naw-rúz muse (back again)

happy naw-rúz, all. every year at around this time, I generally take the time to muse a bit about the path that my life has taken. I like to think that a new chapter of my life began on Naw-rúz day, 2002, when I left Ottawa to begin two years of service in the Centre-du-Québec area. I’ve been thinking a lot about that service lately. Last Friday, I was invited to attend a gathering for tutors of the courses of the Ruhi Institute. The Institute Board of Ontario (or Canada, maybe?) had asked all study circle tutors and participants to go through the practice component of the first unit of Ruhi Book One—studying prayers with people around them. We gathered to share about how this practice was going, what progress we (and the participants) had made, and so on. We touched on many related topics—home visits, reaching out to people around us and doing real, one-on-one teaching. It was pretty good—inspiring and practical. I like how the Bahá’í community is becoming more and more focused and practical. The more we focus on carrying out the Five-year Plan and its goals, the better.

Anyway, I thought about my first few months in Québec, when I had just arrived from Ottawa with my rusty French and my prayer book. It was so easy to reach out to people! I was pioneering, so I knew I didn’t quite fit in and that was all right—in fact, I played off of that in order to teach. Quickeners of Mankind was constant bedside reading. It was exciting to see the divine confirmations being showered from all sides, sustained by love for Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Faith. There were lots of adventures and amazing experiences. Then, as time went on, tests came. Financial tests, emotional tests, mental tests, physical tests, spiritual tests… you name it. I had prayed for tests, and got them by the bucketful. I started to feel depressed, weighed down by the difficulties I was going through. The slower I moved, the fewer were the confirmations, and the less I seemed to be able to “quicken” those around me, until I got so depressed that it all just stopped, and the only thing left to do was to cry out for help.

It’s a few years later, and things are better. Much better, actually. There are still downs, like the one I had earlier this winter. But they’re not crippling; they don’t shut me down to the point where I can’t bounce back and start to live life again. It’s clear that some sort of recovery has taken place, allowing me to see the effects of transformation in my life… So I guess what I’ve been thinking lately is: how much longer before I really get my groove back? I mean, that uplifting, exhilirating pioneer type of vibe that comes from putting all of your trust in God, from taking one step and letting Him carry you the next ten. And you know, that’s not a question anyone else can answer for me, nor can anyone decide. It’s up to me to keep doing the work that will take me that many steps closer to Bahá’u’lláh, and enable me to serve the Cause to the utmost of my capacity.

So I guess I’ve answered my own question. When will I be able to reach out to the people around me in friendliness and fellowship, and share with them the most precious gift I have to give*? Whenever I want. As some people have pointed out to me, I already do, but don’t always realize it.

O My servants! My holy, My divinely ordained Revelation may be likened unto an ocean in whose depths are concealed innumerable pearls of great price, of surpassing luster. It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean, so that he may, in proportion to the eagerness of his search and the efforts he hath exerted, partake of such benefits as have been pre-ordained in God’s irrevocable and hidden Tablets. […] This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.

Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.326

With that, I’m off to bed. May this new year bring each one of you peace, certitude, hope, and confirmation. Even if I don’t always respond to each and every email these days, rest assured that the little notes and e-cards that pour in with greetings and naw-rúz wishes are very much appreciated.

* See Ruhi Book 6, Unit 1, Section 6.

naw-rúz events in ottawa area

Our friendly Feasts & Holy Days Committee gives us this heads-up about tomorrow evening’s Naw-ruz party:

Celebration of the Bahá’í New Year

Monday, March 20th, 2006
7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The St. Elias Centre, 750 Ridgewood Avenue, off Riverside Drive
[ Find it with Google Maps ]

Artistic program, followed by dancing and socializing.
Light refreshments will be served.
Excellent opportunity to invite your friends to a lovely Bahá’í event!

and Basim, who doesn’t appreciate all the French gobbledygook :P, sends word of a partay at their place in the East End:

COME BRING FRIENDS
NAW RUZ PARTY

Date: March 25, 2006
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Tassnim and Basim’s house

Bring junk food, pop, chips, timbits, Krispy Kreme, tahdigh, sholeh-zard, kookoo sabzi, kabob barg, kashke bademjoon– um, I mean anything.

and remember folks… don’t forget your haft sin this year! [Ed. note: haft sin is a Persian custom, not a Bahá’í one. thanks Dad. -dj]

happy ayyam-i-ha!

Happy Ayyam-i-Ha to all you lovely people out there!!!
Been to several Ayyam-i-Ha parties so far. Tonight’s party was in Sector 1 (East-end Ottawa) and included truckloads of yummy food like zereshk polo and kookoo sabzi. OMG I love kookoo sabzi. um anyway. lots of hanging around and chillin and being all friendly and together and having fun and eating. On Saturday night I had the pleasure of hanging around at Julie and Fanfan’s place after our weekly children’s class, after which they invited family and friends for an evening of togetherness and amity and eating lots of Haitian food. You know—plantain, grilled salmon, and a delicious dish made with beans and rice. We played Jenga until we went nuts. Fanfan was crowned Jenga King, with Paul coming in a close second.

Wednesday night is the Feast of Alá, and after that, the Fast starts. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to print out your very own list of sunrise and sunset times, and check out some fasting tips to help you get the most out of the Fast this year. Got some tips you’d like to share? Post a comment!

unravelling the mysteries

Just about the best conference I’ve ever been to. Many thanks to the organizers and all the brave and dear souls who put together the program and made it happen. It was a seriously high-quality event. Um, it being Unravel the Mysteries, this past weekend in Mississauga. The conference has been happening for the past five years or so, but this is the first year I’ve been able to attend. I was originally skeptical about it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the conference was deeply permeated with a sense of spiritual purpose (rather than being the mere ‘marriage conference’ some people were jokingly making it out to be).

I attended sessions by Hoda Ghadirian (“Growing with Suffering”), Tahirih Naylor (“A Spiritual Impetus to Global Forces”), and Rayhan and Taban Behin (“Humility and Submission to the Will of God”). Hoda’s talk was moving, deeply coherent and full of wisdom; drawing on research and insights given by the Authenticity Project, she related her personal and professional experience to the writings of the Baha’i Faith to explain what makes suffering and what purpose it has in our life. Tahirih spoke on her experience working with the External Affairs wing of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, and gave us an overall picture of how the Baha’i community works to bring spiritual impetus to the work of the United Nations and various organizations of civil society. Finally, Rayhan and Taban helped us explore the concepts of humility, service and submission to the Will of God. I was part of a group that discussed it in terms of material wealth – i.e. how to make money without letting it get to your head, and how to apply the Baha’i principle of the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty.

The arts programs were stellar; you can tell that they really went out of their way to find excellent performers, and ones who could put forth their emotions and express spiritual concepts. They got a wide variety of arts involved too – visual arts, music, dance, storytelling… not just the usual same-old same-old. big ups to Geneviève Cyr, Adam Crossley, and Andrea McLean for being intensely phat. Also mad ups to Naysun Alae-Carew for his Chinese dance (Naysun is aka ‘shaolin sammy’ from the Ottawa Wildfire performance).

All in all, the best, most impressive and most moving part of the conference was the commemoration of the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, held at 3:30 AM on Sunday morning. Every time I attempt to put into words the beauty of this commemoration, I hang my head and my tongue is stilled, because mortal words and phrases cannot express something so clearly Divine. That may sound trite, but about all I can say is that it was really, really special – dignified, moving, touching, respectful, imaginative, beautiful. Just beautiful.

Pictures from the conference are gradually going up all over the Internet- check out Martin’s website regularly to see them as they come up. As for my photos? You’ll see a bunch of them popping up on my photoblog – check the sidebar to your left for some thumbnails. I may also put together a photo-journal page on this site (but I’m lazy so be warned ;).

And with that, I’m off to Drummondville. Talk to you guys later. May the Air Force be with you.

stranded in paradise

the smell of a rose and
the murmur of the river
and springtime gently
wakes a weary world

drops of dew and
stars shining bright,
the song of nightingales
calling my Beloved

my Love, my Lord
so far away and yet
i feel Your presence
like a loved one gone
to distant lands
i hear Your voice

by this isle, by this garden
the river’s waters flow
but i am lost from having drunk
the wine of knowing Thee

my Beloved, my Desire
such sorrows You faced,
the trials and agonies,
and now, to see You leave,
my heart is rent asunder,
and my soul howls and laments.

a mound of roses,
ever growing at Your feet,
implore You to stay
but God has willed otherwise.

my face turned towards You,
i offer thanks and praise
and at the river’s edge
the tears roll down

may 2, 2005:
12th day of Ridván

the green, green grass of home

has it really been five days since I last posted something? okay. Happy Ridván, everybody. See Martin’s pictures of the election of the Spiritual Assembly in Ottawa (warning: high bandwidth needed), as well as a list of Assemblies formed in Québec this year. The India Times has another interesting article about Ridván on its website, too.

The grass is so green now that we’ve had a good couple of weeks of rain. I’ve been seeing kids running around playing in it, people throwing frisbees about, and so forth. Today it’s cloudy, so few people are feeling perky enough to run about. Bahá’u’lláh often talks about clouds in terms of mercy and grace. In one of His prayers, we find the following supplication: “Rain down, then, upon me out of the clouds of Thy bounty that which shall profit me in every world of Thy worlds.” So we need rain as much as we need sun, no? The grass certainly does.

You may remember the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL); they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their efforts in securing a ban on landmines. The campaign received a lot of press in the Canadian media since Canadians were heavily involved – the co-winner (Jody Williams) was Canadian, and the treaty banning landmines was signed in Ottawa. Anyway, on a related note, I visited the website of the Canadian Landmine Foundation. They seem pretty cool too – they raise money to clear old minefields, and to help landmine survivors. Clearly an organization that does good work. Paul McCartney and his wife Heather are their international goodwill ambassadors. Nice! Some of their board members have unfortunate names, though… visit the board page and scroll down to the fifth name. I almost died reading the name of that guy’s company.

Oh, yeah. On another note, I tagged along with Phil Allard and co. to climb rocks at Vertical Reality last Thursday. It was a great workout. My arms and legs are recovering nicely. I think I spent most of my time falling onto the mats. Take a look at the photo of the week if you haven’t already – that’s one of the hardcore guys going up the wall with a rope. We were just bouldering – no ropes, far less altitude. If you’ve never been rock-climbing, I recommend you try it. It’s fun. It hurts like hell the first time around, but you’ll probably like it after a bit.

More later. I’m off to radiantly accept the dying of the light.