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Overcoming Fear

. . . the fears and anxieties that distract their minds . . . are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every would-be warrior in the service of Bahá’u’lláh, obstacles which he must battle against and surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen. (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 149)

Recently I made a list of fears that held me back and I was astonished to come up with a list of 125!  Some were obvious (fear of losing my health or my income, fear of authority figures, fear of angry people, fear of success); some were eye-opening (fear of God’s disapproval and punishment, fear of asking for help, fear of letting other people down) and others I had been completely unaware of (fear of making friends, fear of taking up space in the world, fear of moving out of my comfort zone).  The list went on and on!

What fears boil down to, though, is just two things.  We’re afraid of losing what we have or afraid of not getting what we want.   These fears, especially if we are unaware or oblivious to them, are always on the hamster wheel inside our brains, and as the quote reminds us, they distract us and stand in the way of being able to accomplish what we want to do.  They are “formidable” and yet we must all battle against them and surmount them if we want to be of service to our fellow-man.  We can’t do this without God’s help and mercy and we can’t ask for it if we aren’t aware.  So go ahead.  Make your own list!  This will give you some ideas.

Remembering to ask God to help me surmount my many fears, 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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Purpose of Tests

I know of a certainty, by virtue of my love for Thee, that Thou wilt never cause tribulations to befall any soul unless Thou desirest to exalt his station in Thy earthly life with the bulwark of Thine all-compelling power, that it may not become inclined toward the vanities of this world.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 193)

Most of my life I lived from the perspective of a victim.  So many terrible things happened to me as a child.  Many times I begged God to stop them and when they only got worse, I stopped believing in God.  I think that’s a pretty common response to severe injustice.  We can’t believe that a loving God would allow such awful things to happen in the world, so we conclude there must not be a God.  We begin to doubt our humanity, our faith, everything we thought we knew about justice, about what’s right and wrong, and even our capacity to continue in the face of terrible events.  Many of us can’t cope and some even commit suicide.  My own life was a living death for many years.

I had so many misconceptions about the purpose of tests, and I believe others might have too.  At first I thought that I was doing something wrong, and then graduated to the idea that I was undeserving or that God was mad at me (for something I did that was unforgivable), or that He wants me to suffer.  I expected life to be fair and to be rewarded for attempting to be a “perfect” Bahá’í, and when I wasn’t, I fell into hopeless, helpless despair.

This quote cuts across all of the misconceptions we have about life – the only reason for our tests is so God can “exalt our stations” and protect us from being inclined towards the vanities of this world.  That’s more in line with my idea of a loving God!  Thank you God for explaining it in such simple language!

Knowing there is a purpose to my tribulations, I can relax and be 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 Anger and Bitterness


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Idle Thoughts and Vain Imaginings

Consider then how the peoples of the world are circling round their own vain imaginings and worshipping the idols of their own thoughts and fancies, without the least awareness of doing so. They regard these vain imaginings as that Reality which is sanctified above all understanding and exalted beyond every allusion. They consider themselves to be the proponents of the Divine Unity and all others as worshippers of idols, even though idols at least enjoy a mineral existence, whereas the idols of human thoughts and imaginations are sheer illusion and have not even the existence of stones. “Take ye good heed, O people of insight!” (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 37)

Our thoughts are not our friends.  Where did the thought come from, which led Mírzá Yahyá to betray Bahá’u’lláh?  Where did the thought come from, which led Osama Bin Laden to bomb the World Trade Centre?  Where did the thought come from, which led Hitler to want to exterminate the Jews?  These thoughts all came out of their lower natures.  All idle fancies and vain imaginings that people believed in and acted on, to the detriment of the world.

As someone who lives in her head a great deal of the time, this is an important reminder.  It’s easy to believe the thoughts in my head without even knowing I’m doing it.  This is my drug of choice.  I’m addicted to the thoughts, especially to the ones that tell me I’m unloveable, not measuring up, a bad Bahá’í.  I’m addicted to the thoughts that feed my negativity and self pity.  I know better.  I’ve studied thoughts, written about believing the lies and tried to master my thoughts on my own and discovered all too often that I am powerless over them.  I need the grace of God to turn it around and I need to remember to rely on it every minute of every day.  It’s exhausting!

Knowing I can destroy these false idols by giving them to God, 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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The world is in great turmoil, and the minds of its people are in a state of utter confusion.  We entreat the Almighty that He may graciously illuminate them with the glory of His Justice, and enable them to discover that which will be profitable unto them at all times and under all conditions. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 97-98)

In this world where “fake news” is increasingly the norm, it’s easy to see why our minds would be in a state of utter confusion.  We don’t know who or what to believe and we’re being bombarded with ads targeted to our interests so everywhere we turn we see more and more things we want to buy.  At work, we’re doing the jobs of 3 people and with instant communication we’re expected to be available to everyone, all the time.  No wonder we’re in a state of turmoil and confusion!  Only God can help us navigate through this quagmire.

So let’s look at the prayer embedded in this quote.  We’re asking God to illuminate us with His Justice.  While we have no idea what God’s Justice might look like, we can turn to the Hidden Words (Arabic Number 2), which defines justice as the best beloved of all things, God’s gift to us and a sign of His loving kindness.  It requires us to see with our own eyes and know of our own knowledge instead of seeing  through the eyes of others, and relying on their knowledge.  When we do this, we’re promised that God will confide in us and and enable us to discover the things which will be profitable for us at all times and under all conditions.

Knowing the steps I can take to cut through my confusion, 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 Be Happy


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Perfection or Perfectionism – How to Tell the Difference

Workaholics reading “Strain every nerve” in the following quote, will see evidence in the Writings to push through and work harder:

Strain every nerve to acquire both inner and outer perfections, for the fruit of the human tree hath ever been and will ever be perfections both within and without. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 247)

But is this what God wants from us?

I see a difference between acquiring perfections and being perfectionistic.  In one, we strive for excellence to please God, in the other, we strive to please others.  Here are some other examples of how they might be different:

Perfection Perfectionism
excellence fastidiousness
faultlessness fussiness
exactness nitpicking
precision hairsplitting
flawlessness meticulousness
accomplishment conscientiousness
achievement thoroughness
diligent punctiliousness


In the Secret of Divine Civilization (p. 40), ‘Abdu’l-Baha gives us the attributes of perfection, which include:

  • to fear God
  • to love God by loving His servants
  • to exercise mildness and forbearance and calm
  • to be sincere, amenable, clement and compassionate
  • to have resolution and courage, trustworthiness and energy
  • to strive and struggle
  • to be generous, loyal, without malice
  • to have zeal and a sense of honour
  • to be high-minded and magnanimous
  • to have regard for the rights of others

To this list, Shoghi Effendi adds:

. . . to be free of one’s ego is a hallmark of perfection. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)

We know we’ll never reach a state of perfection in this world:

We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

So we can (and should) use this list to strive towards, without judging ourselves or others for not meeting up to this standard.

While perfection of work as a result of incessant labour and application makes us happy and is man’s greatest reward:

Perfection of work is man’s greatest reward. When a man sees his work perfected and this perfection is the result of incessant labour and application he is the happiest man in the world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)

It only brings joy to our body, but it does not glorify our souls:

Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.  It may be that a man who has every material benefit, and who lives surrounded by all the greatest comfort modern civilization can give him, is denied the all important gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

Nor does it elevate our spirits:

If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

We need to perfect ourselves spiritually as well as materially:

Only by improving spiritually as well as materially can we make any real progress, and become perfect beings.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

The key to moderation is striving “little by little, day by day.”

Later in the month, Mrs. Tatum was talking with Abdul-Bahá and said, “I feel so dejected today.  I am unhappy with myself.”  The Master replied: this is a sign of progress.  The person who is satisfied with himself is the manifestation of Satan and the one who is not satisfied is the manifestation of the merciful one.  An egotist does not progress but the one who thinks himself imperfect will seek perfection for himself and will progress . . . The attainment of absolute perfection for a human being is impossible; thus, however much he may progress he is still imperfect and has above him a point higher than himself.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 160)

What’s been your experience with this issue?  How has this helped you to understand it differently?  Post your comments below.

Why I Don’t Want to Fall Prey to the Kingdom of Names

I noticed that in many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the “Kingdom of Names”. I found this phrase puzzling and didn’t know what it meant or how it might apply to me.  In the following quote, Baha’u’llah seems to use this term to refer to those who have busied themselves in the things of this world and forgotten to turn to God in all their affairs:

The Pen of the Most High is unceasingly calling; and yet, how few are those that have inclined their ear to its voice! The dwellers of the kingdom of names have busied themselves with the gay livery of the world, forgetful that every man that hath eyes to perceive and ears to hear cannot but readily recognize how evanescent are its colors.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 195)

In my quest to understand the roots of my workaholism, and find ways to overcome it, this made sense.  When I seek fame and popularity; when I make my “to do” lists and systematically attempt to cross each item off as more keep popping up, I exert my focus and willpower to get it all done, forgetting to ask God to guide me in all my affairs.  I forget to ask Him what His priorities are for my day, and in doing so, I fail to achieve my purpose in life, which is to know and worship Him.

So what exactly is the “kingdom of names” and how do I sever myself from it?  Adib Taherzadeh seems to have the best insights.  Although his writings are not authoritative, they are based on a greater understanding of the Writings than I have, so I pass them along, in case you find them helpful too.

He uses a very clear example here:

In this world every one of God’s attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name ‘generosity’, the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 25)

So all of the things I’m praised for (being organized, respectful, courteous, diligent, hard-working etc) I claim for myself:

  • I am organized.
  • I am respectful.
  • I am hard-working. Etc

And every time I do that, I’ve fallen into the trap of attaching myself to the “kingdom of names”, and at risk of building up my ego.  In order to sever myself and become humble, I need to see these things as the signs of God in me, rather than something I’ve achieved for myself.

I need to change these thoughts into something like “God has given me the ability to organize; to be hard working, to be respectful, etc.”

To the extent I’m able to do this, I’ll be able to bestow divine perfections on the world and fulfill my part in the Covenant:

Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man. To the extent that a believer succeeds in severing himself from these three forms of attachment, will he be fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

That makes sense, because I will be continually praising God and giving Him the credit for all the work and service I do, which will stand out as “different” from those around me, and will be a way to teach the Faith and help others draw closer to God.

The key to severing myself seems to be to realize that my virtues aren’t my own, but are manifestations of the attributes of God:

If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

Apparently it’s not as easy to do as we might think, however.  Adib tells us this might be our most difficult task and to do so might last a lifetime:

To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Bahá’í, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

When I am driven to achieve more, to please more people, to make a name for myself in the world, Baha’u’llah reminds me that this won’t profit me in the slightest.

Would it profit you in the least if, as ye fondly imagine, your names were to endure? Nay, by the Lord of all worlds! … Should your names fade from every mortal mind, and yet God be well pleased with you, ye will indeed be numbered among the treasures of His name, the Most Hidden.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 47)

Adib reminds us:

There are many people who have rendered notable services to the Faith and their names are recorded in its annals, yet when the winds of tests blew they were unable to subdue their self and ego. These individuals not only lost their faith, but also their goodness and virtues. They fell from the heights of glory into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 264)

I’ve been striving towards the wrong things, and I certainly don’t want to be counted among those who’ve fallen into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  Please God, protect me from that test!

Instead, I need to make sure that God is pleased with me.  We’ve all grown up being taught first to please our parents, then our teachers, then our bosses.  But how many of us have been taught how to please God before all else?  This may be why it will take a lifetime to undo this conditioning.

Fortunately we don’t have to do it all ourselves.  We have the transformative effect of the Revelation of Baha’ullah to help reverse this process:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

How has this helped your understanding?  Post your comments below.