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Removing Difficulties and Obstacles

O Divine Providence! Perplexing difficulties have arisen and formidable obstacles have appeared. O Lord! Remove these difficulties and show forth the evidences of Thy might and power. Ease these hardships and smooth our way along this arduous path. O Divine Providence! The obstacles are unyielding, and our toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities. There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself. We set all our hopes on Thee, and commit all our affairs unto Thy care. Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Newly Translated Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, March 2021, number 6)

Have you had a chance to look at the 26 newly translated prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha yet?  If not, you can find them here.

In reading through them during the Fast, this was the first one which jumped out at me.  Maybe I’m more depressed than I realize!  I liked it because it speaks my language:

  • perplexing difficulties have arisen due to COVID and my apparent loss of purpose
  • formidable obstacles to my ability to teach or be of service in the ways the House of Justice are asking us to do, have arisen because of total exhaustion and burnout
  • the obstacles are unyielding and seem to be worsening instead of getting better
  • my toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities including 2 broken ribs that prevent me from doing a lot of what I would like to do

But I don’t have to stay stuck here.  I can ask God to:

  • Remove these difficulties
  • show forth the evidences of Thy might and power
  • Ease these hardships
  • smooth our way along this arduous path

And in case I think there’s something I have to do myself, I am reminded that:

  • There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself
  • We set all our hopes on Thee and commit all our affairs unto Thy care
  • Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.

Knowing God can relieve me of my difficulties and hardships through His might and power, 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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God is My Companion and Always Near

If the friends and relatives are keeping themselves at a dis­tance from thee, be thou not sad, for God is near to thee. Associate thou, as much as thou canst, with the relatives and strangers; display thou loving kindness; show thou forth the utmost patience and resignation. The more they oppose thee, shower thou upon them the greater justice and equity; the more they show hatred and opposition toward thee, challenge thou them with great truthfulness, friendship and rec­onciliation.  Praise be to God, thou art near to the Kingdom of Abhá! Rest thou assured. With all my soul and spirit, I am thy companion at all moments. Know thou this of a certainty!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 557-558)

I don’t know about you but I’m suffering COVID fatigue.  I’m tired of being obedient to the government when all my friends, including Bahá’ís, are going about their business as usual.  I’m tired of judging them and tired of judging myself for judging them.  I hate that this pandemic has divided the world, at a time when we need to acknowledge our oneness more than ever.  I hate that I’m engaging in the great divide and I hate the separation that’s growing between my friends and I because I choose to stay home and stay safe and keep everyone else safe around me.  Am I a good Bahá’í or a screwed-up victim of trauma, needing obedience in order to stay safe?  I think about these things and ask myself these questions a lot, especially as we head into a second lockdown.

So on Christmas day, despite of feeling sorry for myself, and with this quote in mind, I played secret Santa, putting candy canes at the doors of all the apartments in my building, and giving little presents to those who are least liked, so that everyone would get a little gift at a time when we all need gifts the most.  I called people who were also alone on this day.  I’m attempting to make peace with those whose choices differ from mine.  It’s the best I can do today.

I’m truly blessed because I have the greatest gift of all, in my recognition of the Manifestation of God for this age, and as isolated, alone and lonely as I feel, I know of a certainty that God is with me and is my companion at all moments.  Most of my neighbors don’t have that and are trying to get through the season without.  Please God, help them feel your presence through my prayers and my puny efforts to be the person you want me to be.  Please God, let me forgive my friends, and myself.

Knowing that God knows my limitations, loves me, forgives me and is patient with 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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The Darkness of this Gloomy Night Shall Pass Away 

The darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away. Again the Sun of Reality will dawn from the horizon of the hearts. Have patience, wait but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile when you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice….Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 141)

Is anyone else feeling COVID fatigue?  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of being scared and tired of the uncertainty about what to expect going forward. I’m angry at people who are going about their business, without masks or social distancing and feel guilty for not being a better representative of the Bahá’í Faith, elevating conversations and being loving and accepting of other people’s choices.  I’m glad I know that a lot of these negative thoughts are keeping me stuck in my lower nature.  Without quotes such as this one, I wouldn’t know how to help myself move into my higher nature.  Here `Abdu’l-Bahá gives us some concrete tools I can use.  I can:

  • remember that the darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away
  • have patience
  • work while I am waiting
  • smile when I am wearied with monotony
  • be firm while everything around me is being shaken
  • be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at me
  • speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush my mind
  • be valiant and courageous while men all around me are cringing with fear and cowardice
  • continue this journey to the end
  • trust that the bright day is coming

The easiest ones for me to do are to work while I’m waiting and continue this journey towards the end.  The hardest is to be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at me, speaking aloud to others in an uplifting, accepting loving way.  What are the easiest and hardest for you?  

