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Have Hope. This Too Shall Pass

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 317)

Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 317)

Have hope. It will not always be so.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2015)

As we were entering into our 4th (this time semi) lockdown, with the rapid spread of the Omicron virus, I began to despair.  Not this again, I thought.  I can’t bear it.  But of course, I can, and I must and I will.

I was contemplating these three quotes and trying to elevate my thoughts and overcome my despair, when I came across the following perspective from a someone on Facebook.  I’m not sure how it popped up on my feed, as I don’t know him, and don’t have any mutual friends, so I can only believe it was the hand of God, trying to reassure me.

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you’re 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet.

When you’re 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million. At 52, the Korean War starts and five million perish.

At 64 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn’t end for many years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? A kid in 1985 didn’t think their 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Let’s be smart, help each other out, and we will get through this. In the history of the world, there has never been a storm that lasted. This too, shall pass.

It gave me such hope, that I posted it on my own Facebook page, and my cousin reminded me that our grandmother had been born in 1900 and moved on a horse-drawn covered wagon from Nebraska to Edmonton, in western Canada with her family, for the free land grants.  Not only did she endure every one of the calamities above, but her entire world also changed in that move.  Could I withstand so many ordeals?  I really doubt it!  Leaving my “severe mental tests” from childhood trauma aside, all I have to deal with is “stay home to stay safe”.  It seems like such a small thing, in comparison with everything she suffered.

I have a hard time relating to Bahá’u’lláh’s suffering, but I can certainly understand my grandmother’s.  If she can do it, it’s in my DNA and I can too.

Knowing I have resilience built into my DNA, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Adjusting our Motives 

First and foremost, one should use every possible means to purge one’s heart and motives, otherwise, engaging in any form of enterprise would be futile. It is also essential to abstain from hypocrisy and blind imitation, inasmuch as their foul odour is soon detected by every man of understanding and wisdom.  (From a letter dated 19 December 1923 to the Bahá’ís of the East—translated from the Persian, in Living the Life: Excerpts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi, Third Edition (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1997), p. 2, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [5])

For so many years, I turned myself into a pretzel, trying to be whoever “you” wanted me to be, so that I could get the love and respect I didn’t get as a child.  I didn’t even know I was doing it.  I looked at other people who were successful and I copied what they were doing, and mostly I did it so well that I fit in and felt as if I belonged.  Sometimes I felt like a fraud, but mostly I believed I was on the right track.  Then I found this quote, and in studying it, several things came to my mind:

  • When I looked at my motives, I could see that I was trying to manipulate others into liking my falsely created self.
  • The hypocrisy was that when I was in “blind imitation” of other people, I wasn’t being the Susan that God created.

But having this awareness, didn’t stop the behavior, because who was I if I wasn’t the person I thought I was?  It’s taken several years in 12 step recovery to let go of this false self, strengthen my relationship with God, and learn to take my direction from him.  This process is taking me further away from who I wanted to be, and I’m not sure where I’m going, but I trust God with the process.

One day at a time, I’m reclaiming my nobility and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Finding Insights to Problems

If you read the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with selflessness and care and concentrate upon them, you will discover truths unknown to you before and will obtain an insight into the problems that have baffled the great thinkers of the world. (In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter dated 30 January 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 4)

I love simple solutions and keys that open doors, and this quote does this for me.  Wouldn’t we all love to find insight into our problems, truths that baffle the greatest thinkers in the world?  How simple is this:  read the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with selflessness and care and concentrate upon them.  So simple and yet so profound!

When I was a new Baha’i, enthralled with the blueprint Baha’u’llah has laid out for the world, leading us to world peace, I was convinced that since He had the blueprint for the world, surely it would include the blueprint for me to free myself from the bondage of childhood trauma.  I looked everywhere, convinced there must be a book, when a wise Baha’i said:  maybe you’ll write it.  I was mad! I wanted someone else to have done the work for me.

But I did what I was told:  I read the Writings morning and night and more often than not, I found exactly what I needed just at the right time.  I made copies and put them in a filing cabinet.  One day I was asked to give a presentation on violence and abuse and knew I was totally ill-equipped to do it, but I remembered that drawer.  I took out all the quotes, put them into some kind of order and that was the draft of my first book!  And the rest is history.  Now there are nearly 1000 articles on my blog!  And I’ve published 10 books and 3 more are at literature review.  WOW!  All more God’s success than mine.  My part was following the instructions – reading the Writings and concentrating on them well enough to share with others.

Discovering truths and finding insights to my problems by reading the Writings, I am in awe of the results, and profoundly grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

 

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‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Simple Life

 

In this frenzied world, I often wonder how ‘Abdu’l-Baha would have lived his life if He were alive now!  It got me thinking about whether there might be some ideas based on how He lived a simple life back then.

