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Love Conquers Fear

Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 58)

When referring to the Báb, he mentioned that “love had cast out fear”.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh  and the New Era, p. 22)

Everywhere in the world, humanity is going through the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In trauma, people typically react through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.  Let’s look at what each of these looks like and how love helps get us through.

Fight:  we attempt to gain control through outbursts of irritation, anger or bitterness

Flight:  we attempt escape through addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, sex, work, food, shopping etc) or suicide

Freeze:  we fall into hopeless, helpless despair leading to depression

Fawn:  we focus our attention on people pleasing, approval seeking and compulsive caretaking

While each of these are understandable, none of them are particularly helpful.  The things that help me are remembering that:

  • This pandemic is part of the disintegration of the old-world order, in order to build up something much better. To the extent that I can focus on applying the blueprint given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, I can turn away from all the things I can’t control.
  • The purpose of my life is to know and worship God. To the extent that I can develop and strengthen this relationship, laying all my affairs in His hands, I can trust what’s happening.
  • The purpose of my life is to also develop the virtues I’ll need in the next world. To the extent that I can focus on applying the virtues that I need in any given day, I can improve the quality of my life.  I find the ones I need the most often are faith and trust in God’s plan; detachment from my own response to lockdowns, stay at home orders, economic hardship, marriage and parenting problems, vaccine shortages and so on; patience with the process; and gratitude that we’re in a pandemic and not a world war, among others.

So let’s turn to love as a solution.  To love ourselves when we’re in fight mode, we can focus on what we can control and take action.  To help others we can get lots of physical exercise to dissipate the anger.

To love ourselves when we’re in flight mode, we can immerse ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings and the Dawnbreakers and biographies of early Bahá’í heros and heroines.  To love others we can make time to nurture friendships and forgive them for not being who we want them to be.

To love ourselves when we’re in freeze mode, we can get out through coming into the present by focusing on the breath, moving our bodies through exercise and/or finding ways to be of service.  To love others we can respond to invitations and get out of the house.

To love ourselves when we’re in fawn mode, we can put self-care first and spend time developing a loving relationship with ourselves. To love others we can recognize how manipulative we are when we take on roles that aren’t ours.

Seeing practical ways to overcome fear through love, 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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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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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

The Relationship Between Sin and Physical Ailments

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, #134, p. 152)

Once diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I did everything in my power to find a solution – from medication to alternative health therapies, to many years of talk therapy and everything in between.  As a Bahá’í I found many answers in the Writings which brought comfort to my mind, but nothing got me free from the effects of anxiety and depression till I met Henry Wright, a Christian minister who specializes in the spiritual roots behind disease.  Henry teaches, and I’ve come to believe, that 80% of all disease, including depression, has a spiritual root.  I’m only just learning how the veils we put up between us and God lead to disease in the body.  This was a huge wake-up revelation for me!  ‘Abdul-Bahá describes it so well in today’s quote.

I used to think that “sins” referred to the “big” ones (murder, sex outside marriage), but now I’ve come to understand sin as anything that God (through the Baha’i Writings) tells me to do, which I’m not doing.

By deepening my understanding of these teachings, I’ve come to realize that when I call my disease “anxiety and depression”, I fall into the medical model, and stay trapped in the prison of self.  When I call it “fear and self-pity” instead, it became a sin (or veil between me and God), and there were things I could find in the Writings to do to remove the veil.  This concept changed my life for the better, and when I applied his teachings, I became free and eager to pass along what I learned to others.

Knowing that when I fall into fear and self-pity, I’m not trusting God and His Teachings, and this veil is the cause of my disease, and believing there are solutions I can use, 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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

 

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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive