For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair. All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 109-110).
Everyone has tests in life – it’s how we grow spiritually. They remind us to turn towards God and result in developing the virtues we’ll need in the next world. So they’re just a given. We all get them. So how can we be happy in the midst of them? This quote gives us a clue. It shows us that it’s our thoughts about the tests that are the problem. All our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter. Isn’t it interesting that even though these tests are a part of God’s plan, they aren’t meant to cause us sadness. That’s our choice. It reminds me of a story, which comes from the Taoist tradition (its origin is unknown.)
It’s a story of a farmer and his horse. One day his horse runs away. And his neighbor comes over and says, to commiserate, “I’m so sorry about your horse.” And the farmer says “Who knows what’s good or bad?” The neighbor is confused because this is clearly terrible. The horse is the most valuable thing he owns. But the horse comes back the next day and he brings with him 12 feral horses. The neighbor comes back over to celebrate, “Congratulations on your great fortune!” And the farmer replies again: “Who knows what’s good or bad?” And the next day the farmer’s son is taming one of the wild horses and he’s thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m so sorry about your son.” The farmer repeats: “Who knows what’s good or bad?” Sure enough, the next day the army comes through their village and is conscripting able-bodied young men to go and fight in war, but the son is spared because of his broken leg. And this story can go on and on like that. Good. Bad. Who knows?
Nothing is accomplished by overanalyzing, overthinking, overplanning, overlabeling. Labeling something good or bad only keeps me stuck.
When I keep my thoughts in the spiritual Kingdom I feel perpetual joy, no matter what life throws at me, 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 Fear into Faith: Overcoming Anxiety