Inspiration and Love, Not Pressure and Guilt

Whatever you do, there is always something you could be doing better. This is my problem. I graduated PT school, but I am not in an advanced fellowship. I am a Bahá’í, and strive to do some good in the world. I do manage to teach a children’s class on most weekends, but I have resigned from two different institutions I was a part of. This was in part due to other life challenges I am facing and possibly in part to my own weakness and inability to manage all of the affairs of my life in an efficient enough manner. At times, part unconsciously, I have criticized myself for not being able to do a PT fellowship and serve on the LSA and ATC (the Bahá’í institutions) while also doing my full part as a husband and father. I can see people who have families while managing multiple other major responsibilities and of course I compare my weaknesses to their strengths.

At least that’s what I have done. I’m working on letting go of all that pressure, self-criticism and guilt. For some reason this is very difficult for me. There’s always the nagging feeling of, “you know you really could do those things if you worked harder and didn’t waste so much time.” There’s also the fact that 1) in the world of PT there is a tremendous amount of stuff to learn and I want to learn as much as I can and 2) the world has incomprehensible amounts of human suffering and I want to make some meaningful contribution to help that situation. But I can’t do everything, and heaping guilt and pressure on myself isn’t constructive.

There’s a great expression one of my patients told me a few weeks ago. “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.” (Say it out loud if you don’t get the pun.) I love that. It’s so true. You can fill your life with countless “shoulds”, feeling worse with each one you dump on yourself. And it doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t make you a better person. On the contrary, it robs you of willpower and kills motivation.

In the time when I was new to the Bahá’í Faith, I had so much inspiration. Reading, meditation, prayer and service just came naturally. I didn’t question or rate myself as a Bahá’í because I was new and had no expectations for myself. But as time when on, I gradually adopted the mindset of, “okay now you’ve been a Bahá’í for a while, you should be more effective in your service and more knowledgeable about the Faith”. Over time, the expectations rose along with the pressure and guilt. I was no longer an idealistic kid who was enamored with these teachings about the oneness of mankind and the search for truth. Maybe it was a necessary transition to get out of my “honeymoon phase” and become more mature as a Bahá’í and as a person. But the pressure and guilt didn’t need to become part of the mix.

So I’m working on letting them go. Just accepting the fact that right now I am not a perfect Bahá’í. I can find plenty of examples of other Bahá’ís who are doing more service than me, who are more knowledgeable than me, are more kind and less judgmental, and so on. But that’s okay. I’m glad the world has those people. I will just do my best and trust the God is merciful. I will do what I can to be propelled by inspiration and love rather than guilt and pressure.

A Summary of the Qualities of the True Seeker

The Tablet of the True Seeker is a passage from the Bahá’í Writings that provides a list of qualities one may strive to embody in order to be a true seeker of spiritual truth. Since I find it easier to digest concepts in the form of lists, I have paraphrased a list of the qualities detailed in that tablet and put them in the categories below. I would encourage anyone who is interested in this to first read the original passage, which I have posted here.

Please keep in mind that the categories below are my own ideas and the list items are my own paraphrasing. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the concepts outlined in this tablet are to be taken within the greater context of the Bahá’í Writings as a whole and should be interpreted in conjunction with all other Bahá’í principles. When looked at in isolation, some aspects of this tablet may appear extreme. As with any religious or spiritual text, all passages must be looked at in a broader context in order to be properly balanced.

Without further ado, here is my list of spiritual attributes based upon the Tablet of the True Seeker.

Practice Detachment

  • Cleanse and purify your heart of all acquired knowledge
  • Sanctify your soul from all ephemeral attachments
  • Cleanse your heart so that no remnant of love or hate lingers within
  • Renounce the peoples of the earth
  • Detach yourself from the world of dust
  • Be content with little
  • Pass by all save God with the swiftness of lightning
  • Do not allow censure of the people to turn you away from the Truth
  • Regard all else beside God as transient and count all things save Him as utter nothingness

Trust

  • Put your trust in God
  • Cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords
  • Cling unto patience and resignation

Purify

  • Purge your breast from every defilement
  • Be freed from all inordinate desire

Be Humble

  • Never seek to exalt yourself above anyone
  • Wash away from your heart every trace of pride and vainglory

Speak Wisely

  • Observe silence
  • Refrain from idle talk
  • Avoid backbiting; regard it as grievous error

Be Mindful of Who You Associate With

  • Treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world
  • Regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit
  • With all your heart, avoid fellowship with evil doers

Don’t Look Down on Others

  • Pray for the remission of the evil doer’s sins
  • Forgive the sinful and never despise his low estate (nobody, including you, knows how they will end up)

Cultivate Spiritual Practice

  • Commune with God at the dawn of every day
  • Persevere with all your soul in the quest of the Beloved (God)
  • Consume every wayward thought with the loving mention of God

Be Kind and Generous

  • Succor the dispossessed
  • Never withhold your favor from the destitute
  • Show kindness to animals, how much more to your fellow man
  • Never wish for others that which you do not wish for yourself

Sacrifice

  • Offer up your life for the Beloved (God) without hesitation

Have Integrity

  • Never promise that which you do not fulfill

 

Parting Thoughts

This list is certainly a lofty set of attributes. I personally can’t say I am anywhere near living up to this standard, but I feel it does give me a set of ideals for which to strive. I am hoping to write a series of posts taking a closer look at some of these concepts. If you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.