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The Importance of Good Self-Care

 

There are so many demands made on Bahá’ís at this time in history, when the needs of the Faith are so great and the workers so few.  Many people try to do it all, burn out, and then become inactive.  Let’s look at some ways to avoid this.

Moderation:

Baha’u’llah tells us we need to have moderation at all times, and not to overstep its bounds:

In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation. (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)

Overstep not the bounds of moderation. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 235)

When our lives are out of balance, we won’t be able to exert a beneficial influence on the world.

Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 216)

Rest:

Taking care of your health is the best means to enable you to serve the Faith:

You should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It—the body—is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 296)

Time to rest is essential or you will become weak and powerless and unable to work:

I understand you have been ill and obliged to rest; never mind, from time to time rest is essential, otherwise, like unto ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from excessive toil you will become weak and powerless and unable to work. Therefore rest a few days, it does not matter. I hope that you will be under the care and protection of the Blessed Beauty.  (Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanúm, The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, from a tablet to Shoghi Effendi written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

What did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá do?  Sometimes he hid from others while he recuperated!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved, on the 27th, to the hotel in Rue Lauriston where He had stayed before. He was very tired, and needed a few days’ rest before people learned where He resided.  (H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 393)

Sleep

Shoghi Effendi suggests that most of us need a minimum of 8 hours sleep each night; and tells us we should protect our health by sleeping enough:

Regarding your question: there are very few people who can get along without eight hours sleep. If you are not one of those, you should protect your health by sleeping enough. The Guardian himself finds that it impairs his working capacity if he does not try and get a minimum of seven or eight hours.  (Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, V I, p. 459-488)

When we sleep, it should be to rest the body so we can be better teachers and servants, and when we orient ourselves in this way, the confirmations of the Holy Spirit will surely reach us, we will be able to withstand all who inhabit the earth:

If he sleep, it should not be for pleasure, but to rest the body in order to do better, to speak better, to explain more beautifully, to serve the servants of God and to prove the truths. When he remains awake, he should seek to be attentive, serve the Cause of God and sacrifice his own stations for those of God. When he attains to this station, the confirmations of the Holy Spirit will surely reach him, and man with this power can withstand all who inhabit the earth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 384)

We Can’t Do Everything:

This is a faith of universal participation – everyone has a part to play; and one person can’t do it all:

A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing. This understanding is important to the maturity which, by the many demands being made upon it, the community is being forced to attain.  (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)

Conclusion:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked us to consider the human body as an example, and this was absolutely key to my understanding that the advent of the Most Great Peace was not on my shoulders alone.

In the same way consider the body of man. It must be composed of different organs, parts and members. Human beauty and perfection require the existence of the ear, the eye, the brain and even that of the nails and hair; if man were all brain, eyes or ears, it would be equivalent to imperfection. So the absence of hair, eyelashes, teeth and nails would be an absolute defect, though in comparison with the eye they are without feeling, and in this resemble the mineral and plant; but their absence in the body of man is necessarily faulty and displeasing.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 129)

I came to understand that I was just a big toenail; not the whole body.  I didn’t have to feel badly because I couldn’t see or walk, any more than the knee would expect to see; or the ear expect to walk.  But if I didn’t do my job as big toenail to the best of my ability, the whole body would suffer.

What body part best describes you?  Post your comments here:

The Need for Rest

 

You should certainly safeguard your nerves and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation”.

Even though this quote was written over 100 years ago, how much more true is it today, when many of us are trying to do the job of 3 people, living a fast-paced life and hardly have time to squeeze in time to serve the Faith the way we want to.  I often wonder how ‘Abdul-Bahá would live his life in our western bustle, so that I can get some clarity on this subject.

In the Bible, we’re told that when God was creating the world, “on the seventh day He rested.”  He knew that moderation was needed!  I find it interesting that in this quote, we’re told to “force” ourselves to take time for rest and relaxation!

Even the Guardian went to Switzerland every summer, in order to get what he needed to continue serving the Faith!  Many of us are able to get away on vacations each year, but we often book in every minute so we can see and do as much as we can.  Although a change is as good as a rest, it’s not the same as “real rest and relaxation.”  For that you need to “be still.”

After working and volunteering full tilt for many years in a row, my adrenals were shot.  It was as though my car had run out of gas, and instead of taking time to fill it, I opened the door and pushed the car along with my foot, until I couldn’t do that anymore either.  Now I am “forced” to take time for real rest and relaxation!  But wouldn’t it have been better if I’d heeded this advice earlier?

