Courage is a word that could be used on a daily basis, frivolously, out of habit, without really thinking about it. Recently, in thinking about the stories found in The Dawn-Breakers, I’ve been reflecting on how what was very courageous ages ago, seems even more impossible to believe in nowadays and how courage can differ from person to person. I’ve been asking myself, has bravery and courage changed throughout history? What does courage look like in my life? Is it standing up for my rights at work, sharing my thoughts and opinions in discussions and being brave enough to swim against the current? Continue reading
A youth studying the spiritual empowerment of junior youth in Montero, Bolivia. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)
Oftentimes, I find myself reading chronicles from early Baha’is, immersing myself in their stories of complete selflessness, utter sacrifice, and staunch devotion to the Cause of God.
I find myself thinking that my humble undertakings serving the Baha’i Faith pale in comparison to what they endured in a bid to spread the Message of Baha’u’llah.
…ye must in this matter—that is, the serving of humankind—lay down your very lives, and as ye yield yourselves, rejoice.
But what does it mean to lay down our lives? I think that this is one of many metaphorical references found in the Baha’i Writings to giving up one’s life and it makes me ask myself, what does it symbolically look like for me to give up my life to the beliefs I hold dear? And how can I do so rejoicingly?
My first role model as a child was Annie—the red-haired, precocious orphan who sings her way through some tough times before she manages to build the life she has always dreamt of. I loved her so much that a family friend made me a life-sized Annie doll, complete with the black patent leather shoes, frilly ankle socks and white-collared tomato red dress. My envy of her outfit was very quickly followed by the realization that she and I were the same size. I don’t know what happened to the doll, but I wore her clothes everywhere until they were splitting at the seams, triumphantly belting out “it’s a hard knock life” and (unsuccessfully) lobbying for a four-legged sidekick called Sandy. Continue reading
In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi laid out a path for the U.S. and Canadian Baha’i communities to contribute to the transformation of their societies, as summarized in introduction to the Advent of Divine Justice. Addressing the United States in particular, he identified “racial prejudice” as “the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community,” for this issue permeated the entire nation, which he called “a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.”
Though this message was penned in 1938, I believe it remains highly relevant today because the “cancerous growth of racial prejudice” continues to eat into the body politic. “Black Lives Matter”: this basic assertion of human value, proclaimed by the protestors who are filling the streets of U.S. cities, responds to the routine, systematic treatment of People of Color* as disposable. Racism remains “the most vital and challenging issue.” I wish to share with you Shoghi Effendi’s guidance on deconstructing it, along with my reflections as a white person living in the United States. Continue reading
I have always found it interesting how there are some emotions that we think we can avoid feeling—even though history and experience consistently demonstrate otherwise. We are happy to fully embrace the joyful moments—the successful interviews, promotions and scientific breakthroughs; finding true love, marriages, births and anniversaries. And yet we all know that for every joyful, celebratory experience there are undoubtedly many hours of sacrifice, failure, loss and grief, and that we wouldn’t appreciate the moments of happiness and contentment nearly as acutely without the periods of struggle and pain that preceded them. Continue reading
I believe that tests and hardships in this life refine our character, soften our hard edges and bring us closer to knowing God. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
Tests are benefits from God, for which we should thank Him. Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance, they are sent to us by the Divine Mercy for our own perfecting… Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardener is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and most abundant fruit.
However, another purpose of tests is that they increase our empathy and in turn allow us to serve others. What if in fact the highest purpose of tests is that they help us understand and aid others through their hardships and be a cause of their happiness? Continue reading
A few weeks ago, a student of mine confided in me about a friendship that recently ended. They explained that they felt embarrassed and ashamed that they still deeply cared for the friend who was no longer an active part of their life. Before we ended our session, my student left me with their final thought: “Why does it matter if I care about someone, if they do not reciprocate that care or they aren’t around to feel it?” For some reason, I immediately thought of the familiar phrase – “When a tree falls in a lonely forest, does it make a sound?” For weeks, I’ve turned over the conversation in my mind and have found myself grappling with how we value a love that goes without acknowledgment, one that merely sits silently within our souls. Continue reading
If you were going to ask me to dive into the treasury of Baha’i prayers and select my favourite jewel, I would say that I love too many to be able to select just one. But if you insisted, I would choose the prayer that is my favorite at this particular moment.
I had been looking for prayers for protection (haven’t we all?) and came to the very last one in that section of my prayer book. In this prayer, which I’ve quoted in full at the bottom, Abdu’l-Baha rises above my already heightened expectations, and soars in the sublime regions attained only by the divinely inspired poets. Surely this prayer illustrates this wonderful tradition quoted by the blessed Bab in The Dawn-Breakers:
Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets.
Recently, I had a conversation with some of my public health students about the incredible coincidence that the COVID-19 pandemic was happening while they were completing their degrees in Global Health. Every decision and action (or inaction) by international organizations, national governments, universities, school districts, businesses, researchers, civil society organizations, service providers, hospitals, communities and individuals is a potential opportunity to learn about mitigating an infectious disease. It is also a personal opportunity to learn and reflect on our individual responses to the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic overlaps with the Baha’i month of fasting when Baha’is are encouraged to focus on spiritual development and service as we abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for 19 days. So, I decided to dedicate my meditation and reflection during this Fast on the concepts of illness, disease, health and healing in the Baha’i Writings. Continue reading
If you are someone who follows a defined spiritual path (Catholic, Hari Krishna, Sufi, Baha’i), you will have adopted a set of values and spiritual practices that you believe are true and useful. This does not mean that you have stopped thinking for yourself. But it does entail that you choose to abide by those principles, with mindfulness and intelligence, no doubt.
Quite naturally when we are trying to follow a spiritual path properly, we utilise our conscience to decipher right from wrong. Having a conscience is vital: it is a distinguishing feature of being human. One example of when I rely on my conscience relates to the Baha’i Fast and being sick. Continue reading