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Showing Our Love by Obedience

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

During this worldwide pandemic, a lot of people around me, including some of my closest friends, have been taking a lot more risks than I’m comfortable with and I have found myself filled with criticism and judgement, leading to a lot of estrangement between us.  This morning, I find myself wanting to talk to one of them, and am rehearsing in my head what I want to say – mostly centered around the fact that there’s a big difference between being afraid that I might get or give the virus to others, and being obedient to the government.  I want to align with and honor the sacrifices of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, or in Germany during the Nazi regime or in South Africa, during apartheid, where Baha’i’s might not approve of the government’s policies, but have steadfastly been obedient at horrific expense to themselves.

Obviously, I can’t make the call when I’m feeling so critical and judgmental.  I don’t want to even reach out to others for support in what to say, because that would be backbiting, which is a sin far worse than the risks they are willing to take in their lack of obedience to the government.  I may not like what others are doing, and I may even feel alone in my decision to adhere to the directives and feel lonely as a result, and even still, I will take a deep breath and give all of it to God, so that I can stop even breathing in the sins of others.

Reading the Writings morning and night and finding exactly the right quote when I need it the most, 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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Drawing on Each Other’s Love

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith. (From a letter dated 8 May 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 19)

I love this quote and was happy to read it today because it reminds me of the importance of developing deep friendships with other Bahá’ís, that goes well beyond our joint service to the Cause.  Growing up I learned how to silence myself and distance myself from others so I wouldn’t “tell the family secret” by mistake.  I know how to be a really great listener and how to help people hear their own truth.  I’m an expert at deflecting attention away from myself to keep other people talking about their own lives.  I didn’t even know how hurtful this was both to myself and others until recently.  It’s hurtful to myself because when I was finally wanting to open up and get some support from others, they could’t hear me because I’d broken the unwritten contract that says all communication was about them.  It was hurtful to others, because they made me their god and didn’t allow them to develop their virtues of compassion, love, strength and consolation.

When I first became a Baha’i, I was hungry for this kind of friendship described in the quote, but there didn’t seem to be a time or place.  Feasts and Holy Days had their prescribed agendas and then we went home.  I had to go outside to find love and strength and harmony, often from paid therapists.  I loved when the House of Justice started encouraging us to study prayers together and make home visits, because these activities opened up a space for real heart-to-heart conversations.  I’m so happy that the community building process is all about building relationships and creating the kinds of communities where we will be able to turn to each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need, more and more often, and where children and junior youth will learn how to do this and feel the benefits of it, from a very early age.

Learning how to give and receive love in concrete ways, 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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Praying for Ourselves as Well as Our Oppressors  

Cleanse them, then, O my God, from all idle fancies and vain imaginations, that they may inhale the fragrances of sanctity from the robe of Thy Revelation and Thy commandment, that haply they may cease to inflict upon me what will deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of thy mercy, that are wafted in the days of Him Who is the Manifestation of Thyself, and the Day-Spring of Thy Cause, and that they may not perpetrate what will call down Thy wrath and anger. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 307-308)

In the days when I found it hard to forgive my parents for the abuse perpetrated on me as a child, I liked to use this prayer to pray for them.  In this prayer I was asking God to:

  • Cleanse them from all idle fancies and vain imaginations
  • Help them inhale the fragrances of sanctity from His robe

So that they would cease to inflict upon me what would deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of His mercy and that they would not perpetrate what will call down His wrath and anger.  It was a bit self-serving, but I could do it because it was a prayer and I wanted to align my wishes with prayer.

Lately, I’ve been looking at it a little differently.  I remember that whenever I point a finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at me.  I can use this prayer to ask God to cleanse ME of all idle fancies and vain imaginations; and to help ME inhale the fragrances of His unconditional love, so that I can stop feeling guilty for not being the Baha’i I want to be, following all injunctions and laws and actively engaged with the core activities and community building.

Knowing I can pray for myself as well as my oppressors, 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 Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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A Problem That Can’t be Easily or Immediately Resolved

It is difficult for the friends always to remember that in matter[s] where race enters, a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary than when an issue is not complicated by this factor.  (Shoghi Effendi, Pupil of the Eye, p. 87)

A lot of my friends have been participating in protests or changing their Facebook pages to honor the death of George Floyd and other black and indigenous people killed unjustly.  A lot of people are posting articles and videos, libraries are posting books to read.  Some are suggesting that if you don’t take action and speak up, you’re part of the problem.  I haven’t felt inspired to do any of these things and the more guilt-inducing messages I read, the less I want to.  Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook – I don’t know who to attribute it to – which said exactly what is in my heart:

Some of us are quiet because we don’t know what to say.  Some of us are quiet because we recognize our lack of understanding.  Some of us are mourning, as you mourn.  Some of us are listening with our hearts, and intentionally keeping our mouths closed.  Some of us are sincerely pondering what we’re hearing and seeing.  Some of us value your actual experience more than our own priviledged perspective.  Some of us are searching our own hearts.  Please don’t mistake our quietness for apathy.

This is a complex problem which effects all of us on the path to oneness.  Bahá’ís have the spiritual solution, and we’re learning how to implement it.  I’m grateful to learn more about my white priviledge, steeped as I am in it and unable to see it on my own.  I like knowing that a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary, because with God’s help, and little by little, day by day, I’ll do my part in tearing these walls down in my own life.

Knowing there are many ways to make a difference, and that I can find my own, 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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White Privilege in the Face of Injustice

Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40)

As I watch in horror as a week of protests, in the wake of yet another black man senselessly killed by a white police officer, led to rioting and looting across America, I hear a lot of my white brothers and sisters wonder what we can do.  I’m glad Shoghi Effendi has made it easy for those of us with white privilege to find a place to start.  If we look at this quote as a series of steps we can take, we can examine our actions.

  1. make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem
  1. abandon their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority

How can I do these things?  There are many sites online giving lots of ideas.  I can start there, to educate myself and find ways to change my behaviour.

  1. correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race

This can include deeply hurtful statements like:

  • I don’t see colour.
  • My best friend is black.
  • All lives matter.
  • There’s only one race – the human race.
  1. persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions

I can find ways to form genuine friendships and include them in activities.

  1. master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds

I can let go of any expectation that they can simply just “get over it”

Knowing there are concrete steps I can take to change my behavior, instead of protesting, 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 Anger and Bitterness

 

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Perfecting Our Life and Character

Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect” and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

The current pandemic has activated my “compare and despair” as I look around to see what I’m doing to self-isolate and judging those individuals and businesses who are not.  This morning I realized that my lifestyle lends itself easily to isolation but for others, the situation is a lot more complex.  Not everyone is able to work from home; not everyone has the luxury of a guaranteed income; not everyone is used to doing grocery shopping once a month or every 6 weeks; not everyone is used to spending large amounts of time alone; not everyone has a spiritual core to draw on.  In so many ways, I’m luckier than many of my family and friends.  I want to focus on being grateful for what I have and compassionate and forgiving of those with less.

COVID-19 is calling on all of us to let go of the need to be perfect; to let go of expectations of ourselves and others; to see the good in others and reflect it back.  As the House of Justice says in the Naw Ruz letter, it’s our job to:

  • Rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows
  • Obliterate the gloom of fear and consternation
  • Let the light of assurance dawn above the horizon and shine resplendently
  • Bring hope and strength of spirit
  • Nurture the attributes of unity and fellow feeling
  • Nurture knowledge and understanding
  • Nurture a spirit of collective worship and common endeavor
  • Strengthen bonds of friendship
  • Foster tranquility, confidence and reliance on God
  • Provide elevated conversations to bring a source of comfort and inspiration to many
  • Focus our prayers on the health and well-being of all the Friends of God and for the relief of suffering

Knowing what’s expected of me during this pandemic, 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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