Category Archives Baha’i Life

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?

Awesome Ayyam-i-Ha Ideas on Pinterest

Awesome Ayyam-i-Ha IdeasAyyam-i-Ha is coming up, and it’s important to make our holy days special. Luckily, there’s a lot of fun ideas out there online which can help us celebrate the intercalary days, and one of the places worth checking out online if you’re short of ideas or need some inspiration is Pinterest.

Pinterest is an online group board and it’s a great place for people to share their ideas, recipes, images, gifts and decorations for pretty much anything! Users not only submit (or rather ‘pin’) photos of what interests them onto their pinboards, but they can browse other pinboards and ‘re-pin’ the photos to their own page.

A few Baha’is have uploaded their own Ayyam-i-Ha ideas to their pin-boards which are really worth checking out, so here are some examples: Continue reading

Dealing with Sorrow and Grief: Learning to Let Go

Learning to let go - 620x429I recently lost someone in my life. Someone very close to me. Someone I love very much.

You can fall in love with, and become attached to anything. A person, an object, an idea, a place, a feeling, a belief.

No matter what it is that you’re attached to and in love with – once it’s gone – letting go can be hard.

Grief is an interesting thing. Many of my friends console me by saying that things happen for a reason, and we have to count our blessings. My mother always says that things could be worse, and she tells me the parable of a man who, while walking down a muddy street, complained to God that he didn’t have shoes. His complaints turned into prayers of gratitude when he noticed a man passing him on that muddy street who didn’t have any legs… She’s right. It could always be worse. Continue reading

6 Ways You Can Support the Junior Youth Program – Even if You’re Not an Animator

Junior Youth in Banting Malaysia. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Junior Youth in Banting Malaysia. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Most Baha’is, both young and old, can accept that the future of our community and the driving force behind its growth will be the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program – or JYSEP.

What fewer Baha’is can reconcile with is their role within this movement. There are children who become junior youth, and junior youth who become participants, and “older” youth who become the animators that accompany them.

And then there’s the rest of us.

If you’re a youth in spirit though not in reality, you may feel you are on the periphery of a phenomenon. As we are encouraged more and more to support the youth, to support this Program, it is easy to ask, “But, how?” if you are neither a youth nor part of this Program.

It is, of course, never too late to become an animator of a junior youth group, particularly if you are in a cluster, community or neighbourhood, in which the need outweighs the available resources.

If, for whatever reason, serving as an animator is not feasible for you, there are still a number of ways you are able to contribute to the JYSEP. Continue reading

How Habits Can Help You Become the Baha’i You’ve Always Wanted to Be

Steps

When Abdu’l-Baha was asked how we could acquire perfections in the face of life’s obstacles, he gave what is my all time favourite Baha’i quote: “Little by little, day by day”. The standards that we strive towards as Baha’is are high. Mightily so. It’s all too easy to feel like a spiritual dwarf in the face of such a high bar. But as always Abdu’l-Baha has given us a most practical answer to the most staggering of questions. And in that answer is a powerful tool for sculpting oneself to become the Baha’i you want to be: Habit. Continue reading

Living a Coherent Life, A Life Fueled by Service

Participants at the 2013 Sydney Youth Conference worked together on creative presentations about the themes being studied. (Photo: Baha'i World Center)

Participants at the 2013 Sydney Youth Conference worked together on creative presentations about the themes being studied. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Prior to attending one of the 114 worldwide youth conferences in Sydney, Australia, I was grappling with the concept of coherence and what it looked like in reality to live a life that was not fragmented. I would look at all the different components in my life and wonder how it was possible for each of them to tie seamlessly together while still devoting my time to the progress of the Five Year Plan. I saw myself as a mother, a wife, a journalist, a Baha’i – with each aspect having its own distinct purpose.

The paragraph below, taken from the youth conference participant materials, expands on this idea of coherence: Continue reading

3 Ingredients for a Home of Peace

Peace at HomeWhen my husband and I married eight years ago we were given a print of an illumined prayer of Abdu’l-Baha’s. The prayer, found in Star of the West, reads:

My home is the home of peace. My home is the home of joy and delight. My home is the home of laughter and exultation. Whomsoever enters through the portals of this home, must go out with gladsome heart. [1]

How to create a home of peace is a subject of a lifetime’s study and meditation but these are my meager thoughts to date.

It goes without saying that a tranquil dwelling depends upon spiritual qualities: unity, consultation on all matters, kindness and consideration, a lack of backbiting, loyalty and chastity between marriage partners, respect, gratitude and obedience on the part of children, and patience, humility and generosity on the part of the parents. And the list goes on. However, I think there are also tangible elements to creating a home of peace: beauty, a space for prayer and hospitality.  Continue reading

Baha’i Elections: 3 Steps to Becoming an Intelligent and Well-Informed Elector

Over the next few months, Baha’is around the world will attend their unit conventions and elect individuals to serve as delegates at the upcoming National Conventions. These elected representatives will then go on to elect members of each National Spiritual Assembly.

Unique to the Baha’i Faith is its process of electing competent souls to serve in various capacities. It is democratic in every sense of the word: there is no campaigning, voting is conducted by secret ballot, and whether we are electing our unit delegate, the members of our Local Spiritual Assemblies or the members of the Regional Baha’i Councils, the electoral process stays the same all around the world.

Further contributing to the uniqueness of the Baha’i electoral process are the duties required of us as electors before, during and even after the election period. It is quite easy for us to forget these points and fall in the habit of casting our votes on election day without giving enough thought to who we are voting for and why, and without taking a meditative approach.

Based on the writings of the Universal House of Justice and the Guardian, I have split my interpretation of these writings into three steps. Continue reading

Thank You Abdu’l-Baha

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha

Photo taken of Abdu’l-Baha in 1912, New Hampshire, United States (Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)

There are thousands of reasons we can all be thankful for as Baha’is, and as there are two significant days on the Baha’i calendar this week — the Day of the Covenant followed a couple of days later by the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — something I’ve been personally reflecting on recently is the gratitude we owe Abdu’l-Baha for so many of the things which we perhaps take for granted relating to the Faith.

I’m sure we each have our own special relationship with Abdu’l-Baha, and as we continue to work towards understanding the special station of Abdu’l-Baha and the significant role He played in the course of Baha’i history and the covenant, I’m sure we could come up with a list of hundreds of reasons we all need to thank Him.

On that note, in honour of celebrating the Day of the Covenant, I thought it would be interesting to see how many things we could thank Abdu’l-Baha for, by asking you all to leave something in the ‘Comments’ section below. It can be anything which comes to mind such as a book you’re reading like Paris Talks, a prayer by Abdu’l-Baha which you particularly like, or something you’ve been reflecting on lately. Continue reading

An Interview with Baha’i Actor Rainn Wilson

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with actor Rainn Wilson. We have a bunch of mutual friends and they always spoke so highly of him – not just because he’s such a great actor and played the role of Dwight Schrute so brilliantly in the hit TV show The Office – but more importantly because he was just a really nice down-to-earth guy who was sincere in his desire to serve humanity.

Well, my friends were right! I was finally able to meet him at the Texas Baha’i School a couple of months back, and let’s just say I wanted to hug him straight away. His spirit of humility and his attitude of service to others made my heart smile. He was one of the main speakers at the school and his humble posture of learning and dedication and focus on working with others, and especially teenagers was awesome.

I wasn’t going to ask him, but it’s not everyday you get to hang out with a Baha’i actor with celebrity status, and I know a lot of my friends and other Baha’is around the world are curious about him and would love to get to know him more, so Rainn happily agreed to be interviewed on Baha’i Blog. Continue reading