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When is Enough Enough?

 

Recently I was listening to a podcast on our relationship to money by my favorite minister, Jeremy McClung of the Muskoka Community Church, which left me asking the question:  When is enough, enough?  This is an important question to ask especially at this season of excess we call Christmas.

In his talk, Jeremy handed out index cards and asked us to write “stuff I have” on one side and to write “stuff I want” on the other.  We were to make a detailed list of everything we own (land, cars, houses, clothes, electronics, appliances, toys etc).

What surprised me was how much was on my “want” side!  Even though I have everything I need, and more, the list of what I wanted was longer than the list of what I owned.  This was profound!  I urge you to take out a sheet of paper right now and do this exercise for yourself.

My income comes from a small disability pension, supplemented by some paid work, and I live in a small one bedroom apartment in a “geared to income” building.  Some people look at my lifestyle and long for me to be better off financially, and sometimes I wonder if they’re right.  On the one hand, the Bahá’í Writings say:

Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)

My well-wishers see the transformative path I’ve been on for the past couple of decades, and how far I’ve come in ridding myself of the anxiety and depression that robbed me of my life, and they think it’s time for me to get back into the “real world” and get paid for all the work I do.

I ask myself:  can I make a living doing all the things I do, so that I can get off my disability pension?  For years, I took the following Writing to heart, and tried to apply it.

The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 82)

Working in corrupt work places just made me sicker.

Now, this quotes shows how I long to live my life:

Thou hast asked regarding the means of livelihood. Trust in God and engage in your work and practice economy; the confirmations of God shall descend and you will be enabled to pay off your debts. Be ye occupied always with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh and seek ye no other hope and desire save Him.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 375)

Through quotes like this I’ve come to realize that my job is to take care of the work and God’s job is to take care of the money.  It doesn’t say “paid work”, and God’s way of taking care of the money doesn’t always come from a paycheque!  I have been taken care of in ways I couldn’t have imagined (from soup kitchens and food banks that treat me as a “guest”; to random strangers sending me money in the mail; to finding ways to barter; to people giving me clothes and yes, even from some paid employment.   I have more than enough, and I am grateful.

The question is: do you want to live like that?  It will mean a lifestyle very unlike the ones you’ve had to date.

Have you heard about the Peace Pilgrim?  She’s one of my heroines.  When she was in her mid-40’s, she decided to walk across the United States, and continued to do so for 28 years, to talk to people about the importance of peace.  All she had were the clothes on her back; a smock with a pencil and a small pad of paper; a comb and toothbrush, and that was it.  She had no organizational backing, carried no money, and would not even ask for food or shelter.  She travelled in the south during the winter and the north during the summer.  She had absolutely nothing – no means to support herself except total reliance on God.  She said in all the years she did it, there were only 3 days in a row where she didn’t have anything to eat or anywhere to sleep.  Every single other day, people would feed her and/or invite her to spend the night.  One time she was walking in a freak snow storm.  It was so snowy that she couldn’t see 5 feet in front of her, so she walked down an embankment to huddle under a bridge, out of the blinding snow, and there she found a fridge-size cardboard box, with a blanket and pillow in it!  Without a word of a lie!  God took care of her every need, even before she knew she had it.  Click here to read reviews about her biography.

I found her total detachment really inspiring!  Since then I’ve had many glimmers of how this works in my own life, which is “poor” by many people’s standards, and yet, I have had a rich and full life; totally blessed, to be able to do the work I love.

In terms of acquiring wealth, the Bahá’í Writings also say:

In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 219)

There’s a great story which illustrates the principle that the best possible life is not by having more stuff, but by letting go.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a story about a Persian believer’s journeys and how he could not sleep at night while in the wilderness for fear of someone stealing his new shirt, a new gift from a prominent person.  After several sleepless nights he decided to get rid of the shirt so he could relax.  (Rafati, Vahid, Sources of Persian Poetry in the Baha’i Writings, Vol. lll, p. 80)

I understand what this means!  One time I had so many journals filled with insights about my childhood and all that I’d suffered and how it made me the person I was.  I was attached to these journals and longed for my son to read them someday, to know who I was.  I was so afraid that they would get ruined in a flood or fire that I was actually contemplating buying metal boxes to put them in to keep them safe!  I realized the folly of this thinking, and because I was soon going on pilgrimage and wanted to empty myself before I went, I threw them all into the garbage dump (where they belonged!) instead.

Another time I was going out with someone who lived in a small village where everyone knew everyone else.  He was in fear that someone would steal his antiques and was considering buying an alarm system for the house.  I couldn’t imagine living with so much fear and suspicion.  It would be different if he was in downtown Detroit, but the crime rate in this village was next to nothing.  Surely it would be better to live with just enough, than to live in fear all the time!

When you move, you find out how much stuff you have; and how much you want.  When I was pioneering to Labrador, I took this quote seriously:

Reliance on God is indeed the strongest and safest weapon which the Bahá’í teacher can carry. (Shoghi Effendi, Power of Divine Assistance, p. 221).

What this meant to me was that I was to go with total reliance on God, trusting Him to meet all my needs, just as the Peace Pilgrim had.  I sold or gave away just about all of my worldly goods.  I arrived in Labrador City with 2 cats and 2 suitcases; one suitcase was filled with cat supplies and the other had my clothes; a sleeping bag and inflatable air mattress; a pot, pan, and dishes and cutlery for 2 (so I could invite someone over for a meal).  I had enough!  I had everything I needed to live quite comfortably.  I got a 3 bedroom unfurnished apartment (which was easier to find than a 1 bedroom); and could have lived with so little forever!  Unfortunately our culture demands a certain lifestyle, though, and within 6 months I had that apartment filled with furniture and kitchen supplies (mostly acquired through yard sales and moving sales).  When is enough, enough?  I had enough, but I wanted more.  I wanted to look like everyone else, but I didn’t need any of it.

Most of our “stuff” makes our lives easier or better in some ways.  What we fail to realize is that much of it also takes something from us in terms of storage, cleaning, repairs and maintenance.  It’s not a wonder how stressed we feel!  Houses are a good example.  When we buy our first house, we have to furnish it; and then buy all the tools to maintain it (ladders, lawn mowers, snow blowers etc.  The list is endless!).  When I was a home owner, I was always caught unprepared when the roof leaked, or the furnace needed replacing or when the tiles fell off the bathroom walls.  I couldn’t afford the repairs and didn’t know where the money was going to come from.  Needless to say, it went on the credit card, and then I was so far in debt, I nearly faced bankruptcy more than once.  Now I live in an apartment and all the energy I used to spend on mowing lawns and maintaining gardens and shovelling snow, can be used in service to others; and all the money I save in not having to maintain a home has gone into paying off my debts so I can live debt free.  It’s a much simpler lifestyle and has freed me up both financially and emotionally.

Have you ever wondered why people in cultures where they have nothing, seem so much happier?  It’s because the more stuff we have, the more stress we have.  I think it’s why we love to go camping.  We take everything we need with us, and leave the rest behind.  Most Canadians take more stuff camping than most of the rest of the world owns.

Despite what the “Occupy” movement would have us believe, the average North Americans are some of the richest people on the globe.  The following really puts it into perspective:

If you could fit the entire population of the world into a village consisting of 100 people, maintaining the proportions of all the people living on Earth, that village would consist of:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 Americans (North, Central and South)
  • 8 Africans

There would be:

  • 52 women and 48 men
  • 30 Caucasians and 70 non-Caucasians
  • 30 Christians and 70 non-Christians

In addition:

    • 6 people would possess 59% of the wealth and they would all come from the USA
    • 80 would live in poverty
    • 70 would be illiterate
    • 50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
    • 1 would be dying
    • 1 would be being born
    • 1 would own a computer
    • 1 (yes, only one) would have a university degree

