Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Time Off

As some of you may know, I am a jeweler and artist by profession. I sell most of my work by going to various shows and setting up a booth at them. In case you wonder what this means in my daily life, it means that there are certain times of the year that are busier than others.

This is one of them.

This past summer my work sold so well (thanks be to God) that I am now struggling to make enough work to sell at my winter shows. (Why are they called winter shows? They are Christmas shows. And they happen in the autumn. Winter doesn't begin until 21 December.)

If you want to find me, and I'm not in my office at the university, then you will most likely find me at home in my living room sitting on the couch with my lap desk, working away on my chain-mail. (Yes, I actually make chain-mail for a living. How weird is that?)

Oh, and while I'm working away, I usually have a movie on. Sometimes I'll watch silly stuff like the Avengers (awesome, but silly), and other times I'll watch more interesting movies. Just yesterday, for example, I watched the 4 DVDs on the Hands of the Cause. It was so inspiring to listen to them. I just wish that I had more movies like that.

But all of this is not to say, despite what you may think from the title, that I am taking some time off from writing this blog. Not at all. It is precisely because I am sitting down working so much that I find I have a lot more things to write about. The problem, though, is finding the time to type it all up.

Today, though, I was looking through a book called "Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on Christian Life", by Henri J M Nouwen. It is a very interesting book, and I highly recommend it. It is always worth reading about the spiritual from a perspective that is not your own, even though there are times when you may have to translate some words of phrases into your own spiritual language.

Aside: It always saddens me when I hear people say that they won't read anything from a spiritual path that is not their own. Why is that? Are they so insecure in their own beliefs that they can't handle reading anything that might possibly change it? How else do we grow? For me, as a Baha'i, I read whatever I can and try to see it through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings. Nouwen's work, for example, is quite marvelous, but there are some points on which I disagree with him. He does, however, allow me to explore my own spirituality from a fresh perspective, which most Baha'is cannot do for me. I already agree with nearly everything they say.

In this book, in the very opening pages, he quotes the Gospel of Mark, verses 1:32 - 39:
That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Simon and those with him tracked him down.  When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.
Why does he quote this? And why am I bringing it up here, in the context of my own busy life?

Because there, softly nestled within the Text, amidst all the business of His ministry, is an indication of His daily life. Between those epic sentences jam-packed with all those who needed healing, and His travels throughout the region preaching His Word in the synagogues, His casting out of demons, and dealing with His impatient disciples, He finds a moment of peace: "Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer."

As Nouwen says, "The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus'ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn."

No matter what else is going on, He takes the time in His life to commune with His Creator. He finds the time. He makes the time.

How many examples of this do we have within the Baha'i Faith? During the Bab's journey from Kashan to Tabriz, He left His guard in the middle of the night and walked along the road to Tehran, returning just before they were to leave. He was often said to have arisen before the sun to go and commune with God in the early hours of the morning.

Baha'u'llah, in one of His prayers, says, "I have risen from my couch at this dawntide", and in one of the longer prayers for the Fast, it reads as if He is welcoming the coming dawn like a lover welcoming his beloved. In the garden of Ridvan, Nabil testifies that He never saw Baha'u'llah sleep during that time. He was always communing with God, or revealing verses, walking around in his tent praising God for the majesty and beauty of this Day.

The Master was often seen to walk alone during His action-filled visit to the West, taking the time to pray and commune with His Father's spirit.

The examples are endless.

Even in the long obligatory prayer, we admit that we are "turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thee". This is but a single moment in my day when I am completely leaving behind all those burdens of the day that are weighing down my spirit, and allowing it to soar in the heights of communion with God. (At least, I'm trying to do that.)

This, to me, is one of those things that the Manifestations of God have always asked us to do: Take the time to look after your spiritual needs.

Today, though, I watch so many people running around, striving to merely make ends meet, usually so that they can afford all those "time-saving" devices that they feel they need. Even yesterday, while getting some materials for a show I'm doing, there was a lady in front of me in line who was busy texting while trying to simultaneously get out her credit card to pay for her stuff. How sad, I thought. How many of us cannot turn off for even a few moments and take the time we need for the health of our spirit, not to mention to our body?

In the Baha'i community, how often have we heard a few people say that they don't have the time to take a Ruhi course, or do the pracitices associated with it? How often do people say that they can't attend a Feast because they have errands, or can't take the time for a Reflection Meeting? Obviously this is not the norm, but they are things I have heard in the past, or even been guilty of saying myself. And while we all make our own choices, I cannot help but recall the sadness in the Master's face when He asked a professor if they didn't teach the things of the spirit. "Oh," was the response of the man, "we don't have time for that."

But for what else was time created?

No matter how busy our life, no matter how busy our day, we should always ensure that we can take the time, those precious moments, no matter how few they may be, and find a deserted place where we can be alone in prayer.

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