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February, 2002

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of

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

Volume 5, Issue #6




- A Response about Dreams
- The Exchange
- The Nature of Community
- Sustained Encouragement - Creating Energy
- Guidance from the Writings in Creating a Culture of Encouragement
- Fasting
- Question of the Month
- Website
- Purpose of the Newsletter




By Vivian Baravalle, Czech Republic

This was a very lovely issue (Volume 5, Issue #5) about dreams and their meaning. I've just finished reading a book entitled "Dream Back Your Life - Transforming Your Dream Messages into Life Action - A Practical Guide to Dreams, Daydreams and Fantasies" by Joan Mazza. M.S. If you have a chance you should get a hold of it as there are many helpful exercises and suggestions contained within, even suggestions on how to work with "old" dreams and unwrap their many layers of meaning. 

Like the anonymous reader, I had a dream of some significance many years ago. It was the week before my marriage and I had caught a bit of flu. There was also a wedding that same day of two  friends and I wanted to attend that. So I was given some medicine, told to lie down and rest and then later in the afternoon, if I felt better, I could go. Well, I fell asleep for what seemed to me like a couple of hours (but in reality may not have been more than 30 minutes) and I had the most graphic dream that I have carried within myself for almost some 25 years.

In this dream, I was floating about a lovely city. It was an evening in Winter, but I didn't feel any cold in the air at all. There was snow on the trees and on the ground and the houses below me, with soft diffused light coming from each home and there were numerous stars in the sky. I remember walking into an inn which was lit by candles and soft lights. There were many people around and I sat down at a table with some friends, some who I knew and others whom I didn't know...but then again, these people were familiar to me. We were all drinking tea in lovely glasses and we were smiling because we were all happy. 

Then at a certain point, I left these people and walked outside. I found myself in front of a magnificent house. The doors of this house were opened by a young woman who was simply, but elegantly, dressed. She was wearing a pair of white gloves and she greeted me by name, saying that I was expected. I remember asking her what her name was, and she told me (but upon waking, I didn't remember that woman's name or her face). There was a long hallway in this house with wooden floors and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and along the walls. These walls were painted in pastel colors and the ceiling was in white stucco, all done in the finest of taste. The woman said that at the end of the hallway (where there were two more double doors) I would go and find Baha'u'llah in the next room, and that I must prepare myself to meet Him. Well the thought of meeting Baha'u'llah filled me with such joy, anticipation and excitement...that I woke up! I felt I had immediately to tell someone about it. (So I never got a chance to open those other doors.)

Almost a quarter of a century has passed since I had that dream and it still warms my heart when I think about it and I still continue to examine its meaning and symbolism. However, one interesting thing I must say is that although I lived in a warm place at that time...far away from snow and cold weather...I am now pioneering in a place which appears to be the place from my long-ago dream. This area produces some of the most lovely objects in crystal ever seen...including chandeliers! Now in retrospect, perhaps Baha'u'llah (and my soul) knew all the long that I would come and live in the very place I am living in. 





How can we create healthy, strong, creative and sustaining communities? We would like to hear about your health care projects or social and economic development projects to assist the growth and development of your community. What methods or projects have been successful in your community in creating a culture of growth?


It may be too soon to tell yet, what impact will come of our efforts, but our study circle (Ruhi course) in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, chooses an activity that the group can all participate in during the coming week. So far, we have provided encouragement and donations to a youth who was organizing a silent auction to raise money for the women in Afghanistan, visited people who are sick, picked up garbage in our own communities and donated to the food bank. I'm hoping that with a weekly activity to focus on, a culture of service will be the outcome, and that our small efforts will eventually culminate in something bigger.
- Susan Gammage, Ontario, Canada



1. During the period of consultation at our nineteen day feasts, we have found it useful to break up into smaller groups of between 5 and 10 people, often friends or families, language groups or special interest groups such as children or Persian-speaking friends. The Assembly suggests some issues about which it would like the community to consult. This enables the consultation to be focused, and the small groups enable everyone, confident or otherwise, to be a part of the consultations. Of course other issues can and are raised within the groups, and at the end of the consultation, everyone comes together and relays their suggestions.

2. Ridvan messages (from the Universal House of Justice) are broken down into separate paragraphs, and key-questions prepared, the paragraphs are then shared out again amongst small groups. The key-questions allow discussions to be focused and result in direct suggestions to the Assembly.

3. Deepenings may be held the same way with select paragraphs from the Writings to illustrate the boundaries of the issue, and leading questions posed which call the participants to consider how their own life experiences might suggest courses of action, and whether their present actions accord with the standards expected of a Baha'i. From this they can identify what things in their lives they could re-align with the teachings and principles.

4. Consensual decision-making at the Assembly is the goal of consultation, voting being the last resort. I am always interested in hearing an opinion which appears to run counter to "an emerging consensus" as it must carry enough weight at least in the eye of the author to warrant being held. Teasing out the reason by invitation often reveals perhaps a misunderstanding, perhaps an unarticulated prejudice, and of course may identify an issue which might contribute to a better decision. The sense of accomplishment that comes from consensual decisions, the feeling of unity and true ownership is remarkably uplifting.

These approaches have proved valuable in the various communities where I have lived as a means to engage the friends and allow them to take responsibility for their own community destiny. 
- Charles Boyle, Lae, Papua New Guinea




By M. Scott Peck. (M Scott Peck, who is the author of books such as "The RoadLess Travelled", "The Different Drum", and "A World Waiting to be Born", writes at length about the laboratory of community. He has some wonderful insights about the nature of community. Peck writes "Community is and must be inclusive. The great enemy of community is exclusivity", Scott Peck,  The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, p. 61)

* "Community: a group that has learned to transcend its individual differences. In community, instead of being ignored, denied, hidden, or changed, human differences are celebrated at gifts. (Ibid: 62) 
* Community is a safe place. As soon as it is safe to speak one’s heart, as soon as most people in the group know they will be listened to and accepted for themselves, vulnerability snowballs and community members find themselves being valued and appreciated. They become more vulnerable. Love and acceptance escalates. They become intimate friends, and true healing begins. (Ibid: 68)
* Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures. It also requires the capacity to be affected by the wounds of others, to be wounded by their wounds. (Ibid: 69-70) 
*Over the past fifty years, psychotherapists, management consultants, and other students of group behavior have come to discern that when groups evolve, they tend to do so in certain somewhat predictable stages. 
- The stage of pretence: the communication in pseudocommunity is filled with generalizations. It is polite, inauthentic, boring, sterile and unproductive.
- The stage of chaos: the attempt to obliterate individual differences which have escalated during pseudocommunity. This is done as the group members try to convert, heal, or fix each other or else argue for simplistic organizational norms.
- The stage of emptiness: this is the stage of hard, hard work, a time when the members work to empty themselves of everything that stands between them and community. Many of the things that must be relinquished or sacrificed with integrity are virtual human universals: prejudices, snap judgments, fixed expectations, the desire to convert, heal or fix, the urge to win, the fear of looking like a fool, the need to control. Other things may be exquisitely personal: hidden griefs, hatreds or terrors that must be confessed, made public, before the individual can be fully ‘present’ to the group". It is a time of risk and courage.
* Community must become empty for a kind of miracle to occur. 
* Only after these three stages can there be true community, which then must go through the stages again and again as it advances towards perfection." 
(Peck, A World Waiting to Be Born", 1993, 275-276)


"Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly Kingdom, entities of a new creation." 
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 295-96)





Prepared by Lawrence M. Miller. (Editor's note: This article is reprinted with permission by the author. This section is taken from an excellent paper called "On Becoming Systematic: A Guide to Continuous Improvement in the Baha'i Community. You can download this paper from the Mottahedeh Development Services website: (link inoperative - webmaster). For your information, Local Spiritual Assemblies, elected annually consist of nine Baha'is, twenty-one years of age and older, govern the affairs of each local Baha'i community.) 

In the January 9th, 2001 letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Board of Counsellors, the House of Justice points out "Training alone, of course, does not necessarily lead to an upsurge in teaching activity. In every avenue of service, the friends need sustained encouragement...When training and encouragement are effective, a culture of growth is nourished in which the believers see their duty to teach as a natural consequence of having accepted Baha'u'llah."

Abdu'l-Baha constantly encouraged the friends, no matter how humble their efforts, with praise and respect. Virtually every talk given by the Master begins with praise of those to whom he speaks. The messages of the Guardian repeatedly point out the glorious nature of our destiny and he frequently expressed gratitude for our efforts when he certainly must have known of our faults and inadequacies. Why this encouragement? Why this apparently unbalanced emphasis on the good while ignoring the deficiencies? 