 If we looked at the world in this way, the need for acceptance and understanding would be obvious. But, consider again the following…

  • If you have never experienced the horror of war, the solitude of prison, the pain of torture, were not close to death from starvation, then you are better off than 500 million people
  • If you can go to your place of worship without fear that someone will assault or kill you, then you are luckier than 3 billion (that’s right) people.
  • If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population.
  • If you currently have money in the bank, in your wallet and a few coins in your purse, you are one of 8 of the privileged few amongst the 100 people in the world.
  • If your parents are still alive and still married, you’re a rare individual.

Some people have suggested:  “the more wealth I attain, the more I will be able to travel to developing countries to help others or donate to worthy causes”.  I’m not sure that’s true.  It’s certainly part of the prevailing wisdom, but only God knows what He wants from us.  One the one hand He says:

If wealth and prosperity become the means of service at God’s Threshold, it is highly meritorious; otherwise it would be better to avoid them.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)

On the other, the Bahá’í Writings tell us that more and lasting things are accomplished by poor people, than by rich:

How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)

I’ve learned that a life well lived doesn’t consist of an abundance of possessions.  Sometimes we use “stuff” to fill the holes in our soul, but we aren’t going to find what we want from more stuff.  There’s danger in having more than you need, because it only creates more wants.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting more; or having aspirations – but the danger is that it distracts us from what’s really important.  We can spend so many hours focused on getting this “one thing” that we aren’t living in the present moment and we aren’t focused on what really matters – teaching, service and acquiring virtues.

For example, I knew that I would be getting some money from my father’s estate, so for the three years it took for the money to arrive, I was continually thinking of what I wanted to spend it on.  I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of it all; spent hours researching every item carefully, to make sure I knew that I was buying the best possible quality for my money.  I measured and remeasured to make sure it would fit.  When the money finally came, I threw it all out and decided to buy a car instead!  I wasted hours of my life on this endeavor!  And even when I got the car, I didn’t like it and traded it in on another one, losing money in the process.  What a waste!  I was certainly heedless of this quote:

Some men’s lives are solely occupied with the things of this world; their minds are so circumscribed by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence, to the spiritual significance of all things! They think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress. Sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon, their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances! They curb not their lower propensities; they eat, drink, and sleep! Like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being. It is true that these necessities must be despatched. Life is a load which must be carried on while we are on earth, but the cares of the lower things of life should not be allowed to monopolize all the thoughts and aspirations of a human being. The heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, mental activity should rise to higher levels! Men should hold in their souls the vision of celestial perfection, and there prepare a dwelling-place for the inexhaustible bounty of the Divine Spirit.      (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 98)

We don’t like to think of ourselves as greedy, but when I looked at the list on the other side of my index card, and truly understood my position in the world, I had to realize that I was.  We all need to be on guard against all kinds of greed, especially at Christmas.  The Bahá’í Writings tell us:

He should be content with little and free from avarice.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)

Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)

There is a danger in becoming attached to what we have.  Another story I like illustrates this point:

Whereas riches may become a mighty barrier between man and God, and rich people are often in great danger of attachment, yet people with small worldly possessions can also become attached to material things. The following Persian story of a king and a dervish illustrates this.

Once there was a king who had many spiritual qualities and whose deeds were based on justice and loving-kindness. He often envied the dervish who had renounced the world and appeared to be free from the cares of this material life, for he roamed the country, slept in any place when night fell and chanted the praises of his Lord during the day. He lived in poverty, yet thought he owned the whole world. His only possessions were his clothes and a basket in which he carried the food donated by his well-wishers. The king was attracted to this way of life.  Once he invited a well-known dervish to his palace, sat at his feet and begged him for some lessons about detachment. The dervish was delighted with the invitation. He stayed a few days in the palace and whenever the king was free preached the virtues of a mendicant’s life to him. At last the king was converted. One day, dressed in the garb of a poor man, he left his palace in the company of the dervish. They had walked together some distance when the dervish realized that he had left his basket behind in the palace. This disturbed him greatly and, informing the king that he could not go without his basket, he begged permission to return for it. But the king admonished him, saying that he himself had left behind his palaces, his wealth and power, whereas the dervish, who had preached for a lifetime the virtues of detachment, had at last been tested and was found to be attached to this world — his small basket.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 76-77)

Contentment is being happy with what we have, and being grateful for it.  This is what it means to be truly rich.  The Bab has given us this prayer, which says in part:

Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me.  Thine is the absolute authority to command.  (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 55)

We have enough.  All of us!  Ask yourself:  If I never get another thing, could I be content with what I have?  Most of us would have to answer yes!

I don’t think we’re all being called to get rid of everything we own and give it to the poor or pioneer to Africa, but to be able to get to the point where you could do it, is the kind of heart change God is looking for.

God might be calling you to let go of your stuff; or to change the way you relate to it; or to give it all to Him; or to pay Huqúq on it so it’s purified.  Pray about what you’re learning here, and pay attention to what you’re being called on to do with this information.  And realize that you have enough!

 

The Secret to Increasing Bounties in Your Life

 

Often in my Baha’i-inspired life coaching practice, when people are focused on all the things that are going wrong in their lives, I encourage them to make a list of all the things they are grateful for.

Gratitude is one of the most important virtues.  The Baha’i Writings tell us that by being grateful, we recieve more of the good things in life:

Be thou happy and well pleased and arise to offer thanks to God, in order that thanksgiving may conduce to the increase of bounty.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 484.)

And that we can never thank God enough:

If we should offer a hundred thousand thanksgivings every moment to the threshold of God . . . we would fail to express our gratitude sufficiently. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 37.)

How true it is!

Today, I’d like to share a 3 minute movie that captures the essence of gratitude more than anything I’ve ever seen. The words, the music, the photographs, in a word are…BEAUTIFUL!

So if you want to make your heart smile,  watch this. And don’t forget to forward it to everyone you know and love. It’ll make their day!

What makes you grateful?  Post your comments here:

Expressing Gratitude Without Envy

 

Gratitude is often a difficult concept to understand and put into practice. Remember how your parents used to tell you not to waste food because there were starving kids in the world? That was an elementary attempt at teaching gratitude because the goal was to make you think about how fortunate you were to have food on your plate.

Once children get older and start to understand the concept of gratitude, they’re usually bombarded with commercials and marketing ploys for all the latest, coolest gadgets. The problem is that all this hype and marketing undermines parents’ desire to teach their children to be happy with what they already have. And jealousy is especially difficult to battle when children have friends who get whatever they desire.

But if love and gratitude is only expressed through worldly things, there is no depth or deeper meaning since things break down, get old, and stop working at some point.

What Is Gratitude? 

If you look in the dictionary you’ll find the definition of gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness; basically, being happy with what you have in life. Sit and think about all that you have – your home, family, health, food, car, and faith – and then consider those people who don’t have any of those things. It’s very humbling to realize that there are so many joys we take for granted in our life!

Every Thanksgiving families sit around the dinner table and share what they’re thankful for but this practice shouldn’t be reserved for just one time a year. Giving regular thanks will help everyone in your family appreciate each other and all they have.

  • Share your gratitude with your family every night during a family dinner. Say thanks to the cook, thanks to the cleaner, and thanks for everyone gathered around the table.
  • Encourage older kids to really think about the little things that happened during the day to find their gratitude.
  • Enjoy the quiet time together and use the sharing opportunity to open discussions about ways your family can work together as a loving team.

