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HEALING THROUGH UNITY NEWSLETTER

March 2006

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of
physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.

Volume 10, Issue No. 3, The Importance of Celebrations

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Contents

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- Quote of the month
- From the Editor
- Holiday Traditions Bind Families Together
- Ritual and Celebration within the Baha'i Faith
- Book Review: The Shelter of Each Other
- Ideas for Creating New Celebrations
- Resources for further information
- Humor
- Health in the News
- Question of the Month
- Letters
- Purpose of the Newsletter
- Subscription Information
- Web Site

UPCOMING THEMES

April: Feed the Creative to Heal the Body and Mind. What arts and activities inspire you?

May: Nurture the Spirit for Better Health. Retreats, walks, music, poetry,

prayer: what makes you feel refreshed and energized?

June: Coping with Catastrophe. Share spiritual resources.

September: Effects of children and Parenting on Individual Health

October: Effects of Children and Parenting on Community/Society Health

November: The Perception of Freedom and Personal Control

December: Happiness and Healing

January: Success and Health

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH

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"There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. The essence of all religions is the Love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings.

('Abdu'l-Baha, "Paris Talks," p. 82)

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FROM THE EDITOR

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Dear Readers,

Happy New Year, March 21st! I hope you will all be celebrating with family and friends, and setting New Year's resolutions towards your personal goals.

This year finds me about halfway through with last year's resolution:

labeling the pictures in the family photo albums, and adding journal entries to explain in more detail who and what the pictures are about.

When my parents died, I found boxes and boxes of pictures, almost all without labels. And for those whose likenesses I did recognize, I didn't know the stories behind the incident being pictured. It was very frustrating and sad to have to discard all that history, all those celebrations so carefully documented in pictures but not words.

Working on this project has made our whole family more aware of the celebrations we have, big and little, and the importance of remembering them. Poring over an album of birthdays, for instance, not only interests the children and grandchildren, but generates some cross generational conversation as well, which doesn't happen often enough in our busy lives.

Recording everyone's contributions to the family in words, pictures and memorabilia builds a fortress of well-being, and celebrates the whole and each one's place in it.

I recommend it!

Cheryll Schuette, Michigan, USA

 

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HOLIDAY TRADITIONS BIND FAMILIES TOGETHER

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By Michelle Kelley, Mental Health Association of Greater Houston

What comes to mind when you remember past Christmases, Hanukkahs, Kwanzaa’s, New Year’s and other holidays and holy days celebrated over your lifetime?

It is likely that your memory conjures up the joy of family gatherings, the aroma of roasting turkeys, the look and smell of a Christmas tree, the majesty and magic of lighting the Menorah, the prayers or the crackling of the wood in the fireplace. You are likely recalling your family’s holiday rituals and traditions.

Whether religious or secular, traditions keep cultures alive, bind families together and allow us to share something special with each other. Holiday traditions can be as simple as eating a special New Year’s Eve meal, singing favorite holiday carols, coming together at an uncle’s home or attending a midnight religious service.

"Rituals and traditions help us keep track of where we came from and who we are. It’s important for adults—and profoundly significant for children,"

said Betsy Schwartz, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Greater Houston. "It’s been said that rituals and traditions serve as a kind of road map for children, offering a comforting sense of predictability and order to life."

Every time we continue a tradition, revive a family recipe or use the language of past generations, we are connecting to our past and giving the younger ones a sense of history and future.

"Not only do traditions impart a sense of order, identify and security, but they also help to teach values," said Schwartz. "The traditions of Christmas and Hanukkah, for instance, reinforce religious principles and teach worthwhile lessons—something of great comfort during times of upheaval and difficulty."

The seasonal emphasis on togetherness and happiness can be stressful when your family has been uprooted. However, the holidays provide the perfect opportunity to heal by remembering the joy of past celebrations and creating new traditions that help reestablish family bonds. As you work to create new holiday traditions, consider doing one or more of the following:

* Remember the past: Think back to your childhood holiday celebrations and traditions of the past. Use your favorite parts of each as the basis for new traditions.

* Feature Cultural Traditions: Investigate various ethnic holiday traditions. Incorporate traditions related to your cultural background.

* Survey Family and Friends: Ask each person how he or she would like to honor a particular holiday. Incorporate those ideas into your new traditions.

* Use Your Imagination: What would be your ideal holiday celebration? Which pieces of your fantasy can you make real? Focus on incorporating those items into your holiday.

* Give to others: Make it an annual tradition to give during the Holidays.

Donate winter coats or toys to local shelters, volunteer to answer letters to Santa or serve a holiday meal.

