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Unity: One of the First Essentials

If we Bahá’ís cannot attain to cordial unity among ourselves, then we fail to realize the main purpose for which the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and the Beloved Master lived and suffered. In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

How much disunity exists in our Bahá’í communities, because we haven’t yet learned how to attain cordial unity among ourselves?  My hunch is a lot, especially since a lot of people are opting out of participating in the core activities.  Instead of just accepting this reality, I can dig a little deeper.

I love it when a quote tells me a problem and immediately gives a solution!  In this case, unity is not just a nice concept we can all agree on (Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world), but it gives me something practical I can do:  stop dwelling on the faults and failings of other rather than my own, and remember the main purpose for which the Bab, Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá lived and suffered.  Sometimes easier said than done, particularly in a culture that values gossip and fault-finding.

We’re told our greatest tests will come from other Bahá’ís and really, these tests are a gift, not something to fear or become frustrated and judgmental.  With every test comes an opportunity to grow spiritually, to grow closer to God and to attain the virtues we’ll need in the next world.  Instead of focusing on the faults and failings of others, I could welcome and embrace the awareness it gives, knowing that this finger-pointing can act as a mirror for my own growth.

Turning my attention to the crises and victories that came to the lives of the Central Figures, I can learn to adjust my own behavior and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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

 

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Setting Aside Every Personal Sense of Grievance

Regarding the matter of … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … when Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress;… All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance—justified or unjustified—for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (From a letter dated 13 May 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, in Living the Life, p. 27)

In helping to organize the Bicentennial event in our small cluster, a decision was made to not include a certain Bahá’í in the invitation.  She’s 90 years old, has some dementia, is strongly opinionated and tends to dominate the conversations.  People were worried about what the non-Bahá’í guests would think about the Faith if she went off on one of her rants.  I understood people’s concerns and even shared them.  I too have had my tests with this person.  So I agreed.

I went away feeling very unsettled though.  Is this a Faith of oneness, where everyone is welcomed, where diversity is celebrated?  Or is it a Faith of people just like me?  What if we had encouraged her to come, to show our guests that we can treat all people with respect and courtesy and dignity?  Wouldn’t that have been more important than showing the film and having a discussion about the Bab?  I couldn’t say that to the organizer, though, and an opportunity was missed.

To make up for this failing, I held a small gathering for elderly and shut-in Baha’is who couldn’t get to the community’s bicentennial celebrations.  I knew there would be another opinionated 80-year old in attendance, and there was potential for either or both to alienate everyone they’re talking to, and I didn’t want my resentment and frustration to spill over.  Before the gathering, I prayed to be patient, kind and respectful, particularly to the most difficult person.  And with God’s help, I was.

It turned out that I prayed for the wrong person, though, because there was someone else in attendance who got into a power struggle with the difficult person, which, for me, destroyed the whole Holy Day.  Another opportunity to examine my expectations, forgive, let go of all ill-feelings, pray for our community and remember the importance of unity.

Remembering that people will never embrace our Faith until they see us practice love and unity in action, I can do my part, perfectly imperfect, and I am grateful.

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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The Strongest Spiritual Test We Can Meet

Yet who can doubt that all the central Figures demonstrated to the whole of mankind an assured and happy way of life? Here is where their example seems particularly precious. To rise above the disappointments, obstacles, and pain which we experience in serving the Cause is difficult enough, but to be called on, in doing so, to be happy and confident is perhaps the keenest spiritual test any of us can meet. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

O dear!  I don’t like that not only do I have to find a way to rise above disappointments, obstacles and pain, but I also have to be happy and confident too?  Sometimes I really think God asks too much of me!  That’s how I feel today, in the middle of feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, believing I was acting on a prompting from spirit, I tried to tackle a 2-person job all by myself.  I failed miserably and made the problem worse, and sunk into hopelessness, despair and self-pity as a result.  Fortunately, I don’t indulge in those emotions as often as I used to, because I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, as this quote seems to imply.  I identified the feeling, got up and walked for 10 minutes, praying for my neighbors as I walked and came back feeling ready to tackle the next meeting, grateful to have had the opportunity to be of service to someone.

Learning how to behave from the central figures of our Faith, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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5 Steps to Overcoming Setbacks

We note that, as learning accelerates, the friends grow more capable of overcoming setbacks, whether small or large—diagnosing their root causes, exploring the underlying principles, bringing to bear relevant experience, identifying remedial steps, and assessing progress, until the process of growth has been fully reinvigorated.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counselors, 29 December 2015)

I always LOVE learning practical steps I can take in times of need, and this quote is one I want to have handy all the time.  Embedded in it are 5 steps I can take whenever life throws me a curve ball:

  1. diagnose the root cause
  2. explore the underlying principles
  3. bring in relevant experience
  4. identify remedial steps
  5. assess progress

The wonderful thing about having something concrete to do, is that I often become paralyzed when obstacles are put in my path, or think I have to figure everything out myself, which feels more like paddling upstream.  I might think the roadblocks means it’s not God’s will or it’s not the right time, so I procrastinate or give up my goals entirely.

The House of Justice has given this quote to the Counselors, to guide us towards achieving the goals of the plan, but I think it can be used for anytime I’m faced with a hurdle to get over.

Knowing what to do when life puts obstacles in my path, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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Finding the Strength to Weather the Storm

He feels that, if you close your eyes to the failings of others, and fix your love and prayers upon Bahá’u’lláh, you will have the strength to weather this storm, and will be much better for it in the end, spiritually. Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow Bahá’ís and your children. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 604)

This quote reminds me yet again (I seem to need daily reminder), that I need to close my eyes to the failings of others and pray that I may turn towards Baha’u’llah and through Him, towards God.  This is the entire purpose of my life (to know and worship God), as I remind myself every day in the short obligatory prayer, so you’d think I’d remember it, but it’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up in this material world and forget the spiritual, especially when I’m going through the storms in my life.

Another tool that’s helping me a lot is this:  for every problem that comes my way I make a list of 6 positive things that come out of it.  It’s not always easy and requires me to be in a real humble posture of learning.  An example from my life today:  I want to rehome one of my cats, who is attacking the other.  I have zero tolerance for violence of any kind in my home and think she’d do better in a home with no other animals.  I have prayed, consulted with others and advertised in many places, but so far, these prayers have not been answered. I’m frustrated and even mad at God for not answering my prayers. The six things on my list today are:

  1. I get to have more time with a cat I love
  2. My cat gets more time to correct her behavior
  3. I get to develop patience
  4. I get to strengthen my trust in God’s timing
  5. I can see where my self-will might not be aligning with the will of God
  6. I can put my request in the God jar, let God work out the details and get on with my day, instead of focusing on “poor me”.

Remembering to turn towards God and trust his timing, will get me through the storms, I am grateful!

What’s a storm in your life today and what are 6 positive things you’re getting because of it?  Share your successes below.

Note:  Shortly after doing this exercise, I found a perfect home for my cat and she’s doing very well.  I think I needed to pass this test first.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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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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