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The concept of meditation is one that has always both intrigued and mystified me. For many years, likely due to images portrayed in the media, whenever I thought about meditating, the image that came to mind was one of a person sitting cross-legged and barefoot on a mountain top or in some serene wild landscape wearing loose-fitting white clothes. It was not an image that seemed realistic for my life, or for a life lived in community, surrounded by interruptions and commitments, and the requirements of daily life and work. However, the Baha’i Writings tell us that prayerful meditation is an essential requisite for spiritual growth. In Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Baha says:
It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed. 1
Recently a new friend reached out to me and a small group of other women. She was planning to do Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance meditations, and wondered if we might like to join her. She would send us the daily prompts and a short meditation video every morning; all we had to do was do the meditation and writing exercises, and text “done” to the group to let everyone know that we were engaging every day. In contemplating whether to join her, I turned to the Baha’i Writings, and found these words of wisdom from Baha’u’llah:
Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. 2
I texted back that I would join the group, and for the following 21 days I did the daily meditations. Below are five pearls of wisdom that I gleaned. I share them in the hope that they prove helpful to others interested in integrating meditation into your daily life:
1. Being consistent
The first thing I have been learning about meditating is that, like any practice, I notice it having a greater impact on my life the more frequently I engage in it. Baha’u’llah wrote that we should engage in
…regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, specifically at least each morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought. Prayerful meditation on the teachings, so that we may understand them more deeply, fulfil them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others. 3
The first few days were peaceful and calming, but I noticed my heart and nervous system start to really look forward to meditating once I’d been doing it long enough that I’d established a morning ritual of doing it every day. Chopra taught us to utilize mantras to stay focused on the principles we were meditating on during the meditation and throughout our day. Abdu’l-Baha said that
[t]he Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn. It should be fed upon by consistent use in daily invocation, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night. It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity. 4
Consistency of practice and having specific verses or words to repeat helped to keep the principles that I was reflecting upon front and foremost in my mind even once I was out engaging with the world.
2. Setting the bar low
Taking part in this 21-day challenge made me realize that I did not need huge swaths of time to integrate meditation into my morning ritual. The whole process was complete in 15 minutes. There were times when I wished that the meditation had been longer, but the impact of just a few minutes of meditation was palpable for me. The Bab wrote that “[t]he most acceptable prayer is the one offered with the utmost spirituality and radiance; its prolongation hath not been and is not beloved.” 5
Knowing I do not need to have large windows of free time in which to meditate has helped me to do it more often. Setting the bar low in terms of time commitment has significantly increased how much I meditate.
3. Choosing what to meditate upon wisely
There is no one right way to meditate. In Lights of Guidance, Shoghi Effendi wrote: “There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan, as such, for inner development. The friends are urged — nay enjoined — to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual.” 6
Despite there being no specifications about how we meditate, Abdu’l-Baha does tell us that:
The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained. 7
4. Embracing silence
In Principles of Baha’i Administration, the five steps that were suggested to a believer by Shoghi Effendi as a means of finding a solution to a problem through the use of prayer are outlined. The first step is: “Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes.” 8
In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah wrote: “Let him sit in silence to hearken to the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Praised.” 9
Reading inspiring words and listening to a guided meditation are a wonderful foundation, but the heart of the meditation lay in the silence that followed, and the degree to which I could remain present in that silence with whatever thoughts, reflections or emotions arose for me. It was in the silence that I became aware of how quickly my mind darts from one idea to the next, and that I was given the opportunity to work on quieting the sea of thoughts that distract me from being present with the possibilities that begin to germinate when I fine-tune my focus and slow my breath.
5. Taking action
I didn’t immediately think of action when I imagined myself meditating. But as I reflected on the many facets of a life of abundance, ideas started pouring out of me onto the pages of my journal, and I started to realize that if I didn’t do something with them while the inspiration was still fresh, they would wither into vague longings that led me no closer to the life of abundance I was dedicating 21 days to meditating upon. Shoghi Effendi wrote that “[p]rayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible result of the former. Both are essential.” 10
In Guidance for Teaching, Shoghi Effendi goes on to write:
It is not sufficient to pray diligently for guidance, but this prayer must be followed by meditation as to the best methods of action and then action itself. Even if the action should not immediately produce results, or perhaps not be entirely correct, that does not make so much difference, because prayers can only be answered through action and if someone’s action is wrong, God can use that method of showing the pathway which is right. 11
There are a number of actions I have taken since taking part in the 21-day meditation challenge that have altered my life in both small and larger ways. Finding a few moments every few days to carve out a few minutes to sit in silence and reflect upon a passage or poem I have found inspiring, and then finding ways to take action on whatever inspiration arises from the reflection continues to enrich my days, helps me to stay grounded, and gives me greater clarity on how I conduct myself, relate to others and serve the world around me.
Do you meditate? How has the practice contributed to your life, service, and relationships?
- Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 175
- Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 8
- Lights of Guidance, p. 540
- Wisdom of the Master, p. 58
- The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 78
- Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance p.455-456
- Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 175
- Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Baha’i Administration p.91
- Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas p.61
- Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 455
- Shoghi Effendi, Guidance for Teaching p.325
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