Category Archives Baha’i Life

The Power of a Community Garden

In a town called Ranson in West Virginia of the United States, the Baha’i community has teamed up with Jefferson County Community Ministries and the City to create a community garden in order to make healthy food affordable for those on limited budgets, and to also strengthen the social fabric of the community.

The short video above explains this wonderful grassroots initiative, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Bill Gregg while I was visiting the United States. Bill is one of the main participants in this initiative and he’s featured in the video – so I asked Bill a few questions about the community garden and the effects it’s been having: Continue reading

So you’ve become a Baha’i. Now what?

So You've become a Bahai So Now WhatWhen 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

Choral Music in the Baha’i Community

Rehearsal time for Baha'i-inspired choir 'Perfect Chord' based in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Rachael Dere)

Rehearsal time for Baha’i-inspired choir ‘Perfect Chord’ based in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Rachael Dere)

Much has been written in previous Baha’i Blog posts about singing, but mostly in connection with soloists, often combined with instruments. Less has been said here about group singing, which is an important branch of vocal music. Baha’is have been encouraged by the Central Figures, the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice to incorporate music and singing into all aspects of Baha’i community life: Continue reading

New Book: Spiritual Mothering – Toward an Ever-Advancing Civilization

Spiritual Mothering cover 350x543Spiritual Mothering: Toward an Ever-Advancing Civilization is new publication compiled and edited by Rene Knight-Weiler.

The book is composed of articles that were published in a magazine called Spiritual Mothering Journal that circulated for 10 years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Its topics are diverse – from more meditative pieces about the daily struggles and victories of motherhood to concrete step-by-step articles about sibling conflict resolution – and its contributors from around the world vary in their perspectives and writing styles (they are primarily, but not soley, Baha’i).

Rene Knight-Weiler writes, “what all these authors have in common is a love of children, a love of writing and a wealth of ability in both arenas. The wisdom they offer is not limited to one generation. It is timeless, just like parenthood itself.” Continue reading

One Little Word that Will Help Solve Your Problems – and the World’s Too

(Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

The Baha’is of Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia gather together. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Ever wondered how to solve the world’s problems? If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve at least wondered how to solve some of your own, right?

As Baha’is, we’ve actually been told how, and it comes down to this one little word:


Okay, maybe it’s not so little a word. And it’s definitely no small concept. But it can be simple. Continue reading

Musings on Motherhood: No Nobler Deed

As many parts of the world are celebrating ‘Mother’s Day’, I find myself reflecting on the high standard in the Baha’i Writings for our youth, and I can’t help but think about the importance of moral and spiritual education during those precious first years of a child’s life. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

You must be distinguished amidst men by your sanctity and detachment, loftiness of purpose, magnanimity, determination, noble mindedness, tenacity, the elevation of your aims and your spiritual qualities; that you may become the means of exaltation and glory for the Cause of God and the dawning places of His heavenly bestowals; that you may conduct yourselves in conformity with the counsels and exhortations of the Blessed Beauty — may my life be offered up for His loved ones — and by reflecting Baha’i qualities and attributes, you may stand out distinguished from others.

Society tends to downplay the significance of being a mother. What do you suppose attracts more interest when I answer that typical question at dinner parties: “What do you do?” Lawyer or mother? Usually, when I choose to answer, “I am a mother,” people smile and say, “Oh, that’s nice.” There is never an incredibly interested follow-up question on what kind of exciting parenting I practice. The polite ones never say it, but some of them are probably thinking, “You’re a mom? What do you do all day?” Indeed mothers, myself included, often fail to comprehend the momentousness of the work we do, when in fact, according to Abdu’l-Baha, “no nobler deed can be imagined!” Continue reading

My 3 Questions to Frame a Study of the Baha’i Writings

3 Questions to Frame Study of the Text

I naively and ignorantly thought that because I had been raised a Baha’i that I knew the Writings well. It wasn’t long before I realized that while I knew many of the principles of the Faith, I barely knew its sacred texts at all. Baha’u’llah exhorts us to immerse ourselves in the ocean of His words, and I was merely floating on the surface. In a boat.

I personally find that a small part of diving into the study of a text requires that I figure out its context. Through various deepening classes, I have learned that these 3 questions can prove very useful. Continue reading

Dealing with Addictions

Dealing with Addictions 620x413
Many of us have developed addictions of one kind or another, as a way of relieving stress. Some, like drugs, alcohol and smoking are socially sanctioned. Others, like drivenness, perfection and workaholism are often highly praised in a materialistic society. Still others, like sex, pornography and gambling are so readily available on the internet, that they’ve practically become socially acceptable.

