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April, 1999

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of

physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.

Volume 2, Issue #8



Author Unknown - submitted by the Bauman Family

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his view would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."


"Let them purify their sight and behold all humankind as leaves and blossoms and fruits of the tree of being. Let them at all times concern themselves with doing a kindly thing for one of their fellows, offering to someone love, consideration, thoughtful help." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)




By Renett Grové, Johannesburg, South Africa

Recently I celebrated my 41st birthday. I had such a wonderful day and I spent time in prayer thanking God for all I have to be thankful for. I fell asleep during the praying and when I awoke I realised I had spent about half an hour listing all I am grateful for before I had fallen asleep yet I was not even ten percent of the way through the list. I never thought I would have 41 years to learn the lessons in this physical garment because since childhood I was told my life expectancy was very short. I have been physically challenged since infancy due to a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is a progressive neuro-muscular disease. I experienced rapid degeneration in childhood and have lived my entire life from a wheelchair, and for the past year, mostly from my bed. I have lived a fulfilled and productive life. Through God's mercy, I have never looked at what I do not have but have found it more productive to focus on what I do have. I have worked in telesales and marketing since the age of 15 and for the past 15 years I have been privileged to be involved in developing and presenting motivation, telephone and general communication training courses for companies and work-seekers. Early last year it became obvious that I had developed an additional serious neurological problem. My face and upper body went into severe spasms - almost convulsions - and I was hospitalised for most of the year. Although I now spend the majority of my time in bed, I am still able to enjoy the blessing of Worship through work and my life is very full and satisfying.

I accepted the Bahá'í Faith in 1992 and found in the Baha'i Writings confirmation of the outlook and techniques that have often assisted me through difficult days. I also found in the Baha'i Writings a great deal of inspiration and encouragement especially with regards to the age we are living in and how through the love, knowledge and worship of God we can be assisted on the journey to detachment and understanding this physical realm. I have had times in my life when the burden of battling through every day has felt as if it is too hard to bear and will crush me. Now, however, not only do I experience "the peace that passes all understanding" but I have a joy that just bubbles, and bubbles out of me. This has happened, I believe because friends carried me through "a dark night of the soul" wrapped in prayer and love. I pray when I am in pain, when fears of future or guilt from the past enters my mind or when loneliness and longing for the dear ones who have departed this physical garment takes over me. I recite the Greatest Name when I have no words to offer and my thoughts are jumbled through over-medication or distress. I recite the Long Healing Prayer often as well as the Tablet of Ahmad and try to say as many times a week as possible the two prayers that contain the words "Armed with the power of Thy Name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me" and "Send down upon me as a token of Thy Grace, Thy vitalising breezes throughout the daytime and in the night season, O Lord of bounty." It has also become very clear to me that God has provided tools for us to be able to teach, serve the Cause and participate fully in the Baha'i Community even when physical circumstances threaten to isolate us. I would gladly share more about this with anyone who wishes to write to me at:


"Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one will be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility." (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 363)




In the March, 1999 issue, the question was asked:

"How can we arrange to make the time for meditation special? What are some of the practical exercises to do meditation? What are some of the effects and benefits of meditation?"



This letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 1 September 1983, includes a section on Prayer and Meditation, 'Messages from the Universal House of Justice', p. 589-90 "It is striking how private and personal the most fundamental spiritual exercises of prayer and meditation are in the Faith. Baha'is do, of course, have meetings for devotions, as in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar or at Nineteen Day Feasts, but the daily obligatory prayers are ordained to be said in the privacy of one's chamber, and meditation on the Teachings is, likewise, a private individual activity, not a form of group therapy.

In His talks Abdu'l-Baha describes prayer as "conversation with God", and concerning meditation He says that "while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174)

There are, of course, other things that one can do to increase one's spirituality. For example, Baha'u'llah has specified no procedures to be followed in meditation, and individual believers are free to do as they wish in this area, provided that they remain in harmony with the Teachings, but such activities are purely personal and should under no circumstances be confused with those actions which Baha'u'llah Himself considered to be of fundamental importance for our spiritual growth. Some believers may find that it is beneficial to them to follow a particular method of meditation, and they may certainly do so, but such methods should not be taught at Baha'i Summer Schools or be carried out during a session of the School because, while they may appeal to some people, they may repel others. They have nothing to do with the Faith and should be kept quite separate so that enquirers will not be confused.