Showing Gratitude Without Envy 

Both children and adults are guilty of being envious of other people’s possessions or success at one time or another. It’s human nature, especially since we see what others have and desire it for ourselves. But the Baha’i Writings tell us how dangerous this is:

At the same time those who show forth envies, jealousies, etc., toward a servant, are depriving themselves of their own stations, and not another of his, for they prove by their own acts that they are not only unworthy of being called to any station waiting them, but also prove that they cannot withstand the very first test – that of rejoicing over the success of their neighbour, at which God rejoices . . .Envy closes the door of Bounty, and jealousy prevents one from ever attaining to the Kingdom of Abhá.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No 6, p. 44)

If you’re ready to eliminate that jealousy and show genuine gratitude, here are a few reminders for you:

To thank Him . . . make ye a mighty effort, and choose for yourselves a noble goal.Through the power of faith, obey ye the teachings of God, and let all your actions conform to His laws.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p. 35-36)

  1. Gratitude can be expressed by doing big and small things. You don’t have to make a huge monetary contribution to express your appreciation. Simple things, such as writing a thank you note, are just as effective in showing your gratitude for life.
  1. Gratitude must be practiced regularly, even during difficult times. By doing something small but meaningful each day to show your gratitude, you’re forming an important habit which will last for your lifetime.

If we should offer a hundred thousand thanksgivings every moment to the threshold of God . . . we would fail to express our gratitude sufficiently.  (‘Abdul-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 37)

  1.  Gratitude is not all about money. Making charitable contributions is wonderful but if you don’t have the money to do that, volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, or other charity that touches your heart. Your time is just as valuable as money!

Teaching Kids a Life Lesson

Young children generally have a difficult time thinking of the big world around them. Their worlds are often centered on themselves, their family, school, and activities. They barely have a concept of another town or state, never mind starving kids in a foreign country.

By engaging in activities as a family, you can show your children the struggles other people face and how their own problems or desires fit into the big picture. Seeing the children who don’t normally get Christmas gifts will help them appreciate their own possessions more. Listening to the stories of the people at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day will help them learn compassion for others.

It may not be an instantaneous change, but eventually your kids will be more concerned about people, instead of things. Things can be replaced, but people are priceless. After all, without the sacrifices of our parents and the gift of positive relationships, there would be no one to share our things with!

Keep Dreaming Big 

Gratitude plays an important role in your own personal growth journey but expressing your gratitude doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. If you want to reach a certain career level, go for it. Want a bigger house, save up. If your child wants the newest electronic toy, let him start learning the value of money. In doing so, you will begin to appreciate your life journey a whole lot more.

Gratitude helps you see the true joys in everything – big or small. Just remember that every gift in your life should be a pleasant surprise rather than a desperate or jealous desire.We can repeat this mantra from the Bahá’í Writings:

O Lord, increase my astonishment at Thee!  (Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, p. 34)  (Bahá’u’lláh, Seven Valleys, p. 34)

How do you express your gratitude?  Post your comments below!

Giving Thanks

 

When was the last time you said thank you for being alive? Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Well, if you barely have time to appreciate what you have, how can you ever desire anything more?  If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, why would God give you more?

Be thou happy and well pleased and arise to offer thanks to God, in order that thanksgiving may conduce to the increase of bounty. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 484.)

We all have something to be thankful for, even those who live a modest lifestyle by choice or by circumstance.

Focusing on material possessions, rather than on the very fact that we’re living and breathing, tends to make us forgetful of the greater gifts, such as our families, our health and our Faith.

Be thankful to God for having enabled you to recognize His Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Directives of the Guardian, p. 73)

Life is a miracle and can be taken away in a moment’s notice. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there are many ways you can show your appreciation for your life. 

5 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

Sometimes showing your gratitude can be as simple as saying “thanks,” but other times you can show gratitude by helping others, or “paying it forward.” After all, you’ll never know how a simple, kind gesture will affect someone’s day.

Here are some ideas to help you appreciate life while also helping others:

1.  Reach out to your extended family and friends. Send them cards just to say “Hi,” call or email them, or even throw a party to reconnect and show these people they’re important to you.

2.  Reflect about your childhood and ancestors. Write a poem, essay, or short story about your life. What sacrifices did your parents make for you? What struggles did the family endure? How is your life better or easier than that of your great-grandparents? How did these events make you the person you are today?

3.   Meditate, pray, or go to your place of worship. Find a quiet place to think about all that’s good – your health, family, or home – and simply say “thank you” to your Creator.

If we should offer a hundred thousand thanksgivings every moment to the threshold of God…we would fail to express our gratitude sufficiently. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 37)

4.  Reconnect with your spouse and children. Actions speak louder than words so turn off that television and spend some quality time with your family just to have some fun! Whether it’s a surprise getaway or a family game night, renewing your relationships with your family will strengthen your bond and bring you closer together.

5.  Keep a gratitude journal. Write down all the things you’re grateful for in your life and reflect on all that is good. Even the simplest things – such as finding a parking space at the mall or locating your missing keys – are times to be grateful!

 When You Need a Wake Up Call

Sometimes it’s all too easy to engage in these activities and give thanks for a good life, yet over time, we somehow fall back into our old habits. In these times, we need a jolt to remind ourselves of all that is good.

Spend a few hours a week volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, or soup kitchen. Take a good look at the people you’re helping, listen to their stories, and be grateful that you’re fortunate enough to help those in need.

To thank Him for this, make ye a mighty effort, and choose for yourselves a noble goal. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 35-36.)

Giving IS Receiving

When you give of yourself – either with a smile or another kind gesture – you receive the warm satisfaction of helping to make a difference in the world, one person at a time. Your uplifting attitude will be contagious and you just might be the recipient of a random act of kindness!

What’s been your experience with giving thanks?  Post your comment below!

How To Be Grateful in Times of Need

As I often hear in my Baha’i life coaching business:  It’s not always easy to find the goodness in life, especially when money is tight and you’re faced with worries about your job or family. These worries can often cloud your whole mind, bring your mood down, and affect your overall quality of life.

An example from the Bahai Writings illustrates:

A bright and happy face cheers people on their way. If you are sad and pass a child who is laughing, the child seeing your face will cease to laugh, not knowing why. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 131)

If you feel like you’re being followed by the ominous black cloud of bad luck, then it’s time to find something to be grateful for in your life.

Remind Yourself About What’s Going Right

If you’re plagued by negative thoughts, find a quiet place, grab a pen and paper and make a list of answers to this question: What do I have to be grateful for in my life?

Start your list with the most obvious things, your health and family. Do you have a car? A home? Clothes on your back? Food on the table?

·You don’t have to have the fanciest or the most expensive items for you to be grateful. Even if you buy your clothes at Goodwill, at least you’re clothed and warm. A used car in good condition will get you to work just as easily as a brand new car.

·Don’t forget to give thanks for the small things in life, such as finding the car keys in time to get to work or getting a restful night sleep before an important day.

You can also try to sit quietly in a room and meditate on your life and things you want to improve on. Appreciating what you already have in life will free you to make the changes you desire.We get a glimmer of how many things we might be able to give thanks for, in this quote from the Bahá’í Writings:

If we should offer a hundred thousand thanksgivings every moment to the threshold of God . . . we would fail to express our gratitude sufficiently. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 37)

Being Grateful In Spite of Setbacks

There’s no denying that you will suffer setbacks in life. It’s a fact of life! While it may be difficult to be grateful during these times, it’s important to remember that good can come from difficult situations.This is one of my favorite quotes from the Bahai Writings:

If Khidr did wreck the vessel on the sea, Yet in this wrong there are a thousand rights. (Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 26)

For example, if you’ve recently lost your job, be grateful for the skills you have. With your skills, experience, and the knowledge you possess, you may end up finding a more fulfilling job that gives you more money or more responsibility while being closer to home.

As strange as it may sound in the moment of despair, try to be grateful during difficult times because, as one door closes, another opens the way to new opportunities. After all, you can’t find bright new possibilities in your life if you don’t experience a setback at one point or another.

Be Thankful For Life’s Setbacks

Setbacks are there to challenge you to be better, stronger, faster, and wiser. The true test of your attitude is to be thankful for the obstacle ahead of you (even if you don’t understand why it exists in the first place), then push forward, stronger than ever.

Why should you be thankful? Because with each challenge you overcome, you gain the wisdom and courage to succeed the next time around. And if it weren’t for each and every challenge in your life, you’d never learn and grow!

Being grateful everyday will help you lift that overbearing black cloud that can be so stifling. You’ll begin realize that life is good and you can make it through anything. After all, good things come to those who wait!

How has gratitude helped you though your times of need?Post your comments here:

Express Your Feelings with Gratitude

The topic of feelings often arises when I’m coaching people and sometimes people wonder:  How can I express my feelings peacefully?  What do the Baha’i Writings teach about this?

In his poem, A Poison Tree, the great poet William Blake wrote, “I was angry with my friend. I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe. I told it not, my wrath did grow.”

When you suppress your feelings, both positive and negative ones, you’re keeping yourself from being all that you can be. Not only that but if you internalize your emotions, you are growing into the very same ‘poisoned tree’ that William Blake wrote about.

Don’t Plant the Poison Tree Seed

When you conceal your true feelings, there’s an internal pressure that causes negative emotions like anger, resentment, fear, and hatred to swell up and take on more potential energy within you. The day always comes when those emotions explode outward because of the pressure.

When this happens you might say things you don’t mean that may cause deep pain to those you love the most. The possible negative actions and reactions that stem from your suppressed feelings could fill an entire notebook, which is all the more reason to express your feelings truthfully and peacefully!  Why truthfully?

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 22.)

Why peacefully?

It [consultation] requires all participants to express their opin­ions with absolute freedom and without apprehension that they will be censured and/or their views belittled. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

By honestly expressing your feelings you can diffuse the negative energy and immediately start feeling more peace within you. After all, you’ll feel less stress, tension, and anger when all feelings are put out on the table. Expressing your feelings constructively will help you speak more sensitively and rationally and see the good within others.

Gratitude Goes a Long Way in Expressing Yourself

Now, openly expressing your negative feelings doesn’t mean you should go around putting others down and it also doesn’t mean finger wagging or accusing. Instead, find a more constructive way to get things off your chest. You might find it’s best for you to write your feelings down and send them off in an e-mail. If you have the creative ability, write a poem or a song about your feelings. Whatever you do, focus on the problem, not the person. After all, we all make mistakes!  As Baha’u’llah teaches:

. . . an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 172-173)

If you think you can’t be that open about your feelings, always express what you are thankful for first. For example, you can start with a positive compliment then gradually express your frustrations.

If you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, you’re not looking hard enough. There are plenty of joys within your life that your negative emotions often disguise. For example, did you have a nourishing breakfast this morning? Then you have something to be thankful for! Have you ever had a rewarding conversation with a loved one that made you see them with new eyes? Then you have something to be thankful for!

Focus on these positive, rewarding experiences first and foremost, then express your feelings openly and honestly. With an attitude of gratitude for all that you have, you will feel confident in your right to express how you feel.

In his poem, why did Blake readily tell his anger to his friend? He cared about his friend and was grateful to have him, so he wanted to diffuse his anger right away. However, when it came to Blake’s foe, he was not so grateful and, instead, suffered greatly as he became a poisoned tree within his soul.

Remember, your spirit remains within you and affects how you think, feel, and act. So seek peace within your heart and mind with the power of gratitude!

Have you ever found the courage to tell someone how you were feeling?Post your experience here.