Monday, March 28, 2011

Green Acre Bahá'í School: Contributing to a Conversation on Human Rights

I spent this weekend at Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine for a program entitled "Protagonists of Change: An Exploration in Public Discourse" led by Anthony Vance. We discussed ways in which we can contribute to a conversation about social change. We specifically focused on human rights, but also talked about peace, poverty alleviation, education, and capacity building.

We spoke about some of the assumptions that underlie our conversations. These assumptions include the oneness of humanity, each individual has value, the importance of learning, we must use science and reason, we seek to build capacity, we are outward looking and inclusive, and leadership is facilitating a journey on a path of service.

The weekend was also filled with friendship, fellowship, reflection, contemplation, and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Anthony Vance facilitating a session

Participants studying documents

Peace is what it's all about. Sarah Farmer carrying the peace flag.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bahá'í Fast Day Twelve - Awareness of Abundance

Generally during the Fast food shopping is just another chore to be completed, best scheduled before the hungry time of day. But today was different. When I went to the food store this afternoon, I was so aware of the abundance of food we have available. Mangoes! Papaya! Strawberries! Who knew collard greens could be so beautiful?

I think I felt this way because of the contrast of the terrible images coming out of the devastation in Japan. Millions without food or even water. It is heartbreaking to watch the news these days.

This year during the Fast I have been aware that I am temporarily hungry and thirsty because of choice, and that in the evening I have a wonderful meal and plenty of fresh water available to me. Tragically, many do not have that choice. That awareness always comes to me some time during the Fast every year, and I am grateful for the abundance in my life. This year I am also sorrowfully reminded of those suffering, especially in Japan and the Middle East right now.

In the evening I broke the Fast with Haitian Rice and Red Beans and Caribbean Sweet Potatoes with coconut milk, lime, cilantro and peanuts. All recipes were from Joy Tienzo's "Vegan for Lent" which can be downloaded for free here.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bahá'í Fast Day Eight - Breaking the Fast with Friends

One of the best parts of the Fast is ending the Fast at night with friends. Tonight the Bahá'í community of the Lehigh Valley took over Spice of India. We had a fabulous time!

Koroush and Shirin

Kamal, Noor, and Jamilla

Sally and Mary Anne

Noah (absorbed in game!) and McKenna

Strike a pose!

Carlton and Mervyn


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Bahá'í Fast Day Four

I am slowly adjusting to the pattern of the Fast. I found that it's important for me to get a full night's sleep, preferably eight hours. I commonly sleep less than that, but mask fatigue with caffeine! Without the benefit of that afternoon coffee, I found that I need to make sure I get adequate rest.

My preferred activity on the weekend is hiking, but during the Fast I avoid strenuous activity, so I spent the day at home relaxing. I started reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. The theme seems to fit in very nicely with this time of year for me, she writes of giving thanks for everyday things, and then she tackles the tough issues about how to give thanks in a life that contains its share of sorrows, as do all of our lives.

This morning's readings included a selection that reminded me of the themes of this book:

O SON OF SPIRIT! Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself.

So, as the Fast continues, it becomes less about food and more about reflection...


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bahá'í Fast Day One

Today was the first day of the Bahá'í Fast. The first day is always a time of adjustment, and remembering what fasting feels like. Huffington Post ran a nice article today about the season of fasting here.

I got up before dawn and had a substantial breakfast to start the day: oatmeal with raspberries and walnuts, fruit, yogurt, corn bread. As the day progressed the familiar feeling of fasting came back.

This weekend when I went hiking we had a lot of climbing icy snow covered trails. I found that if I looked to the top of the mountain, I got discouraged and I didn't think I'd make it. But when I focused on the next step in front of me and took it one moment at a time I was able to do it. The same is true of fasting. The minute I think of how long I have to go yet, the more difficult it becomes. Instead, if I focus on what I am doing at the moment, eventually the time passes and soon it is sunset.

This first day is a time of simplification. I didn't focus on solving the world's problems (see previous post!), I simply tried to be absorbed in whatever task I was doing at the moment. Perhaps this is where detachment starts to happen.

When the sun set, I had a wonderful meal of chili and brown rice and salad. The day is winding down now and I just might find some dessert to finish off my evening meal!

And so the first day is completed, and the season of Fasting has begun.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Eve of the Bahá'í Fast

Tomorrow begins the Bahá'í Fast, a period of time from March 2 to March 20 when Bahá'ís refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. The Fast is the last month of the Bahá'í year and ends in the festival of Naw-Rúz, which this year will begin the year 168 B.E.

The Fast is "…essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character." (Shoghi Effendi)

I decided to use this time right before the Fast to reflect on some of the changes of the past year. Much has happened both personally and globally.
1. I experienced a significant family loss.
2. I went on pilgrimage to the Bahá'í World Center in Haifa, Israel. A pilgrimage is significant to Bahá'ís because we visit the shrines associated with the Central Figures of our Faith and sites associated with the early history.
3. The economic downturn afflicting our country hit close to home, causing me to ask questions about meaning and purpose in career, personal direction, and change. Do we search for meaning in our career, or does a job simply serve to support a life of deeper purpose? Does that change from time to time? Are both true? How do I live when security is not guaranteed? What is really important?
4. Our country is divided in deep and painful ways making our present problems seem unsolvable. We live in a world where contention and argument is the norm. Can we disagree deeply yet work together to find a solution? Can our differences enhance our ability to see all sides of an issue instead of divide us? How can we make that possible? Do we have the ability and the desire to agree on a common set of values?
5. The global environmental and social situation grows more and more treacherous every day. We are experiencing events in our lifetime that we never thought were possible.

I am hoping to make this 19-Day Fast meaningful - a time to understand the last year and to prepare for the future. Honestly, I don't necessarily experience profound insights, sometimes the lessons are very simple, learning to appreciate that which we take for granted, feeling a sense of community, being aware of the changes in the seasons. Some questions simply don't have answers, but sometimes we learn to live with a slightly new understanding, a slightly different outlook.

For now, I'll take it one day at a time, get some extra rest, prepare for a nice breakfast to start the morning, and see what the new day brings!

Do you have any reflections from the past year? How are you personally experiencing the changes in our society and our world?


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