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
Recently I’ve been further wondering what spiritual effects we can expect when we refrain from food. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
But mere abstention from food has no effect on the spirit. It is only a symbol, a reminder. Otherwise it is of no importance.
The Baha’i Teachings say food or illness do not touch the soul. So why do we fast and how does it enhance our spiritual experience? In this article, I’ll explore some main themes addressing the symbolic nature of abstaining from food, followed by some reflection questions you may find useful. These thoughts are based on my understanding of the Writings, my personal experiences, and my work as a holistic healthcare practitioner (and if you’d like to read more you may wish to check out my book, The Supreme Remedy). Continue reading
The body is great at telling us when something isn’t functioning. Aches, pains, rashes, lumps… all of these tell us that something is wrong with the body and we need to find out what it is. The symptoms are signs leading to a deeper underlying problem. But we don’t just have a body; we also have a soul. In fact, we are souls living with a body. So, if there are signs in the body of good and bad health, are there similar signs in the soul?
The perplexing thing about the soul is that it is so elusive and mysterious. We cannot see or touch it. Baha’u’llah says of the soul:
Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. ((Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.161))
In a study circle, I was asked to examine one of Baha’u’llah’s commandments in order to see how it raises consciousness, increases understanding, lifts standards of personal conduct and enables society to progress. I chose to examine work. Continue reading
They say if you want to remember a particular moment in your life, you should listen to a piece of music. Melodies help us recall the very shape and form of an experience or moment in time. The same can be said about fragrance. Wear one type of perfume for a set period and you will always associate that scent with that same period in your life.
During her last month of volunteer service in the Holy Land, my sister-in-law listened to one selection of music only. Upon her return home and whenever she heard those specific melodies, she would immediately be carried away to Israel where the memories of her last few weeks in paradise replayed vividly in her heart, mind and soul.
The Writings of the Faith have a very similar effect on one’s senses. They are a melody, a fragrance, and they have the power to transport you to a different time or place – conjuring up memories, feelings and emotions of times gone by. Continue reading
When we aspire to live up to the teachings of Baha’u’llah and strive to emulate the immense array of virtues, we can become a little overwhelmed. It can be helpful to limit the range of qualities we focus on. Luckily, there are four qualities that Baha’u’llah especially liked.
Baha’u’llah is said to have often remarked:
There are four qualities which I love to see manifested in people: first, enthusiasm and courage; second, a face wreathed in smiles and a radiant countenance; third, that they see with their own eyes and not through the eyes of others; fourth, the ability to carry a task once begun, through to its end.
There are so many virtues that we are called to develop, so why did Baha’u’llah single out these four qualities? Here are my thoughts: 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
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
As I join my fellow Baha’is around the world in preparing for the upcoming 19 day Baha’i Fast, I managed to get my hands on a copy of a brand new book by Deborah Walters called The Supreme Remedy – Reflections on applying natural healing arts to the Baha’i Fast.
Deborah Walters is a Doctor of Naturopathy and Homeopathy and she runs a private practice specializing in spiritual, mental and physical healing. In this wonderful book, she draws on both the Baha’i teachings and her own professional experience to examine the human condition of the soul, mind and body. She focuses on how they interrelate and can be harmonized, transformed and energized through the spiritual discipline of the Baha’i Fast and explores the “illimitable” benefits hidden within the Fast and why Baha’u’llah calls it “the supreme remedy” for self and passion.
The Supreme Remedy is also very practical as well, and Deborah answers questions about the Baha’i Fast like: How does the Fast relate to our health, our minds, and our spiritual growth? How can we make it easier and what foods should we eat?
The book is the first of its kind, and Deborah is currently touring to promote her book. I managed to get in touch with Deborah and asked her a few questions about The Supreme Remedy: Continue reading
“I Love You”. It’s a phrase that is often thrown around very loosely, and come February each year on Valentine’s Day, these three words give people around the world an excuse to pamper one another with gifts, flowers, jewels and dinner promises. Of course there is nothing wrong with showing your loved ones a token (or two) of your appreciation, but I think it is equally important for us to use this time of year (or any time of year for that matter) to re-evaluate the word ‘love’. Is it really only about airy-fairy, lovey-dovey sentiments, or is there a deeper meaning to this four-letter word?
Abdu’l-Baha in fact spoke about there being four kinds of love in Paris Talks, and so I thought I would explore each of these in a little more detail in a bid to reflect on the true meaning of love. Continue reading