The first big snow came a few days ago in Ottawa—though certain unlikely candidates had been snowed in far earlier. The first month of snow is always so beautiful to me; magical, wonderful. It evokes impressions from the earlier years of my life, bringing forth feelings of happiness and well-being, security, and anticipation of the month of celebration to come (my birthday is on the 7th, and well, there’s Christmas). For some reason, though, all those feelings seem to fall short compared to the feelings of serenity, happiness and well-being I felt strolling through the Ridván garden, visiting the houses once occupied by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and praying in the Holy Shrines. When I stop to reflect on my experiences over the past month or so, I am struck by the intensity of that experience, so much so that every other joy seems to be nothing but a trifle in comparison. Depending on how you look at it, that could be a source of dismay or—as I see it—a source of joy, certitude, and hope.
“Remember My days during thy days,” says Bahá’u’lláh, “and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.” These words are companions to me now, standing as reminders of Bahá’u’lláh’s life, filled with sorrow and tribulation, the evidences of which I saw with my very own eyes while walking through the streets of ‘Akká, while climbing the steps of that Most Great Prison, where Bahá’u’lláh lived for two years, and where His youngest son gave his own life. I focus on these thoughts now whenever I feel weak or confused, or when I feel I’m losing that vital connection to the Divine Spirit that keeps us all going deep down inside. Calling to mind Bahá’u’lláh’s life reminds me that He “consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage,” and that He “accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty.”
Remembering our spiritual life is hard sometimes, especially when we’re not used to it. The more we do, though, the more free we feel from the ups and downs of life. Some people go to church, or whatever spiritual gathering applies. Some people get out into nature or putter around in a garden. Some people burn incense or chant and sing. Some people pray and meditate. And some people do all of the above (at least once in a while). I’ve blogged before about the useful spiritual habits that Bahá’ís rely on for spiritual growth; Hand of the Cause Mr. H. Collis Featherstone describes prayers and similar spiritual habits as the only thing we can bring with us into the next world (hence the importance of memorizing prayers). Even so, I still continuously struggle, day by day, to remember these basic building blocks of spiritual life. I know that the more I struggle and the more effort I expend, the more I learn—and the closer I grow towards God.
This post is dedicated to Mees, in the hopes that he’ll remember to answer my email!