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Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a mother, a wife and a bookworm but professionally she is a museologist and a library technician. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.

5 Thoughts About Oneness

I find that sometimes having a question in the forefront of my mind can make certain answers more apparent — like when you close your eyes, think of the colour blue, and then open them again. Everything blue pops out in sharper contrast than before. What was muted becomes vibrant, and impossible to ignore.

These days I am wondering about oneness and am trying to keep the question in the fore of my personal deepening. What does “oneness” truly mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that it is “the state of being completely united with or a part of someone or something” but what does that mean in practical terms? What effect does it have on our spiritual lives?

I have often explained the Baha’i Faith in terms of believing in the three onenesses: the oneness of humanity (that we are all equal despite differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, and our physical bodies), the oneness of the Manifestations (that They are all divine in origin), and the oneness of God (regardless of whether we call Him Dieu, Allah or Jehovah, He is one in essence). These words have rolled off my tongue without deeper, significant thought but recently I have been contemplating these five points: Continue reading

The Wilmette Institute: Celebrating 20 Years of Baha’i Learning

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Wilmette Institute, an online Baha’i learning centre that offers academic, professional and service-orientated Baha’i classes. In celebration, they are offering a series of free web talks throughout the whole year. These talks are being recorded and posted to their YouTube Channel, in case you miss their live presentations. We’d like to join in the happy occasion by telling you a little about the Institute and about all the exciting things it offers to students around the world. Continue reading

Music with Zest – An Interview with Lemon Soul Trio

As the Faith grows and develops, the artistic expression of its followers blossoms and grows. Recorded devotional music in French are rare gems so I was ecstatic when I learned about Lemon Soul Trio, a band whose motto is “un antidote contre le blues” (which roughly translates as “an antidote for the blues”) – a clever turn of phrase considering their jazzy, bluesy, world-music style.

Their first album, which bears their band’s name, was released in October 2014. It contains 9 tracks – a propitious number! While the majority of their lyrics are in French, their music is global in its appeal. The group is composed of three very talented musicians: Margaret Harmer, a percussionist; Nicolas Leroy, a guitarist; and Yasmin Farhoumand, a vocalist.

I was eager to find out more and Yasmin agreed to share some behind-the-tunes information on behalf of the band about their exciting work. Continue reading

Happy Heart Kid: Character-building Activity Kits for Kids

Empathy Activity Kit. Photo courtesy of Happy Heart Kid

I get really excited when I find out about products for children that aim to assist with their moral and spiritual development. I am so grateful to live in this age of instant communication so I can ask other Baha’i mothers questions about the materials and tools they have created and use in their daily lives but there are so few resources out there that are already thoughtfully assembled and ready to go. So you can imagine my joy in discovering Happy Heart Kid, a company that makes character building activity kits for little ones! I was eager to find out all about it and Archana Jiwnani, the woman behind Happy Heart Kid, was happy to oblige. Continue reading

An Introduction to The Tabernacle of Unity

The Tabernacle of Unity is a beautiful volume containing five tablets (or letters) revealed by Baha’u’llah to people of Zoroastrian background, among which are many familiar passages previously translated by Shoghi Effendi.

In 2006 the Universal House of Justice compiled this book of authorized translations and now the tablets that those passages were excerpted from are available in full in English. You might be familiar with Baha’u’llah’s powerful words “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch” and the volume gets its title from this quote in the book’s opening tablet: Continue reading

An Introduction to Ayyam-i-Ha

Photo courtesy of Paul Vreeland

Ayyam-i-Ha is a multiple-day Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It typically falls around the end of February and beginning of March (with the recent worldwide implementation of the Baha’i or Badi calendar the exact dates of Ayyam-i-Ha shift and move within the Gregorian calendar).

