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Do What You Can

You may be interested to know that, within the limits of their capacity and the uncertain circumstances, Bahá’ís inside and outside Ukraine are responding directly to the crisis. The believers in the country are supporting their compatriots to the extent possible, and the friends in the neighboring countries have arisen to support Bahá’í and other refugees.  (Universal House of Justice, to an individual, 1 April 2022)

I have been looking at the effects that incest and childhood sexual, physical, emotional, and ritual abuse have had on me for awhile now.  I’m starting to experience a lot of feelings I’ve spent a lifetime trying to stuff down.  As a result, I haven’t been as active in my local cluster as I’d like to be, as I think a good Bahá’í “should” be.  I’ve been “shouldding” on my self, and this has caused me deep despair.

Somewhere recently I thought I’d remembered that when war broke out in Ukraine, the House of Justice had asked them to carry on with the Plan.  I know the Plan is the only salvation for the world, but when your world is being bombed and torn apart, and you’re afraid every day for your life, how on earth are you supposed to have energy to work the Plan?  If this wasn’t the advice given to the Ukraine, I’ve seen in given in times of other tragedies (the hurricane that devastated Vanuatu comes to mind).

When I looked at the standard expected of the Ukrainians in this war, I felt deeply ashamed that I wasn’t able to attain that same standard.  Bombs aren’t falling on me physically, but they sure are emotionally.  I know I have a tendency to beat myself up, and I’m working on reducing the times I do it, but I can only do it when I find Bahá’í Writings that tell me I’m OK.  So this letter, which came out last week, really helped.  In it, the House of Justice was responding to someone who asked about the events in Ukraine.  I was very comforted to read:  “within the limits of their capacity” and “to the extent possible”.  I can do that.

Knowing I have permission to recognize my capacity in any given day and that I can do what I can, to the extent possible, I am grateful!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Moving to the Will of God

May your movement and your stillness be guided by the gentle winds of His Will, and may He bestow upon you the enduring bounty of being enabled to serve Him in accordance with His wish.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Auxiliary Board members throughout the world, 3 January 2022)

When I first read the 20 or so pages coming out of the series of letters from the Counselors’ conference, outlining the goals of the 9 year plan and the general plans for the next 25 years, I was, as I often am, overwhelmed with the enormity of what we are being asked to do.

I’m still recovering from burn-out and not actively participating in the affairs of my local community, and it all seems totally daunting and overwhelming.  Finally, at the end of reading all 4 letters, the House of Justice concluded it all with the above quote, and I immediately recognized it as coming from one of the prayers I often say and burst into tears of relief and gratitude.  They understand me and my limits!

Yes, the task ahead of us is rigorous and herculean; and yes, all of the institutions are going to need our support and our best effort, and yes, it’s OK to “let my movement and my stillness be totally directed by God”.  In the past, I’ve let the urgency of the plans, and the inactivity of the Bahá’ís around me, cause me to push myself to try to do it all, way beyond the point of endurance and it’s taken a real toll on my physical and mental health.

It’s such a relief to know that the House of Justice has given me permission to be still when I need to be, within the context of these plans!  It’s not just Bahá’u’lláh saying this to the world in Prayers and Meditations, it’s the House of Justice saying it in the context of the next 25 years.  I don’t have to do it all, and I don’t have to do it today, if today I need to rest.  I can forgive myself for not being a “good Baha’i”.  Such an incredible relief!

Having permission to move according to the will of God, I am 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 Learning How to Forgive

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The Importance of Conquering Myself

 

I want to say a few words now about the Guardianship.  “And when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ passed away, the whole world became dark for him (Shoghi Effendi). All light had gone out. And when he came to the Holy Land, he had in mind, from the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ had said to him, and I am telling you what he said, that ‘I had in mind that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ would give me the honor of calling the great conclave together which would elect the Universal House of Justice. And I thought in His Will and Testament that that was probably what He was instructing be done.’   ” ‘But,’ he said, ‘instead of that, I found that I was appointed the Guardian of the Cause of God.’ He said, ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian of the Cause. In the first place, I didn’t think I was worthy. Next place, I didn’t want to face these responsibilities.’ ” ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian. I knew what it meant. I knew that my life as a human being was over. I didn’t want it, and I didn’t want to face it. So as you’ll remember, I left the Holy Land. And I went up into the mountains of Switzerland, and I fought with myself until I conquered myself. Then I came back and I turned myself over to God, and I was the Guardian.’ ” ‘Now,’ he said, ‘Every Bahá’í in the world, every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing. Whether you’re a Hand of the Cause, whether you’re a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, whether you’re a member of a national Assembly, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a pioneer, whether you’re an administrator, regardless of what you are, with anything in the Cause, every Bahá’í must fight with himself and conquer himself. And when he has conquered himself, then he becomes a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God. And not until then! This is what every Bahá’í in the world should know.’  (A Talk by Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas Transcribed from a recording made in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 31, 1958)

This is one of my favorite stories and the part that has always resonates with me is “I fought with myself until I conquered myself” and “every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing”.

I’m sure I first heard this when I was a new Bahá’í, and God knows, I tried!  But here I am, 40 years later, with a much deeper appreciation of what exactly that means.  The older I get, the more I understand myself and my motives, and the better I see the veils between me and God; the more I have to “fight with myself till I conquer myself”.  As I set the bar higher and even higher with every Writing I read; and every letter from the House of Justice I strive to understand; and every Ruhi book I tutor, I often collapse under the weight of so mighty an effort.

Recently I watched the new movie the House of Justice commissioned on the occasion of the Centenary of the passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá (Glimpses of a Hundred Years of Endeavor),  and what stood out for me was that all the progress of the Faith stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and as we die, the progress of the Faith will stand on our shoulders.

I get inspired by stories of the early believers, and long for my service to match theirs, but I’m not them.  As important as they were in their day, they alone were not responsible for establishing the Most Great Peace, nor am I.  I just need to keep conquering myself, one day, one decision at a time.

Knowing that the more I struggle to conquer myself, the more I become a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

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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 Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)

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.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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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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