Category Archives Opinion

Opinions, thoughts and ideas

The Almost Hip Religion – Western Ideals Meet Baha’i Teachings

Children in a Haitian slum showing off their Western-taught ‘gangsta’ moves. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

Children in a Haitian slum showing off their Western-taught ‘gangsta’ moves. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

I’ve been a Baha’i all my life and yet it never ceases to amaze me how intuitive the Baha’i Faith seems. Most Baha’i ideals quite simply feel true. They resonate and appeal to what some call “our modern sensibilities”.

And yet for many of us there remains that fraction of the totality of Baha’i ideas which is difficult, even daunting, to truly accept in one’s heart of hearts.

Many teachings stand in stark contrast to the majority view in any given culture. Some teachings challenge what is hip and trendy. Some defy what is passed down as a proud tradition. Almost all Baha’i teachings defy strong selfish impulse or entrenched habit. A new Baha’i or someone looking into the Baha’i Faith, may become so enamoured by the beautiful and instantly palatable core teachings that they unwittingly ignore a host of other fundamental principles which may later come as an unpleasant surprise — usually in the inconvenient personal challenge they present. Time should be given, and loving sympathy and utmost patience shown for every individual to process the most personally challenging Baha’i ideas whatever they may be. Continue reading

Avoiding Anger as you Would a Lion

Avoiding Anger as you would a Lion

Often when we’ve been hurt, our first response is to get angry; to want to punish someone as much as we feel we’ve been hurt, but Baha’u’llah teaches:

Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion.

I used to think this meant I shouldn’t feel anger at all, but I don’t think that’s what it means. If we just ignore the lion (our anger), it will attack! If I’m in a jungle and I see a lion, I would be foolish to deny its existence. No – first I say: “There’s a lion, what should I do now?”

The idea of comparing anger to a lion is a really good analogy and one can draw a lot of parallels, so I Googled “How to Prevent a Lion Attack” and this is what I found: Continue reading

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Listening isn’t easy. There is so much more to it than allowing sound waves to tickle their way into your ears. How can we become better listeners? In reflecting on this question, I have the following three suggestions:

1. A Gentle Silence is Golden

Baha’u’llah says that “the tongue is a smoldering fire and excess of speech a deadly poison.” I have grappled with these striking and powerful words for a long time but I know it to be true from all those times I found myself in conversation just itching to put forward my ideas and ignoring what others were saying. My excess of speech consumed me and deafened me and I am slowly learning that the way to be a better listener is to simply. Stop. Talking. Howard Colby Ives, an early Baha’i, describes this feeling perfectly and he explains how Abdu’l-Baha was the perfect listener. Ives writes: Continue reading

Community-Building and the Reframing of Service

Members of a community in Brazil plant flowers. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Members of a community in Brazil plant flowers. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Baha’is and their friends around the world are currently engaged in a process of community-building that primarily consists of four core activities: the education of children, the spiritual empowerment of junior youth, the strengthening of the devotional character of communities through prayer gatherings and collective worship, and engagement in the institute process which serves both to deepen our understanding of the Baha’i teachings and to develop our skills to carry out these various acts of service. These are obviously not the only arenas of service for Baha’is. For example, the Universal House of Justice has begun to increasingly emphasize the role Baha’is play in social action, or efforts to improve the social and material conditions of our communities, as well as public discourse, or the infusion of Baha’i ideals into spaces dedicated to discussing social issues such as the media, governments, and civil society organizations. Continue reading

5 Thoughts About Oneness

5 Thoughts about Oneness

I find that sometimes having a question in the forefront of my mind can make certain answers more apparent — like when you close your eyes, think of the colour blue, and then open them again. Everything blue pops out in sharper contrast than before. What was muted becomes vibrant, and impossible to ignore.

These days I am wondering about oneness and am trying to keep the question in the fore of my personal deepening. What does “oneness” truly mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that it is “the state of being completely united with or a part of someone or something” but what does that mean in practical terms? What effect does it have on our spiritual lives?

I have often explained the Baha’i Faith in terms of believing in the three onenesses: the oneness of humanity (that we are all equal despite differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, and our physical bodies), the oneness of the Manifestations (that They are all divine in origin), and the oneness of God (regardless of whether we call Him Dieu, Allah or Jehovah, He is one in essence). These words have rolled off my tongue without deeper, significant thought but recently I have been contemplating these five points: Continue reading

The Food of the Future

Food of the Future

What will be the food of the future?

This was a question that was once asked of Abdu’l-Baha.

Although what constitutes the optimal diet for good health has been debated for centuries, it has become a particular concern for many in today’s society, as the average waistline gets larger and, for the first time in a thousand years, we face the possibility of a decline in our life expectancy.

In a recent article on diet and health, I looked at what the Baha’i Writings say about the important role of diet in both preventing and treating disease. The natural question that then arises is this: which diet, among the hundreds out there, is recommended by the Baha’i Faith? Continue reading

Learning to Be Still: A Personal Reflection on Meditation in the Baha’i Faith

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

An Honest Letter to Baha’i Youth about Sex

An Honest Letter to Baha'i Youth About Sex

In a way, I’ve been waiting for 19 years to write this letter and it’s an honor that you are taking a few minutes from your busy life to read my broken thoughts about this topic. Whether you are a Baha’i youth, a parent of one, or maybe someone who isn’t in either of those categories, I’m thrilled that you feel this topic is worthwhile of your time.

Let me get right to it. Sex within a marriage is wonderful. Continue reading

What to Do When You Lose Your Way

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At some time in our lives, we all lose our way. Whether it’s a detour, a sideroad, or ultimately just a different road, each of us has to find their own path. Perhaps the time we feel most fraught is in youth. On popular social media site Reddit, in the Baha’i channel, a discussion thread popped up in response to a youth seeking advice. Other Baha’is offered support and posted advice, much of which is applicable to anyone who is confused, lost or simply unsure. Like many Baha’is, I’ve had my times in just that place, and I thought the advice was worth reposting for anyone else who might find themselves looking for some wisdom. Continue reading

The Baha’i Fast: Learning to Realise How Much You Have, by ‘Not Having’

Bahai Fast Learning Realise How Much You Have by Not Having

Those who know me, know that the period of the Baha’i Fast is my favourite time of year. I find that it is a time to exfoliate myself, to get rid of the husks of nonsense that seem to wrap themselves around me throughout the year. It gives me a chance to remind myself that I have willpower, and that I can strengthen it. Fasting gives us the chance to remind ourselves of our true nature, to reconnect with the world, and with ourselves. You train yourself to be content and come to realise how much you have, by ‘not having’.

This year is going to be a little different for me. Scratch that. Might be a little different from me. Scratch that. A lot different for me. Scratch that. I don’t know what it’s going to be like because I have never been in this position before. At the most basic, during the period of the fast, one does without food and water between sunrise and sunset. This year, during the fast I have to learn to do without my mother – she passed away in June last year. Continue reading