Here is the standard He strove for – simplicity and love:

The husband of Amelia Collins, a devoted American Baha’i, was a very sociable man. He would take part in any discussion with perfect freedom and ease. But once, before entering the Master’s home, he was so excited that he arranged his tie just right, smoothed his clothes and repeatedly asked his wife what he should do when they arrived there. She told him, ‘Nothing! In the family of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá simplicity reigns, and nothing but love is ever accepted.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

I love this sweet story where Bahá’u’lláh teaches us how little we need:

Mary Bolles (Maxwell) took an early pilgrimage to the prison city. She heard that the food man eats is of no importance, as its effect endures but a short time. But the food of the spirit is life to the soul and its effects endure eternally. She heard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tell the touching ‘story of the hermit’.  Baha’u’llah ‘was traveling from one place to another with His followers’ and ‘He passed through a lonely country where, at some little distance from the highway, a hermit lived alone in a cave. He was a holy man, and having heard that Our Lord, Baha’u’llah, would pass that way, he watched eagerly for His approach. When the Manifestation arrived at that spot the hermit knelt down and kissed the dust before His feet and said to Him: “Oh, my Lord, I am a poor man living alone in a cave nearby; but henceforth I shall account myself the happiest of mortals if Thou wilt but come for a moment to my cave and bless it by Thy Presence.” Then Baha’u’llah told the man that He would come, not for a moment but for three days, and He bade His followers cast their tents, and await His return. The poor man was so overcome with joy and with gratitude that he was speechless, and led the way in humble silence to his lowly dwelling in a rock. There the Glorious One sat with him, talking to him and teaching him, and toward evening the man bethought himself that he had nothing to offer his great Guest but some dry meat and some dark bread, and water from a spring nearby. Not knowing what to do he threw himself at the feet of his Lord and confessed his dilemma. Baha’u’llah comforted him and by a word bade him fetch the meat and bread and water; then the Lord of the universe partook of this frugal repast with joy and fragrance as though it had been a banquet, and during the three days of His visit they ate only of this food which seemed to the poor hermit the most delicious he had ever eaten. Baha’u’llah declared that He had never been more nobly entertained nor received greater hospitality and love. “This,” explained the Master, when He had finished the story, shows us how little man requires when he is nourished by the sweetness of all foods – the love of God.”’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

Even His wedding was simple:

Before His wedding day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made the necessary arrangements for the few guests. His mother and sister made a delicate bridal dress of white batiste. A white head-dress adorned Munirih Khanum’s hair, worn, as usual, in two braids. At nine in the evening she went with the Greatest Holy Leaf into the presence of Baha’u’llah, Who gave her His blessing. She then went to the bridal room and awaited the coming of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The service was very simple. At about ten o’clock ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came, accompanied by the guests, and Munirih Khanum chanted a tablet revealed by Baha’u’llah. ‘Later, the wife of ‘Abbud recalled the sweetness of that chanting still ringing in her ears.’ There were no choir, decorations or cake – just cups of tea. Above all, a glory and a love there were more than sufficient to bless the happy event.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

Here’s a story He told about the benefits of a simple life:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a story about a Persian believer’s journeys and how he could not sleep at night while in the wilderness for fear of someone stealing his new shirt, a new gift from a prominent person.  After several sleepless nights he decided to get rid of the shirt so he could relax.  (Rafati, Vahid, Sources of Persian Poetry in the Baha’i  Writings, Vol. lll, p. 80)

He had His meals  as follows:

7 A.M. Tea and bread

1:30 P.M. Dines with the family

4 P.M. Tea

7:30 P.M. Sits with the family at dinner but partakes of no food Himself

10: P.M. Simple meal (Agnes Parson’s Diary, ©1996, Kalimát Press, Footnote  #6, p. 13)

He ate a very simple diet:

The Master . . . ate little food. He was known to begin His day with tea, goat’s milk cheese and wheat bread. And at the evening meal a cup of milk and a piece of bread might suffice. He considered the latter a healthy meal. Had not Baha’u’llah, while at Sulaymaniyyih, subsisted mostly on milk? (Sometimes Baha’u’llah ate rice and milk cooked together.) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sparse diet also included herbs and olives – it rarely included meat.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

He does not permit his family to have luxuries. He himself eats but once a day, and then bread, olives, and cheese suffice him.  (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

He preferred to share His food with the poor:

On the occasion of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s first dinner in the home of Lady Bloomfield in London His hostess had prepared course after course in her eagerness to please Him. Afterwards He gently commented: ‘The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one.’ Thereafter the dinners were greatly simplified. Flowers and fruit remained in abundance, for those were often brought to the Master as small love tokens.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

Mary Lucas, a pilgrim to Akká in 1905, found that the Master usually ate but one simple meal a day. In eight days He was present at most meals, often coming just to add joy to the occasion, though He was not hungry. If He knew of someone who had had no meal during a day, the family supper was gladly packed up and sent to the needy. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

He served His guests:

Julia Gundy, an early pilgrim, described a beautiful supper at which many friends were welcomed by the Master Himself in Akká. He passed out napkins, embraced and found plates for each. All were individually anointed with attar of rose. He served pilau, a Persian rice dish, to each guest. There were also oranges and rice pudding. ‘Throughout the supper, which was very simple in its character and appointment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the Servant of the believers. This was indeed a spiritual feast where Love reigned. The whole atmosphere was Love, Joy, and Peace.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

His schedule looked like this:

Tudor-Pole described a typical day for Abdul-Bahá: he rises about 5 AM, and works for some hours at his correspondence.  Interviews commence soon after 9 AM and last until midday.  After lunch he takes a short rest and then usually rides out into the parks or to visit various people who were deeply interested in his work.  Gatherings of the friends take place nearly every evening and he has given some wonderful discourses at such times… He is quite vigorous and looks both well and cheerful.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 30)

His clothing:

The Master kept little clothing – one coat at a time was ample.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s family was taught to dress in such a way that they would be ‘an example to the rich and an encouragement to the poor.’ Available money was stretched to cover far more than the Master’s family needs. One of His daughters wore no bridal gown when she married – a clean dress sufficed. The Master was queried why He had not provided bridal clothes. With candour He replied simply, ‘My daughter is warmly clad and has all that she needs for her comfort. The poor have not. What my daughter does not need I will give to the poor rather than to her.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

A friend had sent some fur so that the Master could have a good warm coat; He had it cut up and made into twenty caps for the elderly men of the town.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of “Abdu’l-Bahá)

As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and needs a LOT of light, I take great comfort in this story:

As we drove up Broadway, glittering with its electric signs, He spoke of them smiling, apparently much amused. Then He told us that Bahá’u’lláh had loved light. “He could never get enough light. He taught us,” the Master said, “to economize in everything else but to use light freely.”  (Juliet Thompson’s Diary, April 19, 1912)

Even when ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in great need, he didn’t accept financial help from the friends:

For his own personal use Bahá’u’lláh never ordered anything extravagant. The life of luxury to which He was accustomed in His youth had been denied Him since His imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran when all His possessions had been confiscated. But He lived a life of austerity in a majesty such that in the words of Edward (Granville Browne of Cambridge University, He was ‘the object of a devotion that kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain’. His personal needs were simple and inexpensive . . . He Himself and the members of His family, however, lived an austere life. There were many occasions when He was in great need, but did not accept financial help from the friends.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 248)

Here’s an example:

The gates of the Akká prison were finally opened for Baha’u’llah, His family and companions after a confinement of two years, two months and five days. Many of His companions were consigned to the caravanserai, an unfit dwelling-place. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá occupied one room himself. The rooms were damp and filthy. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sold a certain gift which had been given to Him in Baghdad and with the proceeds began to repair the rooms for the companions of Baha’u’llah. He left the repair of His own room to the last. The money ran out and as a result His room remained unrepaired and in very bad condition. Not only were its walls damp but the roof leaked and the floor was covered with dust. He sat and slept on a mat in that room. His bed cover was a sheepskin. The room was infested with fleas and when He slept under the sheepskin, fleas gathered and began biting. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá worked out a tactic of defeating the fleas by turning over His sheepskin at intervals. He would sleep for a while before the fleas found their way again to the inner side. He would then turn the sheepskin over again. Every night He had to resort to this tactic eight to ten times.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

He didn’t allow his family to have any luxuries either:

He does not permit his family to have luxuries. He himself eats but once a day, and then bread, olives, and cheese suffice him.  His room is small and bare, with only a matting on the stone floor. His habit is to sleep upon this floor. Not long ago a friend, thinking that this must be hard for a man of advancing years, presented him with a bed fitted with springs and mattress. So these stand in his room also, but are rarely used. “For how,” he says, “can I bear to sleep in luxury when so many of the poor have not even shelter?” So he lies upon the floor and covers himself only with his cloak. (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

Has this given you any ideas on how you might live a more simple life?  Post your comments below!

A Comforting Prayer for Those Who’ve Died

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! A noble soul hath ascended unto the Kingdom of reality, and hastened from the mortal world of dust to the realm of everlasting glory. Exalt the station of this recently arrived guest, and attire this long-standing servant with a new and wondrous robe.  O Thou Peerless Lord! Grant Thy forgiveness and tender care so that this soul may be admitted into the retreats of Thy mysteries and may become an intimate companion in the assemblage of splendours. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Ever-Loving. Thou art the Pardoner, the Tender, the Most Powerful.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Prayers of ‘`Abdu’l-Bahá, trainslated at the Bahá’í World Centre March 2021, #11)

As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to earn God’s love through good behavior and following all the rules, saying this prayer out loud lowers my anxiety and assures me of God’s absolute love and forgiveness.

I forget sometimes that one of the names of God is “the Forgiver” or the ever-Forgiving”, expecting Him to be the “Judge”, the “Wrathful” and the “Punishing”.  I know He is all these things too, because we need to know both the love of God and the fear of God, but I have the fear of God down pat.  Now I need to learn about and remember the love of God.

Imagine!  God sees me as noble and as a long-standing servant.  I want to see myself as noble and I yearn for God to see my decades of loyal and faithful service.  I want Him to magnify my puny efforts.  I want His forgiveness and tender care, so that I can be admitted into the retreats of His mysteries and become an intimate companion.  When I say this prayer for friends who have recently passed away, I imagine saying it for my future self.  I hope that someone will say it for me.

In the meantime, it’s a good reminder of all the good that God has in store for me, 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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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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