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Recently a friend and I met to chat about the stress and uncertainty in our lives. But instead of wallowing in problems we can’t control, we ended up doing something much more productive: We redirected our energies towards developing healthier habits.
We drafted lists of things we want to work on, and a wide variety of goals came up. Some things were as small as practicing good posture — others were much more involved like re-assessing our attitude towards money. We also created a list of things we wanted to do in the morning to enhance our mental, emotional, and spiritual health, while also tending to our physical bodies. We listed meditation, affirmations, prayer, stretches, drinking warm water with lemon juice, and ab workouts.
On my list, I also added reading a passage from the Baha’i writings, such as this one, where a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, by his secretary, offered helpful advice to a Baha’i struggling with emotional exhaustion: “If you take better care of your own health, and build up your reserves, it would certainly be better for you and for your work. Then your sensitive, yearning heart, although you may still often suffer for and with others, will be better able to withstand its trials, and you will not get so exhausted, which is certainly no asset to your work for the Cause.”
Although making our lists was fun, I also realized that it was a testament to loving ourselves, both physically and spiritually.
Starting the morning off with a routine that nourishes both of these aspects of ourselves requires discipline. This is a quality I know I need to strengthen. Maybe it’s because I’m part of a generation deeply impacted by social media and easy access to entertainment, or maybe it is just a personal shortcoming, but sticking with a consistent routine has become a challenge for me.
Do not let the desires of the self find a place within you; for it is certain that when you reach the highest station of spirituality one worldly desire can cause your downfall. The spirit is like a bird; when it flies in the air it is always mounting. But the self is like the hunter who is thinking all the time how to catch the bird.
As when a bird is in the air the hunter aims at it and brings it down, so is it with the human desires in the soul. You will see that by one arrow, one shot, it will be brought low. This arrow is the connection with this world, the occupations of this world, the desires of this world, the honours of this world.
Developing the ability to dedicate myself to one task and stick with it, even if it is small, has become one of my personal goals for internal growth.
While the list we created was originally written to benefit ourselves as individuals, I have begun to realize how taking care of these components of who we are can benefit those we interact with.
Baha’is believe that we each have a two-fold moral purpose. In addition to dedicating our individual lives to our own development, the Baha’i writings also suggest turning towards building better communities.
And the honour and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.
Thinking in terms of both senses of purpose as I work to develop these healthy habits, I feel that it’s easier to both improve my own spiritual, mental, and physical health, and to contribute to my community’s development.