"The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved. " ~ Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys and The Four ValleysDear friends, Have you wondered what path our soul traverses and what nurtures it? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, meaningful discussion, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, reflecting on uplifting themes, sharing songs, prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the days ahead. We invite you and your loves ones on Monday, August 3, 2015 to an Interfaith Fireside Discussion in Arlington, VA on the theme “The Valley of Search”. [caption id="attachment_3396" align="aligncenter" width="460"] The First Valley: The Valley of Search - Fireside discussion on The Seven Valleys by Bahá'u'lláh lead by Natalia Salazar.[/caption]
As I was getting ready for the fireside -- a spiritual discussion I had decided to host on Mondays (my telecommuting day) to address social myths and spiritual reality -- I got a call from work. The message was polite: the job I had applied for, which would have been a nice -- and I still believe very well deserved -- promotion after 10 years of work at the same company, had been given to an external candidate...
To cry or to cook?Well, what was I to do: cry or cook? Well, cook I did, a full menu of lentil soup, pasta, banitsa, and gyuvech (more on the recipe, later). [caption id="attachment_3393" align="aligncenter" width="474"] Menu for the fireside: lentil soup, pasta, banitsa, gyuvech[/caption] The friends who visited that night were typically diverse and somehow connected with the full stretch of the Americas: a Salvadoran mother and her daughter, an American father and Azeri mother who with their three children live in Honduras; an American father and a Chilean / Bolivian mother whose daughter had been the English teacher for one of those same children while in Honduras -- a random fact which made for an impromptu reunion, my American housemate, and finally, yours truly who this August is celebrating 20 years in this country, thus can be counted as nominally American... [caption id="attachment_3394" align="aligncenter" width="460"] Gathering of friends to discuss social myths and spiritual reality[/caption]
Sorrow NotAs the topic of discussion "Social Myths and Spiritual Reality" was purposefully broad, I thought that dealing with disappointment in a society which often views success narrowly as material accomplishment -- a social myth if you ever saw one -- would be a good start. The discussion was passionate and enriched by several personal stories and reflections on the Holy Writings. We read the story of Majnún from Baha'u'lláh's "Seven Valleys" and finished with this Divine assurance from His Gleanings:
O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. ~ Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláhhttps://youtu.be/YqZ4nlLw6xk I was once again reminded much fun we all were having at that gathering. Next Monday, we will continue with a discussion on the "Valley of Knowledge" lead by my friend Natalia who had an opportunity to reflect on this gem of a Holy Writing while visiting her homeland of Bolivia. Please join us -- you won't be sorry!
Dear friends! Do you ever catch yourself questioning the materialistic myths our society permeates? Have you ever noticed that any challenge -- be it personal or social -- when approached from a spiritual perspective suddenly appears less overwhelming, and its solution -- refreshingly inspiring? Do you wonder what would life be like if we looked at it through the eyes of the Divine within us?
Social Myths and Spiritual Reality"The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." ~ Bahá’u’lláh, The Tabernacle of Unity [caption id="attachment_3387" align="aligncenter" width="474"] Social Myths and Spiritual Reality - Monday Fireside Discussions[/caption]
Monday Spiritual Conversations in ArlingtonI invite you and your loves ones to a series of Spiritual Conversations -- Fireside Discussions -- exploring social myths and spiritual reality. Our discussion will be enriched by the Bahá'í Holy Writings and the writings of other religions. We will meet every Monday evening at my home, starting at 6:30 pm with a healthy meal and refreshments followed by readings and discussion at 7:15 pm. In addition to Holy Words, we shall uplift and refresh our souls with spiritual music, and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets. https://youtu.be/P_g21wl48AY?list=PLF94D4F319A76DB22 We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments and send you the directions! Until then, enjoy the beautiful song "Armed" by Devon Gundry and its powerful video created by Justin Baldoni of Wayfarer Entertainment. Make a great day! Mitko
"If People Were Mirrors", a timely piece by (or of?) Andréana Lefton is so beautiful and meaningful, I had to print it so i can reflect on it more later. Read it and reflect on it too, as an encouragement to be true mirrors to ourselves and others...