* Light a Candle: During your celebration, light a special candle in memory of those who you may have lost.

* Have Fun: Be creative and have fun, but remember that the holidays are about spending time with the people who mean the most to you.

"The traditions we establish and celebrate for holidays add continuity to our lives," said Schwartz. "They connect us to the people we were and the people we have become as well as to our ancestors and our communities. The rituals of special days are what provide a foundation for us when life is not perfect. And more, traditions are the family 'habits' that draw us back to what’s really, really important in our lives."

 

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RITUAL AND CELEBRATION WITHIN THE BAHA'I FAITH

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The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world's major religions, and the second most widely spread. Its million plus adherents come from every sort of background, race, nationality, religion -- and speak all the world's languages.

How then, can such a diverse constituency build and maintain a common feeling of brotherhood?

Often what binds people together is a set of rituals and traditions, which can sometimes, though not often enough, cross national and language and age barriers.

One could expect that the Baha'i Faith would also utilize this shortcut to bonding and culture, since religion has historically been a major source of cultural rituals.

Not so. "Ritual holds no place in the religion, which must be expressed in all the actions of life, and accomplished in neighborly love."

('Abdu'l-Baha, "Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, v1," p. vii)

Further, differences are not a cause for alarm among Baha'is, because their Faith welcomes diversity as a normal and healthy part of the human condition. Rituals tend to increase conformity and lessen creativity, impoverishing experience and handicapping efficient response to change.

Harmony, not uniformity, is the keystone of Baha'i community life.

"It would be correct, however, to state that the Faith has certain basic laws and simple rites prescribed by Baha'u'llah and that its teachings warn against developing these into a system of uniform and rigid rituals by introducing into them man-made forms and practices." (Lights of Guidance, p.138)

This is not to say that community commemoration and celebration do not exist. For from it! There are no less than nine holy days throughout the year on which work is suspended, replaced with devotional, social and service activities planned and executed according to grass roots needs and preferences.

"In carrying out the basic laws of our Faith the friends should always maintain a standard of utmost simplicity and observe flexibility in all matters of detail." ("Lights of Guidance," p. 138) Baha'is tend to think globally but act locally.

The principles of consultation, so pivotal to community functioning in a religion without clergy, guarantee the creativity and flexibility that is needed with such a widely diverse group of people.

In action, what such a lack of ritual can mean is that while Baha'i New Year's celebrations will be happening all over the world, each one will reflect the rich cultural heritage of the local community who planned it.

As a Baha'i, one has 'family' everywhere. The languages may differ, the food, money, clothing and weather be foreign to one's experience. But the warmth, the love of God, the spiritual and social goals will be the same, no matter where one travels.

Shared goals and experience are what community is about. Baha'is believe learning how to work and celebrate together is a basis for building God's Kingdom on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE SHELTER OF EACH OTHER

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Mary Pipher, a psychologist in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska, has written an enormously important book on family life.

She helps us realize that our [Western] culture is making it very difficult for families to be happy. Rather than blaming ourselves - and labeling ourselves dysfunctional -- we need to look at how our society is impacting family life.

Pipher opens our eyes to the desperate realities many families are facing - and she shows us the way out.

Drawing on stories of families rich and poor, angry and despairing, religious and skeptical, she shows us the energy and strength of families still exists.

She invites families to look at the broader culture and ask: how does the culture affect the life of my family?

About celebrations, Pipher has this to say:

"In our rapidly changing world, people who stay married for fifty years really have multiple marriages to the same mate. They have a romantic relationship, a child-rearing relationship, and later one strong in companionship and caretaking.

"One marriage ceremony at the beginning is not enough to hold such a marriage in place. Couples need new ceremonies and rites of passage, second honeymoons and even third and fourth ones. It's good to renew vows and write new vows every few years.

"Celebrations build [protective] walls for families. Those can be the usual national holidays or celebrations such as graduations, weddings or anniversaries. ... It's important that national holidays be celebrated in the family's own way.... the more energy that the family puts into designing a meaningful celebration, the more powerful it becomes.

"Families need celebrations that signify rites of passage. Without these celebrations, time runs together and the significance of events is not noted...Much more can be done with a birthday than simply having a cake and presents. Poems and thank-you letters can be delivered. Photos can be taken and flowers and trees planted in honor of the day.

"Weddings and anniversaries connect families too, especially if they aren't too elaborate. The more time people spend in formal clothes the less fun they have. Simple ceremonies are often the most fun and most meaningful.

"We have celebrations for birth, death and marriage, but not for many events in between, defining events that should be honored. We need a celebration for Aunt Betty's retirement, for Kevin's new job, for Stephanie's driver's license and for the day Melanie leaves for college.

"It's odd that in this culture [USA] many people mock these celebrations of family. There are many jokes about family reunions, family holidays and family videos being a drag. But at reunions people often have memorable experiences. They say the [loving] things that need to be said."

 

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IDEAS FOR CREATING NEW CELEBRATIONS

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To create holiday celebrations that bring greater personal satisfaction, Kenneth Goodrick, Ph.D., made up a list for Web MD a few years ago. The subject was the Western Christmas and Christian New Year's holiday traditions, but the suggestions may be useful for other types of commemorations.

1. Think deeply about the essence of the celebration. Put some thought into what the holidays mean for you, and what you want them to be.

2. Be imaginative in considering new traditions, but recognize that for some people, especially children, traditions are very important, and make sure to find a balance between your new ideas and how they have always done things.

3. Simplify celebrations. Don't spend mass quantities of time and effort if it means you will not be spending the time with your family.

4. Remember the spiritual aspects of the holidays and honor them.

5. Get yourself -- or the entire family -- involved in a volunteer effort.

Feed the homeless, visit a nursing home. There are all kinds of wonderful things you can do that are good for the spirit.

6. Become proactive in getting your family to try out new activities.

Begin the negotiation process long before the holidays come around.

7. Focus on relationships. Instead of turning on the TV after the big family dinner, take a walk or play a game. Or talk about your hopes and plans for the future. Develop a project -- such as a family history book -- that allows everyone to share stories and pictures with each other.

8. Know your boundaries. Make time for the things that you enjoy. Find a physical activity that you like and implement it into an exercise routine, to help unwind and relieve stress.

9. Make an effort to reconcile problem relationships. Often this will happen because people just do things together, and a new activity may prove a neutral starting point.

10. Consider taking a break from the whole thing, if the holidays have really become a downer. Go away and celebrate in another way, which can give a new perspective, a chance to stop, shift gears, put yourself in a new context.

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RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

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* A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?" Barbara H. Fiese, et al, Journal of Family Psychology 2002, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp 381-390. Press release and link to download the entire study in pdf, 10 pages:

http://www.apa.org/releases/rituals2.html

* "The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living," Barbara Biziou, St. martin's Press, 2000. A review:

http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/newsh/items/bookreview/item_2333.html

* "The Shelter of Each Other," Mary Pipher, Ph.D., Grosset/Putnam, 1996.

Another review: http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/pipher.html

* "Cultural Diversity in the Age of Maturity," a compilation of the Universal House of Justice, 1997.

http://bahai-library.com/?file=compilation_cultural_diversity_maturity

* For more information on the specific holy days celebrations: "Days to Remember," compiled by Dr. Baher Forghani. Baha'i Publications Australia, 2000 http://www.bahaibooksonline.com/daystoremember.html

* For community FAQ and some study materials free on line:

http://www.bahaistudy.org/faq/life.html

 

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HUMOR

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MOTHER'S TEACHING (Posted by octogenarian Mildred Garfield on her blog --

http://mymomsblog.blogspot.com/) "I saw these words of wisdom in a local [Florida, USA] newspaper and wanted to share them with you."

1. My mother taught me LOGIC.

"Because I said so, that's why."

2. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.

"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

3. My mother taught me IRONY.

"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

4. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.

"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

5. My mother taught me about WEATHER.

"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

6. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT.

"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

7. My mother taught me ESP.

"Put your sweater on, don't you think I know when you are cold."

8. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.

"Just wait until we get home."

9. My mother taught me WISDOM.

"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

10. My mother taught me RELIGION.

"You'd better pray that stain will come out in the wash."

11. My mother taught me about STAMINA.

"You'll sit there until all the spinach is gone."

Did your mother teach you any of these?

 

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HEALTH IN THE NEWS

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- A message from the Michigan [USA] Surgeon General, Dr. Kimberlydawn

Wisdom:

"This year, take control of your health by getting to know your family's health history. Families traditionally gather during the holiday season, which makes it the perfect time to learn about the health conditions that run in your family. Start the conversation. It can help improve your health and the health of your loved ones."

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- Pray and lose weight??

The March 13, 2006 issue of "For Women First Magazine" gleefully announces a "mind-body breakthrough: the silent dialog [with the Creator] has been proven to reduce stress-hormone levels by 40 percent, and melt away 36 percent more body fat."

