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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.

Celebrating The Tablets of the Divine Plan: A Personal Reflection

In celebration of the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan the Universal House of Justice released two joyous and love laden messages: one to the Baha’is of the World, and one to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada, the original recipients of Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablets of the Divine Plan.

These sweet letters are very fortifying and invigorating; they bolster my resolve to add my own personal herculean effort to teach the Cause in the coming Five Year Plan. One way in which these messages inspire me is by linking our current endeavours with the Tablets of the Divine Plan. This centenary is not a typical acknowledgement of something that occurred 100 years ago — it is a celebration of how much we have accomplished with them as a guide and inspiration, and an act of thanksgiving and praise for how much they will continue to impact and inform our work. In its letter to the Baha’is of the world, “acting under the mandate of Abdu’l-Baha”, the House of Justice opens with these words: Continue reading

9 Ways to Fast When You Can Eat

This March will be the third consecutive year that I will not be physically fasting and I think I am finally getting some ideas for how I can still participate. (If you’re unfamiliar with the 19 day Baha’i Fast, Sara wrote a great introduction about it).

There are many reasons to be exempt from fasting whether it’s age, health, performing physical labour, menstruation, travel, pregnancy, or nursing a child (exemptions from the Fast can be found in the synopsis and codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas). At first I really struggled with being exempt. On one hand I was grateful: the fast is not meant to make us ill or malnourished and my baby’s development relied heavily on me eating well. On the other hand, I felt like I was no longer participating in a spiritual marathon. I was on the sidelines. I was so disconnected from the Fast that I offered my Baha’i friends food to eat in the middle of the day (so embarrassing!).

Having a grumbling tummy or parched mouth is an excellent reminder that you are fasting and without those physical cues I felt disconnected. But it’s not all about the food, so this year I’ve made a list of ways to fast when you can eat – some of which I’ve already tried, and some of which I’m looking forward to implementing: Continue reading

Am I Culturally Insensitive? A Personal Reflection

Have you ever wondered if you’re culturally insensitive or racist? Having grown up in a Baha’i family, I was raised with Baha’u’llah’s words that the human family is like the fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch, and the waves of one sea. Like many others, my family moved from country to country in order to assist with the needs of the Faith and I grew up with these words of Abdu’l-Baha ringing so true:

The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. […] Think of [people of different races] as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them.

Racism with a capital “R” was not something that I consciously experienced in my daily life but it is such a complex topic, with a vast array of manifestations and biases. It can sometimes be deep-seated and unconscious. Recently, I have noticed that more subtle forms of prejudice and racism are becoming mainstream topics of conversation. Concepts such as white privilege, cultural appropriation, the racist roots of some common English words and phrases, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are really hot topics. Continue reading

Empowering Junior Youth | Emily Goshey | TEDx

In this TEDx Hillsborough Library talk, Emily Goshey describes the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP). She discusses its core values and shares some of the lessons learned in the group she animates. If you’ve already watched our 57 second introduction to the JYSEP, and are curious for more information, this video is comprehensive and well articulated. Continue reading

3 New Tablets for the Twin Holy Days

This year, for the first time in the history of the Baha’i Era, the Birth of the Bab and the Birth of Baha’u’llah – also known as the Twin Holy Days – will be celebrated at the same time by Baha’is all over the world (in 2015 the Twin Holy Days fall on November 13th and 14th).

In honour of this historic occasion, the Universal House of Justice released three newly translated Tablets: one celebrates the Birth of the Bab, and two are dedicated to the Birth of Baha’u’llah. These tablets, all penned by Baha’u’llah, will be included in a volume called Days of Remembrance which will be available later next year. Continue reading

Consultation: A Perspective

(Photo courtesy: Baha'i World Centre)

Consultation is a distinctive and unifying method of decision-making that is used by Baha’is whether at home, among friends, or while serving on committees or institutions at any level.

Baha’u’llah stated:

No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.

Shoghi Effendi also said that:

…consultation, frank and unfettered, is the bedrock of this unique Order.

Continue reading

5 Great Online Sources to Help You Study the Baha’i Faith

If you’re looking for a place to deepen and study about the Baha’i Faith online, here is a list of five great places to start:

1. The Wilmette Institute: www.wi.bahai.us

The Wilmette Instituteis an online Baha’i Learning Centre that just celebrated its 20th birthday. They offer more than 50 unique courses on the web to an average of 30 students per course and some 7,000 students residing in almost 100 countries have participated in Wilmette courses. Upcoming classes for 2015 include topics such as Abdu’l-Baha: His Life and Ministry, An Introduction to Shaykhism, Exploring the Baha’i Calendar, Economics and the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah’s Early Mystic Writings, World Federation, and many others.

The average course is 7 weeks long, but some are as long as 17 weeks and each course typically requires about 5 hours of study per week. Faculty members instruct the courses, mentors assist the students with questions, and online forums permit students to enrich each other’s learning. Continue reading

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Listening isn’t easy. There is so much more to it than allowing sound waves to tickle their way into your ears. How can we become better listeners? In reflecting on this question, I have the following three suggestions:

1. A Gentle Silence is Golden

Baha’u’llah says that “the tongue is a smoldering fire and excess of speech a deadly poison.” I have grappled with these striking and powerful words for a long time but I know it to be true from all those times I found myself in conversation just itching to put forward my ideas and ignoring what others were saying. My excess of speech consumed me and deafened me and I am slowly learning that the way to be a better listener is to simply. Stop. Talking. Howard Colby Ives, an early Baha’i, describes this feeling perfectly and he explains how Abdu’l-Baha was the perfect listener. Ives writes: Continue reading