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We All See Reality Differently

Participants in a consultative process see reality from different points of view, and as these views are examined and understood, clarity is achieved.  (Office of Social and Economic Development at the Bahá’í World Centre, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 13.  Bahá’í Library Online)

I like this quote because it reminds me that not everyone sees reality from my point of view.  Nowhere has this been more obvious than during this pandemic, where my choice to adhere to government directives and guidance from the House of Justice has been at odds with the behaviour and actions of many of my closest Bahá’í friends.

I became aware of a huge difference of opinions during the first lockdown, when they chose to gather at a cottage for our semi-annual retreat at a time when people were being asked not to come up to their cottages and to avoid the 3-C’s (close faces; closed spaces and crowded places).  I was furious that they would so blatantly disregard the lockdown and potentially put each other at risk.  I was afraid that the gulf between us had widened to such a degree that I’d never be able to find my way back.  I found myself incredibly judgemental, superior and self-righteous and at the same time, I was also jealous because they were continuing on and having fun without me.  They continued to have a retreat in the fall, when we still weren’t allowed to gather in each other’s houses, and it is now is happening again in the third lockdown.  Many of them are not planning to get vaccinated and I wonder if I will ever feel safe to go back to these retreats again.  I am swimming in a sea of poisonous, attack thoughts aimed at people I thought of as my closest friends for over 30 years.

I realized that I had a choice.  I could find a way to allow a difference of opinion and approach them with love and forgiveness; or I could let my bitterness eat away at the foundations of our friendship.  I know how to walk away when the going gets rough.  Now I’ve had to learn how to apply the things I’ve been teaching others in this blog and in my books, so I can keep these friends and at the same time keep my integrity and walk with my head held high with the effect of my decisions too.  Consultation with others has been an important key to remind me that we all have COVID-fatigue and everyone has their limits.  This has helped me be more understanding, and please God, may I continue to let go of judgement so I can hold love in my heart.

Remembering that consultation helps me see reality from different points of view, I can relax 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 Consult Effectively

 

 

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Man’s Highest Station

Man’s highest station, however, is attained through faith in God in every Dispensation and by acceptance of what hath been revealed by Him . . .

This quote came to my attention at just the right moment.  My life has been fraught with so much abuse, trauma, loss and disappointment that I often long for my next life to begin.  The Bahá’í Writings promise a much better life next time round and I’m looking forward to that.  I know that one of the purposes in this life is to acquire the virtues I’ll need in the next world, so some time ago, maybe when I was a new Bahá’í, I decided to set the bar high for myself, so that I could perfect as many virtues as possible, to acquire as many “spiritual brownie points” as possible to guarantee my best possible life in the next world.  The Writings are full of “if you do this, God will do that” and being a black and white thinker, I latched onto these and strove to put them all into practice, and then beat myself up mercilessly when I couldn’t reach the standards I thought were being set for me by the Writings and the ongoing guidance of the House of Justice.

Nowhere do I feel this more keenly than when the statistics officer calls and asks what service I’m offering to my mostly inactive, very white cluster with a handful of elderly Bahá’ís who don’t have the energy to participate anymore.  Because I haven’t been able to interest the local Bahá’ís or the wider community in the core activities, most of my service is in this online environment.  My articles for this blog and for the Bahá’í Teachings blog reach so many people that I can take comfort that I am participating in a mass teaching event, and I can view the online environment as my receptive population, but none of it counts in the statistics.  None of it helps my cluster get to milestone 2 (when we aren’t even at milestone 1 yet).  None of it can I find in the ongoing messages of the House of Justice.  All of this leads me into such deep despair that I burned out trying.

I believe that God is happy with my puny efforts, and can look Him in the eye when I get to the Pearly Gates.  I see evidence that He magnifies my teaching and service activities and sends me opportunities to serve in ways that unfold easily and effortlessly.  I know at some level that I can’t bargain with God for a better future, and slowly I’ve been learning about God’s infinite love, mercy and forgiveness of my sins.  I’m learning that I don’t need brownie points.  All of this flies out the window when I read the latest letter from the House of Justice and can’t find me and my efforts in it.  For some time, I’ve been praying most fervently for God to show me in the Writings that my efforts are OK.  Through this process, I’ve come to remember that my purpose in life is to know and worship God and not to get my cluster to milestone 2.