Knowing there are things I can do to combat COVID fatigue, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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Why We Let Go of Petty Bickerings and Jealousies

Petty bickerings and jealousies make one lose all the traces of spirituality, excommunicate a person from the divine company of the worthy ones, submerge one in the sea of phantasms, suffer one to become cold and pessimistic and throw him headlong into the depths of despair and helplessness! (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)

Wow, this is such a clear warning about all the reasons to let go of our bickering and jealousy:

  • makes us lose all traces of spirituality
  • excommunicates us from the divine company of the worthy ones
  • submerges us in the sea of phantasms (delusions, fantasies, figments of imagination)
  • suffers us to become cold and pessimistic
  • throws us headlong into the depths of despair and helplessness

It’s interesting that bickering and jealousy are paired together here.  In my mind, bickering goes on externally between me and someone else, where jealousy goes on inside my head, and yet both have the same results.

I often find myself jealous of those who are married, have careers and contact with adult children and grandchildren.  According to this quote, I can see that I lose all traces of spirituality by feeling sorry for myself.  I excommunicate myself when I isolate and separate myself from those I envy, not wanting to experience the feelings of “less than” or be pitied.  Focusing on what I don’t have keeps me from being grateful for all that I do have, and from developing a relationship with God as my primary relationship, keeping me from achieving my purpose in life.  When I look ahead and see only more of the same, I definitely become pessimistic and thrown into the depths of despair and helplessness.

Knowing all of this gives me a great motivation to let go of bickering and jealousy 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Reassurance

 

I swear by My life! Nothing save that which profiteth them can befall My loved ones. To this testifieth the Pen of God, the Most Powerful, the All-Glorious, the Best Beloved.  (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p.  69)

This is a really hard quote for those who want answers to “why is this happening to me?”  No matter what life throws at us, the bottom line is that it’s happening to profit us.  Somehow, it’s for our good, and that can be hard medicine to swallow, especially when we’re going through really hard times.  I’ve come to understand that all of our tests serve 2 purposes:  to draw us closer to God and to help us acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world.

When my brother was killed and my daughter died and I suffered through years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, I felt like a victim and even for many years, blamed God.  If there was a God, (and for many years I couldn’t accept that there was), how could He do these things to me?  I’ve come to realize that God doesn’t think the way we do.  I will never understand why He gave us free will and then stood by watching what mankind would do with it.  But with these quotes, and others like it, I’ve come to recognize that my life is better with God in it.  I can more easily handle everything that comes my way, I can appreciate that it’s strengthened my relationship to him, and no doubt I’ve developed a lot of virtues, resilience among them.

Knowing that all my tests are for my benefit, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

 

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Understanding Low Self Esteem

Someone with low self-esteem frequently feels unworthy, incapable, and incompetent. This can lead to:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety and emotional turmoil
  • Lack of social skills and self-confidence.
  • Depression and/or bouts of sadness
  • Eating disorders
  • Inability to accept compliments
  • An Inability to be fair to yourself
  • Accentuating the negative
  • Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
  • Self-neglect or treating yourself badly
  • Worrying whether you have treated others badly
  • Reluctance to take on challenges
  • Reluctance to trust your own opinion
  • Expecting little out of life for yourself.

As Baha’is, we can’t afford to let this get in the way of teaching and participating in the core activities.  The world needs us too much!  So what causes low self-esteem, and how can we overcome it?  Let’s look at what the Baha’i Writings have to share.

Uninvolved, Negligent or Abusive Parents:  When we’re children, our feelings about ourselves are formed by how we’re treated by our parents. If they have mental health problems, substance abuse issues or other challenges, they may not be able to provide their children with the care, guidance and attention they need and deserve.  If they are abusive, children may feel that they did something to deserve the abuse, or that they were not worthy of the respect, love and care they deserved. All of these can cause significant self-esteem problems.

These might help:

The Role of Parents in Training us to be Obedient

The Responsibilities of Parenthood

Should Bahá’í Mothers Stay at Home? 