...The House of Justice suggests that for their private meditations they may wish to use the repetition of the Greatest Name, Allah-u-Abha, ninety-five times a day which, although not yet applied in the West, is among the Laws, Ordinances and Exhortations of the 'Kitab-i-Aqdas'". (See p. 46 of the "Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas".)


Guidance from the Writings

Meditation is often viewed as a goal in itself, a nirvana-like state representing the pinnacle of dedication and practice. An alternative viewpoint considers meditation more like a tool than a destination. Abdu'l-Baha informs us that: "Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries." (Paris Talks, p. 175).

To describe how meditation works He uses an analogy: "The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them... But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts..."(ibid,p. 176).

As well as being a tool, the meditative faculty appears to be a gateway allowing access to the Divine: "This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God." (ibid,p. 175). In fact, `Abdu'l-Baha goes even further and categorically states: "Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life..." (ibid,p. 175).

The capacity for meditation is one of our definitive features and without it we would not be human: "You cannot apply the name `man' to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts."`(ibid,p. 175).

Further, meditation seems to be an essential means for developing a sense of spirituality which, in turn, is a prerequisite for 'living the life'. It seems that without the practice of meditation we are not truly 'alive': "The first thing to do is to acquire a thirst for Spirituality, then Live the Life! Live the Life! Live the Life! The way to acquire this thirst is to meditate upon the future life. Study the Holy Words, read your Bible, read the Holy Books, especially study the Holy Utterances of Baha'u'llah; Prayer and Meditation, take much time for these two. Then will you know this Great Thirst, and then only can you begin to Live the Life!" (Abdu'l-Baha, Star of the West Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 69)

The Baha'i Writings encourage each of us to meditate but no particular form is advocated. The choice of meditation style is an entirely personal affair and leaves room for experimentation to find the method with which one is most comfortable: "As to meditation: This also is a field in which the individual is free. There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan as such, for inner development. The friends are urged - nay enjoined - to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual." (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 34-35).

While we are exhorted to meditate, we are cautioned about overly elaborate practices. Simplicity of form, and balance in practice seem to be the guideposts: "Meditation is very important, and the Guardian sees no reason why the friends should not be taught to meditate, but they should guard against superstitions or foolish ideas creeping into it." (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 46-47)

Some Results and Suggested Techniques from Scientific Study of Meditation

Like any tool, the faculty of meditation needs exercise and practice if it is to be used skillfully. Throughout the world there are a wide range of exercises claiming to improve one's ability to meditate and in the confusing array of options it can be difficult to sort out the hyperbole from the authentic. Some of the most well documented research into meditative techniques was carried out by Herbert Benson, M.D. in the 1970's. Dr. Benson studied a variety of meditative techniques and recorded their physiological effects on the health and well-being of the practitioner. He coined the term 'Relaxation Response' which refers to "the inborn capacity of the body to enter a special state characterized by lowered heart rate, decreased rate of breathing, lowered blood pressure, slower brain waves, and an overall reduction of the speed of metabolism." (p. 4: Benson, H. 1984. Beyond the Relaxation Response. New York: Times Books).

>From the meditation styles, he studied Dr. Benson distilled four simple steps common to all. He found that practicing these techniques for 15-20 minutes twice a day elicits the Relaxation Response (ibid,p. 96). Beneficial results will be felt by some people within a matter of weeks. For others it may take several months before the effects take place. But wherever we are in the process, diligent practice will assure results. The four steps are:

* Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

* Close your eyes and relax your muscles.

* Focus on your breathing. Breath from your abdomen slowly and naturally.

* Select a word, prayer, or phrase rooted in your personal belief system (for example a Baha'i might choose "Ya-Baha'u'l-Abha"). Then, repeat it silently or see it in your mind's eye each time you exhale.

Dr. Benson emphasizes "When outside thoughts intrude during the meditation, disregard them by saying, "Oh, well," and return to the word or prayer you've selected. It's essential always to maintain a passive, relaxed style in dealing with any interruptions." (ibid,p. 97).

Another supportive technique for developing meditative skills is the practice of 'mindfulness'. Pick some activity that you perform on a daily basis e.g. brushing your teeth. Focus all your attention on this simple act. Become aware of all the physical sensations involved in the act of cleaning your teeth. How hard are you gripping the brush? What do your gums and teeth feel like as the brush touches them? What tastes is your tongue experiencing? What expressions move across your face? What aromas can you smell? What sounds come to your ears? Try to be more conscious of what you are feeling: relaxed, impatient, bored? Notice what effects result from your deliberateness: do you slow down, speed up? Whenever you catch yourself thinking of something else just notice that your attention has moved away and softly bring it back to brushing your teeth. Try this for two weeks and observe the results.

