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God’s Timing

Do ye not look upon the beginning of affairs; attach your hearts to the ends and results. The present period is like unto a sowing time. Undoubtedly it is impregnated with perils and difficulties, but in the future many a harvest shall be gathered, and benefits and results will become apparent. When one considers the issue and the end, inexhaustible joy and happiness will dawn.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Divine Art of Living, p. 92)

Whenever I start a new project, I’m impatient and expect instant results, forgetting that seeds take a long time to germinate and before the harvest, there are lots of weeds and bugs and weather and other things to contend to.  I want to go straight from seeds to harvest without the messy stuff in the middle.

This quote reminds me to stop rushing, to slow down, to pray and meditate, to take the next right action, to keep my eyes on the goal, to be fully present to the moment and to not let my worries take over.  With God on my side, I have nothing to fear.  In this moment, all is well.  God knows all the tiny little steps I need to take in between, and the virtues I’ll collect along the way.  My job is to enjoy the process and let go of the results.

Knowing that when I remember to consider the issue and the end I will be a happy and joyful being, 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Everything in its Proper Time

There is one season to harrow the ground, another season to scatter the seeds, still another season to irrigate the fields and still an­other to harvest the crop. We must attend to these various kinds of activities in their proper seasons in order to become successful.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Consultation, p. 7)

I love this quote!  I forget the natural order of things.  I so often plant the seeds and expect the harvest to arrive immediately.  The material world has taught me to expect instant meals, instant banking, instant shopping – impulses are met quickly.  But God’s world is different.

It’s a reminder to slow down.  Stop rushing.  Stop being driven by the “to do” list.  Pray.  Listen to the promptings of the spirit for the next right action.  Remember that everything I am and everything I do is under the watchful care of a loving Father.  All’s right with the world.  This moment is perfect just as it is.  Breathe.  Take time to enjoy and be grateful for every season.  There’s no need to push things before they’re ready.  God’s got my back.  He’s in charge.

Remembering there’s no need to rush, 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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Avoiding Regret and Loss 

What result is forthcoming from material rest, tranquility, luxury and attachment to this corporeal world! It is evident that the man who pursues these things will in the end become afflicted with regret and loss. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 42)

As someone recovering from PTSD, adrenal fatigue and burnout, I have to be especially careful when I read this quote, to ask God if it applies to me today.  I need material rest and even tranquility to recover and yes, although this does afflict me with regret and loss, it’s still necessary for my physical and mental well-being.  If I apply it today, it will be like taking antibiotics for diabetes.  It’s an effective remedy under the right conditions, but not the right one for the disease.

I know that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also achieved great things, even though He was often desperately tired.  When I’m called on by God to rise above myself, I too can pray to be more like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  Too often though, I put unrealistic expectations and artificial deadlines on myself.  At those times, I’m in my will and not aligned with God’s will.  I need prayers for wisdom and discernment to know the difference and when I make a mistake, I need to rely on God’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

The other things are easier to understand, though.   If I’m attached to all the luxury this material world has to offer, I will be pursuing the wrong things.  I’ll be making my material life more important than my physical one.  I’ll lose the opportunity to draw closer to God and attain the virtues I’ll need in the next world.  And that is definitely an important reminder.

Knowing that attachment to this material world and it’s luxuries and comforts will lead to regret and loss, 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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Past, Present and Future 

. . . in the sight of God the past, the present and the future are all one and the same – whereas, relative to man, the past is gone and forgotten, the present is fleeting, and the future is within the realm of hope.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 207.

I love this idea that time is illusory.  I often go down a well-worn rut of depression (self-pity for what happened to me in the past) or anxiety (a lot of fear about what’s going to happen in the future).  My internal “chicken little” is always screaming “the sky is falling”!  And of course, from a material perspective, it surely is.

But what’s happening on this plane of existence is not real.  It’s not what matters.  It’s just the breeding ground for our spiritual growth and development.  Our souls are untouched by what’s happening around us.  From a spiritual perspective, there is no time.  There is only this moment, and in this moment, all is well.  So when I remember, or am reminded by quotes such as these, that from God’s perspective, the past is gone and forgotten, I can breathe easier.  I can press on with confidence, remembering that it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Remembering that hope lies in the future, I am calm, peaceful and 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 Being vs Doing

A few years ago we started to see the House of Justice refer to “being and doing”, both words I thought I understood.  Indeed the dictionary defines them as:

Being:  to exist or live

Doing:  to perform (an act, duty, role, etc.); to accomplish; finish; complete; to put forth; exert

It seems to me that one is passive and the other is active.

 

In a materialistic culture obsessed with “doing”, it is believed that as we “do” the correct things, success will follow.  In fact who we are while “doing” is more important than “being”.

I wondered:  Is there a dangerous side of goal-setting, to-do lists, and being efficient?  How much time do we need to spend in “doing” at the expense of just “being”?

As a recovering workaholic and perfectionist, the concepts of being and doing are synonymous in my mind!  Working is my form of play!

It’s been pointed out by many people over the years that I need to slow down and take time for rest and recreation.  They tell me that work and play are different and it’s hard for me to get my head around this concept. In fact Shoghi Effendi tells us:

You should . . . force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 53)

As always, whenever I’m puzzled about something, I take my question to the Baha’i  Writings.

In contrast to the dictionary definition, “being and doing” seem to have different meanings in the Faith.

Here’s how the House of Justice describes the two:

The importance of “doing”, of arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls, must be harmonized with the notion of “being”, of increasing one’s understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in one’s life.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

So here we see:

Being is increasing our understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in our lives

Doing is arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls

Unlike the dictionary definition, both of these definitions seem to be active.

The House of Justice tells us that “being” has to do with the acquisition of knowledge (studying the Writings) and “doing” is applying what we’ve learned.

They warn us against false dichotomies:

Every effort is being exerted to ensure that the process reflects the complementarity of “being” and “doing” the institute courses make explicit; the centrality they accord to knowledge and its application; the emphasis they place on avoiding false dichotomies . . .  (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

Closely related to the habit of reducing an entire theme into one or two appealing phrases is the tendency to perceive dichotomies, where, in fact, there are none. It is essential that ideas forming part of a cohesive whole not be held in opposition to one another. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi warned:

We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two.   (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

So they want us to find the link between the two.

Ruhi Book 5 was the first place I found that really addressed this issue head on, and I had a total meltdown going through that section!

In the section “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth, pages 18-20 of the Pre-Publication Edition — Version VI.B” It says:

If we are not careful and adopt such a fragmented approach to our lives, we can create all kinds of dichotomies that are largely imaginary. Work, leisure, family life, spiritual life, physical health, intellectual pursuits, individual development, collective progress, and so on become pieces that together make up our existence. When we accept such divisions as real, we feel pulled in many directions, trying to respond to what we consider to be the demands of these different facets of life.

In my training as a life coach, I learned that it’s important to have a balance between the materialistic view of “being and doing” in life.  In fact, I often help people set goals in each of these areas, to help people live a life in moderation.  And now you’re telling me these divisions aren’t real?  That got my attention.  Of course, it’s the opinion of Ruhi and not from the Sacred Writings of our Faith, so that brought me some comfort.

The quote in book 5 continues:

We are bewildered by apparently conflicting aims: Should I sacrifice my family life to serve the Cause? Will not serving the Faith interfere with my efforts to raise my children? These are two examples of the myriad of questions that can arise.

These questions certainly arose in my life and I’ve spent many decades trying to resolve them.  As a single mother with clinical depression, serving as an assistant to the auxiliary board member in 2 clusters, I frequently sacrificed my family life to serve the Cause.  I would get up in the morning, get my son fed and made sure we said prayers together.  Once he was on the school bus, I would go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until it was time to meet the school bus again.  Many nights I would take him to Baha’i meetings.  He could see I wasn’t well, and at times he just wanted to hang out with me, but the Faith always came first.  I would make a herculean effort to rouse myself from my depression to make sure his needs were met and put a smile on my face as I went to the Baha’i meetings.  I frequently wonder if this is why he didn’t become a Baha’i.

Maybe there are ways to serve the Faith while raising children as a single parent, but I do wonder, especially in light of the fact that the World Centre will not accept single parents, and when there is a couple with children, only one parent will serve.

If I had my life to do over again, I would spend more time with my child, and focus the bulk of my service after he’d left home.   That would be how I would balance being (time with my son) and doing (time for service, later on).  Service to my son would also be “doing” as I was fulfilling the most important work there is – raising the new generation.

The quote in book 5 continues:

To resolve the dichotomies we have created, we sometimes try to divide our time equally among the various demands placed on us. On other occasions, we attempt to prioritize responsibilities and focus our energies on those we believe to be the most important at any particular moment. A careful allotment of time and energy is of course necessary. But it is only fruitful when we remain conscious of the interconnectedness of the many aspects of our lives. If we fail to see the whole, the tension created among all the parts can give rise to anxiety and even confusion.

I certainly feel anxiety and confusion whenever I struggle to understand this concept.  Shoghi Effendi, the best example of a goal-setter and planner on a grand scale, has told us we need to:

. . . leave the important for the most important.  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 109-110)

So he focused his energy on what he believed to be the most important at any particular moment.

What follows is a series of questions to consider in our example from Ruhi Book 5.  Here are the instructions we were given:

Below are various aspects of life placed in pairs that should reinforce each other, but which are sometimes thought to be in conflict. For each one of the sentences that follow the pair, decide whether it represents the kind of thinking that is conducive to an integrated way of life or whether it is indicative of a tendency towards fragmentation.

