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Molding the World and Being Affected By It

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved.  Man is organic with the world.  His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it . . . Through them [the Baha’i teachings] will the human heart be changed, and also our social environment provides the atmosphere in which we can grow spiritually and reflect in full the light of God.  (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, V1, #3.3)

I had to read this quote several times before I thought I might understand what Shoghi Effendi is saying.  Starting from the end and moving backwards, it reminds me that my social environment provides the atmosphere in which I can grow spiritually, but it also deeply affects my inner life.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I can only be out in the world a short time before the world’s negativity draws me under like an undertow and I need to isolate myself for awhile before I can regain my equilibrium and go out into the world again.  I’m like a cell phone that’s near the end of its life, unable to hold a charge for very long without needing to be plugged in again.

I used to compare myself to others, and to other Writings which urge us to be more and do more, which fed my addiction to beating myself up.  Now I’m more gentle with myself, forgiving myself, understanding that God created me as an introvert, and gave me unique tests to shape my character.  He knows my weakness and frailties and yet, He chose me to be part of His army of light, so it’s OK to need time to recharge my battery.

Now that I’m conscious of my own motives and God’s mercy and forgiveness, there’s no need to beat myself up, 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  Learning How to Forgive

 

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When We Argue, We’re Both Wrong

If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise; that they may speak with each other with infinite amity and love. Should there appear the least trace of controversy, they must remain silent, and both parties must continue their discussions no longer, but ask the reality of the question from the Interpreter. This is the irrefutable command!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

I love this quote and find it interesting that it’s embedded within the Tablets of the Divine Plan, our marching orders for spreading the Faith to every corner of the planet.  This incontrovertible law and irrefutable command of God is important to be embedded into the hearts of all travel-teachers and pioneers, because it means we don’t have to be right.  We don’t have to prove a point.  We don’t have to engage in any controversial discussion.  We can just listen and approach every interaction with a humble posture of learning.  For someone addicted to adrenaline and drama, this is such a relief!  It’s hard on my adrenals and my liver to keep fighting for my position. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a marriage or a job or a community, where this was taken seriously?

It can be a challenge to learn to speak with infinite amity and love, remaining silent and looking to the Baha’i Writings for some insights.  First we need to have the discipline of turning to the Writings so we can develop the habit of “asking the reality of the question from the Interpreter”.  Then we need to learn how to share them with “words as mild as milk”, and then leave the results to God, humbly asking Him to plant the truth in the hearts of those we teach.

Knowing I don’t have to dispute with anyone, and can remain silent and avoid controversy, 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

 

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Dampening the Zeal of Others

If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detrac­tion serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honor of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  pp. 230-231)

In today’s quote on the evils of backbiting, we learn two important things:

  1. Backbiting not only dampens the zeal, but is also the leading cause among the friends to withdraw and become indifferent. How many Baha’is in your community have withdrawn and become indifferent?  It seems to be an epidemic.  Now we know what the problem is we can look at how backbiting has played a role and where we might need to adjust our behavior.
  1. When I hear backbiting, I know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to get caught up in it, because our culture is so steeped in it. ‘Abdu’l-Baha knows this and tells us what we can say to stop it in a spiritual and friendly manner:
  • would this comment serve any useful purpose?
  • Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
  • Would it contribute to the lasting honor of the friends?
  • Would it promote the holy Faith
  • Would it support the Covenant?
  • Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?

These questions might be easier to ask another Baha’i, who has recognized Baha’u’llah and accepted the Covenant, but the same principle applies with those who haven’t.  Instead we can ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

Knowing how to respond when I hear backbiting, I am grateful!

What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help?  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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Laughter at The Expense of Others

…[L]aughter should not . . . be indulged in at the expense of the feelings of others.  What one says or does in a humorous vein should not give rise to prejudice of any kind. You may recall ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s caution ‘Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person . . .  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, v1, p.45, quoted on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in a memorandum “The Humorist” 12 July 1997)

When I was a teenager, I remember reading a book by Robert Heinlein, in which he made the point that all laughter is put-downs at someone else’s expense and I decided in that moment, that I would never tell a joke or put down anyone, ever.  I also stopped laughing and started taking life very seriously.  It was one of those defining moments in my life.

When I came into the Faith, one of the first books I read was “God Loves Laughter” by William Sears, and found many stories of how much ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved laughter and when he was in prison, asked everyone to think of the funniest thing that happened during the day, and He’d laugh until the tears rolled down His face.  I often wonder about the content of those jokes.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall, to see what some of the jokes were.  But maybe I don’t need to worry so much about being perfect.  Maybe I can just ask God to help me take life less seriously and lighten up, trusting that my sensitive heart would still recoil at offending or saddening anyone.

Knowing that I have permission to find the humor in things, and laugh about them, 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

 

 

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Gossip and Criticism

Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

It’s so true!  It’s a lot easier for me to gossip and criticize.  We live in a climate that encourages gossip and backbiting, and for many years, I got a false sense of intimacy with other people, by falling into this trap to hold onto friendships.

Three ideas helped me put a stop to this behavior:  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Lights of Guidance, p. 88) tells us that “the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting”.  In the Iqan (p. 193) Bahá’u’lláh tells us that “Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”.  In The Hidden Words (Arabic 27), we learned that even breathing the sins of others causes us to be “accursed” by God.

Thankfully, these ideas are helping me get a better handle on staying clear of gossip.  Being around it anymore, feels like immersing myself in poison, so I avoid it like the plague, but criticism is a lot harder for me to let go of.  So much of my life I’ve been disheartened at the way things turned out, that I’ve come to expect to be disappointed.  My default reaction is to see what’s wrong instead of seeing what’s right.  Fortunately Abdu’l-Baha (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93) reminds me that “the imperfect eye beholds imperfections.”  When I remember to look to God, and His perfections, I feel more grounded and more able to stay positive and avoid falling into the trap of criticism.

When I remember that everything is perfect just as it is, and my only job is to love, use constructive words and cooperate with others, 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

 

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God’s Forgiveness

And shouldst thou recognize thy powerlessness, do thou rein in thy passions, and return unto thy Lord, that perchance He may forgive thee thy sins . . . (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 83)

I love the reminder to recognize my powerlessness at the beginning of this quote.  In the Short Obligatory Prayer, I admit to my powerlessness everyday, but for years, I didn’t stop to think about what that meant.  What exactly am I powerless over?  Now that I focus on that question, I realize that it changes from day to day.  When I’m conscious of exactly what it is, I can surrender, admit defeat, detach and give it to God to solve.  This strengthens my relationship with Him and helps strengthen whatever virtue I need in the moment, which fulfills my purpose in life.

Here’s an example from my life – today I’m feeling powerless over correcting a mess left by someone I hired to do a job I can’t do.  I’m totally powerless over whether or not he’ll come back to fix it, when he’ll do it, whether he’ll include it in his original invoice, or whether he’ll charge me more to do something that should have been done right the first time.  To “rein in my passions”, I need to first recognize and admit I’m feeling resentful, suspicious and full of self-pity, and then remember that I can’t turn these into patience, trust and forgiveness without asking God for help.  Whenever someone does something to me and I’m pointing a finger, there are always 3 fingers pointing back at me, so I’m learning to be grateful for the mirror held up in front of me.  When I remember the times I’ve been inconsiderate, imperfect and dishonest and am able to ask God to forgive me, He always does, because He is the All-Merciful, the All-Loving, the Ever Forgiving.

Knowing God forgives me helps me to forgive others, 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

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