Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enjoying the Moment

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you are probably aware that I was asked to serve at the University of Victoria in their Multifaith Chaplaincy office. And while the official title is that of "Chaplain", which makes me both cringe and laugh at the thought of a "Baha'i Chaplain", I think of myself, and refer to myself as a "Baha'i Adviser".

Recap: Please feel free to skip this paragraph if you know the story. I had wondered what it was that I was supposed to do in this capacity of adviser. The previous advisers were not much help. I mean, they shared what they tried, but they hadn't met with much success, and so I had to look for new ways of trying things. The other Baha'is in the area went on and on about the core activities, but experience showed that nobody just came to them, except a few Baha'is. It's not that people weren't invited, but just that they weren't interested. So I took the radical step of talking to the students themselves. They said they wanted meditation. Thus began Meditation 101, a simple meeting in which we explore a different style of meditation each week. Oh, and this has led to a number of people asking about devotional gatherings, since I always mention that prayer and meditation are two aspects of that conversation with our Creator. By the way, out of the entire group of people who have come to this workshop, only 2 of the 30 or so were Baha'i. Recap done.

I have been learning so much from this meditation workshop I've been conducting. You would think that as the facilitator, I would probably know a bit about the subject, but the fact is that the longer I go on with it, the less I realize I knew.

Over the past little while a couple of interesting ideas arose that I thought would be good to share here.

Diet - The first is the many benefits of meditating while you are eating. This would be a form of sensory meditation. When you take a bite of food, you can allow yourself the joy of completely savoring it. Let the flavours spread over the tongue. See how they all combine with each other. Taste the various spices and herbs and see how they compliment each other. When you do this, you will find that you are eating far more slowly, which allows the food to get to your stomach before you take too many more bites. Your body will recognize that you have eaten enough, and you can stop eating at the proper time. When you rush through your meal, there are probably a number of bites that are still on the way down, and you will have overeaten. By only eating what you require, you also increase your body's ability to digest the food. You become more efficient and get more energy and nutrition out of each meal.

Beauty - One afternoon we decided to meditate on a flower in the garden just outside the chapel where I do Meditation 101. We took a few of the chairs outside and set them on the sidewalk in front of a hydrangea. It was awesome. We just sat there and looked at the flower, contemplating its beauty.

One of the participants said that she found that it was far more beautiful than she had ever noticed. By taking the time to actually look at it, instead of merely seeing it in passing, she became more enamored of it. She began to realize just how much more beauty was present in the world, in everyday objects, than she had ever thought possible. She said that this was a good way to learn to appreciate more of what is in the world.

Health - By practicing meditation, you take the time to really think about things. For myself, I found that my stress levels went down, not that I was all that stressed out to begin with. But there was a professor who commented on this. One afternoon after we had done a review meditation in which we recalled, to the best of our ability, our day moment by moment from the time when we awoke, he said he had gotten to a stressful moment in his day. There was an interoffice issue that had arisen, and they had been struggling with what to do. It was the cause of much stress and anxiety. By taking the time to go back and review it, he said that a much more comprehensive, and simpler, solution presented itself. This noticeably lowered his anxiety level.

Stress, as I'm sure we all know, is a major cause of health problems. By taking the time meditate, review and contemplate our life, it not only helps us deal with our stress, but also puts our entire life into a healthier perspective. Just how important are those little things that get us upset? (I'm one to talk. You should hear me rant about the dirty dishes. I should practice meditation in the kitchen. Beyond the eating aspect.)

Spiritual Growth - By reading the Writings and meditating upon them, we grow spiritually. There were a few sessions where we read a passage from the Writings and then meditated upon it, or we meditated while chanting the Greatest Name. The response to these two styles of meditation were profound. I wasn't sure what to expect, but people really loved them.

I know many people who read sacred texts, but don't take the time to meditate upon them. They read them in the same manner they would a good novel. While it is good to read them, it is better to meditate upon them, too. It is through this contemplation that we can develop our spiritual qualities. As we do this, we will see that our spiritual perceptiveness will also grow every day.

Baha'u'llah adds something else into this mix, as I'm sure you can imagine. If we were to "meditate upon the cavils uttered by all the people," He says, "be they divines, learned or ignorant, the firmer and the more steadfast wilt thou grow in the Faith." Here it is not just meditating upon the sacred texts, but also upon the trivial objections against the faith by others. By doing this, our steadfastness increases, and given the importance of steadfastness in our faith, that can only be a good thing.

In addition to all the above, meditating, to me, means taking the time to enjoy the beauty of the world around us. This has so many advantages it is hard to include them all here. Our life is so fleeting, so precious, and our time is so scarce that we really need to enjoy each and every moment of it. Meditation is when I take the time to try and appreciate it.

Well, time for me to go meditate in the woods with my wife. It's a beautiful sunny day, and we want to take full advantage of it.


  1. How do I become a Bahai Chaplain?

    1. Great question, Rose. I have no idea. No, really. I don't.

      The Baha'i community was asked to join an Interfaith Office at the University here, with the representative being given the title "Chaplain". I am merely the latest individual to hold this position here.

      In general, I think the question is where would you like to serve in this capacity? I have heard of Baha'is serving as Chaplains at Universities, Senior's Homes, Prisons, and other places where spiritual guidance is called for from a number of faith traditions.

      If you have a particular question, feel free to write me, and I'll see what I can do to help you out.

      Good luck.