Category Archives Opinion

Opinions, thoughts and ideas

6 Ways that Ruhi Book 1 Helped Me Process Grief in Community

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I recently finished studying Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, the first book in a series of materials that have been developed to “assist individuals to deepen their understanding of the Baha’i teachings, and to gain the spiritual insights and practical skills they need to carry out the work of the community.” I have participated in many Ruhi study circles, but this one has been particularly life-changing for me. Our tutor, Fanya, lost her grandmother earlier this year to COVID-19, and in searching for creative ways to process her own grief, decided to invite a few other people who have lost close family members to study Ruhi Book 1 with her.

The first book in the Ruhi sequence explores what it means to be spiritual beings; the purpose of prayer; and how living a life of service can help us strengthen our spiritual capacity and grow closer to God. In retrospect, the usefulness of this book as a tool to create a supportive environment in which a group of people can move through grief in community seems obvious, but I had never heard of it being used in this way before. Our weekly study circle has been so helpful to me in my own journey through grief that it got me thinking that sharing my experience might inspire tutors in other places to consider using Ruhi Book 1 to support those who are grieving. In the spirit of finding new ways that we can utilize the Ruhi materials to build stronger communities, here are six ways that using Ruhi Book 1 to process grief has helped me:

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My Thoughts on What Modesty Might Mean

In my work as an image coach, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what modesty might mean. It seems to me that societal standards are degrading, almost on a daily basis. I have witnessed how things that would have been distressing or offensive even a few years ago are now acceptable in the society in which I live – I have seen changes in the way we speak, the way we interact with others, the way we dress, and so on. Pushing limits and boundaries is understood by some to be a sign of liberation from outdated and restrictive habits and it seems that the more daring and outrageous one can be in challenging traditional conventions, the better.

While there are many traditional and cultural concepts and practices that are outworn and obsolete, there are also some that I believe need to be respected and maintained, or even elevated and appreciated in a whole new way. One of these is the concept of modesty. Continue reading

Striving to Belong, Be Seen, and Be Heard

Baha’u’llah has charged us with creating unity everywhere in our lives. Sometimes, though, our inner wounds get in the way.

A very young me internalized “I don’t belong” from relatively simple experiences like being excluded from friend’s birthday parties and being sent to my room as a punishment. More deeply I internalized it was better to not belong as closely to my family after my mother almost died and her attention was focused on my younger baby brother. It seems to be a common human experience to have an inner child voice born from reacting to early challenges, especially those that involve rejection, severe criticism, or disconnection.

Our inner-child voice operates, often unconsciously, and interferes with connection with others when we are adults, especially if we seem to be experiencing rejection or disrespect from someone. I see it in my work as a relationship educator and coach based in the United States, in friends, and in myself. For some, the inner operating phrase is different: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m invisible”, or “I don’t matter”. But the outcome is the same: disconnection and disunity with people that we really want to be close to. There is hope:

The bright rays of union will obliterate the darkness of limitations, and the splendors of heaven will make the human heart to be even as a mine veined richly with the love of God.

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Finding Yourself in Service to Others

Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

So many people in the world, especially young people, are looking for their calling and something to cling to, something that gives life context and a purpose, something that bathes everything else in meaning, magically making sense of life. For me, this yearning for a deeper meaning to life is a sign that humans have souls, and it is a reminder that we are not content with simply getting on with life. We seek connections and a path to channel our energies. This search for deeper meaning can lead to wonderful things: some examples that come to my mind are when people become very devoted to their field of work, which leads to much-needed discoveries and advancement, or when people dedicate their lives to the spiritual education of children and empowering junior youth.

But what is finding oneself really? And how does one find oneself? Continue reading

The Month of Honour: Reflections on the Nobility of the Human Soul  

The sixteenth month of the Baha’i calendar is the month of Sharaf. The word ‘sharaf’ is Arabic for ‘honour.’ In his A Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson defined ‘honor’ as the ‘nobility of the soul.’ When I am trying to get a better grasp on a spiritual principle I look out into the world around me for reflections of it. For some reason looking outwards for concrete examples of otherwise abstract concepts ultimately helps me to reach a deeper internal understanding, and to find ways to integrate new ways of being into my own life. Often I find instruction in the natural world. But sometimes human beings most clearly exemplify a quality I’m trying to better comprehend.

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Embracing the Transformative Power of Daily Prayer: Some Personal Reflections

Best known for his fantasy Narnia series, famed author C.S. Lewis was also a scholar, broadcaster, and devout Christian. Never one to compromise his values and convictions (and following repeated challenges to his commitment to faithful daily prayer) Lewis presented a careful and calculated perspective:

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.

I often revisit this quotation and contemplate its true meaning. Through the years, the words have always resonated with me — offering insight and clarity during moments of pure joy, as well as solace and succor while mired in the depths of despair.

Like all Baha’is, I am, of course, bound by guidance of the Blessed Beauty to engage in daily prayer and meditation. Beyond merely reciting one of the Obligatory Prayers, I’ve come to realize that further daily reflection is both essential and intensely beneficial. This understanding, however (as with many other aspects of my spiritual life) is and has been a work in progress that will never be entirely completed.  Continue reading

Four Questions on the Month of Questions

Looking through a list of the names of the 19 months in the Baha’i calendar, I notice that 16 are attributes of God: splendor, glory, beauty, grandeur, and so on. Then we come to the months of words, speech and questions. You might be interested to explore this Baha’i Blog article about words, or this one about speech, but for now I’d like to explore the 15th month: questions. There may be a reference somewhere in which questions is referred to as an attribute of God (I have yet to find one, so if you do, please let me know), but to me this month has always been a bit of a curiosity. I have a friend whose first Nineteen Day Feast was the Feast of Questions. When he arrived at the gathering chairs had been arranged in a circle around a large piece of fabric which lay on the floor in the centre of the room. The host had spray painted a giant question mark across it. My friend found himself questioning what he had gotten himself into, but in addition to being an amusing introduction to the Nineteen Day Feast, the host clearly also had questions about the month of Questions, and it made my friend stop and ask himself a question or two! The fact that an entire month has been dedicated to questions suggests to me that questioning has an important role to play in the Baha’i Faith. The deeper I delve into the purpose of questions, the more questions I have. So, in the spirit of the month, below are my top four questions about the month of Questions: Continue reading

Building World Citizenship One Marriage and Birth at a Time

Cross-cultural marriages and children born from these marriages appear to be part of creating one human family. When my American stepdaughter married a Norwegian-Swede last year and moved to Norway, we really didn’t understand this. During the wedding, our home became decorated with a few things in Norwegian flag colors, which happen to be red, white, and blue, just like our flags in the US. Now, however, a granddaughter has arrived, and suddenly our perspective is very different.

The concept of being world citizens and building one human family is large and complex. It’s far more than having treaties across borders of homogenous countries for example. Here is a view from Abdu’l-Baha: Continue reading

Recognising the Veils and Signs in Our Lives

Baha’u’llah revealed a path to humanity, a path to God for all who wish to walk it. I have been trying to tread this path for over 15 years and have realised that there are things that aid me in this endeavour and also things that thwart my efforts: signs of God and metaphorical veils that keep me from God. Of course, there are many other tools needed on a spiritual journey (prayer, fasting, service to others, and so on) but in this article, I’d like to explore what the signs of God might be, and the veils that hold me back. Continue reading