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Lately I’ve been reflecting on the radiant power of positive thinking, manifestation, and visualization.
As a young adult who is part of a generation of self starters and innovators, it feels like every other person I meet is trying to attract a certain life for themselves. I regularly find myself immersed in vivid conversations about manifesting the reality one wants to create, speaking things into existence, visualization, and putting positive energy into the world as a means to attract it.
Most people seem to be searching for something—seeking to attract the blessings of the world, beckoning them to be revealed in each of our own personal lives. Asking: how can things unfold in the best possible way?
Some say that one has to harness the power of the mind to open oneself to all the good life has to offer. Others maintain that mysterious laws of the universe shape our journey. Many believe in some combination of the two. Free will certainly plays a role, but these recent conversations make me think that now, maybe more than ever, my peers are curious about how we can get in touch with the spiritual forces at play.
In thinking about these forces and this desire so many people have to actualize happiness, we likely need to redefine and re-conceptualize what we think about life’s most precious blessings. Are they things that come with a life of comfort, ease and seeming freedom? Are they actually material, or are they much less tangible?
The Baha’i writings suggest:
O My servants! Were ye to discover the hidden, the shoreless oceans of My incorruptible wealth, ye would, of a certainty, esteem as nothing the world, nay, the entire creation. - Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 324.
If the most valuable treasure—the most awe-inspiring and meaningful gift—is not something I can imagine, then it is possible that while I can yearn for what I know to be good, it is just a small sliver of what actually exists. With this in mind, striving to be detached from specific outcomes makes sense. While it may be impossible for me to understand, what could seem like a “no” from the universe or God today might lead to a future “yes,” something of much greater in value.
The Baha'i teachings ask us to trust that sense of unknown future bounty, happiness and spiritual prosperity:
Never lose thy trust in God. Be thou ever hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to flow upon man … Man is under all conditions immersed in a sea of God’s blessings. Therefore, be though not hopeless under any circumstances, but rather be firm in they hope. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 205.
Similar to the way that the law of attraction or positive thinking does, Abdu’l-Baha urged humanity to continue to hope. While many might find this quote confusing—considering the pain and misfortune in our world today—it implies that within the struggle we can grow. Discontent and blessings are not mutually exclusive—our lives can be both full of bounty and simultaneous struggle. In order to remember this, we have to be relentless in our hope, and relentlessly cognizant of the limited knowledge we have of reality. Humility, then, also seems key in tapping into these blessings.
Developing a clear understanding of both one’s strengths and weaknesses forms an essential part of building a life that fulfills its deepest purpose. Baha’i writings emphasize the importance of knowing one’s shortcomings in order to strive for growth:
As long as man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
Do not look at your weakness, nay, rely upon the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. Verily, it maketh the weak strong, the lowly mighty, the child grown, the infant mature and the small great. – Ibid.
Reliance on God and serving God is a piece of the puzzle that usually isn’t so explicitly stated in most of the conversations I have with my friends. However, people talk about finding their passion, the way that they can contribute to society, and how they can actualize their potential. Though not as directly stated, isn’t finding one’s purpose in life seeking to learn how one can serve humanity? Baha’is believe that discovering a higher aim, an aim that goes beyond one’s own benefit and is selfless in some way, is crucial. Finding happiness, then, requires gratitude:
Should ye at every instant unloosen the tongue in thanksgiving and gratitude, ye would not be able to discharge yourselves of the obligation of gratitude for these bestowals. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 105.
In learning about how to access the goodness of this world, these quotations from the Baha'i teachings have been instrumental in elaborating on the way I think about how to find joy today. Whether their power be a psycho-social phenomenon, a spiritual occurrence, or a bit of both, these principles help to create some guidance for navigating the natural desire for health, wellness, productivity, and purpose.