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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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One Person Can’t Do Everything

A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing.  (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)

I live in a tiny cluster, maybe 25 Baha’is on paper, mostly inactive.  It used to be a very active cluster when we all had kids at home, but they grew up and most of them left the Faith.  Those left behind couldn’t deal with the change in the direction the teaching work took, once we formalized clusters and started the community building process.

I was one of the first group of tutors in Canada to be trained and stayed current with the letters of the House of Justice and tried valiantly to bring the rest of the community along.  When they wouldn’t, I started taking on jobs that weren’t mine to do and burned out.

I too, have become mostly inactive, but definitely not apathetic.  I still say my prayers, read the Writings, Fast, donate to the Fund, take care of my obligations to the Right of God – all the basics.  I just don’t have the bandwidth to participate in study circles or devotional gatherings anymore.  I want to say “as a result”, our cluster is not even at milestone one, but I realize it’s not my fault.  I can’t make it happen all by myself.  That’s why I love this quote so much.

It reminds me I can’t do everything.  I tried!  In order to get to milestone one, we need a diversity of actions, with different individuals concentrating on different activities.  Until we have this, no real progress can be made.  Please God, hasten the day!

Knowing that one person can’t do everything, I can relax, trust that God loves me 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Creating a Warm Community Atmosphere

Unless and until the believers really come to realize they are one spiritual family, knit together by a bond more lasting than mere physical ties can ever be, they will not be able to create that warm community atmosphere which alone can attract the hearts of humanity, frozen for lack of real love and feeling.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 439)

A friend of mine passed away this week.  We knew it was coming, but because of COVID, my biggest fear was that she would die alone, with people unable to be with her.  I had to give this one over to God, and He came through, big time.  She went into palliative care in her local hospital on Friday, after being able to live alone up till then, and died on Sunday.  Because she lives in a small town, and all the COVID cases were sent to a large centre, she was allowed to have visitors.  We were all notified when her breathing changed early in the morning and 5 of her closest Bahá’í friends were at her bedside for several hours before she passed.  I live 6 hours away and am her executor, so I too was notified as were her friends around the world, all of us praying for her steadfastness till the end of her life and for the advancement of her soul in the next world.  In case you haven’t seen it, here is a newly translated prayer many of us were saying (in addition to a whole lot of others):

He is God! O Lord! Grant me such grace and bounty, such protection and support, such kindness and security that the last of my days may excel their beginning, and the end of my life commence the bestowal of manifold favours. May some gift or blessing of Thine reach me at every moment, and one of Thy pardons and mercies be granted me with every breath, that beneath the vast shade cast by the hoisted standard, I may return to that Kingdom which is worthy of praise. Thou art the Beneficent, the Kind, and Thou art the Lord of grace and bounty.  (Provisional Translation. A prayer for a favorable end to one’s life (extracted from a Tablet of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá written for Áqá Mírzá Áqáy-i-Afnán)

Her non-Bahá’í cousins and neighbors were all watching this unfold and saw first hand that we were able to “create that warm community atmosphere”.  Please God, let this attract the hearts of everyone watching and let them be impressed by this outpouring evidence of “real love and feeling”.  What better legacy could she leave than that?

Knowing that there are times we get this right, 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

 

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How to Deal with Internet Trolls

In discussions look toward the reality without being self-opinionated.  Let no one assert and insist upon his own mere opinion; nay, rather, let each investigate the reality with the greatest love and fellowship. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 177, #581)

Has COVID polarized people’s opinions and increased the number of “trolls” on social media or am I just noticing them now?  Perhaps I’m naïve but when I read people’s comments on Facebook (my first mistake), I believe that they are sharing their opinions, and I can accept them as such, even when they are diametrically opposed to mine.  Recently however, I’ve learned that some people (referred to as trolls):  post things to disrupt or to gain attention; confine their comments to primitive, profane, off-topic observations; spout gibberish in the hopes that they’ll either bore or confuse those with whom they disagree and/or seek refuge in condescending remarks that scorn their critics while continuing to respond to them and put them down.  I’m absolutely baffled by this behavior!  Apparently they do it for their own amusement, or to push a specific agenda.

As Baha’is, we now know that our job in any discussion is to:

  • look toward the reality without being self-opinionated
  • don’t assert and insist upon your own opinion
  • investigate reality with the greatest love and fellowship

As we’re learning to do these things, we must also train the people around us.  We can do this by not replying or attempting to engage in debate with those not willing to behave this way, even on (or especially on) Baha’i forums. By ignoring a troll completely, they will likely become frustrated and go somewhere else.  Understanding that not everyone is genuinely trying to find truth in sharing their opinions; and knowing I don’t have to convince them of anything and just leave them to God, lowers my anxiety.

Knowing that my job is to investigate reality with the greatest love and fellowship 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 Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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Consultation Needs Several Voices

Now Available on Amazon!

The purpose of consultation is to show that the views of several individuals are assuredly preferable to one man, even as the power of a number of men is of course greater than the power of one man.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 176, #580)

Being both single and self-employed, I’m used to making decisions alone.  Even when I could consult with others, I’ve always thought it was easier and faster to do it myself.  When I became a Bahá’í and saw the importance of consultation I had to change my views.  I’ve come to appreciate that when a diverse group of people who understand and respect each other’s differences and contributions consult together, more can be accomplished much more efficiently.  It’s not always easy to recognize the important contribution towards the performance of the team that different members bring to the table and it’s not even easy to see the contribution I bring, when I’m used to doing everything myself.

The nine kinds of people who work best together on a team are people who:

  1. come up with ideas I might not have thought of
  2. assess the risks
  3. focus on details and logistics
  4. come up with all the reasons something won’t work
  5. are skilled in listening between the lines and hearing what isn’t being said
  6. provide motivation and encouragement
  7. are willing to do the work
  8. support and step into any gaps that might arise
  9. won’t give up when the going gets tough

When I look at this list, it’s easy to see my strengths and weaknesses, and relax into the idea that I don’t have to do everything myself, 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 newly published book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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Drawing on Each Other’s Love

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith. (From a letter dated 8 May 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 19)

I love this quote and was happy to read it today because it reminds me of the importance of developing deep friendships with other Bahá’ís, that goes well beyond our joint service to the Cause.  Growing up I learned how to silence myself and distance myself from others so I wouldn’t “tell the family secret” by mistake.  I know how to be a really great listener and how to help people hear their own truth.  I’m an expert at deflecting attention away from myself to keep other people talking about their own lives.  I didn’t even know how hurtful this was both to myself and others until recently.  It’s hurtful to myself because when I was finally wanting to open up and get some support from others, they could’t hear me because I’d broken the unwritten contract that says all communication was about them.  It was hurtful to others, because they made me their god and didn’t allow them to develop their virtues of compassion, love, strength and consolation.

When I first became a Baha’i, I was hungry for this kind of friendship described in the quote, but there didn’t seem to be a time or place.  Feasts and Holy Days had their prescribed agendas and then we went home.  I had to go outside to find love and strength and harmony, often from paid therapists.  I loved when the House of Justice started encouraging us to study prayers together and make home visits, because these activities opened up a space for real heart-to-heart conversations.  I’m so happy that the community building process is all about building relationships and creating the kinds of communities where we will be able to turn to each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need, more and more often, and where children and junior youth will learn how to do this and feel the benefits of it, from a very early age.

Learning how to give and receive love in concrete ways, 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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