Category Archives Opinion

Opinions, thoughts and ideas

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

82743738

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

In Pursuit of Happiness

In Pursuit of Happiness

I am looking directly into the eyes of the stranger sitting opposite me. His face is tired, his eyes a little sad, worn out perhaps with the heaviness of thoughts. As he looks at me, a light suddenly gleams in his eyes and his mouth slowly begins to curve up at the edges. Within a few seconds I startle myself by unexpectedly and spontaneously smiling widely back at him. He throws his head back and erupts into raucous laughter. It is infectious. My giggling gets louder and louder until, I too, am unabashedly laughing, tears running down my cheeks. Continue reading

Failure…You’re Doing It Wrong

Failure...You're Doing It Wrong

A young Baha’i couple has an imaginative eight-year-old daughter who spends her birthday each year painting a picture of her family on a large canvas, which they proudly display above the dining room table. Throughout the years, the couple has helped her to experiment with different artistic mediums and taken her to community workshops and classes.

For the last six months, this same couple has been hosting a junior youth group. They start with seven youth, but eventually only four come regularly, and the couple is disheartened that they must go around the neighborhood each week to invite them to attend. Alas, they report at an annual reflection meeting that they are failing to find receptive youth and are not sure that the group should continue.

In situations such as this, what motivates the couple to support their daughter’s artwork year after year, yet become disheartened by the group after six months? Surely they have come across challenges in encouraging their daughter’s developing interest.

The answer, in one word, is “perspective”. Continue reading

A Prayer to Power Up Your Day: The Long Obligatory Prayer

young beautiful woman with closed eyes

Whenever I face a long afternoon of work with pressing deadlines, I decide to put off knuckling down and getting on with it.

But this reaction is not one of those inevitable procrastinations that nearly all of us are prone to at various times. I see it rather as an important decision which leads me to undertake a major refuelling, without which my afternoon might just splutter on in an unsatisfactory manner.

The reason I don’t start immediately on the nitty gritty of work, is that it is my time to say the long obligatory prayer as revealed by Baha’u’llah. Yes, that prayer may be said at any time, but for me, when the day is on the verge of waning, I opt for revival.

I find this prayer to be a daily energy source, the equivalent of plugging into the essence of reality for about 15 minutes to obtain the force that comes with it, a power that can mysteriously inspire and direct the rest of the day. Baha’u’llah did say, after all, that through obligatory prayer we may draw “nigh unto God.” That will do me. Continue reading