All of this to say that this quote seems to be what I was looking for.  I’ve already reached my highest station, because I have faith in God in every Dispensation and I totally accept everything that has been revealed by Him.  Thank you God for answered prayers.  Please help me remember, so I can stop abasing myself!

Knowing I’ve already reached the highest station there is, I can stop judging 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 book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

 

Healing the Stress Caused by the Pandemic

You should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It — the body — is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 296

One of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

There are lots of great articles on the internet about the importance of balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for optimal health at this time.  Things we can do in each area include:

Spiritual

  • Prayer and Meditation (Reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and night with care and attention)
  • Make God your Best Friend: when we’re missing our loved one, God is always available to us, 24/7, and deepening our relationship with Him helps us achieve our purpose in life
  • Spend time finding God in nature each day

Mental

  • Immerse yourself in the Writings (perhaps by attending a Study Circle)
  • Set goals, preferably in alignment with the direction given by Bahá’í Institutions
  • Stay positive. There’s lots that we can’t control; and lots that we can’t know, but we can watch our thoughts and focus our attention on the positive, perhaps by finding things to be grateful for several times every day
  • Pay attention to your fears and give them to God instead of making them bigger

Emotional

  • Journal your stressors every day – I do it in the form of a “Dear God” letter
  • Make phone calls – hearing other people’s problems can give us a relief from our own
  • Pray with people – reciting the prayers out loud has an effect on our souls and the souls of everyone around us

Physical

  • Healthy eating
  • Lots of water
  • Lots of exercise
  • Lots of good quality sleep
  • Rest and relaxation

All of these things work together synergistically.

Knowing there are lots of practical ways I can care for my body and safeguard my nerves at this time, 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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Overcoming Depression

Mrs. H:  How can I attain to greater stability? I feel terribly discouraged and depressed at times?

Master:  Whenever you feel depressed, go alone into a secret chamber, read one of the Hidden Words and with utmost supplication, beg of Baha’u’llah, to impart to you that happiness which is essential for the future.  Pray with great humbleness:

O God!  Free me from these fetters.  Release me from all these toils.  Make me pure and sanctified.  Illumine me.  Fill my heart with Thy love and attach me to Thyself, so that I may become a captive to Thy love.   May I not seek ought but Thee!  May I not search but for Thy love and may I walk always in Thy path!

Then you will attain to a glorious state – then you will obtain a condition which you would not exchange for the whole world.

Mrs. H:  My great desire is to have more faith.

Master:  This very prayer will bring you the pearl of great price.  (Conversation between the Master and Mrs. Henlay, Feb. 10, 1913, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in France, p. 358)

I love how synchronicity works.  This week, one of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

While I was pondering how to respond, another reader sent the quote above, thinking I could possibly use it.  Indeed I could!  I was struggling with an issue of injustice that was causing a great deal of anxiety and depression when I finally had a chance to read it, and it helped me in that moment and inspired me to use it to help my reader.

I love the Hidden Words and at one time, had them all memorized.  I used to love playing Spiritual Pursuit, because I always got those questions right.  I’m not going to tell you which one I chose, because it will be different for everyone, but I did put my finger in randomly, and remembered why I loved reading them so much.

There is no prison worse than depression (which I like to think of as self-pity), because when I recognize I’m in the prison of self, I remember I put myself in there and the Bahá’í prayers and Writings are the keys and my “get out of jail free” card.

Knowing there is a simple prayer to remove depression and increase faith, 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

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

To Be Vaccinated or Not

In recent decades, advances in medical science have led to the production of  effective vaccines, the use of which has freed humanity from many debilitating and deadly infectious diseases. Reports indicate that the coronavirus vaccines currently being developed offer great promise for protecting individuals from, and helping to reduce transmission of, the virus. As to the advisability and efficacy of the various options that may become available, the friends should follow the counsel of medical and other scientific experts.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 8 December 2020)

 

An additional point that can be drawn to the attention of the believers is that the purpose of being vaccinated extends beyond the protection it affords the individual concerned.  There is also an important social component; namely, that when a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of a disease amongst them is retarded, thereby protecting those who – for whatever reason – are unable to be vaccinated.  The friends should therefore also weigh this social obligation as they make their decision on this matter.  (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 February 2021)

 

In relation to your query about whether it would be appropriate for you to encourage the friends to be vaccinated, it would appear sufficient for you to advise them to follow the recommendations of reputable public health experts in your country.  Ultimately, this is a matter for individuals to decide.  (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 February 2021)

Although I’m not an anti-VAXXER, I have taken a conservative approach in the past, using homeopathic and essential oils to strengthen my immune system against viral and bacterial infections where possible, and have enjoyed good physical health as a result.

