Have you ever heard people talk about “the dark night of the soul?” I’m not sure if I had before, but when you go through the hardest period of your life, you know what that truly means. The dark night of the soul is a place you are not sure you will come back from, it’s darker than you can imagine, and it’s very hard to find any remnant of light! Your soul questions your purpose and faith in this life. When you are in that space, darkness has overtaken you, and feelings of loss and hopelessness abound.
Had I not grown up with the Baha’i teachings, I’m not sure I would have made it out of that dark place. But thankfully that was not the case and somehow it helped to have a very basic understanding of the reason for tests and difficulties.
“The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.”
It was during this time of extreme tests that I found new tools and started a new path! I was introduced to a New York Times best selling author and thought leader who is transforming lives all around the world with his knowledge and teachings. Dr. Joe Dispenza is exploring the intersection of neuroscience, quantum physics, epigenetics, and brain chemistry to help individuals understand how to transform their lives through the process of meditation and changing your thoughts, it’s not enough to only meditate, you must also change the way you think. He explains in “You are the Placebo Making Your Mind Matter”:
“… First, everyday I would put all of my conscious attention (meditation) on this intelligence within me and give it a plan, a template, a vision, with very specific orders… And second, I wouldn’t let any thought slip by my awareness that I didn’t want to experience…”
I was first attracted to his book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” and in this book he shares a formula of how to create lasting change in your life.
Step 1: Create an intention, get clear on exactly what you are working to manifest, go into meditation and be as clear and creative as you can and “see” with your inner eye all the details you can imagine, the more you can imagine the outcome, the better the results.
Step 2: Do not get up from your meditation until you can live in the emotion of how you would feel if that intention had already materialized.
I was so excited to learn this formula because it reminded me of something I read when I was a teenager by Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of Baha’u’llah. He wrote to an individual and since then, people have called his response “The Five Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems.”
In step five, Shoghi Effendi said to “act as though it had already been answered…” and for over 35 years, I could not understand how to do that. But when I learned about Dr. Joe’s formula, all of a sudden it made sense. Don’t get up from your meditation until you can LIVE in the emotion had it already been achieved! Oh, act as though it had already been answered! And at this moment, everything changed for me.
Here are two of the five steps from Shoghi Effendi:
1st Step: “Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes….”
5th Step: “ACT; Act as though it had all been answered. Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed channel for the Divine power to flow through you.”
Discovering Dr. Joe’s work was transformative for me, because all my life, I grew up in a religion that taught us the power of our thoughts. But I did not “believe” it impacted the material world, I really just thought it impacted the spiritual world. Now I know, backed by science that Abdu’l-Baha was being literal when he said:
“When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love…”
The advances in the sciences and connecting it to spirituality is a growing industry. There are many scientific studies that have proven that we influence our bodies based on what we think and feel. Harvard did a study where they took subjects who had never played the piano before and had some practice scales in their minds without ever touching a piano and another group practice the scales on the piano. The group that practiced on the piano, their finger strength increased by 53%, whereas the group that never lifted a finger and only practiced in their minds, their finger strength grew by 35%.
Another study took a group of men in their 70s and 80s on a five-day retreat. Once there they were asked to behave like they were 22 years younger. They were asked to actively reminisce: there were posters of women hanging on the walls of their generation 22 years previous, they played music of that time period, and they watched old movies and television shows. The researchers provided an environment that really made them feel and imagine their lives from 22 years ago. There was a significant result, not only were their bodies stronger at the end of the retreat but they also had improvements in their weight, height, and even the length of their fingers grew. The “men literally became younger.”
And another Harvard study looked at hotel maids who did not exercise. They had two groups — the first group changed nothing, but in the second group, they explained that the work they are doing exceeds the Surgeon General’s recommended exertion for daily exercise. Nothing in their lives changed except that they now understood that the work they were performing could be considered exercise. After 30 days the control group was exactly the same, whereas the group who now considered their work to be exercise lost an average of two pounds, lowered their body fat percentage, and their blood pressure dropped by an average of 10 points.
These are just a few of the many studies that prove our “beliefs” have a direct physical impact on our reality.
Abdu’l-Baha reminds us of this truth: “The reality of man is his thought” — as does Jesus Christ who said, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” and Buddha who said, “Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”
These statements are not just feel-good beliefs. They actually frame our perception of reality and influence our lives to a great degree.
I am now coming to realize how vital it is to understand the spiritual writings of the Baha’i Faith and how science every day proves its efficacy.
We must become aware of our thoughts — the good and the bad — and we must get intentional with creating the future in which we want to live. We must realize that every thought we have influences the outcome of our reality. I have found the best way to do this is through meditation. The meditative process shows you very clearly what you are thinking about, and if you want to change the record that is playing over and over again, then we must create a new intention.
Bahá’u’lláh has written:
“Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth…so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns.”
Because meditation has become a daily practice for me, I’m better equipped to create the future I desire. I’ve learned to let go of the things I cannot control. This allows so much freedom from stress and anxiety, and if I employ the steps of Dr. Joe for creating a new reality and Shoghi Effendi’s advice on the dynamics of prayer for solving problems, then I am creating my reality instead of being a victim of its circumstances.
To share this with others, I recently started a meditation group that’s open to all. It’s great for beginners and those wanting to take their practice further.
We all have this ability at our fingertips. It’s not easy, but with practice and commitment, it will change your outlook on life and provide you with a new process to deal with life’s beauty and challenges.