Now let’s briefly look at what Ayyam-i-Ha is, what it means, and how it’s celebrated: Continue reading

Reflections on the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha

The house of Abdu’l-Baha located in Haifa, Israel where He passed away at approximately 1:00a.m. on November 28, 1921. More than 10,000 mourners, representing all the diverse religions and ethnic communities in the Holy Land attended His funeral. (Photo courtesy Baha’i Media Bank)

At the commemoration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Montreal in 2012, I witnessed something profound at an event organized at St. James Methodist Church – the last place where the Master spoke publicly during His brief sojourn in Montreal. The current minister talked about the admirable qualities of Abdu’l-Baha and the unifying impact of His visit. I have never seen a person of authority of another religion lovingly praise this Cause at such length in their own place of worship. A feeling of unity between the congregation of the church and all the visiting Baha’is was palpable. I thought, this is what it must have been like in 1912!

Historical accounts of the life of the Master are bursting with similar exaltations and expressions of amity. Everywhere He went, notable religious leaders praised Him publicly and people were united in their love for Him. Perhaps most moving, is the symphony of tributes after His passing on November 28th, 1921 and the common grief everyone felt over losing Him. In his biography on the life of the Master, Hasan Balyuzi writes:

In the land we know as the Holy Land, in all its turbulent history of the last two thousand years, there had never been an event which could unite all its inhabitants of diverse faiths and origins and purposes, in a single expression of thought and feeling, as did the passing of Abdu’l-Baha. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups were united in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.

Continue reading

Dr. Susan Moody: A Dedicated Pioneer Doctor

Dr. Moody with some friends in Tehran, 1920. Photo courtesy of the Baha'is of the U.S. (www.bahai.us)

Seated in the center is Dr. Moody with some friends in Tehran, 1920. (Photo courtesy of the Baha’is of the U.S.)

On November 20th, 1851 a remarkable person was born into this world. Susan Isobel Moody would grow up to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to bringing medical care and education to women and girls in Iran from 1909 to 1934. Born and raised by a respected Protestant family in New York, Susan studied the fine arts and singing. She taught and then attempted to become a doctor but the dissection of cadavers proved too much and she did not complete her training. She was a “spinster-mother” and helped to raise five of her young relatives. While these are all wonderful accomplishments, they pale in comparison to her champion pioneer work in her later years.

In 1903, Susan’s life took a dramatic turn. She became a Baha’i, having learned of the Faith from Isabella Bittingham in New York City (Abdu’l-Baha called Isabella the “Baha’i maker” because of her efficiency at teaching the Faith). In private prayer, Susan vowed: “I hereby devote, consecrate and sacrifice all that I am, and all that I have and all that I hope to be and to have, to Thee, O Divine Father, to be used in accordance with Thy Purpose”. She began teaching children’s classes (the first to be offered in Chicago) and hosting meetings in her home. Bracing herself, she returned to medical school, completed her degree and set up a small practice. She was now a 52-year-old Baha’i doctor. Continue reading

New Book: Steadfastness in the Covenant

Steadfastness in the Covenant 350x540Dr. Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian’s latest book, Steadfastness in the Covenant: Responding to Tests and Tribulations, is a weighty tome. Steadfastness to the Covenant is a combination of our recognition of Baha’u’llah and our obedience to His teachings. Dr. Ghadirian says “in this context the Covenant is like a mighty tree and steadfastness is the fruit of that tree”.

There have been several books published about the unique and sacred nature of the Covenant. “Instead,” Dr. Ghadirian writes, “I have chosen to concentrate on the nature of steadfastness and the capacity to acquire it for the defense of the Cause and as our response to tests and tribulations in the path of God.” Although this is the lens with which he compiled the book, he nevertheless provides a context for the Covenant and explains its details and implications – for example, he describes the differences between the Greater and Lesser Covenants and the “twin Covenants” or the respective Covenants of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha in terms of Their wills and testaments and appointed successors. He also provides metaphors for understanding the Covenant — such as the ocean or a pulsating artery.

Why take this particular perspective of firmness in the Covenant in the face of difficulties? Dr. Ghadirian explains: Continue reading