Having a “Type A” personality, with an addiction to busy-ness and perfectionism, I didn’t know how to rest and relax.  Work to me was fun!  And I would take it with me on my vacation.  Once I realized how important it was for my health, and finding quotes like these, I slowly started to implement changes.  At first, I took time to journal, which is a great stress reliever but it still engages both sides of the brain and isn’t “real rest and relaxation”.  So then I forced myself to sit down and watch a movie or a TV show.  My favorites include:

  • M*A*S*H (I have the entire series which a friend taped for me!)
  • Touched by an Angel
  • 7th Heaven (I taped the entire series)
  • Heartland (I can watch the entire series online)

Later I tried different crafts and settled (for now) on counted cross stitch (which I used to do in my youth).

And finally, I’ve booked out one day a week in my calendar for “me time”.

What’s been your experience with needing time to rest?  Post your comments here.

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Developing Good Sleep Habits

In my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching practice, I often meet people who are somewhat confused by the whole topic of sleep. It seems as though there is too much to do in any given day, and it’s hard for them to shut off at night. Sometimes people ask, how much sleep do I really need? The Bahá’í Writings teach:

Regarding your question: There are very few people who can get along without eight hours sleep. If you are not one of those, you should protect your health by sleeping enough. The Guardian himself finds that it impairs his working capacity if he does not try and get a minimum of seven or eight hours.(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

So how do you stack up?

When you wake up, do you immediately look forward to going back to bed? When the alarm goes off does it seem as though you just closed your eyes? It’s time to get a good night sleep! After all, it’s amazing what a restful night’s sleep can do for your body.

Battling chronic exhaustion will either force you to find ways to get more rest or it’ll bring on ill health. Naturally, you’ll want to develop an effective sleep routine before your body forces you to rest!

Try some of these sleep tips so you can get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling energized:

1.Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Keep your bedroom neat and quiet so you feel calm upon entering. Your bedroom needs to be a getaway from the stress of the day. When a TV is on, even if you aren’t watching it, the light output feels almost as great as the sun. This confuses your body and makes it hard to “shut down” even after you’ve turned off the screen.

·If you have a TV or a home office in your bedroom, it will interfere with your ability to go to sleep. Move the television out of the bedroom or at the very least, try placing a sheet over it so you’re not tempted to watch it before bed.

2.Keep your room dark. Your body is designed to sleep when it’s dark. If you’re not used to this, try it for a while anyway. Children are used to sleeping with a light on but you’ll soon realize that it’s a huge distraction in getting to sleep. Pull the curtains closed, turn off all the lights, shut your door, then sleep like you’re hibernating!

·Many stores sell “blackout” curtains that block out the sunlight so the room remains dark. Consider using these curtains to fully darken the room.

3. Exercise during the day. Exercising during the day releases stress hormones to help you feel more relaxed. Most forms of exercise will pep you up and give you more energy immediately afterwards so make sure you exercise well ahead of bedtime.

·The energy you receive from daytime exercise will give you more restful nights because your body will be less stressed and more relaxed. You’ll be giving your body a total makeover!

·Even though yoga is considered relaxing, it may keep you awake if done in the evening hours. Plan your exercise routine either in the morning or late afternoon.

4.Make yourself a bedtime routine. This doesn’t only work with kids. If you get in the habit of going to bed at a certain time, your body will expect to be sleeping. Some recommend milk right before bed, as it contains the sleep inducing chemical tryptophan.

·Create a bedtime routine that involves things that make you tired, such as soft music, a warm shower, light reading material, or journaling.

·Television stimulates the mind too much, which can cause difficulty sleeping. Try recording your favorite nighttime TV shows to watch the next day, rather than staying up late.

5.Leave daytime stress outside. In order to rest, you’ll want to put aside things that keep your mind whirling. By keeping a calendar of things to do the next day, you can put your mind to rest.

·Make sure you’ve dealt with all the questions that keep you awake – what bills need to be paid, what time the doctor appointment is, and so on, before you lay down. This frees you up for sleep.

6. Say a prayer and read the Bahá’í Writings. Exposing your mind to the word of God as the last thing you do before going to sleep, will protect you for the night and set you up for a good night’s sleep. The Bahai Writings teach:

Recite ye the verses of God every . . . eventide.Were a man to read a single verse with joy and radiance it would be better for him . . . Lay . . . upon your souls that which will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend.(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 73)

This is one of my favorites:

O Lord, I have turned my face unto Thy kingdom of oneness and am immersed in the sea of Thy mercy. O Lord, enlighten my sight by  beholding Thy lights in this dark night, and make me happy by the wine of Thy love in this wonderful age. O Lord, make me hear Thy call, and open before my face the doors of Thy heaven, so that I may see the light of Thy glory and become attracted to Thy beauty. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving. (Baha’i Prayers, p. 60)

Once you’ve learned to rest well at night, you’ll experience a huge improvement in your quality of life. No more yawning through the mornings and the groggy, grumpy you will be replaced with an energetic person ready to take on life.

So what are you waiting for? Start a relaxing bedtime routine tonight and wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow!

What helps you sleep better?Post your comments here: