“Yahoo! I’m a Bahá’í!” : Staying Motivated
Soooooo….The world getting you down? Don’t feel that spiritual spark? Too much duty & steadfastness, and not enough victory? Are you beginning to think, “Why bother?” Well, here’s some things I do, and they might help you!
Read The Writings Every Day
I find it is important which Writings you pick to read. Pick something that you find uplifting if you are discouraged, such as something about the victory of the Cause ( the compilation “Be Thou Assured” is one of my favorites; “Victory Promises” is another ); perhaps you shouldn’t read about all the things one should be doing. When you are feeling more “muscular”, read the “shoulds” then.
There is a MARVELOUS computer program, called “Ocean”, which has most all the Baha’i Scripture as well as Scripture from Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam & Christianity….and it is FREE. You do NOT have to be a Baha’i to download it and you can search it all easily using keywords; you wanna know about health? Type it in and *zoom*! It’s all there.
Remember – these words have a POWER – that’s why they are called the “Creative Word of God” – do not deprive yourself of this power, especially if yer feeling all emo and alienated and stuff. Now it is so very easy to dive in to that Divine Ocean!
Bring Yourself “To Account” Each Day
This is a very important tool for keeping up with how you are doing and staying motivated, but you gotta be careful! Don’t think so much about what you did wrong; think about what you did right! An email friend of mine writes in a journal every night about what she did right that day and that journal has become one of her most treasured possessions. God knows that I cannot remember much of ANYTHING these days, & I often say:”If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist,” so write that good stuff down , because you will forget most of it. Trust! Besides, it takes serious effort to counteract the culture of negativity that we swim in all day, everyday. Positivity must be cultivated and worked on DAILY.
Accentuate the Positive-Eliminate The Negative
Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs
in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and
grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor
will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.
O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to thee,
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in the U.S., He made many, many speeches. Several American Bahá’ís at the time ( Hand of the Cause of God Louis Gregory in particular) noted that He was always encouraging in His talks. Of course He pointed out things that needed to be changed, but the overall tone He used was encouraging. Now, how can one put this into practice?
- stop taking in “daily doses of discouragement”- a.k.a. the news! Yes, it is a good thing to be informed of important happenings in the world but the vast majority of daily news is not really “news” – it’s just depressing or shocking and not vital. For example, many years ago I read in the paper of a horrendous case of child abuse that ended with the child dying a truly agonizing death. I said some prayers for the child, thanked God for my life and my children, but was generally depressed for the rest of that day and some of the next (and in fact whenever I think of it, it makes me so sad – years later). I could not do anything at all to alleviate that child’s suffering (he’d already died) and it kept me from “be(ing) …a river of life eternal to My loved Ones.” Learning to filter out harmful influences like this is essential to my well-being.
- Avoiding criticism – both giving and receiving. If there are people in your life that are constantly down on you, on life in general, on the Faith- whatever - avoid them. Pray for them, love them from afar – but avoid them if at all possible. As far as giving criticism out – this is one of my own tremendous personal challenges. For several years now, it has been my daily goal not to criticize anyone, and see only the good. I have achieved this maybe 5 or 6 times…so far! Maybe it isn’t a great track record, but I look at it this way: those are days that I would have criticized others if I hadn’t been trying, and there have been many more days when I’ve been close. At least I’m moving forward.:o) I also believe criticizing others as a habit, while certainly culturally supported, isn’t generally good for us (except in certain specific circumstances, such as teaching a skill). It doesn’t make us or the people around us any happier or increase our love for each other, does it? It doesn’t change things. Look, even when you know you’re wrong, NOBODY likes being criticized. So stop.
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha told us “We must ever praise each other.” Think of it! How different that is from ‘the way the world is’. If we can train ourselves not just to see only the good in each other, but to actively look for good stuff in folks, and then tell them about it. It really isn’t hugely difficult to find things that we genuinely appreciate about each other. The trick is to share that information, and often!
- see the next item!
Be Where The Baha’is Are
3. O FRIEND!
In the garden of they heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of
affection and desire loosen not thy hold. Treasure the companion of the righteous and
eschew all fellowship with the ungodly.
-The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh
Every single one of us knows that the culture we live in (anywhere in the world) does not support the values of the Faith. So, if you are feeling discouraged by the world – get together with the Baha’is!! If there’s nothing planned, invite some over! Call someone!
Regular interaction with the Baha’is will not only challenge us, but it will ALSO nourish your soul. TV can’t do that, hobbies and sports can’t do that, oftentimes work cannot do that. So – locally, go to:
- Feasts and Holy Days
- LSA meetings
- prayer meetings/devotions
- potlucks and firesides
- classes ( FYI – these can also be taken online at the Wilmette Institute)
- study circles
Now there are lots of things happening in other communities too. Sometimes, we get “stale” and need new ideas and new people to meet – there is absolutely nothing wrong with going somewhere else for all of the above to recharge your batteries. Plus, if you haven’t been to one of the events below in a while, you owe it to yourself to make the effort to go. The Universal House of Justice has said that we have entered the Fifth Epoch and that they’ve witnessed “a new state of mind” throughout the Baha’i world. Things are different, maybe not every thing has changed, but I personally have seen a change in the tenor of consultation and fellowship at:
- Unit Convention (usually the 1st or 2nd weekend in October)
- Weekend Schools (listings in the American Baha’i magazine) – and permanent schools like Louhelen, Green Acre, & Bosch
- “big” conferences like Green Lake, Grand Canyon, & the ABS conference. And of course, the one dearest to my heart: the Wings to the Spirit conference. Those are just a few and only in North America. Google “Baha’i conference” and you’ll see there are loads of them!
We must of course remember the “BIG KAHUNA” of all spiritual experiences:
Get your name on that list. Do it, do it, do it!
Staying Away is Dangerous
Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife,
contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God.
-Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8
We shall always be with you; if We inhale the perfume of your fellowship, Our heart will assuredly
rejoice, for naught else can satisfy Us.
-Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 316
Estrangement: to cause somebody to stop feeling friendly or affectionate toward somebody else
(Encarta online dictionary)
Once a person, by the grace of God and their own volition, accepts Baha’u’llah into their heart, they do not become perfect at that moment. Oh no, oh NO! We all bring with us our “stuff” – our racism, sexism, ageism, politics, promiscuity, drug addiction, superiority complexes and on and on. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t go on in the Baha’i community because it does. This is so very disappointing and sometimes extremely painful. Sometimes it crushes one’s faith to the point that they withdraw from the community. A couple of years ago, I had an experience within the Baha’i community that hurt me so much, I was so very tempted to *never* come to another Baha’i event EVER –even after all these years, even though I have learned this lesson before, even though I know that this Faith is the salvation of humanity – the “only game in town”!
There are as many “good reasons” to stay away from the Baha’i community as there are sins to commit.
There’s a really interesting Law of the Universe (Issac Newton discovered it and wrote it down), and it is
“The longer you stay away from the Baha’i community, the easier it is to stay away from the Baha’i community.”
Ok, ok. Old Ike put it a little differently – and called it “inertia” – but it is true!. The longer you stay away from your Baha’i community, you are confirming a habit of non-involvement in your Baha’i community life. PLUS, as one stays away, the faults of the other Baha’is become magnified in your mind.
Even if you decide to “come back” and “give it another try”,
HERE’S A SECRET: the other Baha’is are still gonna do all that stuff that bothers you. Why?
BECAUSE GOD SET IT UP THAT WAY!
So think about that a little. We are gonna take stuff the wrong way, GONNA get hurt and hurt others even when we aren’t doing it purposefully; it’s the nature of the game. If we accept that as part of how we are, if we know it from the outset, we can deal with it as a part of the cost of being alive. And here’s the weird thing: we will only overcome this (and many of our own shortcomings) within a group!
In my opinion, the very fact that there’s something bothering you about your Baha’i community means that you have a most excellent reason to be present: to fix it. You are seeing what the others do not or cannot see, and how can it be worked on if you are not there to see it, speak up, and change it?
We need each other. Plus, believe it or not – YOU need your community. Why?
And just so’s ya know, “retrogression” is a fancy word for “backsliding”. Yup.
So how does that work? One aspect of it I think is when we are offended by what other Baha’is do, whether we realize it or not, we have waltzed into the condition of “judgement.” Now we all know, intellectually at least, that we are *not* supposed to judge others; however, it is extremely common behavior – I would even guess it is an inherent tendency of human beings! So whenever something happens that makes you start saying, “They should….”, or “They shouldn’t…..”
Breathe deeply AGAIN.
Then remember this:
“As soon as one feels a little better than, a little superior to, the rest, he is in a dangerous position, and
unless he casts away the seed of such an evil thought, he is not a fit instrument for the service of the
-‘Abdu’l-Baha , Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83
It is essential for our own spiritual growth to stick with the community. And it won’t be easy – I can guarantee it. How do I know this? Read on:
There is SO much about this in the Baha’i Writings! However, the terrific thing is that you don’t have to do it alone relying on your own strength – God has promised that He will help us; and the rewards are mighty!
When the holy souls, through the angelic power, … establishing a band of harmony, each of these souls
shall be regarded as one thousand persons and the waves of this greatest ocean shall be considered as the
army of the hosts of the Supreme Concourse.
-Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 401
Pray For Joy
I remember when I first read that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá used to pray to be firm in the Covenant (I believe it is in the most excellent biography of ‘Abdu’l-Baha by Balyuzi); I just couldn’t believe it! He was the Center of the Covenant; why would He have to pray to be firm? The more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that not only should we strive to be in constant communion with God, we all must pray for all things.
Friends, there are ALWAYS gonna be tests and trials. Yup, this life isn’t “The Brady Bunch” where Marsha is gonna solve her problems in 23 minutes or whatever. SO WHAT? Having problems (AKA “tests” & “trials”) is NOT a barrier to joy, except, perhaps in a transitory way. I’m certainly not advocating faking it, or pretending things like depression aren’t real ‘cos I know very well they ARE REAL. That’s a whole ‘nother subject. What I’m talking about is avoiding the kind of fleeting happiness that we are constantly encouraged to purchase at the store with new, shiny things, and tapping into the deep, spiritual joy of harmonizing with the Spirit of the Age!
What does this have to do with joy? Well, it seems to me that we must pray to be happy. We have to pray for everything else, why not to be happy and full of joy? If you want to feel more joy connected with Bahá’í life, I believe you must pray for it. Figuring this bit out has been of great assistance to me.
Expect Nothing “Earthly” In Return
Wert thou to consider this world, and realize how fleeting are things that pertain unto it,
thou wouldst choose to tread no path but the path of service to the Cause of thy Lord.
None would have the power to deter thee from celebrating His praise, though all men
should arise to oppose thee. Go thou straight on and persevere in His service.
-Gleanings, Bahá’u’lláh, p.314
Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Pay
ye no heed to aversion and rejection, to disdain , hostility, injustice; act ye in the
-Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.3
This is a real “toughie” – both to do and to talk about. Many are the times that we sacrifice our time, effort, resources to perform some service for someone, and we get back nothing, or even worse: “a kick in the teeth”. This is especially disappointing when this occurs within the Bahá’í community. I have far too many stories like this that I could tell from my own experience, as I’m sure any Bahá’í could do if they’ve been around a minute, about when we’ve given our all and not only does no one says thank you, but they criticize and find fault with what has been done. People leave the Faith all the time because of it. But
COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY
COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY
COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY….
Let’s repeat that, shall we?
The service of the friends belongs to God, not to them.
I find this incredibly consoling! To me, it means that I’m not serving for me, I’m serving for God. So it doesn’t matter if so-and-so didn’t like whatever it was, or if nobody said “Thanks!” or worse! Internalizing this has helped me greatly.
The other part of this “toughie” is purity of motive. I find that I really must think about why I’m doing whatever it is, and then not being satisfied with the results. If I’ve put my all into something and I got back “nothing”, what was I expecting to get? If I expect gratitude, and I don’t get it, then I’m going to be disappointed. But if I don’t expect thanks, and I get some – what a wonderful surprise!
Teach! Teach! Teach!
O ye servants of the Blessed Beauty!…It is clear that in this day, confirmations from the
unseen world are encompassing all those who deliver the divine Message. Should the
work of teaching lapse, these confirmations would be entirely cut off, since it is
impossible for the loved ones of God to receive assistance unless they teach.
-Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.264-265
I’ve saved the most powerful weapon in your arsenal against discouragement and burnout for last. This is the ONE that will make you say, “Yahoo! I’m a Bahá’í!” faster than anything else!!! You can be “Betty Bahá’í” or “Bruce Bahá’í” by : following all the laws, praying every day, committing all the Writings to memory, paying your Huq’quq, giving sacrificially to the Fund, being sweet and kind, never giving offense, but (let me repeat the words of the Master):
Retired National Spiritual Assembly member Jack McCants talked about this when he came to the Royal Falcon Bahá’í School a number of springs ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:
Basically, if you don’t teach, God cain’t hep you.
Now, if you cannot personally teach the Faith (now let’s be honest here-really can’t; not just “don’t know how” or “don’t feel comfortable with the idea”), you can deputize others to teach for you. There is a fund maintained by our N.S.A. for this very purpose; funds such as these were the ones that supported heroic Bahá’í teachers such as Hand of the Cause of God Louis Gregory and others.
But, y’all – there are more resources available to you now than EVER BEFORE to help you!!!
Check these out:
- Heart to Heart
- Teaching the Baha’i Faith with Ease
- Inspiration for Baha’i Teaching (this whole website is REALLY good)
- Doors to Teaching (audio download)
- Baha’i Teachings
- Reflections on Teaching
- Principles & practices
- Baha’i Library (I especially like reading the talks section)
This is just a quick sampling of what’s available…..Oh and if you’ve already gone ahead and downloaded Ocean, there are several compilations on teaching included….what are you waiting for????
O.K., O.K. I did say that was the last but I’m not completely finished yet….but you knew that.
For goodness sake, people – HAVE FUN! This isn’t a dour time, an unhappy time. This is the time that every religious person since there was such a thing has prayed for! We’ve got a lot to do, but we can still have fun and enjoy this process….
Now go be the leaven of the lump of humanity. :)
revised March 2014
Helen Keniston Oney