Select Page

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

 

Buy my books

Support this website

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

Buy my books

Support this website

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

Buy my books

Support this website

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

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

Man’s Highest Station

Man’s highest station, however, is attained through faith in God in every Dispensation and by acceptance of what hath been revealed by Him . . .

This quote came to my attention at just the right moment.  My life has been fraught with so much abuse, trauma, loss and disappointment that I often long for my next life to begin.  The Bahá’í Writings promise a much better life next time round and I’m looking forward to that.  I know that one of the purposes in this life is to acquire the virtues I’ll need in the next world, so some time ago, maybe when I was a new Bahá’í, I decided to set the bar high for myself, so that I could perfect as many virtues as possible, to acquire as many “spiritual brownie points” as possible to guarantee my best possible life in the next world.  The Writings are full of “if you do this, God will do that” and being a black and white thinker, I latched onto these and strove to put them all into practice, and then beat myself up mercilessly when I couldn’t reach the standards I thought were being set for me by the Writings and the ongoing guidance of the House of Justice.

Nowhere do I feel this more keenly than when the statistics officer calls and asks what service I’m offering to my mostly inactive, very white cluster with a handful of elderly Bahá’ís who don’t have the energy to participate anymore.  Because I haven’t been able to interest the local Bahá’ís or the wider community in the core activities, most of my service is in this online environment.  My articles for this blog and for the Bahá’í Teachings blog reach so many people that I can take comfort that I am participating in a mass teaching event, and I can view the online environment as my receptive population, but none of it counts in the statistics.  None of it helps my cluster get to milestone 2 (when we aren’t even at milestone 1 yet).  None of it can I find in the ongoing messages of the House of Justice.  All of this leads me into such deep despair that I burned out trying.

I believe that God is happy with my puny efforts, and can look Him in the eye when I get to the Pearly Gates.  I see evidence that He magnifies my teaching and service activities and sends me opportunities to serve in ways that unfold easily and effortlessly.  I know at some level that I can’t bargain with God for a better future, and slowly I’ve been learning about God’s infinite love, mercy and forgiveness of my sins.  I’m learning that I don’t need brownie points.  All of this flies out the window when I read the latest letter from the House of Justice and can’t find me and my efforts in it.  For some time, I’ve been praying most fervently for God to show me in the Writings that my efforts are OK.  Through this process, I’ve come to remember that my purpose in life is to know and worship God and not to get my cluster to milestone 2.

All of this to say that this quote seems to be what I was looking for.  I’ve already reached my highest station, because I have faith in God in every Dispensation and I totally accept everything that has been revealed by Him.  Thank you God for answered prayers.  Please help me remember, so I can stop abasing myself!

Knowing I’ve already reached the highest station there is, I can stop judging myself 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

 

Greedy for God’s Approval

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during his pilgrimage to Haifa in 1905; Star of the West, Vol. VI, No.6, p. 43; Compilation: Lights of Guidance)

 

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (Words of Abdu’l-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time; Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, June 24, 1915)

This morning I was reflecting with some friends on how we look to other people for external validation, to earn people’s love and respect or to prove our worth.  A lot of people I know define their self-worth by how many “likes” they get on a social media posting.  Many of us hang out with people who have similar tastes and compatible opinions in order to have fulfilling relationships and feel loved by friends and family.  We tend to avoid or rebuff criticism or unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning.   I’m coming to appreciate that creating this false face and trying to please everyone else before myself not only stunts real intimacy, but it makes me an invisible chameleon and drains me of my energy.

Changing my behavior isn’t easy, when I am immersed in a sea of gossip and am greedy for the approval of others.  I know how to get that drug that never satisfies.  I understand all this, but what I don’t understand is how I can get even more greedy for God’s approval and what would it look like if I found it?  How would I recognize it when it comes?

I don’t hear Bahá’ís talk about this much, so I’m baffled about what to look for, so that I can move from my lower nature (looking for the approval of others) to my higher nature (looking for God’s approval).  I took a poll and some people mentioned feeling the quiet satisfaction of a job well done; or having a feeling of peace and serenity at the end of a day; or feeling grounded and in the flow; or being grateful for fresh insights that could only come from God.  Any other ideas?

Finding ways to recognize and become greedy for God’s approval, 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

 

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive