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Personal Ambitions Don’t Bring Happiness

The fulfillment of our personal ambitions in life is very seldom what brings us happiness. On the contrary, it usually arouses an entire group of new ambitions. On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in our duties both as human beings, to our families and our associates, and as Bahá’ís toward the Cause of God and serving it to the best of our ability in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we begin to know what happiness means. (Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 23 May 1956 in Family Life, #108)

As a recovering work, service and activity addict, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.  I was into my 60’s before I could see that my ambitions weren’t bringing me happiness.  Keeping busy filled a lot of time and helped me feel productive.  Work, service and activities kept the grief of the past from overwhelming the present and it also drove people away because I didn’t make time for relationship-building.

When I was turning 60, I did some research about what to expect from the next decade, expecting to find a lot of information on planning for retirement, but instead what I found were a lot of articles talking about the importance of relationships and health.  According to some research, if we don’t have nurturing relationships by this time in our lives, we are more likely suffer more complex health challenges and to die earlier.  The more I studied addiction, the more this made sense.  Current thinking is that addiction isn’t caused by the thing we’re addicted to – it’s caused by lack of relationships and using other substances and activities to fill the holes in our souls.

So I was happy to find this quote in my reading today, because it reminded me that instead of focusing on achieving my own ambitions to the exclusion of all else, there were other things I could do to have more balance and moderation in my life:

  • immerse myself in my duties towards myself (including self-care)
  • immerse myself in my duties towards my family and friends (including more contact, more love, more forgiveness)
  • immerse myself in my duties as a Bahá’í toward the Cause of God (including more prayer and meditation; and striving to put the Teachings into action)
  • serving the Cause of God to the best of my ability in the circumstances in which I find myself (including reading my reality and aligning my service to the will of God instead of forcing myself into activity meant for someone else)

Being reminded of where true happiness lies, I can focus my attention away from my own ambitions 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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Re-Engaging Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week I had an email from a reader in Pakistan, asking me to reflect on these four subjects:

1)  What have we learned from the COVID-19 ??

2)  Our youths are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media (cell phone) during the whole night. Any specific topic or mini-compilation will be a great help as our Baha’i activities are suffering much due to this bad pattern of sleeping.

3)  Any article or mini compilations on meaningful ways of using social media.

4)  A compilation on media is a need of the hour.

Our children and few other Baha’i youths are doing active online courses (such as Transformative Leadership for Youth, The Baha’i Faith and the Arts, etc) with the Wilmette Institute in the USA.

I replied:

You ask some very important questions, and my heart goes out to you and to the youth of Pakistan.

Unfortunately I haven’t had any experience working with youth so I’m not the best person to ask.  Also, after reading their reality, each community needs to have a tailor-made program which will work for their population.  There are vast differences around the world, and within a country, from cluster to cluster.  So anything I could contribute would be from my perspective as someone living in an inactive cluster in rural Canada and not necessarily relevant to your corner of Pakistan.

Some thoughts did come to my mind after praying about how to help.

  1. I strongly believe that this is an issue of vital importance to the NSA, Baha’i Council, Auxiliary Board and Institute Board. Have you consulted with these institutions?
  1. These are topics which could be discussed with the animators, who could then introduce them into the junior youth empowerment program.
  1. If your Bahá’í youth are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media the whole night, their peers are probably doing the same. The problem may not be their sleeping pattern, but capitalizing on it to reach out to engage their cohorts in:
    • Meaningful conversations
    • Animator Training
    • Youth Conferences
    • Service to their Communities
    • Teaching Children’s Classes
    • Holding Devotional Gatherings
    • Completing the Sequence of Ruhi Classes
  1. Many ideas and suggestions can be found in the current guidance of the House of Justice, particularly the following letters.

Since then, there have been messages to Canada and the USA on the topic of healing racism.  There may have also been similar letters to your part of the world.

Perhaps a youth gathering could be organized on a platform such as Zoom, where youth and/or youth animators can gather together to study these messages and make plans.

  1. Perhaps youth could be encouraged to attend Bahá’í Summer Schools. If none have been organized in Pakistan, this is a good year to participate anywhere in the world they may want to go.   Perhaps a team of youth could research the dates, topics and registration details for summer schools around the world and encourage the youth to participate.
  1. Here are some articles discussing what Bahá’ís around the world are learning from the pandemic:

· Pilgrimage Travel Advisory Coronavirus (COVID-19):  https://pilgrimage.bwc.org/traveladvisory/

· Baha’i Education Efforts Move Online in a Hurry:  https://www.bahai.us/bahai-education-efforts-move-online-in-a-hurry/

· Spiritual Conversation: Spiritual Resilience in the Time of COVID-19:  https://www.bahaiblog.net/2020/06/spiritual-conversation-resilience-in-the-time-of-covid-19-video/

· From Baha’i to Zoroastrians, Jews to Jains: Keeping the Faith Amid COVID-19:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/covid19-singapore-religious-faith-ramadan-12764482

·  Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – COVID-19 Special with Dr. Robert Kim-Farley:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBqHbFTb0Vo

· Hope and Support in Italy During a Global Health Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1401/

· Reflections on the Coronavirus and the Oneness of Humanity:  https://bahaiteachings.org/reflections-on-coronavirus-and-oneness-humanity/

· Rising to the Occasion in a Global Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1404/

·  Covid-19 and the Digital Era – Esther Kaufman:  http://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/06/15/covid-19-and-the-digital-era-esther-kaufman/

· Why are Blacks Dying at Higher Rates from COVID-19?  https://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/07/20/why-are-blacks-dying-at-higher-rates-from-covid-19-professor-rashawn-ray/

· Keeping Baha’i Prisoners, Iran Threatens the Entire Country’s Health:  https://religionnews.com/2020/04/16/keeping-bahai-prisoners-iran-threatens-the-entire-countrys-health/

· Heroes of the COVID-19 Era:  https://blogs.adobe.com/adobelife/2020/06/23/heroes-of-the-covid-19-era/

  1. Perhaps the following articles would spark some ideas of activities the youth could do. (I apologize for the Western focus but it was what I could find in my Google search.   You might do better from your part of the world.  The search terms I used were “Bahá’í Youth Covid”):
    • Elevate(a platform of resources that support a growing movement to develop spiritual consciousness and the capacity to serve society):  https://www.elevateworld.org/
  1. Perhaps youth animators could use some of these articles to find ideas to stimulate discussions in their junior youth programs:

· 10 Ways Young People are Leading the Way Against COVID-19:  https://womendeliver.org/2020/10-ways-young-people-are-leading-the-way-against-covid-19/

· Is COVID-19 Social Media’s Levelling Up Moment?  https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholmes/2020/04/24/is-covid-19-social-medias-levelling-up-moment/#29d55ba6c606

· Is the Media Creating Division on COVID-19 Health Practices?  https://news.gallup.com/poll/312749/media-creating-division-covid-health-practices.aspx

· Using More Social Media During COVID-19? You’re Not Alone. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/using-more-social-media-during-covid-19-youre-alone-ryan-holmes/

My most fervent hope for humanity during this pandemic, is that all mankind recognize the oneness of humanity; that this pandemic shows us our oneness and that we finally treat one another at home and around the world, as one.  This picture, taken during the early days, gave me great hope:

What jumped out for you as you read today’s article?

If you liked this article, you might also like my books, now available on Amazon.

What other ideas would you suggest to this reader?  Post your comments below.

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Service May Look Different if You’re an Introvert

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)

Recently I’ve come to accept myself as I am, not as I thought I wanted to be.  For example, for most of my Bahá’í life, I’ve immersed myself in the Writings and in the letters of the House of Justice and tried valiantly to align myself with what I understood the guidance to mean.  I drove myself to the point of exhaustion and burn out, trying to put every injunction into effect, truly believing that if I didn’t do everything being asked of all of us, I would personally be responsible to God for delaying the advent of the Most Great Peace.  Truly.  I believed this!

Then someone reminded me that humanity (including me) has been invited to the banquet table of the Lord.  All the Writings put together can be seen as a giant potluck meal and all I have to do is take what I can eat.  If I put more than that on my plate, it will be wasted and do me no good.  As an extreme introvert, I’m more comfortable writing than speaking; I prefer the solitude of a small circle of people, preferably one-on-one because social engagements leave me feeling exhausted and drained.  Much though I want to participate in the core activities, I feel best when doing activities that can be performed alone, and that’s OK.  There’s room in this Faith for all of us, doing the best we can, serving in ways that are aligned with the will of God and not done to please others.

Knowing that God loves me and appreciates every effort I make in service, I can stop judging myself so harshly, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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True Service 

Let each one of you become the servant of the other; let each sacrifice himself for the sake of the other. (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])

I’m absolutely amazed at how creative people around the world have been since the start of the pandemic.  People self-isolating are finding ways to use technology to stay in touch, have children’s classes, and junior youth programs, study circles and devotional gatherings.  Because they are online, they can embrace larger numbers of people.  Parents at home are more receptive to encouraging their children and youth to participate or even to get involved with the community building process themselves.  People are reaching out to friends, neighbors and acquaintances more often, especially those in places where the numbers of people infected with the COVID-19 virus are high.

This week, my landlord (who owns many apartment buildings across a large geographic area, called to see if I was OK and to determine if there was anything I needed.  One of my neighbors dropped off some home-made muffins and this morning, my 80-year old neighbor called to say she was going grocery shopping and asked if I needed anything.  People all over the world are becoming servants to one another, and sacrificing themselves for their neighbors.  Never before in the history of mankind, has everyone in the whole world agreed to take a certain course of action, for the betterment of the world.  This will have long term implications and bring us a lot closer to the longed-for Most Great Peace.

Knowing the world has taken a giant step forward, 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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A New Way of Looking at Service

Every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Bahá’u’lláh:  the love and respect one has for one’s parents, the pursuit of one’s education, the nurturing of good health, the acquiring of a trade or profession, one’s behaviour towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard, one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community . . . and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (Universal House of Justice, to the European Baha’i youth Council, 7 December 1992)

Where has this quote been all my Baha’i life?  I realized when reading it, how narrow was my understanding of service.  I used to think that service was just participating in the core activities and raising up the community building process within our clusters.  I can see how I would get that impression because study of the Ruhi curriculum teaches us that this is what means to walk a path of service, and when the Statistics Officer contacts me to see what I’ve been doing, these are the only things they want to track.  Living in an inactive cluster and being an introvert, happier teaching and serving in an online environment, I have beaten myself up mercilessly for not being a good Baha’i, because I’m not currently serving in my cluster the way I think I “should”.  So I was very grateful to find this quote today!

I relate better to bullet points, which I can use as a checklist, so let’s take these one at a time:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behaviour towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community
  11. reading the Writings
  12. saying the Obligatory Prayer

Were any of these a surprise to you?  I was certainly surprised that they are all aspects of service.  I was happy to see that nurturing good health is also part of service, because of course, we can’t serve when we aren’t healthy.  I love belonging to such a compassionate religion and am grateful for the House of Justice elaborating on this issue!

Knowing that service is much broader than just “walking a path”, I can relax and 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

 

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A New (to me) Definition of Service

At the same time we must be sensitive to the fact that Bahá’í artists may sometimes feel outside the mainstream of community life because they are unsure as to what form their service might take. They may feel their contributions are not valued if service to the Faith tends to be equated only with serving on committees or Assemblies.   (letter from the International Teaching Centre addressed to the Continental Counsellors, date unknown)

Most of my service to the Faith is done online, through this blog and my books, and through interactions with my readers and not at the level of my (inactive, pre-milestone one cluster).  It’s easy for me to beat myself up for not serving in the “right” way, especially when the statistics officer calls and wants to know which core activities are happening.  This quote really brought comfort to my heart, hearing this from an Institution of the Faith, even if it’s not “authoritative”, I can’t find the date and I can’t find it online.

Then I came across this “new” definition of service, which I’d never seen before, and which takes all the pressure off my concerns about not serving at the cluster level.  Here’s the quote:

…every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Baha’u’llah: the love and respect one has for one’s parents; the pursuit of one’s education; the nurturing of good health; the acquiring of a trade or profession; one’s behavior towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard; one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community, whether this be in such simple matters as attending the Nineteen Day Feast or the observance of Baha’i Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith; and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (The Universal House of Justice, December 7, 1992, European Baha’i Youth Council)

Here are the 12 elements of service embedded in this quote:

Service to Bahá’u’lláh includes:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behavior towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community (attending the Nineteen Day Feasts or Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith)
  11. to take time each day to read the Writings
  12. to take time each day to say the Obligatory Prayer

Knowing I can relax and stop feeling guilty for not more actively participating in the community building process, particularly at the cluster level, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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