Select Page

Personal Ambitions Don’t Bring Happiness

The fulfillment of our personal ambitions in life is very seldom what brings us happiness. On the contrary, it usually arouses an entire group of new ambitions. On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in our duties both as human beings, to our families and our associates, and as Bahá’ís toward the Cause of God and serving it to the best of our ability in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we begin to know what happiness means. (Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 23 May 1956 in Family Life, #108)

As a recovering work, service and activity addict, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.  I was into my 60’s before I could see that my ambitions weren’t bringing me happiness.  Keeping busy filled a lot of time and helped me feel productive.  Work, service and activities kept the grief of the past from overwhelming the present and it also drove people away because I didn’t make time for relationship-building.

When I was turning 60, I did some research about what to expect from the next decade, expecting to find a lot of information on planning for retirement, but instead what I found were a lot of articles talking about the importance of relationships and health.  According to some research, if we don’t have nurturing relationships by this time in our lives, we are more likely suffer more complex health challenges and to die earlier.  The more I studied addiction, the more this made sense.  Current thinking is that addiction isn’t caused by the thing we’re addicted to – it’s caused by lack of relationships and using other substances and activities to fill the holes in our souls.

So I was happy to find this quote in my reading today, because it reminded me that instead of focusing on achieving my own ambitions to the exclusion of all else, there were other things I could do to have more balance and moderation in my life:

  • immerse myself in my duties towards myself (including self-care)
  • immerse myself in my duties towards my family and friends (including more contact, more love, more forgiveness)
  • immerse myself in my duties as a Bahá’í toward the Cause of God (including more prayer and meditation; and striving to put the Teachings into action)
  • serving the Cause of God to the best of my ability in the circumstances in which I find myself (including reading my reality and aligning my service to the will of God instead of forcing myself into activity meant for someone else)

Being reminded of where true happiness lies, I can focus my attention away from my own ambitions 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 Be Happy

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

We All See Reality Differently

Participants in a consultative process see reality from different points of view, and as these views are examined and understood, clarity is achieved.  (Office of Social and Economic Development at the Bahá’í World Centre, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 13.  Bahá’í Library Online)

I like this quote because it reminds me that not everyone sees reality from my point of view.  Nowhere has this been more obvious than during this pandemic, where my choice to adhere to government directives and guidance from the House of Justice has been at odds with the behaviour and actions of many of my closest Bahá’í friends.

I became aware of a huge difference of opinions during the first lockdown, when they chose to gather at a cottage for our semi-annual retreat at a time when people were being asked not to come up to their cottages and to avoid the 3-C’s (close faces; closed spaces and crowded places).  I was furious that they would so blatantly disregard the lockdown and potentially put each other at risk.  I was afraid that the gulf between us had widened to such a degree that I’d never be able to find my way back.  I found myself incredibly judgemental, superior and self-righteous and at the same time, I was also jealous because they were continuing on and having fun without me.  They continued to have a retreat in the fall, when we still weren’t allowed to gather in each other’s houses, and it is now is happening again in the third lockdown.  Many of them are not planning to get vaccinated and I wonder if I will ever feel safe to go back to these retreats again.  I am swimming in a sea of poisonous, attack thoughts aimed at people I thought of as my closest friends for over 30 years.

I realized that I had a choice.  I could find a way to allow a difference of opinion and approach them with love and forgiveness; or I could let my bitterness eat away at the foundations of our friendship.  I know how to walk away when the going gets rough.  Now I’ve had to learn how to apply the things I’ve been teaching others in this blog and in my books, so I can keep these friends and at the same time keep my integrity and walk with my head held high with the effect of my decisions too.  Consultation with others has been an important key to remind me that we all have COVID-fatigue and everyone has their limits.  This has helped me be more understanding, and please God, may I continue to let go of judgement so I can hold love in my heart.

