As I write this rain is pattering against the window above my desk. Outside, a tree that has been covered in brilliant yellow leaves for the past couple of weeks is in transition—the topmost branches are already bare. A slow but steady release is happening lower down, and the bottom is still blazing colour against the slate grey sky. Around me the world is in a season of radical transformation. We’ve come to a point where none of us can avoid the truth that individual wellbeing is inseparably connected to the wellbeing of all. Personally, the physical separation from those I love, coupled with a heightened awareness of the brevity of this earthly life is making me ask myself bigger questions than I had been previously. Three that come up for me a lot are: What is God’s Will for humanity? How do I align my life’s purpose with the Will of God? And what specific capacities can I strengthen in myself right now that will help me to better serve the needs of humanity at this pivotal time? Continue reading
I interviewed the dynamic duo, writer Linda Ahdieh Grant and illustrator Anna Myers, previously on Baha’i Blog about their children’s book I Love My Name (you can read the interview here). Arising to meet the needs of our age, they have partnered up again to create a children’s story book called Together, Even When We’re Apart. Its subtitle is “My Neighborhood’s Stories of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which offers us a glimpse of what to expect in its pages.
Linda and Anna graciously agreed to tell us about their latest project, how it came together, and what they hope it will offer children and their families. Here’s what they said:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
We initially got the idea to write a book about COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 in response to a contest announcement to create a children’s book to help explain COVID-19 to children. By the time we found out that we didn’t win the contest, we were super excited about the endeavor and decided to move forward with it anyway.
Throughout the time that we were working on the project, Anna and I were experiencing the pandemic first-hand together with our families and our neighbors and, like people all over the world, we were having all kinds of conversations – about how to keep everyone safe, about how to help others, and about what would happen next. Both Anna and I felt really fortunate that during this time, the Universal House of Justice wrote several amazing letters to Baha’is all around the world to assure us of prayers, to share encouragement and love, and to give guidance about how the Baha’i community was responding and could further respond. We found the themes and concepts of these letters to be tremendously comforting and also clarifying — themes about hopefulness, about service to others, about manifesting unity and solidarity in action, about the cultivation of spiritual qualities needed during a crisis, about bending our minds to the needs of our communities, and about how the pandemic could give us insight and appreciation of our inherent oneness and interdependence. Continue reading
The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and has catalyzed us to think of what lies ahead, and to question who we are and who we want to be collectively as humanity. Michael Winger has recently authored a book that guides us through this subject and it’s called Beyond Pandemic: A Rebirth of Collective Consciousness.
We are grateful to Michael for taking the time to chat with us about his book. Here’s what he shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I became a Baha’i in the early 1970s. There were seven of us who, in a short period of time, became Baha’is in a community where Hand of the Cause of God Bill Sears and his dear wife, Marguerite, lived. We were blessed to be inspired, guided and taught what service to humanity required. We were immersed in the writings of the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi and had almost daily access to Bill and Marguerite when they were in town. So in love with the Teachings and the opportunity to serve, all of us over the years pioneered to far flung places such as Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Taiwan, Portugal and Croatia. We all arose and remembering always the words of dear Bill, “Go and serve and die with your boots on.”
So, here I am in Croatia. Thank you Reed, Kenton, Gene, Tom, Andrea and David for assisting me and giving me examples to follow.
My career was in the field of innovation as an advisor to executives in government and business. I spent most of my time working with executives in assisting organizations to develop processes that enhanced and facilitated innovation in large bureaucratic organizations with focus on product development and strategic planning.
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:
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.
Not long ago, I took the plunge and went on a social media detox. (Please note: this was well before the release of The Social Dilemma documentary when people were uninstalling their apps in hordes).
The reason I decided to clear my phone of some select apps was that I found they were having a negative effect on my mental and social well-being. I was spending far too much time scrolling fanatically through my news feeds, changing swiftly from one app to another and then back again, and subconsciously becoming burdened by the nonsensical task of checking all my notifications. My days were fettered by comparison, vain imaginings and an attachment to the world, and I knew it wasn’t healthy.
However, after some much-needed reflection, I realised it was a classic case of “It’s not you. It’s me”, with the “you” in question being social media. I came to the conclusion that while Instagram and Facebook weren’t necessarily mitigating my social media addiction, I did need to strengthen my ability to use these platforms sensibly and in moderation. Abdu’l-Baha says: Continue reading
I call Prince Edward Island off the east coast of Canada home. Recently my community gathered on Zoom to study the 9 May 2020 message from the Universal House of Justice. The letter contains important guidance about navigating through this difficult time, but one particular point struck a chord with me, and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The section I’m referring to is this:
…while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue.
Like most of us, I have embraced a more insular lifestyle in the interest of protecting myself and the more vulnerable members of my community. As someone who lives alone, over the last few months I have joined a few online communities and participated in a number of virtual events. Some are local initiatives: holy day commemorations, Nineteen Day Feasts, devotional gatherings and opportunities to study messages like the May 9 message from the House of Justice; others have been regional—I even attended a Zoom wedding this spring! But many have been international in scope, and while they enrich my life significantly, they also require a considerable investment of time and energy, which begs the question: is my participation online diluting efforts to nurture a flourishing community at the local level? How can I find ways to take what I am learning virtually and use it to invigorate my role within my own community? In exploring these questions, another arose: what exactly am I learning? Perhaps identifying the skills I am developing in these online communities, and what I find so enriching about participating in them will help me to identify practical ways that I can better support local activities too. Continue reading
The Public Discourse is a podcast produced by the Office of Public Affairs for the Baha’i Community of Canada and it’s been inaugurated with a seven episode mini-series related to the challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from one of my local city council representatives. The council had recently launched a podcast in order to cast the spotlight on how people were adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, and they were wondering if I would speak on the topic of gratitude from the perspective of a person of faith.
It was the perfect chance for me to explore and (strive to) articulate exactly why I was grateful to be a Baha’i, particularly during a time of crisis. The most obvious source of gratitude is that the Baha’i Faith provides me with the guidance, strength and perspective I need to carry forward amidst times of intense difficulty – guidance to seek happiness in the happiness of others, to serve others, and to care for others. It is this outward focus that I truly believe gets us through trying times. It gives us purpose and brings us real joy. As Shoghi Effendi says: Continue reading
It’s exciting to see more and more Baha’i-inspired podcasts being produced by writers, musicians, thinkers and artists. I’m particularly delighted that Jacqueline Claire (you may know her from her art or her interactive art talks) has created a podcast series called Spiritual Conversation. She’s an engaging story teller who tackles elevated topics thoughtfully, honestly and joyfully — you can even hear her mega-watt smile streaming through your headphones!
Jacqueline reached out to tell us about her podcast and about the work, the ideas, the hopes and the dreams that go on behind-the-scenes. Here’s what she shared with us: