Posted by: Caity | March 16, 2011

Open to the Promptings of the Spirit

A few nights ago I dreamt the curious dream that I was giving birth. I could feel the contractions, and even took note of the dilation. I woke up feeling like, although my present condition is one of uncertainty and struggle, there is something beautiful, a gift on the way into my life. It is just hidden from my eyes right now.

Our material belongings are spread across two continents, and in four major cities of the world (NYC, Cairo, Nairobi, Jinja) while we ourselves are in Jinja, Uganda. We do not know if we will be able to return to Egypt on Luke’s Fulbright, as the commission is delaying making a decision on whether to reinstate or conclude the grants in light of the unrest continuing in Cairo. Will we be in Colorado for the summer instead? We are waiting to hear back concerning graduate school for the fall. Will I have to find a job, or will I be in school? We have no idea what next month will bring, where we will be living for the summer, or which life path I will embark on this fall.

It is quite timely that this very uncertain moment for us falls during the Bahá’í Fast. For the 19 days of the Bahá’í month of “Loftiness,” Bahá’ís all over the world abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset in an effort to detach our souls from undue dependence on material reality, to practice and wax confident that it is our spirit that guides the physical aspects of our being as the rider guides the mare, and to make necessary changes in our inner life and daily habits. What a glorious time! Every hour of these days, one of the fasting prayers says, is endowed with a special virtue! ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes that “this physical fast is a symbol of the spiritual fast,” and any slight hunger pangs throughout the day become gentle reminders of this loftier purpose.

The Fast is of course not meant to by physically harmful, as we use our discretion with regards to the usual exemptions (illness, traveling, etc), but ultimately liberating. I am surprised each year at the ease with which I can control my appetite – me, who grumbles about even a late lunch throughout the year! And the added time during the day allows added space for prayer and meditation, that daily nourishment for the spirit that is no less vital than the physical nourishment we so easily focus on. “Make Thy beauty to be my food,” reads one prayer, “and Thy presence my drink…”

On the first day of the Fast, considering our decidedly open schedule having been evacuated from Egypt, we decided to stroll through Karura Park in Nairobi to refresh ourselves amongst nature and reflect on personal goals for this bountiful month. I was inspired by a quotation that I recently found and wrote in my prayer journal.

O thou handmaid of God! In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving.

As for offering thanks by speaking out or writing, although this is indeed acceptable, yet when compared with that other thanksgiving, it is only a semblance and unreal; for the essential thing is these intimations of the spirit, these emanations from the deep recess of the heart. It is my hope that thou wilt be favoured therewith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

The essence of thanksgiving is to possess a radiant heart and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on what this means. To be thankful is to be open, it is to rely on our spirit as our guide. It is to listen, and be patient. It is to turn the mirror of our hearts to the Sun and reflect the splendor of that Light to those around us, to be constantly aware of our role as givers of light to the world. To be thankful is to be connected. It is to remember that, while sometimes it seems that we are the ones in control of all of the elements of our lives and that our path is simply a reflection of our own input, we are in fact but navigators of the continual bounties we receive from the earth and heavens, as that loving Hand places things in our path for our training and development. “…with the clay of My command I made thee to appear,” reads Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words, “and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.”

When we are thankful, our gaze is raised upwards and our hands rest open on our laps, joyfully content with what we have been given and confident of tomorrow’s yield. As I focus on thankfulness during this fast, my mind is calmed from its frantic gaze toward the future as it searches the upcoming bend in my path for clues of what I cannot see. I am waiting patiently for doors to open, and have even knocked on a few. But ultimately I know that one will open, and that is where I should be.

Far be it from us to despair at any time of the incalculable favours of God, for if it were His wish He could cause a mere atom to be transformed into a sun and a single drop into an ocean. He unlocketh thousands of doors, while man is incapable of conceiving even a single one. Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh

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