None of us are immune to addiction, and there are even several well-known Baha’is in the history of the Faith who have struggled with addictions such as alcoholism, and they’ve reported on the transformative power of the Faith for being able to overcome this addiction. Continue reading

How to Get Thoroughly Acquainted: A Baha’i Perspective on Dating

Baha'i Dating close up
When it comes to dating and getting to know a potential partner in the framework of the Baha’i laws and principles, many young (and not so young) people experience confusion and uncertainty. It can be hard to know how to approach this topic, and while many of us realize that the concept and practice of dating in much of society today is largely inappropriate, it can be hard to determine how to get to know a person really well, while at the same time remaining steadfast in the Cause and staying within the framework of chastity.

Abdu’l-Baha tell us:

Baha’i marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity.

When beginning the process of getting thoroughly acquainted with each others’ characters, let us first look at some important guidelines – the first being “Don’t start what you cannot finish!” – meaning, if while getting to know each other it already becomes clear that this person cannot be a potential spouse, it is not wise to start a relationship or pursue the relationship further.

The following four ‘red flags’ are clear warnings and important to heed, so if you see any of these – run the other way:

1. Problems with alcohol or drugs.
2. Problems with chastity (e.g. if the other person oversteps clearly set boundaries, is unfaithful etc. This may well continue into marriage.)
3. Aggression or violence (if someone hits you once it is advisable to end the relationship immediately. Do not give a person the chance to hit you a second time. Not even when they tearfully apologize. A person hitting someone needs therapeutic help!)
4. the partner does not want to have children (as opposed to a person who cannot have children for biological reasons. The purpose of Baha’i marriage is to have children. You should never assume that a person who says before the wedding that they do not want to have children will change their mind later on.)

If you’ve been fortunate enough to meet a person who is compatible with you and to whom none of the ‘red flags’ apply, there are quite a few possible ways to investigate that person’s character:

Exchange your life stories: You can each write down your life history (e.g. divided by years) and let the other person read it. As you read over each other’s history, note areas where you would like more understanding, or greater clarity. Consult about it, ask questions, share. You should be looking for past events that might impact on the other person’s capacity for intimacy, sharing, parenting, etc.

Exchange your life plans: Again, ask for clarification and more detail if you need it. You are looking for ways that your life plans can come together, for dreams that can be shared, and a future that can be lived as a couple.

Ask each other about…
…your respective relationships with your mothers.
…your respective relationships with your fathers.
…your respective relationships with your siblings.
…your ideas and concepts of what marriage should be like.
…family planning and raising children.
…former relationships and how those worked out.
…career/educational plans.

Experience as many different situations together as possible. Don’t just meet for dates, try to get a view from as many different angles as possible. Work together or do a project together. Look into each other’s hobbies. Explore your respective relationships to your faith(s) together. Take care of each other when one of you is sick. Meet the other person’s parents and families, watch how they interact with members of their family (if you get married you will also be a member of their family!). Talk about gender roles and expectations with each other. See how your partner treats women and men. Spend leisure time together. Get to know the other person’s friends, see how you get along, see how he/she behaves around their friends. Do sports together. “Borrow” some kids and spend time with them, watch your potential spouse’s behavior and attitude towards children. Cook and eat together. Host a core activity together. See how the other person behaves under stress, how they take decisions, how they express their feelings, how they handle money, how committed they are to obeying Baha’i laws (if they are Baha’is. If they are not – how respectful they are about your choice to obey Baha’i laws).

Read and study compilations and books about (Baha’i) marriage together. There are many great books and compilations available on this topic like Marriage: A Fortress for Well-being, and Baha’i Blog will be recommending more of these in a follow-up post in the near future.

Participate in marriage preparation courses or seminars together. Studies have shown that couples benefit greatly from professional marriage preparation and that their marriages are happier and last longer. If they are conducted by Baha’i professionals, so much the better.

Speak with several couples who lead good marriages in your eyes and learn from their experience.

When looking at these options it becomes clear that this process requires time, and it saddens me to see that far too often, young Baha’is rush into marriage without much reflection and after only knowing each other for very short periods of time (sometimes maybe guided by the wish to start a sexual relationship). From a psychological point of view, I would personally recommend a time period of at least one year of investigation before deciding to get married (provided of course this time is used wisely). The space of one year allows you to experience a whole cycle of nature together (including possible effects like seasonal affective disorders, i.e. ‘winter depression’) in one or both partners). You live through all Holy Days and anniversaries (which can deeply affect some people), and you get a much deeper understanding of what those special times mean to your partner and to his/her family and how they celebrate them. After all, you are trying to blend two lives, two family cultures, two backgrounds and two life plans together, therefore it is very helpful to have a good understanding of what those are before setting out to achieve this.

To finish this article, I thought I’d leave you with the questions of the following short ‘Express Test’, in the hope that these questions will help you decide whether a person is suitable as a potential spouse:

• Did I ever imagine marrying someone like him/her?
• Can I introduce him/her to my family, friends and colleagues?
• Can I imagine having children with him/her?
• Can I imagine that my children turn out exactly like him/her?
• Would I have chosen this person as a (best) friend if I hadn’t been in love?
• Do I feel really comfortable in his/her presence?