There are certainly many answers to this. However, you know, from your own experience the effect of encouragement and criticism. Try to remember a time when you extended great time and effort on a plan or project and received praise and gratitude from your fellow believers or an Institution. What was the effect on your level of energy and enthusiasm? Do you remember a time when you similarly extended great energies and your effort was followed by criticism? What then was the effect on your energy?

Energy enables progress, creates action, is the fire, which is fueled by love of the Cause and is reinforced by encouragement and appreciation. If there is no energy the car cannot be steered. If there is no energy the airplane will fall from flight. If there is no energy, the best-devised plans will not lead to constructive action. How does an Assembly, Committee, or individuals create energy in the community, energy that may then be given direction?

The process of encouragement maybe divided into two parts: those things that come before performance and may energize the performance; and, those things that come after and strengthen performance. The systematic Institution will consider the performance it desires and what it can do, both before and after the performance, to increase energy and motivate future performance.


a) The Dynamic Force of Example: Every young basketball player is motivated by the example of Michael Jordan. Every young artist by the Isaac Stern, Eric Clapton or other musical superstars. And all Baha'is are motivated by Badi and the deeds of all the heroes of the Faith. The degree to which we know what they did, the sacrifices they made, the standard of conduct they set, we are energized toward similar performance. The degree to which we know the Master, the Exemplar, we have an example to follow, a standard, toward which we can try to perform.

b) Knowledge of the World: Did you read the Atlantic Monthly piece describing the disastrous condition of women in Afghanistan? Or, the article on the disintegration of healthcare and the economy in Russia? Have you read about the spread of AIDS in Africa and its calamity for the children of Africa? Why did the Guardian read many of the world's newspapers everyday? Because the principles of our Faith, the healing Divine Prescription of our Teachings, come to fulfill a purpose, to cure an ill. If we live in an oyster, cut off from knowledge of the world, we do not fully understand the need, the imperative, that our Faith reach the masses of humankind. Repeatedly the Guardian told us that we must be knowledgeable of the affairs of the world, and he knew that this knowledge would energize us to arise to spread our teachings to a needy humanity. It would also enable us to make our teachings relevant to the distress felt by so many of our friends. 

c) Clear and Simple Direction: When an Assembly appoints a committee or an individual to a task it is important that the Assembly make its wishes clear. Committees can spend a great deal of time trying to guess the wishes of the Assembly and be anxious that they are not doing the right thing in the absence of clear direction. What are the three things you would like the teaching committee, for example, to accomplish during the coming year? What would you like them to accomplish in the next couple of months? Are there specific issues you want them to address or avoid? Part of frank and honest consultation is making clear what is in your mind. Clear and simple direction lets the other person know how they can succeed, what will constitute success. This is energizing.


d) Expression of Appreciation: Many companies that are practicing "team-management" begin management and employee meetings with a standard agenda item: recognition. The chair or facilitator of the meeting simply asks the group, "Would anyone like to share any recognition?" There is usually a period of silent reflection while the members think about who has done something helpful in the past month. This is then shared with the group. The first expression of appreciation stimulates someone else to think of something. And, typically for a period of ten or fifteen minutes, individuals share recognition for other members of the group. The practice sets a positive tone and provides a forum for sharing appreciation that might otherwise be forgotten in the haste to get the work done.

It is a very good practice for an Assembly to consider at each meeting the deeds of members of the community and consider how they might express their appreciation to those members. Feast is an excellent time for recognizing the efforts of members of the community. Too often, in our culture, we focus on the mistakes, missteps and errors of each other and are all too quick to point these out while ignoring the hard work and efforts of our brothers and sisters. If we want to create energy we must be willing to systematically "catch-someone-doing-something-good." 

While formal decision making and authority reside in the Assemblies, the process of creating energy resides in the individual, as well. How we treat each other, how we express thanks and appreciation, to each other, is a responsibility we all bear. To create a culture of growth we must first create a culture of appreciation.

e) Review and Consult: There have been cases in the Baha'i community in which an Assembly listened to criticism of a program or committee, perhaps repeatedly, and made a judgment about that program or committee without directly consulting and seeking that group's views. This is very de-motivating to the group and depletes their energy. To be consulted is, in itself, a sign of respect that creates energy. To review the efforts of your committees, with those committees, reflects your esteem for them and your sincere interest in their efforts. It is wise, when assigning responsibility to a committee or individual, to then establish dates on the calendar when it would be a good time to discuss their progress. This is energizing because it creates a simple goal, the simple goal of sharing progress with the Institution.

f) Publicly Praise – Privately Correct: While most of us don't want to admit it, we like to be recognized in public. We want everyone in the world, including our mother and father, to know of the good things we have done. It is motivating to recognize effort and achievement at the Feast or other public gatherings. Public comment somehow magnifies the affect. The same is true for criticism. Public criticism, that might in private be heard rationally and considered as an opportunity to learn and improve, when delivered publicly is felt as a stab to the heart. Public criticism is a guaranteed emotional crisis. Never criticize or correct another believer in a public forum, it is simply too damaging. Of course, there are times when an individual needs to receive critical feedback. But, this should always be done in private and in a spirit of love and helpfulness. 

It is also best to write letters of praise, but never letters of criticism. Similar to statements in a public forum, seeing criticism on paper, gives it an official status that magnifies the pain but adds nothing to understanding. Criticism needs to be discussed. There needs to be a dialogue with the individual to help them process the feedback and gain understanding. Critical feedback, presented in a consultative dialogue, in the spirit of helpfulness will lead to growth and maturity.

We must always remember that the Baha'i community is a community of volunteers. Virtually no one is paid. No one has to be here. We are all here, involved in the Baha'i community, because we love the Faith, its Founders, and its Teachings. This recognition must guide all of our dealings with each other. It particularly must guide the feedback that we give each other.

These simple steps can do much to create and sustain the energy of the community if they become part of the culture, if they become systematic.





"The friends must be patient with each other and must realize that the Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly. The greater the patience, the loving understanding and the forbearance the believers show towards each other and their shortcomings, the greater will be the progress of the whole Bahá'í Community at large." (Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life: A Compilation, pp. 18-19)

"The success of your past endeavours should encourage you all and the Community whom you represent, to forge ahead, unmindful of obstacles, and forgetful of personal differences of opinion in one united and unanimous effort to carry out all the work you have set for yourselves and achieve all your goals." ( Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p.146)

"The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh after the Kitáb-i- Aqdas, pp. 63-64)

"The members of the House of Spirituality must give unlimited encouragement to women." (‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 336)

"...if we show love, patience and understanding of the weakness of others; if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength." (National Spiritual Assembly, pp. 111-112)

"It is incumbent upon every one of us to encourage each other, to exert our utmost endeavour to diffuse His divine fragrances and engage in exalting His Word." (Bahiyyih Khanum, pp. 163-64)

"The Guardian has been at great pains to build up the administrative order and teach the friends how to use it. How could he possibly himself act in such a way as to ignore or belittle the functions of these bodies? He often encourages believers to work, to teach, to pursue some plan they propose in their letters to him..." (Letters to Australia and New Zealand, pp. 45-46)




During the Baha'i month of Loftiness which begins March 2nd, Baha'is 15 years of age and older fast from sunrise to sunset for nineteen days. Exempted from the Fast are children under 15, those who are ill, over 70, traveling, pregnant or nursing women, women in their courses or those doing heavy labour. The Fast ends at sunset March 20, Naw-Ruz (Baha'i New Year).

"These are the days of the Fast. Blessed is the one who through the heat generated by the Fast increaseth his love, and who, with joy and radiance, ariseth to perform worthy deeds. Verily, He guideth whomsoever He willeth to the straight path." (Baha'u'llah, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting, by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, p. 7) 

"Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion." (Baha'u'llah, ibid, p. 8)

"In clear cases of weakness, illness, or injury the law of the Fast is not binding. This injunction is in conformity with the precepts of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Well it is with them who act accordingly." (Baha'u'llah, ibid, p. 9)

"Well is it with you, as you have followed the Law of God and arisen to observe the Fast during these blessed days, for this physical fast is a symbol of the spiritual fast. This Fast leadeth to the cleansing of the soul from all selfish desires, the acquisition of spiritual attributes, attraction to the breezes of the All-Merciful, and enkindlement with the fire of divine love." ('Abdu'l-Baha, ibid, p. 22)




The March issue will continue to focus on the development of healthy communities. What are some of the practical ways we can manifest love, joy, happiness, healthy connections and unity in our communities?




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"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 physical and spiritual health. Other than the quoted Holy 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. There are 10 issues per year; it is not published during July and August. The newsletter is produced in Ontario, Canada. 

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