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Spiritual Gravity

Just as the earth attracts everything to the centre of gravity, and every object thrown upward into space will come down, so also material ideas and worldly thoughts attract man to the centre of self. Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jeal­ousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another. No sooner does he attempt to soar upward than the density of the love of self, like the power of gravity, draws him to the centre of the earth. The only power that is capable of delivering man from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit. The attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is so effective that it keeps man ever on the path of upward ascension.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

This is one of my very favorite analogies in the Faith and I’m always sorry I can’t find it in a more acceptable translation.  It may just be that it’s there and I’m just using the wrong search terms to find it, so if anyone has an equivalent quote in something more authoritative, please let me know.

In the meantime, this seems to be the Bahá’í equivalent of the Christian “7 Deadly Sins” (anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jealousy and suspicion).  It makes sense that each of this prevents us from ascending to the realms of holiness.  I’ve certainly found that when I try to master one, another pops up and I fall into hands of another.  It feels a bit like God’s playing “whack a mole” with me!

Just as man is incapable of defying gravity, so too are we unable to escape from one of these invisible enemies without assistance from a divine power.  It’s not that we need help from the Holy Spirit, but it seems to be that all that’s required from me is that I’m attracted to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing that the attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is effective in keeping me on the path of upward ascension, 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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Molding the World and Being Affected By It

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved.  Man is organic with the world.  His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it . . . Through them [the Baha’i teachings] will the human heart be changed, and also our social environment provides the atmosphere in which we can grow spiritually and reflect in full the light of God.  (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, V1, #3.3)

I had to read this quote several times before I thought I might understand what Shoghi Effendi is saying.  Starting from the end and moving backwards, it reminds me that my social environment provides the atmosphere in which I can grow spiritually, but it also deeply affects my inner life.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I can only be out in the world a short time before the world’s negativity draws me under like an undertow and I need to isolate myself for awhile before I can regain my equilibrium and go out into the world again.  I’m like a cell phone that’s near the end of its life, unable to hold a charge for very long without needing to be plugged in again.

I used to compare myself to others, and to other Writings which urge us to be more and do more, which fed my addiction to beating myself up.  Now I’m more gentle with myself, forgiving myself, understanding that God created me as an introvert, and gave me unique tests to shape my character.  He knows my weakness and frailties and yet, He chose me to be part of His army of light, so it’s OK to need time to recharge my battery.

Now that I’m conscious of my own motives and God’s mercy and forgiveness, there’s no need to beat myself up, 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 Forgive

 

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Bury Your Fears

Let no excessive self-criticism or any feeling of inadequacy, inability or inexperience hinder you or cause you to be afraid. Bury your fears in the assurances of Bahá’u’lláh.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, April 1995)

This is not a Faith for the faint-hearted.  I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks in front of us as Baha’is.  All the laws, injunctions and ordinances we need to pay attention to and implement in our lives, all the messages we need to read, absorb and act on; all the community building activities we need to engage in, all while learning how to serve and consult; juggling education, career and family life and somehow trying to live in a place of moderation, can be more than any of us can bear!  This global enterprise at the grass roots level has never been done before.  Of course we don’t know what we’re doing!  Of course we have moments where we feel inadequate, inexperienced and unable to do the tasks in front of us!  This is only natural.

The thing we need to remember is that we’re not doing it alone.  God is directing it, the Concourse on High is assisting us, the Universal House of Justice is continually giving us guidance to steer the course, the Institutions are charged with implementing the plans for the community to carry out.  Although this is a Faith of individual initiative, all of our initiatives are assisted by so many people seen and unseen.  We can do this, as long as we remember to “bury our fears in the assurances of Baha’u’llah”.  We need to remember that “armed with the power of Thy name, nothing can ever hurt me.”

Remembering I’m not in charge of moving the world towards the most great peace, I can bury my fears in God, 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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When to Postpone a Discussion

When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)

Recently I was talking to someone who wanted to speak more kindly to her family members, upon whom she was dumping her rage and frustration.  She wondered what advice I could give her and all I thought of was to use “words as mild as milk”, which I attributed to the Bahá’í Writings, and it really seemed to have an effect on her.  I thanked God for this teaching opportunity.  I wish I’d thought of this one, though, as it’s a lot more specific.

Immediately postpone the discussion:  walk away, change the subject, don’t add any more fuel to the fire.  Wait for a propitious time to come back to it:  perhaps it will be as quickly as after taking a deep breath and saying some prayer together.  Perhaps it will be after you have something to eat, or get some much needed sleep, or after you take your problems to God and asking Him to find a solution.

Sometimes people just have no reserves when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired or sometimes people think they have to solve the problems themselves and forget to give them to God.

Knowing I can walk away from discussions that are getting heated, 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

 

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5 Ways to Overcome Setbacks

We note that when learning accelerates, the friends grow more capable of overcoming setbacks, whether small or large – diagnosing their root causes, exploring the underlying principles, bringing to bear relevant experience, identifying remedial steps and assessing progress . . . (Universal House of Justice, Framework for Action, p. 35)

I love how the House of Justice is always giving us practical tools we can apply to our lives!  This quote is really about the community building process, but it’s easily transferable to any setback we have, not just in our Baha’i service.

A setback I’ve had recently is spending money on something I thought I had budgeted for, but after paying for it, I realized I didn’t.  Being debt-free and solvent is a high value of mine so this was a big deal.  With the help of this quote, here are the steps I took:

  1. diagnose the root causes: I’d forgotten that while there was money previously allocated for this purpose, I’d used it to cover a previous expense last month.  I’d recorded it, but forgot I’d done it, and forgot to check the budget.
  2. explore the underlying principles: I wanted to cross this item off the “to do” list before going on holidays (my will not God’s).  I ignored my intuition to check the budget first.
  3. bring relevant experience to bear: Having made mistakes in the past, and wanting to not beat myself up about it, thereby feeding my addiction to adrenaline, I reminded myself to forgive myself and ask God to find a way to cover the expense, from His hidden treasury, which He has done for me many times in the past.
  4. identify remedial steps: There was nothing I could do before leaving, except to give it to God and let Him work His magic.
  5. assess progress: When I get home, I can anticipate that God will show me ways to cover this expense.

Remembering to use the tools we’ve been given to help solve problems and move from the lower nature to the higher, I am grateful!

What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help?  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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Appeasing the Anger of the Heart

But the body politic has the right to preserve and to protect. It holds no grudge and harbours no enmity towards the murderer, but chooses to imprison or punish him solely to ensure the protection of others. The purpose is not revenge but a punishment through which the body politic is protected. Otherwise, were both the victim’s heirs and the community to forgive and return good for evil, the wrongdoers would never cease their onslaught and a murder would be committed at every moment—nay, bloodthirsty individuals would, like wolves, entirely destroy the flock of God. The body politic is not prompted by ill will in meting out its punishment; it acts without prejudice and does not seek to gratify a sense of vengeance. Its purpose in inflicting the punishment is to safeguard others and to prevent the future commission of such vile actions.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 77)

To me, this quote is about justice.  In an earlier translation the word “body politic” was “community”, which seems clearer.  What this suggests is that it’s my job as a victim to forgive and return good for evil and the community’s job to imprison and protect.  The community imprisons and punishes evil-doers, not out of revenge or enmity, but to protect others and prevent more wrong-doing.

In the past, grudges were held for centuries and passed down from one generation to another, and punishments given out of revenge and vengeance.  Even today, many employees in penal institutions treat prisoners badly because they don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  When I remember to leave justice in the hands of the Institutions and trust God to deal with those who have hurt me, I am free to forgive and move on with my life.

Knowing that I’m not responsible for justice, 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 Anger and Bitterness

 

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