One hundred years ago, a man from Persia who had been imprisoned for forty years came to Britain. His name was Abdu’l-Baha and despite his decades in captivity and suffering, he worked tirelessly to help and serve humanity, from the grass roots upwards. He gave talks in London, one in front of a congregation of over 2000 people and stayed for six weeks with Lady Blomfield who felt that a new era was around the corner. Abdu’l-Baha was gentle and kind with all he met, especially the poor, often going without food himself so they could eat and even giving up his few clothes so others could be warm. He was the embodiment of all the incredible virtues that we are all able to access, should we choose to clothe ourselves in them. You can read more about his incredible journey here.
It is easy to flippantly write about this incredible man — we read a sentence like ‘he was in prison for forty years’ and then we think nothing of it. But I ask you, how many of us are trapped in the prison of self at the moment? Everywhere I turn, I see people suffering, trapped and feeling unable to break out of negative patterns. Abdu’l-Baha was someone who knew that the real imprisonment is of the mind — we are truly free if we should wish it so.
Over the last few months, I kept coming across the word ‘paralysed’ and then one day I finally realised that that was how I felt in life. We were drowning in debts that hadn’t been paid off from past loans, I had no idea which school my daughter should attend as none of them seemed to match the ethos of her Montessori farm school, my husband didn’t have a job and even though I followed a 90% healthy diet, I was struggling to lose weight which made me feel out of control.
Before I went to bed one night, I said a prayer and asked God for help. I really felt like we were really going under.
That night, I dreamt a very lucid dream. I was searching and there were three crowds of people bustling about in front of me. In the middle crowd, I felt like there was someone or something important going on. My vision then tuned in to the centre of the crowd and there stood Abdu’l -Baha, with his beautiful kind eyes and lovely face directing his gaze straight towards me.
I felt my heart jolt and even though I was aware it was a dream it just felt incredible to be in the presence of this man, the son of Baha’u’llah who had also, with his son, been exiled from country to country and imprisoned for many years. Abdu’l-Baha’s mission in this world was to spread the word of his father, who taught about the equality of men and women, the abolition of prejudices and that humanity is one, that God is one and that ‘the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens’, that we should use our time in this world to acquire and polish our attributes and virtues which are reflections of the heavenly realm — kindness, patience, courage, detachment and love.
In my dream, Abdu’l-Baha moved to be nearer to me and we sat next to each other on some grass. He offered his hand and I took it and we sat there for some time, conversing without words and I felt like I was being listened to and above all, loved.
I woke up with a start and paced our hallway trying to remember what Abdu’l-Baha had said to me. It then dawned on me – the message was ‘you have our support.’ I then went back to sleep with a lighter heart.
What happened in the following weeks was incredible. We made the decision to stay in our home town, something we had been debating over for so many years. As soon as we made the firm decision, stagnant waters started to flow!
I said another fervent prayer — our finances were in such a terrible state and it seemed like there was no light at the end of this tunnel. My prayer was very specific: ‘God, I know that this is probably an impossible ask but we need your help. We really need a miracle amount of money to come to us, just to help clear this debt that is keeping us in this state. I know to you, money is nothing but we really need about £15,000 to help us clear this debt. Thank you.’
I thought nothing more of this prayer until a few days later when a letter fell on our doormat from an old loan company. Every single time we have previously received a letter from this company, I have always without fail thrown it straight into the recycling box. Today, I held it in my hands not really sure why. I then found myself opening it, with a feeling that I should really do this, even though my brain was still telling me to put it in the recycling box.
I started reading the letter, berating myself for reading it. How many years had we been receiving mail from this company and how many times had I discarded them? It was as if my body was taking over! I then got to the line where it said something about ‘mis-sold finance’. I then discovered that this company was offering us £15,500 because they were pre-empting us suing them for selling us Payment Protection.
My hands shaking, I took the letter to my husband, both of us almost weeping with relief — but was it really true?! Well, to cut a longer story short, yes it was and in two weeks’ time, we paid a cheque in the bank (for just under £15,000 as some tax was deducted) and we cleared swathes of old debts.
Miracles continued to come in thick and fast from that moment. My husband had been searching for a job for months and then one presented itself in our home town just a short bike ride away.
I had been stressing so much about schools and two very good friends had repeatedly told me about their daughters’ school. I hadn’t even visited the school and knew that some other friends had tried to get their children in but they didn’t have space. One morning, I had the same urge — like an overwhelming instinct making my hand pick up the phone and call the school.
The head teacher herself answered the phone and said it was uncanny that I had called right at that exact moment as she had just come off the phone from a parent who said the family needed to move, thus providing one space for our daughter. I accepted the space, and figured that all would be well.
When visiting the school I knew that it would be the right school for Maya.
Little miracles continued including me asking for a house near the school, so that we could continue to serve on our local Baha’i administration (the Local Spiritual Assembly) with a large room to hold events and tranquility evenings, with enough space for parking. A house that fitted this exact description that we had previously seen online came up for rent again — the tenants had broken their contract early and were moving. I had already felt this house was where we should be living and here it was again. Many people were interested but as soon as we were shown around, the estate agent said it was ours.
Even with miracles, life can still weigh down our hearts or rather we can choose to have our hearts weighed down. I turn to the guidance and wisdom of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha every single day as their words are so relevant to today and I often find myself reflecting on their imprisonment. How incredible to consider that the authorities tried to suppress their message yet it reached London and every single country in the entire world! And now, in 2012, I get to apply the teachings to my own life. I feel that life is not always about being rosy and sometimes, the hard moments help us appreciate the amazing ones.
So I ask you, are you in prison right now? In the prison of self? And how do you feel you can venture out of that prison to be of service to yourself, your family, your community and the world? A small stone in a pond can create endless ripples without the stone even venturing from its point of contact. We can all make a difference and with support and guidance from each other and from these great teachers, we can move through this world with aid and assistance and above all, love.