The 'Relaxation Response' technique will expand one's innate capacity for meditating. It's simple to do, sometimes arduous in practice, and often unspeakably glorious in results. Remember, the technique is not the goal but rather a means of developing your skill with the tool. `Abdu'l-Baha encourages us not merely to meditate but to set ourselves lofty goals: "Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed - turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects - so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit." (Paris Talks, p. 176).

- Rian Cassells, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


I've brought up meditation a few times with Baha'i friends (very few - I've been an isolated believer most of my Baha'i life) and always seem to run into the same frustration - there is no teaching on how to meditate in the writings, just an injunction to do so. I personally do not find this a limitation, but rather a gift. We are all individual creations of God, with different strengths, interests and qualities. We all have different "things" that cause us to feel close to God and close to our own spirit. For some, this could be as simple as sitting in a dim room and chanting the Greatest Name, for others, artistic creation. Some might want soft music and candlelight, others may need silence in a natural setting. Some need to sit still and just be, others need motion - walking, even dancing - to allow their soul to transcend the body for a little bit. The process of learning how to meditate is tied into the rest of our spiritual lives. It is part of learning to see the attributes of God all around us, every moment in our lives. It is a part of calling yourself into account - knowing your spiritual strengths and how you can best feel God's presence in your life. The beauty of it, again, is that there is no "right way" that you force yourself to conform to, you instead explore yourself and God's creation to find the powers latent in your soul and then use them to further strengthen yourself.

The benefits of meditation are many (some of which are as unique as the individual who meditates). Release of stress and tension, increased detachment from the world and a sense of connection to God, a better knowledge of yourself and your spiritual powers, a deeper knowledge of the writings upon which you meditate, a sense of being spiritually grounded which gives you the power to ACT on what you learn, and many others that are not coming to my attention right now.

- Suzi Esser, California, U.S.A.




By Orval H. Minney, California, U.S.A.

In "Some Answered Questions" Abdu'l Baha speaks of six types of healing, four are spiritual and two are material. The first type of healing, which we discussed in the March issue, concerned spiritual healing through contagion of health from the very healthy to the one slightly ill. The second type of healing is the transfer of a magnetic force from a "healer" to the one ill.

"The other kind of healing without medicine is through the magnetic force which acts from one body on another and becomes the cause of cure. This force also has only a slight effect. Sometimes one can benefit a sick person by placing one's hand upon his head or upon his heart. Why? Because of the effect of the magnetism, and of the mental impression made upon the sick person, which causes the disease to vanish. But this effect is also very slight and weak. (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 254-55)

We are composed of cells which are basically bipolar in nature and have a magnetic field. In our bodies these cells are ordinarily arranged in a random fashion neutralizing the overall magnetic effect. Differentiating or growing cells align by their polarity and grow in the direction of the growth. Some lower creatures like the salamander can re-grow lost limbs, and a magnetic field can be detected along the line of growth...Our neural system is a bioelectrochemical system so we create magnetic fluxes and fields by our thoughts and actions. Finally, in accordance with relativistic and quantum physics, our bodies are essentially matrices of electromagnetic vibrations and have a magnetic field, often called the "aura" by mystics.

It is possible by our thoughts to generate a line of flux and magnetic field that can be transmitted by laying on of hands. Some yogi healing masters actually transmit this flux through space by the power of their focused concentrated thought. I have seen this demonstrated by a Yogi Guru. Healers have acquired their ability through some natural process or by focused training of their mind. Placing one hand on either side of a wound or on the head uses that portion of the patient to close the circuit and the energy flows through you and the patient creating a magnetic field which helps realign the patient's essential matrix and in restoring homeostasis to the system.

A demonstration of this ability can be done in a dark room. Place your fingertips slightly apart in front of you making a circle of your arms and body. Visualize a current of energy or light flowing in one direction through your shoulders, chest and arms and jumping the gap between your fingertips. If you are successful you will see a blue spark jump between your fingertips. To train this ability, start by placing the fingertips together until you feel a tingling sensation at the juncture. Then gradually increase the gap.

For now, this concept must remain as an adjunct to other treatment and not as a cure by itself. Competent physicians should develop their spirituality and practice the healing touch as part of their bedside manner. The physicians can recite healing prayers and the Greatest Name to be given divine assistance. In my experience with persons in this capacity, I have come to believe that the effect of the transfer of magnetism works in accordance with the spiritual development of the practitioner.


