A deep breath before the Valley of Knowledge

Dear friends,

After the engaged discussion an energetic group of friends from Bolivia,  Bulgaria, Chile, Canada, Turkmenistan, and the U.S.A. held during Maya Wong’s reflections on Arts Education and its Ability to Empower and Uplift the Human Spirit, we will take a short non-commercial break and resume our prayerful fireside gatherings on August 31st, 2015 when we will come together to immerse ourselves into the Valley of Knowledge:

“In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.”
~ Bahá’u’lláhThe Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys

"In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea." ~ Bahá’u’lláh
“In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.” ~ Bahá’u’lláh

Fireside Discussion on “The Valley of Knowledge”

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 31, 2015 to an Interfaith Fireside Discussion in Arlington, VA on the theme “The Valley of Knowledge”.

We will start at 6:30 pm with light refreshments and continue with a fireside discussion on “The Valley of Knowledge”, as described in Bahá’u’lláh’ book “The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys”a mystical account of the odyssey of the human soul.

Along with the discussion, we will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring songs and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

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 a musical rendition of  “The Valley of Knowledge” by Mona Nourozi, a musician from New Zealand.

Make a great day!

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

After Chill in The Fire, Reflections on the Art of Education

Chill In The Fire

Since due to a scheduling conflict, Maya’s presentation on Art Education and its ability to uplift the human condition had to be postponed from last Monday to August 17, 2015, we continued the exploration of “The Seven Valleys” by Bahá’u’lláh. The theme this time was “The Second Valley — The Valley of Love”.

“A lover is he who is chill in hell fire;
A knower is he who is dry in the sea.”
~ Bahá’u’lláhThe Seven Valleys, “The Valley of Love”

Delving further into the mystical language of Baha’u’llah and reflecting on the rich imagery of traditional Persian poetry, we could not have asked for a better soundtrack to our discussino than my friend Shameem‘s gorgeous song “Chill In The Fire” from her 2nd CD “The Second City”.

Shameem "The Second City"
Shameem “The Second City”

As Shameem’s blog explains:

“The inspiration for this song comes from a beautiful book written in Farsi (the Persian/ Iranian language) by Baha’u’llah, entitled The Seven Valleys. The book is a long, mystical poem about the quest of the human soul to attain closeness to God, the object of its desire. It describes an analogy of the soul having to traverse seven stages (called seven valleys or seven cities) in this journey towards “the traceless Friend”. The second of these valleys or cities is “The Valley of Love“. In this stage, the soul, having already traversed “The Valley of Search”, is in a state of simultaneous ecstasy and madness. There are many wonderful contradictions of experiences in this valley.”

The Art of Education

And we, the grateful audience, traverse between contradictions too, switching gears and shifting topics yet again in our weekly devotional fireside discussions.

Without further ado, we invite you once again on Monday, August 17, 2015 to an Interfaith Fireside Discussion in Arlington, VA on the theme “Reflections on Arts Education and its Ability to Empower and Uplift the Human Spirit”.

Fireside Discussion on “The Valley of Search”

“The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved. ”
~ Bahá’u’lláhThe Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys

Dear 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”.

The First Valley: The Valley of Search - Fireside discussion on The Seven Valleys by Bahá'u'lláh lead by Natalia Salazar.
The First Valley: The Valley of Search – Fireside discussion on The Seven Valleys by Bahá’u’lláh lead by Natalia Salazar.

 

Fireside Discussion on “The Valley of Search”

We will start at 6:30 pm with light refreshments and continue with a fireside discussion lead by Natalia L. Salazar, Ph.D., who is a young adult educator at a public high school n Arlington, VA. Natalia will share with us her reflections on “The Valley of Search”, as described in Bahá’u’lláh’ book “The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys”a mystical account of the odyssey of the human soul.

Along with the discussion, we will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring songs and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

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 performance of  “The Seven Valleys – Valley of Search” by the Dutch group De Film Crew / StraightAheadTV.

Make a great day!

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Flipping The Social Myth of Career Advancement and The Disappointment of Its Absence

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).

Menu for the fireside: lentil soup, pasta, banitsa, gyuvech
Menu for the fireside: lentil soup, pasta, banitsa, gyuvech

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…

Gathering of friends to discuss social myths and spiritual reality
Gathering of friends to discuss social myths and spiritual reality

Sorrow Not

As 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’lláh

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!

 

Social Myths and Spiritual Reality – Monday Fireside Discussions in Arlington

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

Social Myths and Spiritual Reality - Monday Fireside Discussions
Social Myths and Spiritual Reality – Monday Fireside Discussions

Monday Spiritual Conversations in Arlington

I 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.

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

True Mirrors Mended With The Gold Of Love

“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 Love

We 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!

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.
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.

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”!

Starting a Baha’i study circle in Arlington

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!

Starting a Baha'i study circle in Arlington. Bring your own bees!
Starting a Baha’i study circle in Arlington. Bring your own bees!

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!

What is the idea? To start a study circle offering an opportunity for “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit” in the company of friends old and new alike by focusing on these three themes: “Understanding the Bahá’í Writings”, “Prayer”, and “Life and Death”. We will meet on a weekly basis, learn together and help each other in building our capacities to transform society by applying the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

Here is some background information about Baha’i study circles:
http://bahaiteachings.org/circle-the-world-with-study-circles
http://www.bahai.org/action/
http://www.bahai.org/beliefs/life-spirit/

Where: Because the Verizon Center raised its fees, we will have to meet in my house. Please contact me for the address and directions.

When: We will have our first meeting next Monday, May 18, 2015 at 7 pm at my house — I will have simple dinner ready so we can start the discussion at 7:30 pm. Let me know if you can make it so I can plan the meal accordingly.

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, www.bahai.org)

From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Ridvan

Spiritual  Conversation and Prayer Station “From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Ridvan” – 7:30 pm on Friday, April 24, 2015

Dear 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.

Purification

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 BahaSelections of the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha , p. 220

We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring songs and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

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)

 

Musical Prayer Station “What Cannot Be Forgotten”

“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 #20

Dear 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!

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 pm

This 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"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)

From “Selma” to Love ‘n Faith

Discussing “Selma” at Love ‘n Faith

I 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

Discussing "Selma" with befriended strangers at "Love 'n Faith"
Discussing “Selma” with befriended strangers at “Love ‘n Faith”

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 enough

We 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.

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.

"Love 'n Faith" Community Cafe has monthly discussions on race
“Love ‘n Faith” Community Cafe has monthly discussions on race

“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 on

Aware 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.

Join the conversation! Let us all make the dream a reality!