The Role of Fathers in a Bahá’í Family

When Parents Fail

Honoring an Abusive Spouse or Parent

Newsletter – On How we Treat our Parents

Body Image:  Body image is a huge factor in young people’s self-esteem. From the moment we’re born, we’re surrounded by unrealistic images of what women and men should look like, what the “ideal” body type is. Women’s bodies are constantly objectified in the media, making it seem as though their bodies exist for others to look at, touch, use, etc. When puberty comes around and our bodies start to change, they don’t change into what we see on magazine covers or in music videos. This can lead to feeling unattractive and inadequate.  While men’s bodies are not treated as an object for others to the same extent, the images portrayed are a sign of masculinity. Young men may feel pressured to develop large muscles as a show of strength and manliness; they may also feel self-conscious about their height.

The best way to understand and overcome these messages is through participation in the junior youth empowerment program.

These quotes might also help:

It matters not what the exterior may be if the heart be pure and white within. God . . . looks at the hearts. He whose morals and virtues are praiseworthy is preferred in the presence of God; he who is devoted to the Kingdom is most beloved.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 267)

For the body of man is accidental; it is of no importance. The time of its disintegration will inevitably come. But the spirit of man is essential and therefore eternal. It is a divine bounty. It is the effulgence of the Sun of Reality and therefore of greater importance than the physical body.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 262)

Human beauty and perfection require the existence of the ear, the eye, the brain and even that of the nails and hair; if man were all brain, eyes or ears, it would be equivalent to imperfection. So the absence of hair, eyelashes, teeth and nails would be an absolute defect . . . but their absence in the body of man is necessarily faulty and displeasing.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 129)

Negative Peers:  Just as the way we’re treated by parents or guardians can greatly influence our self-esteem, so can the way we’re treated by peers. Being part of a social group that brings you down – by not respecting you, by pressuring you to do things you’re not comfortable with, by not valuing your thoughts and feelings, etc. – can cause you to feel like something is wrong with you, or that the only way for you to be liked is to do what others want and not listen to your own heart and mind. This is very damaging to how you see yourself.

Participation in children’s classes and the junior youth spiritual empowerment program can give our youth exposure to a healthy peer group.

These quotes might also help:

Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words 57)

The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words 56)

Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words 3)

Do not associate with the wicked, because the company of the wicked changeth the light of life into the fire of remorse. If thou asketh for the bounties of the Holy Spirit, associate with the pure ones, because they have quaffed the eternal chalice from the hands of the Cupbearer of eternity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 434)

[E]stablish ties of friendship, on the basis of shared understanding, with those previously regarded as strangers.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010)

Now associate with good people. You must try to associate with those who will do you good and who will be the cause of your being more awakened, and not with those who will make you negligent of God. For example, if one goes into a garden and associates with flowers, one will surely inhale the beautiful fragrance, but if one goes to a place where there are bad-scented plants, it is sure he will inhale an unpleasant odour. In short, I mean that you will try to be with those who are purified and sanctified souls. Man must always associate with those from whom he can get light, or be with those to whom he can give light. He must either receive or give instructions. Otherwise, being with people without these two intentions, he is spending his time for nothing, and, by so doing, he is neither gaining nor causing others to gain.  (The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Unrealistic Goals:  Whether the pressure comes from themselves, authority figures or peers, some young people expect way too much of themselves in terms of school achievement, extracurricular involvement and/or social status. Those who struggle academically may think they should be getting straight A’s all the time; those who perform well academically may try to take on too many other activities and expect to be “the best” at all of them. Young people who crave popularity may expect everyone to like them, not believing they can’t please everyone. This failure to meet unrealistic goals may lead to the feeling that you are a failure in general.

These quotes might help:

Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power. The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

At the heart of every development endeavour is consistent, systematic action. Action,
however, needs to be accompanied by constant reflection to ensure that it continues to serve the aims of the endeavour. (Universal House of Justice, Office of Social and Economic Development, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 14)

It is only through continued action, reflection and consultation on their part that they will learn to read their own reality, to see their own possibilities, make their own resources . . . (Universal House of Justice, to the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

To view the worth of an individual chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others is wholly alien to Bahá’í thought.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Bahá’ís of the World, 1 March 2017)

Previous Bad Choices:  Sometimes we get locked into a certain pattern of decision-making and acting. Perhaps you haven’t been a very good friend in the past. Maybe you didn’t apply yourself in school. Maybe you participated in risky behaviors like drug use or unprotected sex. You might think you’re just “the kind of person” who behaves in those ways. You may even dislike yourself significantly because of past choices, but don’t think you can change courses now. Therefore, you won’t try. You’ll continue making choices that reinforce your own negative self-view.

Forgiveness of self and understanding God’s forgiveness will help.