Remembering that consultation helps me see reality from different points of view, I can relax 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 Consult Effectively

 

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

Healing the Stress Caused by the Pandemic

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

One of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

There are lots of great articles on the internet about the importance of balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for optimal health at this time.  Things we can do in each area include:

Spiritual

  • Prayer and Meditation (Reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and night with care and attention)
  • Make God your Best Friend: when we’re missing our loved one, God is always available to us, 24/7, and deepening our relationship with Him helps us achieve our purpose in life
  • Spend time finding God in nature each day

Mental

  • Immerse yourself in the Writings (perhaps by attending a Study Circle)
  • Set goals, preferably in alignment with the direction given by Bahá’í Institutions
  • Stay positive. There’s lots that we can’t control; and lots that we can’t know, but we can watch our thoughts and focus our attention on the positive, perhaps by finding things to be grateful for several times every day
  • Pay attention to your fears and give them to God instead of making them bigger

Emotional

  • Journal your stressors every day – I do it in the form of a “Dear God” letter
  • Make phone calls – hearing other people’s problems can give us a relief from our own
  • Pray with people – reciting the prayers out loud has an effect on our souls and the souls of everyone around us

Physical

  • Healthy eating
  • Lots of water
  • Lots of exercise
  • Lots of good quality sleep
  • Rest and relaxation

All of these things work together synergistically.

Knowing there are lots of practical ways I can care for my body and safeguard my nerves at this time, 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

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

Not My Capacity, But God’s 

Do you think it is the teachers who make converts and change human hearts? No, surely not. They are only pure souls who take the first step, and then let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh move them and make use of them. If any one of them should even for a second consider his achievements as due to his own capacities, his work is ended, and his fall starts. This is in fact the reason why so many competent souls have after wonderful services suddenly found themselves absolutely impotent and perhaps thrown aside by the Spirit of the Cause as useless souls. The criterion is the extent to which we are ready to have the Will of God operate through us.  Stop being conscious of your frailties, therefore; have a perfect reliance upon God; let your heart burn with the desire to serve His mission and proclaim His call; and you will observe how eloquence and the power to change human hearts will come as a matter of course.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 26)

I absolutely have a love/hate relationship to this quote.  On the one hand it reminds me to”stop being conscious of my frailties and have perfect reliance on God” (about which I need frequent reminders) and on the other, it makes me despair that in my burnout and adrenal exhaustion, this might mean I’m one of those “many competent souls have after wonderful services suddenly found themselves absolutely impotent and perhaps thrown aside by the Spirit of the Cause as useless souls.” I know that these kinds of thoughts are just another way to beat myself up with the Writings and cause me to fail to recognize my nobility. In that moment, I need to “have perfect reliance on God” that what I’m doing is enough.  This is one of my most frequent tests these days.

Once I can set aside this consciousness of my frailties, there are certain things I need to do, according to this quote.  I need to:

  • let go of any belief that my achievements are due to my own capacity
  • be ready to have the Will of God operate through me
  • have a perfect reliance upon God
  • let my heart burn with the desire to serve His mission and proclaim His call
  • take the first step, and then let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh move me and make use of me

Finally, I love when promises are embedded in quotes.  In this case we’re promised that if we let go of all consciousness of our frailties and do these things, we will observe how eloquence and the power to change human hearts will come as a matter of course.  Don’t we all want it to be that easy?

Knowing that God keeps His promises when do what’s asked of me, 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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

Praying for our Parents

O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers (US Edition), p. 65)

In the days when I was so angry with my parents for the abuse they perpetrated on me as an adult, and their choice not to talk to me about it; in the days when I couldn’t forgive, I found this prayer that I could use, remembering that the Bab had promised that:

Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense! (Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 217).

Although I wasn’t yet ready to forgive, I knew that I could ask God to forgive them for me, and that it would benefit me as well as them.  That’s what was in my heart, when I was saying this prayer.

I like using this prayer because it reminds me:

  • God accepts our intercession in behalf of our parents
  • Asking for God’s forgiveness for my parents is one of His special infinite bestowals
  • The service and efforts I make will submerge them in the Ocean of His grace
  • God is the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind (for both me and my parents)

Knowing that when I use this prayer, God will also forgive me, and submerge me in the Ocean of His grace, 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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

 

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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive