During a moment of prayer, I came to the realization that I had deep fears around my self-worth. Years of societal conditioning about what made me beautiful, successful and valuable had taken their toll on me. I feared I wasn’t good enough and would fail at life. I had a hard time trusting people, and although I wanted to be successful, I worried it might be considered materialistic if I had more than I needed.
I was sifting through kegs of fear from my ancestors’ slavery and oppression, and cultural expectations from my family and religion. Ultimately, the weight of it caused my life to implode.
When I was forty, the perfect storm hit. Within a two-year period I lost millions of dollars, my business, my car, my home and my marriage, along with many friends and important relationships. My ongoing guilt, shame and confusion about my self-worth bore shackles on my emotions and kept me in recurring patterns of lack, struggle, instability and confusion. And in the fallout, I lost sight of who I was.
Thus, my search for the eternal “fix me carrot” began, as I searched for a program that would show me how to feel worthy. I tried seminars and workshops, but nothing worked for more than a few months, because my prayers were hijacked by the belief that God would only answer me if I was perfect, and until then I was on my own.
But at my breaking point I accidentally asked the right question: “Why am I suffering?”
And in the silence, a voice said: “Because you have forgotten who you are.”
This ultimately fueled my journey towards learning the daily process of inviting a divine flow into me. Through this flow, I could access the spiritual powers latent within me, and a new version of me began to emerge. This passage from the Baha’i writings was a catalyst to the first steps in my journey:
These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65.
I wanted my latent powers to emerge. I wanted a magic wand and I was on a mission to find it. Each day, I prayed and invited the Divine presence into my life, and an invisible roadmap appeared in the form of new feelings and senses. An internal guidance system began informing every aspect of my life. Every time I recited spiritual words, my inner and outer world shifted.
O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.
My daily practice was the cocoon where I remembered who I was. It activated my awareness of the two parts of myself—the physical and the spiritual—and the feelings it created reminded me that this physical world was where my soul was meant to unleash its power. Without this remembrance, I would have remained unaware of the power I truly possessed.
Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water and seeming as pictures to the eye. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 178.
The prayer portion of my daily practice was me reaching out…
Prayer is the essential spiritual conversation of the soul with its Maker, direct and without intermediation. It is the spiritual food that sustains the life of the spirit. Like the morning’s dew, it brings freshness to the heart and cleanses it, purifying it from attachments of the insistent self. It is a fire that burns away the veils and a light that leads to the ocean of reunion with the Almighty. On its wings does the soul soar in the heavens of God and draw closer to the divine reality. Upon its quality depends the development of the limitless capacities of the soul and the attraction of the bounties of God. – From a letter by the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of Iran.
…and meditation was God’s divine power reaching in.
Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit—the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation. The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 175.
Prayer and meditation fed my spiritual body. I was developing spiritual eyes, and inviting inner peace, creativity, awareness and enlightenment into myself. And they were arriving.
…think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 175.
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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174.
…the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time—he cannot both speak and meditate. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174.
Daily prayer and meditation were also a filter for my thoughts. They fostered gratitude, helped direct my negative thoughts upward, and ultimately retrained my mind to listen with my soul.
If a man’s thought is constantly aspiring towards heavenly subjects then does he become saintly; if on the other hand his thought does not soar, but is directed downwards to centre itself upon the things of this world, he grows more and more material until he arrives at a state little better than that of a mere animal. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 17.
The Baha’i teachings say that we are all born noble. And in remembering this, I drew energy, and a new type of faith emerged. When I knew I was a divine gem, a spark of a divine light and a masterfully crafted inhabitant of a spiritual kingdom, my life experience was reframed.
When man allows the spirit, through his soul, to enlighten his understanding, then does he contain all Creation… – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 96.