Family and Work

  • My family life will suffer if I work hard at my job.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking but I believe it to be true.  How can we possibly fulfil the roles set out for parents while working hard at a job?  You just have to look at the rate of divorce in the Baha’i community to see that family life is suffering; and educating our children is so important that ‘Abdu’l-Baha warns us:

Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 126)

For more on the role of parents, you might find these articles helpful:

The Role of Parents in Training us to be Obedient   http://susangammage.com/the-role-of-parents-in-training-us-to-be-obedient

The Responsibilities of Parenthood:  http://susangammage.com/the-responsibilities-of-parenthood

The Role of Fathers in a Bahá’í Family:  http://susangammage.com/the-role-of-fathers-in-a-bahai-family

  • I often discuss with my family my accomplishments at work and the challenges I face there.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • Of course women can excel in their careers, but the children always pay the price.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking, but again, I believe it to be true, based on the information in this article:

Should Bahá’í Mothers Stay at Home?  http://susangammage.com/should-bahai-mothers-stay-at-home

  • If I want to raise my children well, I will have to forget about my profession.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking.  I think we can do both well, at different times in our lives.  If children are being encouraged to marry young (sometimes as early as 15) and understand that the purpose of marriage is to have children, it’s easy to see that the parenting role could be fulfilled with plenty of time to build a career later.

  • I can advance in my profession and fully attend to my family responsibilities.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking and I believe it’s not possible.

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us we can combine service with marriage:

As to the terminology I used in my letter, bidding thee to consecrate thyself to service in the Cause of God, the meaning of it is this: limit thy thoughts to teaching the Faith. Act by day and night according to the teachings and counsels and admonitions of Bahá’u’lláh. This doth not preclude marriage. Thou canst take unto thyself a husband and at the same time serve the Cause of God; the one doth not preclude the other. Know thou the value of these days; let not this chance escape thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 100)

I think this means rethinking how we can make our family life a priority by thinking of it as the most important service we can render to humankind.

Education and Service to the Cause

  • I have to choose between pioneering and education, since it is not possible to do both.

Of course it’s possible to gain an education in a pioneer post, so this can easily be integrated.

  • Academic achievement is a prerequisite for entering the field of service.

Absolutely not!  Junior youth are being encouraged to enter the field of service long before they’ve completed their academic education.

  • The knowledge I gain through my studies is an asset in the field of service, and the experience I gain in the arena of service enhances my abilities.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • I have to abandon my studies if I really want to devote myself to the Cause.

Not true!  You can easily find ways to be of service while continuing your studies.  For example, studying with others; sharing meals; trading chores; being a friend; living the life; teaching the Cause, etc.  Service to humanity comes in many forms, not just participation in the core activities.  It’s all part of community building.

Here’s a quote to consider, to make this more integrated:

All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God. Bahá’u’lláh has thereby encouraged action and stimulated service. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

  • One of my greatest aspirations is to learn to apply the teachings of the Faith in endeavors that promote the betterment of the world.

Of course, this is an integrated approach.

  • The period of service that I dedicate to promoting the Faith or participating in a Bahá’í-inspired social and economic development project will assist me in choosing a suitable field of study.

Of course!  Here is a quote to balance these ideas:

It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas”, one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

Intellectual Development and Development of Spiritual Qualities

  • The independent investigation of truth requires the cultivation of the intellect, as well as the acquisition of spiritual qualities.
  • In teaching the Faith to others, we should just show them love; what we say is not important.
  • Intellectual development requires justice, honesty, and lack of prejudice.
  • To develop spirituality, one has to let go of one’s intellect.
  • Our minds and hearts are not separate from each other; they represent complementary and mutually interactive aspects of one reality—our soul.
  • Spiritual qualities are developed through conscious knowledge and the exercise of good deeds.

These all make sense to me and it’s easy to distinguish integrated from fragmented.

Material Life and Spiritual Life

  • I must deny myself material pleasure in order to develop spiritually.
  • Spiritual matters should be put aside until we are old; during our youth we should take advantage of every opportunity to advance materially.
  • The material needs of people have to be satisfied before they are ready to pay attention to spiritual matters.
  • The purpose of my life on this material plane is to develop my spiritual qualities and powers.
  • We should enjoy all the bounties that the world has to offer but should not allow earthly desires to take hold of our hearts and prevent us drawing nearer and nearer to God.

Here is something to consider:

In Paris Talks (p. 98), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that some people’s lives are occupied only with the things of this world, and their minds are so constrained by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence or to the spiritual significance of all things.  He gives us examples I’m sure we can all relate to:

  • they think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress
  • sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon
  • their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances
  • they don’t curb their lower propensities
  • they eat, drink, and sleep! like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being

Although we need to take care of the necessities of life (eat, drink, sleep), the cares of the lower things of life should not monopolize all our thoughts and aspirations. Our heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, our mental activity should rise to higher levels and we should hold in our souls the vision of celestial perfection so we can prepare a dwelling-place for us in the next world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 98)

Conclusion

This issue of being and doing as presented in Ruhi Book 5 certainly arises anxiety and confusion in my life, particularly in the area of family life, and now as I face my life as a workaholic in burnout, I’m even more confused!

I took book 5 with a group of youth who weren’t parents, so they couldn’t help me with my dilemma, and since then, I’ve tutored to groups who couldn’t help me resolve these questions, so I’m sincerely interested to hearing what you, my readers have to contribute on these issues.  Please, post your comments below.

 

‘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!