Harry G. Koenig, M.D., Duke University and coauthor of "The Healing Power of Prayer" (Baker Books, 2003) explains, "An ongoing dialogue with a higher power calms the amygdala, the brain's stress-serenity command center. It also increases activity of the brains' soothing alpha waves. This prevents the adrenal glands from releasing a flood of harmful cortisol."

In fact a study from the Shimane Institute of Health Science in Japan found that this type of calming activity reduced cortisol by up to an astounding 40 percent.

That can translate into major weight loss, maintains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., author of "The Cortisol Connection" (Hunter House, 2002): "In my research, those who reduced cortisol by 20 percent lost nine times more weight, including 18 percent more body fat and 9 percent more belly fat."

According to "First," when they asked women across the [US] who had successfully lost weight about their approach to prayer, "the results left no room for doubt. After turning their stress over to a higher power and forgiving themselves and others, the women report that the pounds simply melted off.

"Best of all, each of these women assures us that this technique is far easier than anything else a dieter could try because it requires no extra time. They no longer need to obsess over calories or try to squeeze an aerobics class into their busy days."

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- Simple ways to make yourself far cleverer

Denis Campbell, social affairs correspondent for "The Observer," [UK] reports that tests conducted for a British television program, "Get Smarter in a Week," appear to bear out the growing belief among scientists that making simple changes to lifestyle can lead to significant improvements in how well brains function.

The program found that a combination of techniques based on healthy eating, physical activity, sound sleep and stimulating the mind through solving puzzles and remembering lists makes people sharper, more confident and better at making decisions.

When the production team did trial runs among 15 volunteers, who each followed a 'get smarter' regime for a week, they expected their guinea pigs would be about 10 per cent cleverer at the end of it. What they found was that some performed up to 40 per cent better than in the initial assessment.

However, one man who had gone out on a stag night the evening before the second test found his score 20 per cent down.

For a brief list of the exercises, go to the "Guardian Unlimited Science"

webpage article posted March 5, 2006:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1723801,00.html

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QUESTION OF THE MONTH

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My three children are the only Baha'is in their school, and elementary schools really make a big thing of Christmas and Easter and other commercialized holidays around here. How can I create an equal enthusiasm for Baha'i Holy Days? We do have a small Baha'i community, with some other kids, but they are bombarded at school and on TV by the frenzy of other holidays. Any ideas would be most welcome!

DC in Michigan, USA

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LETTERS

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- Ozone therapy

I wonder if you or your [readers] know anything about Ozone Therapy? The logic seems impressive. It was in mid-December, that a friend introduced me to Ozone therapy. I downloaded an anthology of articles from the website indicated, took time to read and think about the philosophy, and then in late February reformatted the document. I understand that Ozone therapy is quite popular in a number of countries outside the United States.

If you ... have any thoughts about this approach to healing, I'd be grateful to hear them.

(JS, Japan)

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PURPOSE OF THE NEWSLETTER

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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. None of the material published in this newsletter is intended to be a substitute for the advice of a physician.

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 Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Distribution of this newsletter is free by email. Please email requests for all new subscriptions, subscription cancellations and email address changes (please include old address along with new one) to rocketman@mwt.net

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WEB SITE

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You can visit our Web site, obtain back issues and the Healing Through Unity Course at: http://www.healingthroughunity.org

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PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

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All of us have had healing experiences, as well as climbed out of low points along life's way - physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Please share your stories, tips, useful links, and quotes from the Baha'i Writings about staying healthy in a stressful world. Your articles do not have to be long - even a few paragraphs in length is fine. Baha'u'llah gave us each other as a big part of a healthy lifestyle, and sharing stories and ideas that work for you brings encouragement to others. Asking for information and support from others can bring encouragement to you!

WHERE TO SEND STORIES AND CORRESPONDENCE:

Many thanks to all of you who share helpful ideas for the Healing Through Unity Newsletter. The decision to select and edit material submitted for publication is determined by the editor. We welcome submissions from everyone.

Please e-mail your stories, comments, suggestions or "Question for the Month" ideas to the newsletter editor, Cheryll Schuette, at: cheryll@gotypist.com.

DISCLAIMER:

Please specify if you do not want your full name, or any part of it, used in this newsletter, particularly for the Question of the Month. Once published in email and in the archives on the website, it is difficult if not impossible to remove it from the Internet with any certainty.

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HEALING THROUGH UNITY NEWSLETTER

Editor - Cheryll Schuette

Contributing Editor - Lynn Ascrizzi

Founding Editor - Frances Mezei

Medical Reviewer - Dr. Diane Kent

Circulation Assistant - Kathy Yonash

Web Master - Russ Novak

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