The wise poet Mark Nepo wrote, “You must meet the outer world with your inner world or existence will crush you.”
What an interesting concept, especially for people whose culture relentlessly distracts us from attending to what matters most. So many of us feel, if not quite crushed, certainly overwhelmed these days.
Nurturing our inner world has always been the focus of God’s chosen messengers such as Moses, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, and most recently Baha’u’llah, the latest but not last in a time line of divine guidance reaching back to ancient civilizations and forward toward eternity. Their divine prescriptions of prayer, meditation, fasting, and acts of service have never been more important than they are today.
So how do we, created by a loving God with the ability to mirror forth divine attributes such as compassion, honesty and gratitude, find the time and energy to empower our inner world?
What enriches and what distracts us from our highest fulfillment in this swiftly passing life is certainly worth contemplating. Baha’u’llah counsels, ‘One must then, read the book of his own self.” Also as regards our divine nature and communion with our Creator, “I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore do thou love me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.” “Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find me standing within thee, mighty, powerful, and self-subsisting.”
Our modern culture often communicates a pessimistic, materialistic, and narcissistic view of the world and our place in it that can make it difficult to discover or renew a worthy life purpose or direction.
An interesting phenomena of this world is that what we focus our time and attention on expands and strengthens within us; our life is essentially the sum of that with which we choose to fill our days. And it is excessive time spent in less meaningful ways that takes away the chance to really connect with our loved ones at the end of a busy day or on a weekend, or to reach out to people in need in this very difficult time. And just as importantly, we can lose the chance to think about ourselves, and how we are progressing on our goals and dreams.
Periodically taking a life review before we are on our deathbed can be insightful and inspiring.
In fact, Baha’u’llah’s suggestion to “Bring thyself to account each day” is a powerful means of transformation. What if all people thought mindfully about how their day had gone? At what they had done well and what they would do better next time, looking at themselves with loving honesty? And with the only comparison made between the self of yesterday and the self of today?
We would then be living in a world reflective of our true natures, and not our collective dysfunction.
Life is short, and thinking about our unique place in these chaotic but inspired times is invaluable. When you look back on your life, what do you want to see?
Since you will be with yourself for eternity, isn’t it best to begin now the process of coming to really know that self and your relationship with the divine? As the Sufis say, “The next breath is the one that counts.”
If we want the world to be peaceful, loving and safe, it might be wise to attend to the needs of our souls, honoring our most sacred promise — giving our best to ourselves and others — one for which we were all created.
Cynthia J. Keys is a member of the Bahais of Douglas County.