What if people were true mirrors? What if a man looked at a woman, and saw himself – or at least those parts of himself he would never imagine trusting or acknowledging in the light of day? What if a white woman looked at a black man, and saw herself – or at least those parts of herself she would never share or seek to encounter on the street? What if a ballet dancer looked at a girl in a wheelchair, and saw herself – or at least those parts of herself that give her the courage to face injury with every practice and performance? What if a beautiful woman looked at another beautiful woman, and saw herself – or at least those parts of herself that she doubts, fears, and fights? What a teacher looked at a child, and saw himself – or at least those parts of himself that ache for love, acceptance, total, uncompromising support? What if a child looked at another child, and saw herself – or at least those parts of herself that are pure and confused and exuberant?
True Mirrors Mended With The Gold of LoveWe can indeed experience the beauty and bitterness of life as One, if we heed this gentle voice inviting us to truly see who we are: true mirrors mended with the gold of love, beautiful beyond... despite... because of our Japanese-pottery-like fractures! [caption id="attachment_3378" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver and has a deeper philosophical significance. The mended flaws become part of the object’s design, and some people believe the pottery to be even more beautiful having gone through the process of being broken and repaired.[/caption] Depending on the day, my vision fluctuates in its ability to zoom in on the divine in others and zoom out of my own insignificance or... zoom in on the grandiosity of self and zoom out of compassionate witnessing of others... It all seems to be a function of my ability to see both the humanity and divinity of others and myself, which in its own turn is a function of my ability to be present each and every moment... So that I do not miss the opportunity to greet you with Pra??m?sana: "I bow to the divine in you"!
I've been in a funk lately (and not the Uptown kind), trying to find a way to transition from the hiatus I had taken from hosting regular devotional gatherings to something new that would engage my energies and direct them towards serving our community. But I felt I did not want to do it alone so I needed the assistance of my friends -- new and old. And this is where you come in! [caption id="attachment_3371" align="aligncenter" width="474"] Starting a Baha'i study circle in Arlington. Bring your own bees![/caption] Let me first introduce the Cast so far:
- An old friend from El Salvador who is currently taking care of her impressively strong daughter after her surgery and could use our healing prayers;
- An old friend from Nigeria via North Carolina who is hoping to start a new job in the DC area to be closer to his equally impressive sons and could use our prayers as well;
- A new friend from somewhere on planet Earth who learned about the Baha'i teachings via the miracle of the internet and ArlingtonBahai.org;
- My housemate from Indiana, because we need a token American;
- Cleopatra and Wolverine from the nearby pet shelter because the internet needs more cats;
- Yours truly from Bulgaria because of these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “O ye close and dear friends of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! In the Orient scatter perfumes, And shed splendours on the West. Carry light unto the Bulgar, And the Slav with life invest.”
- And you, because we need an even more diverse group to solve this world's challenges!
Spiritual Conversation and Prayer Station “From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Ridvan” – 7:30 pm on Friday, April 24, 2015Dear friends, What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing songs, prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the days ahead. We invite you and your loves ones tonight to an Interfaith Spiritual Conversation and Prayer Station in Arlington, VA on the theme "From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Ridvan". We will start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments and continue with a discussion on topics ranging from redemption and transformation taking cues from the natural world and the stories of the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Ridvan. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings.
"The Lord of all mankind hath fashioned this human realm to be a Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise. If, as it must, it findeth the way to harmony and peace, to love and mutual trust, it will become a true abode of bliss, a place of manifold blessings and unending delights. Therein shall be revealed the excellence of humankind, therein shall the rays of the Sun of Truth shine forth on every hand." ~ Abdu'l Baha, Selections of the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha , p. 220We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring songs and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cxPf24oCHE We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please call me at 703-568-7125 if you plan on coming so I send you the directions! In His service, Mitko “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” (From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)
"O SON OF SPIRIT! My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten. My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured." ~ Baha’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words #20Dear friends, Have you had enough of this winter's snow? Have the daily distractions blurred your vision of who you truly are? Then, it is time to remember not only that spring shall come but also what cannot be forgotten! http://youtu.be/O7fXfCZ4sB4 What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing songs, prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the days ahead.
Arlington Prayer Station "What Cannot Be Forgotten" - Saturday, March 7, 6 pmThis Saturday, March 7th, 2015 -- the eve before the International Day of Women -- we invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Musical Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation in Arlington on the theme of “What Cannot Be Forgotten“. To accommodate those who are observing the Baha'i Fast, we'll gather at 6 pm and start at 6:06 pm sharp with a potluck dinner (I will have beans soup ready but feel free to bring a dish), followed by reading of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. My talented friend Ursula will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring songs and we'll conclude with tea and sweets. Arlington Prayer Station "What Cannot Be Forgotten" We'll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments! In His service, Mitko "Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self." (From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)
Discussing "Selma" at Love 'n FaithI am sitting at a table in the cozy Love 'n Faith Community Cafe with a group of strangers, some of them students --current and former ones -- of Howard University, and I can't help but think of the invisible connection between the NC A&T Students' Sitting for Justice at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, and these words spoken by 'Abdu'l-Bahá more than a century ago at Rankin Chapel in Howard University:
"Today I am most happy, for I see here a gathering of the servants of God. I see white and black sitting together. There are no whites and blacks before God. All colors are one, and that is the color of servitude to God. Scent and color are not important. The heart is important. If the heart is pure, white or black or any color makes no difference. God does not look at colors; He looks at the hearts. He whose heart is pure is better. He whose character is better is more pleasing." ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 23 April 1912, Talk at Howard University, Washington, D.C. published in 'The Promulgation of Universal Peace', p. 44-46[caption id="attachment_3351" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Discussing "Selma" with befriended strangers at "Love 'n Faith"[/caption] We are sitting and discussing the wonderful, informative, thought-provoking movie "Selma", which masterfully portrays a not deified but human Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., deliberately considering the heavy responsibilities laying on his shoulders, as well as the difficult choices and their grave consequences he and his collaborators would face if the struggle for justice and dignity was to be fruitful.
Colorblindness is wrong and tolerance is not enoughWe talk about what in the movie surprised us, unsettled us, inspired us. We talk about unity and what it means for us, and what it might mean for others. We talk about diversity and the danger of colorblindness. We talk about appreciating each other's differences beyond the basic social expectations of tolerance. http://youtu.be/qilMsL8Qvo4 We talk and share stories of inspiration as varied as the delicious menu handwritten on the message board of this community café which intends to host monthly discussions on race. We talk and share high aspirations as varied as the quotes of "Love n' Faith" inspiration printed on the cafe's tables. [caption id="attachment_3352" align="aligncenter" width="768"] "Love 'n Faith" Community Cafe has monthly discussions on race[/caption]
"O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory." ~ Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, #68
His truth is marching onAware that talk alone is not enough, we part our ways, now befriended strangers, into a new day confident that his truth is marching on, that when the glory comes it will be ours, and we are the ones to make the dream that would change the world a reality. http://youtu.be/TAYITODNvlM Join the conversation! Let us all make the dream a reality!
