When I was a child in early primary school my mother became a Baha’i. We learned as a family about what it meant to be a Baha’i and we didn’t have a conscious awareness of the importance of unity – especially between siblings. My sister and I fought a lot and I was often very cruel to her as the older sister. If we played in the pool, for example, we might splash each other and if at some point I splashed so hard that I made her eyes sting from water and chlorine I would think nothing of it, and her visible suffering would probably only encourage me to splash harder.
In 1984 I was 11 years old when my mother, sister and I attended the dedication of the Temple in Samoa. There were many Baha’is staying in the same hotel as us. I remember playing in the pool with two children whom I had never met before and have never met since – though I’ve heard they live in our region. We chased each other and splashed each other. And over thirty years later I still remember the profound impact of the behaviour of those children on me. Navid splashed his sister Nava and they were having fun, but then the water got in her eyes. Nava indicated that her eyes were hurting and her brother immediately stopped and swam over to her, apologised and checked that she was ok. I had never seen anything like it. He behaved with the same kindness in his interactions with her as he would have with me (a stranger) or with his teacher or with anyone. Kind was the only way he knew how to be. It was a highly developed quality of his soul, not a performance that could be turned on and off depending on circumstances. Continue reading
Wendi Momen has compiled four devotional books perfect for couples, mothers, fathers and families. These small paperbacks with watercolor floral covers contain sacred writings, poetry and prose on universal themes. George Ronald Publishers reissued Family Worship, To be a Mother and To be a Father and released, for the first time,To Be Married.
I will shamelessly admit that I judge books by their covers and these four make a beautiful and enchanting set before you even open them for meaningful study and worship. I was eager to find out more about them and Wendi lovingly obliged. Here’s our conversation: Continue reading
Chelsea Lee Smith is the coordinator for online parenting courses for the Wilmette Institute, and Susanne Alexander, in her role as its Chair of the Relationship, Marriage, Parenting, and Family Department, often has the joy and privilege of helping Chelsea create course content. In our courses such as Fostering a Baha’i Identity in Children, Conscious Parenting, and more we help parents learn many practical ways to increase spiritual practices in their homes. Here are three spiritual habits that we love to encourage parents to teach to young children: Continue reading
Using consultation skills in family meetings is excellent for facilitating understanding and making effective family decisions. It’s also a great way to build life skills in children, no matter what their age. They can learn to contribute toward family unity and to the world around them. Meetings can be casual or formal and in any setting; it’s up to each family to explore what works for them. We facilitated an online course called “Communication Skills for Spiritually Minded Parents” at the Wilmette Institute that explored how consultation can be used in family life. In this article, we offer a few words about the importance of consultation and then explore four benefits to consulting as a family unit. Continue reading
The path to finding a mate for life is not easy. Through my personal life and my work as a marriage and relationship educator and coach, I have seen how perseverance, courage, discernment, and commitment are all essential. We and the world need strong, happy marriages that are fortresses of well-being.
We are not yet living in a world that has established a common pattern of courtship based on the Baha’i Teachings. As a result, individuals and couples are experimenting and trying to find their way – sometimes joyfully and sometimes with more difficulty.
As you know, courtship practices differ greatly from one culture to another, and it is not yet known what pattern of courtship will emerge in the future when society has been more influenced by Baha’i Teachings. However, there is no indication that it will resemble the practices extant in existing cultures…. In this interim period, the friends are encouraged to make great efforts to live in conformity with the Teachings and to gradually forge a new pattern of behavior, more in keeping with the spirit of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.
The challenge we face is how to engage in patterns of courtship that strive to implement Baha’i principles in a world that is “a bewildering moral environment” and in “a society in which materialism, self-centeredness and failing marriages are all too common.”
So, when we look at what possibly aligns with Baha’i courtship, what is important? Continue reading
The period of junior youth is one of transition and discovery. No longer children and not yet youth, those in this age group are searching for their identity and yearning for a sense of purpose. The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program material plays a vital role in assisting these adolescents as they develop a concept of service and discover their place in society. According to the Universal House of Justice, these books “…assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.”
The Discovery series of books, written by Scottish author Jacqueline Mehrabi, acts as the perfect complement to the Junior Youth material. The trilogy has been developed to prepare junior youth for the spiritual obligations that come with reaffirming their Faith in Baha’u’llah – using storytelling to familiarise the readers with certain laws and ordinances including fasting and obligatory prayer. We spoke to Jackie about her latest works and what she hopes the books achieve. Continue reading
For Baha’is, the purpose of marriage is to create a divine institution that gives birth to the next generation of teachers who will arise to further proclaim the Cause of God. As Baha’u’llah says:
Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead.
There are, of course, many factors that influence whether and when to have children, including education, financial stability, career or physical ability. A letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice states:
They should realise, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children.
As Baha’is, we know that education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. As a mother, I have always found the first two kinds relatively easy to manage. When it comes to their spiritual education however, I tend to feel a little more uneasy, especially since Abdu’l-Baha refers to this kind of education as the “true” kind when he says:
Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education…
The pressure is mounted with the following quote:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved – even though he be ignorant – is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light.
A few of the mothers in our community recently decided to start a children’s class specifically for those aged between zero and five. These preschool classes aim to encourage the development of morals and good conduct in our young ones, with each lesson based on a different virtue and featuring prayer, singing, stories and crafts.
Below are the 10 main steps we took when starting up the preschool classes: Continue reading
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
We know in the Baha’i Writings that mothers are the first educators of the children:
To the mothers must be given the divine Teachings and effective counsel, and they must be encouraged and made eager to train their children, for the mother is the first educator of the child… So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect.
But new mothers are often overwhelmed at knowing where to start, particularly when they haven’t had good role models to follow. Fortunately there is lots of guidance in the Writings to take us back to basics!
Let’s start with the ABC’s! Continue reading