There are lots of articles on this topic or you can read them in my book Learning How to Forgive

Negative Thought Patterns When we get used to feeling, thinking and talking about ourselves in a particular way, it becomes a habit. If you have often felt that you’re worthless or inferior, if you constantly think negative thoughts and say negative things about yourself, then you’re likely to go on feeling and thinking the same way unless you break the cycle by challenging your negative thoughts and feelings about yourself.

We have many stories of the Hands of the Cause who were shocked by their appointment, because they knew how unworthy they were.  When John Robarts received the telegraph appointing him as a Hand of the Cause, he thought it was for his wife!  When William Sears was appointed, he wrote back to the Guardian saying, “Not worthy.” The Guardian replied, “Get worthy“.

Howard Colby Ives had this to say:

I one day asked Άbdu’l-Bahá how it could ever be possible for me, deep in the mass of weak and selfish humanity, ever to hope to attain when the goal was so high and great. He said that it is to be accomplished little by little; little by little. And I thought to myself, I have all eternity for this journey from self to God. The thing to do is to get started.  (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 63)

These quotes might help:

When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.          (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 30)

The heart must needs therefore be cleansed from the idle sayings of men, and sanctified from every earthly affection, so that it may discover the hidden meaning of divine inspiration, and become the treasury of the mysteries of divine knowledge. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 68)

Peace of mind is gained by the centering of the spiritual consciousness on the Prophet of God; therefore you should study the spiritual Teachings, and receive the Water of Life from the Holy Utterances. Then by translating these high ideals into action, your entire character will be changed, and your mind will not only find peace, but your entire being will find joy and enthusiasm. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 112)

You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live. Consciousness of this broad context helps to shatter the distorting looking glass in which everyday tests, difficulties, setbacks, and misunderstandings can seem insurmountable. And in the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal. (Universal House of Justice to the 114 Youth Conferences, 1 July 2013)

You might find these articles helpful:

A New Way of Looking at Myself

We Are Not Our Thoughts

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Change is Difficult and Takes a Long Time

Is your Mind Killing You?

Finally, we’re not alone! Rúhiyyih Khánum tells us how Shoghi Effendi’s hardest task, from the very beginning, was to accept himself.

Every time one goes into the details of any particular period in the Guardian’s life one is tempted to say “this was the worst period”, so fraught with strain, problems, unbearable pressures was his entire ministry. But there is a pattern, there are themes, higher and lower points were reached.

The pattern of 1922, 1923 and 1924 reveals itself, insofar as his personal life is concerned, as an heroic attempt to come to grips with this leviathan – the Cause of God – he had been commanded to bestride. Again and again he was thrown. Torn by agonies of doubt as to his own worthiness to be the successor of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, struggling with himself as had so many Prophets and Chosen Ones before him, he argued in the depths of his soul with his destiny, remonstrated with his fate, appealed to his God for relief – but it availed him naught. He was firmly caught in the meshes of the Master’s mighty Will and Testament.

He hints at this many times in his letters: “the storm and stress that have agitated my life since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing…” “I, for my part, as I look back…to the unfortunate circumstances of ill-health and physical exhaustion that have attended the opening years of my career of service to the Cause, feel hardly gratified, and would be truly despondent but for the sustaining memory and inspiring example of the diligent and ceaseless efforts which my fellow-workers the world over have displayed during these two trying years in the service of the Cause.” In another letter he wrote: “…looking back upon those sullen days of my retirement, bitter with feelings of anxiety and gloom…I can well imagine the degree of uneasiness, nay of affliction, that must have agitate the mind and soul of every loving and loyal servant of the Beloved during these long months of suspense and distressing silence…”

That his own condition, and what he considered his failure to rise to the situation the Master’s passing had placed him in, distressed him more than anything else for a number of years is reflected in excerpts from this letters. As late as September 1924 he wrote: “I deplore the disturbing effect of my forced and repeated withdrawals from the field of service…my prolonged absence, my utter inaction, should not, however, be solely attributed to certain external manifestations of in harmony, of discontent and disloyalty – however paralyzing their effect has been upon the continuance of my work – but also to my own unworthiness and to my imperfections and frailties.”

His hardest task, form the very beginning, was to accept himself.  (Rúhiyyih Khánum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 71-72)

I’d like to finish with this beautiful song.  The lyrics were written, sung, filmed and edited by Amelia Mahony, the 15-year-old daughter of Elika Mahoney, a well-loved Bahá’í musician herself.  It’s a wonderful mantra to sing, whenever you’re feeling attacked by low self-esteem.

 

How has this helped you understand this topic better?  Post your comments below.