Abdu'l-Baha writes: "He who is filled with love of Baha, and forgets all things, the Holy Spirit will be heard from his lips and the spirit of life will fill his heart...Words will issue from his lips in strands of pearls, and all sickness and disease will be healed by the laying on of the hands." (J.E. Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and The New Era, p.112)




By Louise Yazdani, Canada

Health disciplines, like all other areas of study, are under constant fire these days for their basic premises and approaches. When researching a health topic, I try to look first for guidance from three sources:

1. Any sort of related compilation put together by the World Centre - for example, an August 1998 compilation prepared by the Research Dept. of the Universal House of Justice, called "Aspects of Traditional African Culture", contains a section entitled "Traditional Healing and Traditional Healers";

2. "Consumer Reports" - for example, "Consumer Reports" of 1994 did very thoroughly researched articles on "Alternative Medicine" in general, as well as specific articles on Acupuncture and Chiropractors;

3. Conferences reports (local, national and international) - these are often useful, because they present the subject matter from diverse - often, opposing - perspectives, and therefore encourage the reader to be less biased when identifying key issues and trends.




Here are some essential elements for our spiritual and physical health provided by a physician who has practised for more than 30 years.

1) Trust in God

2) Consult a skilled physician and follow his instructions

3) Practice detachment from all save God

4) Practice moderation

5) Pray and meditate daily; read the Creative Word morning and evening

6) Be happy always

7) Simplify

8) Focus

9) Practice patience

10) Eat simple, natural plant foods

11) Drink adequate pure water

12) Evaluate progress daily, summarize weekly




The National Spiritual Assembly appreciated receiving your January 4, 1999 email transmitting an issue of your "Healing Through Unity" newsletter and commends your efforts to offer in electronic form an informative source for applying a spiritual perspective to practical questions related to health and healing.

We have been asked to convey its best wishes for the success of your efforts to open the hearts of numerous souls to His Healing Message.

Office of the Secretary, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States




Green Acre Baha'i School

Mystic Medicine: Health and Healing in the New World Order. August 6-11. Examine the Teachings of Baha'u'llah as they relate to health and healing. Topics will include the history of religion's role in the evolution of medicine; the role of prayer in health and disease; how the Baha'i Faith can guide the approach toward traditional and "alternative" health care theories, issues of the day such as in-vitro fertilization and cloning; and the Baha'i Writings' guidance for health maintenance and disease prevention.

Babak Etemad, M.D, a fifth-generation Baha'i and fifth-generation physician, is a faculty member at MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia and is director of the gastrointestinal diagnostic laboratory there.

Green Acre is 5 miles from Portsmouth, New Hamphire and 60 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. Phone (207) 439-7200; email ; or visit the website at:




A reader from Johannesburg, South Africa would appreciate consultation on this question.

In The Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book by Baha'u'llah), we read under Questions and Answers section number 93: "Question: Concerning fasting and obligatory prayer by the sick.

Answer: In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God. It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health, it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observed His precepts. All praise be unto God, He who hath sent down the verses and is the Revealer of undoubted proofs."

This raises a question. When is an individual in ill-health? Is it when an individual sees him or herself as in ill-health or is it when a doctor proclaims it so? Although my health is often poor and I have good days and bad days, I often see myself as being in good health, but is this true since I suffer permanently from a progressive neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy and I live my life from a wheelchair and often from bed. I live a full and productive life and I earn an income and work even when I am forced to stay in bed during the day and I do not feel so great. Consequently I do not see myself as sick unless I am in hospital but of course, how I see myself is not important. What is important is following God's Law.

If you have a question that you would like to share, you can e-mail this to:




"Healing Through Unity" is published for the purpose of sharing thoughts, comments and experiences on how the teachings of the Baha'i Faith are being applied to our physical and spiritual health. Other than the quoted Writings, the material in this newsletter represents the thoughts and opinions of the writers and has no authority. You are free to copy articles, provided you indicate the source of the article. If you have a change of e-mail address or wish to unsubscribe the newsletter, please inform me. There are 10 issues per year; it is not published during July and August. The newsletter is produced in Ontario, Canada.

You can visit the website and obtain back issues at:

Please send your stories, comments, suggestions or "Question for the Month" ideas to Frances Mezei by e-mail: -- .

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