Sacrifice. It sounds like such a harsh word. But that might just be a sign of the times. These days, sacrifice can be seen as unnecessary self-denial. I’ve been thinking about it lately, and it actually seems to me that anyone who wants to accomplish anything difficult cannot do so without sacrifice, especially when it comes to spirituality.
When we think about sacrifice, the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to God often comes to mind. Now, there are a multitude of meanings and interpretations to this story which I won’t go into here. But what seems most basic is that Abraham was called to sacrifice his son out of his devotion to God. And to me, that’s what stands at the heart of true sacrifice. We don’t sacrifice things haphazardly or without a purpose: we renounce things as an act of devotion to something higher. But why do we do this? Because those things stand in our way; they are preventing us from attaining the object of our devotion. Continue reading
Like all animals, we are naturally pleasure-seeking creatures. The desire for pleasure drives, and has driven, many of our endeavours. And we might even say that in the technological age we live in, it drives us even more. But what if we realised that our task in life is not to pursue our own pleasure, but instead to pursue God’s? Baha’u’llah counsels us:
O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.
O SON OF HIM THAT STOOD BY HIS OWN ENTITY IN THE KINGDOM OF HIS SELF! Know thou, that I have wafted unto thee all the fragrances of holiness, have fully revealed to thee My word, have perfected through thee My bounty and have desired for thee that which I have desired for My Self. Be then content with My pleasure and thankful unto Me.
These are beautiful words. But they can be hard to follow. In today’s world, for many people, desires can be quickly met. We want a coffee; we buy one on the go. We want to be entertained; we find something interesting to watch on YouTube. I think that we have become accustomed to having our desires instantly satiated, so the notion of pleasing God, instead of ourselves, can be a completely foreign concept. Continue reading
As I join Baha’is around the world in celebrating the Baha’i New Year known as Naw-Ruz, the last month of the Baha’i Calendar just before Naw-Ruz is the fasting period for Baha’is, and it was a perfect time for me to reflect on, and plan, what goals I want to set myself for the new year.
As we are encouraged by the Universal House of Justice to adopt a humble posture of learning — learning which takes place through prayer, planning, action and reflection — I thought I would create a list of questions to ask myself in order to help me reflect on and plan my own personal New Year resolutions.
I’ve decided to share this list of questions in case it may be of any use to you, (and I’ve left out my answers), but I’d love to hear about the questions you’ve been asking yourself, and/or what learnings you’ve had over the last year and how you hope to work on them if you think it would be appropriate to share (keeping in mind that it’s not about confessions of course). You can leave your comments in the ‘Comments’ section found at the bottom of this article.
Here’s the list: 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.
37 seconds. I have been sitting still for 37 seconds now. I am not kidding. And with my eyes closed all this time. Well, nearly all this time. I had to open them to see how many hours minutes seconds (sigh) had passed. I close them again. Focus, I tell myself. Concentrate. I am aware that my foot is itching. Now I am aware that I am focusing on my foot instead of…? What am I supposed to be focusing on? Now I am just feeling irritated. I open my eyes again. 52 seconds.
Clearly this is not working.
Meditation: something that I have been struggling to learn for years. I call to mind the simple and direct plea from TS Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’: “Teach us to sit still.”
The words resonated deeply with me those many years ago in my high school poetry class, just as they do today. How do we learn to ‘sit still’, to truly be still, particularly in the midst of the mayhem and madness of life?
What does it mean to meditate? Continue reading
When I made the decision to become a Baha’i nearly five years ago, it was definitely a highlight in my spiritual journey. I’d always been interested in matters of spirituality and had been raised in a religious family by parents who placed our faith at the centre of individual and family life.
As such, the year leading up to my decision to become a Baha’i was marked by a period of intense exploration of the proofs of Baha’u’llah, a deep reflection on my personal beliefs and the application of His teachings in my own life. This period of independent investigation, which Baha’u’llah encourages us to undertake, was exhilarating and when I finally took the seemingly enormous step of calling myself a Baha’i, it was merely a personal affirmation of what I believed and an acceptance that Baha’u’llah’s teachings are divinely inspired.
It was the happiest and most challenging decision I’d ever made, but in hindsight I can see how that decision, rather than being a destination, was merely the beginning of an entirely new phase in my spiritual journey. Continue reading
One of the things I’ve personally struggled with, and I’m sure others have as well, is being content with one’s life. Not only do I frequently find myself wanting material things, like a new car, but I also frequently feel that something is missing from my life – something I can’t quite wrap my mind around.
Some might argue that the lack of contentment is just the nature of a human being, and that it’s a good thing because it pushes one to excel and be prosperous, but I don’t necessarily agree with that notion. After all there are plenty of very rich and successful people in the world that are dissatisfied with their lives, and plenty of poor people that are perfectly content.
Contentment is encouraged in the Teachings of the Baha’i Faith, for instance in one of The Persian Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, He says:
O QUINTESSENCE OF PASSION! Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised.
I feel that I should be content, after all I live in a great country, I have a career I love, and I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family. So what is it that I’m yearning for, and what can I do to find my own inner peace and contentment?
I’ve listed six simple things which have helped me personally, and maybe they can help you too: Continue reading
Ever since I started preparing for my own marriage about 15 years ago I’ve been interested in the topic of marriage preparation and have specialized in this field as a psychologist and couples therapist. One of the things that I get asked all the time is to give advice in helping others choose a partner for marriage, so when Baha’i Blog asked me to write about this topic, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share a couple of my ideas on this subject.
Unfortunately, numerous national studies show that divorce rates around the world continue to be on the rise (often ranging from 35% – 50%), and dysfunctional relationships have proven to have a direct effect on physical and/or mental health problems. Of course Baha’is are not immune to any of this, and so I’d like to share two important things individuals should focus on in order to improve their chances of making a well-informed and good choice when thinking of a suitable life partner. Continue reading