiarities, 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 Relationship Between Sin and Physical Ailments

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, #134, p. 152)

Once diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I did everything in my power to find a solution – from medication to alternative health therapies, to many years of talk therapy and everything in between.  As a Bahá’í I found many answers in the Writings which brought comfort to my mind, but nothing got me free from the effects of anxiety and depression till I met Henry Wright, a Christian minister who specializes in the spiritual roots behind disease.  Henry teaches, and I’ve come to believe, that 80% of all disease, including depression, has a spiritual root.  I’m only just learning how the veils we put up between us and God lead to disease in the body.  This was a huge wake-up revelation for me!  ‘Abdul-Bahá describes it so well in today’s quote.

I used to think that “sins” referred to the “big” ones (murder, sex outside marriage), but now I’ve come to understand sin as anything that God (through the Baha’i Writings) tells me to do, which I’m not doing.

By deepening my understanding of these teachings, I’ve come to realize that when I call my disease “anxiety and depression”, I fall into the medical model, and stay trapped in the prison of self.  When I call it “fear and self-pity” instead, it became a sin (or veil between me and God), and there were things I could find in the Writings to do to remove the veil.  This concept changed my life for the better, and when I applied his teachings, I became free and eager to pass along what I learned to others.

Knowing that when I fall into fear and self-pity, I’m not trusting God and His Teachings, and this veil is the cause of my disease, and believing there are solutions I can use, 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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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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