"God got a gift for Christmas and it was my Daddy..."These were the words my 7 year old neighbor told his family and there was not a dry eye at the gathering to mourn the departure of his father. This and many other stories of that family's unshakable faith were shared with me when several ladies -- grandmother, sisters, aunts -- stop by to thank me for taking care of their little boy the night when his daddy's soul winged its flight from this mortal world.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” ~ Christianity, Holy Bible, John 14:1-3As the ladies embraced me I started singing the song "Back to the Father" which Van Gilmer taught me: "I'm going back to the father, thank Him for my journey, live in a mansion, Feast on milk and honey, shout troubles over, join the heavenly choir, rest from my labor, give God the glory, I'm going back to the father." http://youtu.be/eNTwZfN3IiA William -- or Bobby, as he was known to his family -- was a kind man who always greeted me from the porch of his house. He was the one from whom I borrowed basic kitchen utensils the day when I moved to my new house in order to have my first lunch with my girls at my new home. Nephew of the founder of the first African-American taxi cab company in Arlington, Bobby was proud of the success of his limousine company and the trust his clients -- white and black alike -- had in his services. He had reliably given ride to many an important person in the area until that fateful Wednesday night -- the one before Christmas Eve... I had just come back from work, ready to start cooking dinner when I heard a knock on the door. I opened it and saw little Jayden worried telling me his daddy needed water. I rushed with him to the house and saw his father unconscious on the driver's seat of his car, apparently getting ready to go pick his wife from the metro. I called 911 immediately. The response was impressively quick and when the the firetruck and EMS arrived to take William to the hospital, hopeful for his recovery I took his son to my home and the first thing we did was we prayed from our hearts -- he with his little words; I chanting a healing prayer from the Bahá'í Writings: "Thy Name is my healing, O my God". The police were very efficient and in no time got in touch with family and friends until his older brother arrived to pick his resourceful younger sibling. "May God protect them all and help the whole family be together for Christmas!" I posted on Facebook, asking for prayers to an overwhelmingly wide support. Alas, God had a different plan. Later that night my neighbor's wife stopped by to thank me for taking care of her son and told me her husband had passed... I kept thinking how we all need to treasure life's precious moments for we know not how many are left yet each one of them is unique...
“O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds." ~ Bahá’í Faith, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, #31That is when I decided that this Sunday's Interfaith Prayer Station will be dedicated to the progress of my neighbor's soul, his family and our neighborhood... Yesterday I went around the neighborhood to invite all and my hope is it will be an opportunity for this very diverse neighborhood to be together and pray together.
Interfaith Prayer Station "Back to the Father"Dear neighbors and friends, Please join us this Sunday, December 28 at 7:30 pm for an interfaith gathering to pray for the progress of the soul of our departed neighbor Bobby / William and his family. [caption id="attachment_3327" align="aligncenter" width="1100"] Interfaith Prayer Station "Back to the Father". Photo courtesy of Baha'i Writings as Art: http://www.bahaiwritingsasart.com/psalm56_13[/caption] We’ll start with light refreshments followed by reading of Holy Writings and Prayers on the theme of life after death and neighborly unity.
“By the passage of time, all of the humankind are in a state of great loss, except for those who come to the correct belief and do the deeds of righteousness; and encourage and exhort one another to Truth and encourage and exhort one another to steadfast patience.” ~ Islam, Holy Quran, Al AsrWe have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings.
"O SON OF THE SUPREME! I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?” ~Bahá’í Faith, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, #32We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets. I look forward to greeting you and praying with you! Mitko
"Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York; And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried." ~ Shakespeare, Richard The Third Act 1, scene 1, 1–4Dear friends, What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, homemade banana bread baked with love and shared with a smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing music and prayers with friends gets us all closer to the Creator.
Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Winter and the Troubles of the World”
"Came and passed the golden autumn in the forest's gloomy shade, And the northern blasts of winter swept along the silent glade, When the chilly night was over, once at morn the prince of fame, For his morning's pure ablutions to the Godavari came." ~ Hindu, Ramayana, Book V "Winter in Panchavati"In honor of the First Day of Winter and in witnessing of all the troubles of the world these days, despite the preparation for a holiday season, the theme of the Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation this Sunday, December 21st, will be "Winter and the Troubles of the World". [caption id="attachment_3318" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Winter". Photo of Rila Mountain as viewed from the train to Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, taken by me.[/caption] We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.
"The divine religions are like the progression of the seasons of the year. When the earth becomes dead and desolate and because of frost and cold no trace of vanished spring remains, the springtime dawns again and clothes everything with a new garment of life. The meadows become fresh and green, the trees are adorned with verdure and fruits appear upon them. Then the winter comes again, and all the traces of spring disappear. This is the continuous cycle of the seasons -- spring, winter, then the return of spring. But though the calendar changes and the years move forward, each springtime that comes is the return of the springtime that has gone; this spring is the renewal of the former spring. Springtime is springtime, no matter when or how often it comes. The divine Prophets are as the coming of spring, each renewing and quickening the teachings of the Prophet Who came before Him." ~ Bahá’í Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 126-127We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if planning to attend so I can plan the refreshments accordingly.