Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on a meeting in which the role of the local Spiritual Assembly within a cluster was discussed. It was quite wonderful, and I feel I learned a lot from it. But, as usual, one particular question caught my attention and I felt that I should share it here, along with my own few thoughts. Perhaps you can share your thoughts on it, too.

Although I don't actually recall the question itself, it went something like this: How can we intensify our efforts when we are already as busy as we can possibly be?

As you know, we are all moving towards aligning our individual actions with those of our cluster. This includes beginning to learn what it means to work in cycles, generally about 3 months duration, the first two weeks of which are exemplified by a greater intensity of effort. There is a lot in the recent guidance from the World Centre about this, and I'm sure I don't need to go into detail here, as you are all far ahead of me in this.

The question, the way it was raised, spoke about how busy everyone is throughout the week, what with committee meetings, or Assembly meetings, holy days, Feasts, and so on and so forth. She said, "How can we be expected to do more?" And this sentiment was echoed in someone else asking how we can even be expected to find the time to go out and meet people of "like-minded organizations".

So, how can we intensify our actions?

Well, I think the first point is to understand what it is we are being asked to do. Now please remember, I am no expert, and am not speaking in an official capacity. I'm only one Baha'i (hence the name of the blog), and this is only my own take on it.

First, it seems evident to me that what we are doing is, quite simply, not enough. Oh, it's not that we're not busy enough, or that we're not having any discernable effect. No. It's just that what we're doing isn't having enough of an effect.

But please, don't let this sound discouraging to you. For it shouldn't be. Instead, we need to re-examine what it is we are doing, see what is working well, and try to become more effective in the areas that are most promising. And isn't that the guidance from the World Centre is helping us do? For me, it helped to think of it in terms of gardening. I can go out with my small watering can and water a few plants near my door. But if I have acres and acres, this is not enough. I will need to invest in a large-scale watering system. New circumstances require new tools.

When we speak of intensification during an expansion phase, we are looking at a short period of time, not the rest of our lives. Remember, this expansion phase is only to be sustainable for a couple of weeks. Now, I could talk about it at length here, but I think it is far better to give an example of what it might look like. By doing this, I find it a lot more understandable (and remember how slow I am).

Oh, and one other thing that I think bears mentioning. From what I have heard, and read, when clusters are just beginning to launch their intensive program of growth, their expansion phase, in reality, is only one weekend. Two days. That is all that the friends can commit to doing. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that, but we must remember that it doesn't stop there. When we do this for a single weekend, I think that what we are doing is training ourselves in what an expansion phase can look like. Getting practice, if you will. As we begin to learn how to make that full commitment, then we have it twice, over two successive weekends. Than as we get better at it, we link those two weekends and have a full 9 days of intensive acitivity during our expansion phase. Once we have reached that stage, then we learn how to make it the full, and most effective, two weeks. And it is not everyone that can make that commitment. Remember, there are 4 expansion phases during a year, and most of us can only take off two weeks from work during that time. That means that we can only fully take part in one of four expansion phases. Well, that's alright. Nothing wrong with that.

But what is it that we are doing?

In the expansion phase (and please note that I'm careful in how I refer to it, for the whole cycle is an "intensive program of growth"), in those clusters that are just beginning to become effective in their work, a small team generally meets every day. They begin by waking up early (and I do mean early) and getting together to say prayers. Oh, and they don't just say a few prayers. no. They pray. They pray for hours. They really get down and pray, for guidance, for assistance, for strength, and for anything else that they think they should pray for. They make a concentrated effort at really trying to draw upon those spiritual powers that are just waiting to come to our aid.

Once they have charged up their spiritual batteries, so to speak, they reflect, if they haven't already done it the night before, upon their activities of the previous day. But let's presume they have already done this, and I'll talk a bit more about it later, as they end their day.

Now that they have an idea of what worked well the day before, and where they need to try and improve, they look at the guidance. Quite often this means that someone picked out a few relevant sections from the Ruhi Books, or a few passages from the Writings or the guidance from the World Centre. Oh, and when I say "a few", I do mean a few. We are not looking at pages and pages of stuff, drowning ourselves in the Ocean of His Revelation. We are refreshing ourselves with a "dewdrop out of this ocean". Part of this study will, of course, look at it in light of the work done the day before, and help us prepare for the actions of the day.

Once we have studied and reflected, then we consult on the plans for the day. What are we going to do? Where are we going to go? What is it that we will be inviting people to? This will obviously differ from community to community, and I won't dwell on it here.

Once the plans are set, and all know them, then we go out. We carry out those plans. We meet people and talk with them, either having already made an appointment to meet with them, or not, as the circumstances warrant.

Quite often there are community activities scheduled during this time, either a children's class or a junior youth group in the afternoon, or a devotional gathering or study circle. Perhaps there is a fireside scheduled for the evening. Whatever is decided, people who will respond to that activity are warmly and lovingly invited. Study circles are started during this time. Needs are assessed and responded to. Friendships are begun.

We see an expansion in our work. Either more people have joined core activities, more activities have begun, or perhaps we have even seen some enrollments. Expansion means that there is growth in some area, and growth is measurable.

When it is all over for the day, the team gets back together and reflects upon what they did, and what they have learned. Someone is asked to prepare the study for the next day, and they all head off for a well-deserved rest. 6 am until 11 pm. It's pretty tough, but very energizing. This type of work is quite the rush.

But is it sustainable? Of course not. We are even told that it should not be.

But now let's look at the daily busy-ness that was referred to earlier. How many meetings do we have in a given week? One. Perhaps two, if we include holy days, feasts, and the like. One, maybe two, study circles. A children's class, usually on a weekend, and maybe a devotional gathering. That seems to take up four nights a week, plus a bit of time on the weekend.

Is this sustainable? Probably.

But even then, it is not enough.

We cannot do this all on our own.

As we expand our activities during the expansion phase, we have to be very careful not to overextend ourselves. If, during the previous consolidation phase, someone finished Book 7 and is ready to tutor Book 1, or if someone is ready to begin a children's class, then we need to help them do this. If we tally up the number of tutors who are ready to begin a new study circle, we better not start more than that number. If we know that we have enough teachers for 20 children, we better stop inviting people when the class is filled. This is only wisdom.

And as we are expanding our community of interest, we are also seeking out those people who want to assist us in riasing up a new community based on spiritual principals. So we are expanding our base of human resources, increasing the number of people we can draw upon.

One last little point. We should not expect miracles. Our own expectations can often get us down. When we reach this level of intensity during our expansion phase, I usually don't notice any significant difference until about the fourth day. For some reason that I don't understand, everything just leaps forward after the fourth day. And then, of we can still keep it up, it leaps again towards the end of the second week. There is something mystical about this sustained level of intensity. it just seems to draw down those mystical forces, of which I spoke earlier.

And you know, if you can keep it up for longer, Mazel Tov. I'm sure there are many other hidden blessings that we just haven't uncovered yet. Perhaps with time, we'll learn about them, too. But for now, a weekend or two will do.


  1. Dear Mead,

    Thanks so much for sharing this. This has opened my eyes to what others do in an expansion phase as I've never experienced one outside of what we thought it was. I think I'm going to share this with the other member of the CGC and reflect on whether or nor we can use the basis of your blog as a letter our LSA's (if that's okay with you?).

    Thanks for your thoughtful words and I look forward to continue reading your blogs!


  2. Thank you Mark, for your kind words. Yes, whatever can be of use, please feel free to use. As I just wrote to another CGC member, we're all in learning mode here. Time to figure out what it is we're learning.

    My love to you and your family, and the whole community in Oliver Paipoonge, oh, and you might as well toss that suburb in there, too. What is it again? Oh yeah, Thunder Bay. :)