I appreciate vaccines and their effectiveness in eradicating many diseases that used to plague our society.  I grew up in the polio epidemic and lost my aunt to it.  My cousin, her son, survived, but has suffered with post-polio symptoms ever since.

When my son was a baby, he had all his shots, but when he was 10, he came down with red measles.  We were immediately quarantined and the vaccine he’d been given 10 years earlier was discovered to have been part of a “bad batch”.  They wanted to vaccinate him against it again.  No!  This was happening at the time when there seemed to be a link between vaccines and autism, and a friend’s son had recently been diagnosed with autism after getting vaccinated.  So I’ve been cautious ever since.  As a result, I admit that I am somewhat apprehensive and uncertain about whether to be vaccinated against COVID, and if so, which vaccine to have.

I’m in the cohort that’s being offered a vaccine that’s been banned in many countries, and if I was one year older or 9 years younger, I wouldn’t be given, which increases my anxiety tremendously.  Of course, we’re being encouraged to take what’s being offered and not to shop around, and I understand this.  There are shortages of the other vaccines, and priority has to be given to those waiting their second shots.  I’m on a waiting list but because I live in a rural community, it’s a bit of a lottery as to who gets the vaccine and in what order.  I’m not a front-line worker, nor do I have pre-existing health problem, so I’m content to wait my time until the decision becomes more clear.

While I was pondering all of this, someone sent me a couple of recent letters from the House of Justice, (relevant excerpts above) which makes my decision easier, because it’s a source I trust.

From these quotes I glean:

  • It’s my decision whether or not to be vaccinated.
  • In making my decision, I should follow the counsel of medical and other scientific experts and follow the recommendations of reputable public health experts in my country.
  • In making my decision I should consider that this isn’t just about me – that I have a social obligation to my family, friends and neighbors.
  • When a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of a disease amongst them is retarded and those who are unable to be vaccinated are also protected.
  • Reports indicate that the coronavirus vaccines currently being developed offer great promise for protecting individuals from, and helping to reduce transmission of, the virus.

Getting clarity around this issue from a source I love, respect and trust, 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 books.

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

Healing the Stress Caused by Forced Isolation

One of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

It’s absolutely true, that isolation is not our normal state, and as we go into the 4th wave of the COVID pandemic, with all of the increase in variants, it’s easy to be discouraged with no end in sight.

Baha’is are lucky because the House of Justice has kept us informed every step of the way.  Studying their letters over the past year we see their suggestions.  I especially thought the Naw Ruz letter to the Baha’is of the World a year ago gave us lots of ideas:

. . . ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • What helps you rise above your problems?
  • What helps you have illumined faces and radiant brows that people can hear in your voices and see above your masks?
  • How can you provide the light of assurance to your friends, family and neighbors?

Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquility, confidence , and reliance on God.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • How can I continue to strengthen bonds of friendship?
  • How can I foster spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence and reliance on God in myself, so I can pass these on to someone else?

The elevated conversations that have occurred as a result, whether remotely or in person, have been a source of comfort and inspiration to many.  (paragraph 3)

Ask yourself:

  • Who can I have an elevated conversation with today? Tomorrow?  Next week?  Make a list and work through it systematically and then repeat.

May your minds be ever bent upon the needs of the communities to which you belong, the condition of the society in which you live and the welfare of the entire family of humanity, to whom you are all brothers and sisters.  (paragraph 5)

Ask yourself:

  • To which communities do I belong (religious, social, recreational, work, school etc)?
  • What are the needs of each community?
  • What can I do to help?

And in your quiet moments, when no course of action other than prayer seems possible, then we invite you to add your supplications to our won and ardently pray for the relief of suffering.  (paragraph 5)

Ask yourself:

  • Which prayers can I say?
  • Who can I pray with?
  • Who can I study a prayer with?

I think carefully studying this letter and answering the questions above and acting on them will be the best possible healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

Knowing there are practical things the House of Justice is asking us to do during the 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive