Category Archives: Baha’i Faith

Amazing Quote from Abdu’l-Baha – Education and Human Accomplishment

“O true companions! All humankind are as children in a school, and the Dawning-Points of Light, the Sources of divine revelation, are the teachers, wondrous and without peer. In the school of realities they educate these sons and daughters, according to teachings from God, and foster them in the bosom of grace, so that they may develop along every line, show forth the excellent gifts and blessings of the Lord, and combine human perfections; that they may advance in all aspects of human endeavour, whether outward or inward, hidden or visible, material or spiritual, until they make of this mortal world a widespread mirror, to reflect that other world which dieth not.  

O ye friends of God! Because, in this most momentous of ages, the Sun of Truth hath risen at the highest point of the spring equinox, and cast its rays on every clime, it shall kindle such tremulous excitement, it shall release such vibrations in the world of being, it shall stimulate such growth and development, it shall stream out with such a glory of light, and clouds of grace shall pour down such plentiful waters, and fields and plains shall teem with such a galaxy of sweet-smelling plants and blooms, that this lowly earth will become the Abhá Kingdom, and this nether world the world above. Then will this fleck of dust be as the vast circle of the skies, this human place the palace-court of God, this spot of clay the dayspring of the endless favours of the Lord of Lords.  

Wherefore, O loved ones of God! Make ye a mighty effort till you yourselves betoken this advancement and all these confirmations, and become focal centres of God’s blessings, daysprings of the light of His unity, promoters of the gifts and graces of civilized life. Be ye in that land vanguards of the perfections of humankind; carry forward the various branches of knowledge, be active and progressive in the field of inventions and the arts. Endeavour to rectify the conduct of men, and seek to excel the whole world in moral character. While the children are yet in their infancy feed them from the breast of heavenly grace, foster them in the cradle of all excellence, rear them in the embrace of bounty. Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

https://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-103.html

My Favourite Quote

Whatsoever occurreth in the world of being is light for His loved ones and fire for the people of sedition and strife. Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby, whereas true loss would be borne by such as are wayward, ignorant and contemptuous. Although the author of the following saying had intended it otherwise, yet We find it pertinent to the operation of God’s immutable Will:

Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager.” The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. To this testifieth every wise one with a discerning eye, and every fair-minded one with a hearing ear.

– Baha’u’llah

There are many reasons this quote is my favourite. Primarily, however, it is a quote of optimism; I am an optimist. I read this quote many years ago… possibly as a child or in my early teens. It has guided my outlook on life ever since.

I love the metaphors “In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry.” These are so vivid to me. I imagine them literally and they remind me of magical stories I read as a kid.

I also love the implicit reminder: to remain a “friend of God”. To me this means always believing in God, always serving God, and by direct extension, always serving humanity. I’m not perfect at it, and I definitely have my selfish, venal moments… but I always am trying to improve and serve more.

I also love this quote also because I have experienced loss. Everything from true poverty in my young adulthood to loss of love and even loss in my business dealings. “Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby.” To me this is about learning and building spiritual capabilities. Loss only is harmful to those who reject spiritual reality.

Unfortunately, our society is built on the idea that we must ignore spiritual reality in making political, economic, health, social, and personal decisions. Secular society has killed death as a step in our development. This “death of death” means that all we can do is argue about surface traits. Secularism means that being white, male, cis, etc. are important… not my spiritual reality. This is a tragedy for our civilization; it also means that ultimately strength, wealth, position and other material-isms are the totality by which we can measure our worth.

I grieve for the gradual de-spiritualization of our society. I am certain it will change in the future; the logical inconsistencies of Secularism will become too hard to ignore, eventually. But what suffering will happen in the meantime? What conflict must we experience before we realize how important it is to bring spiritual reality back into our discourses across society?

Love Thy Enemy

What have I learned from the people who hurt me and why do I still hold love in my heart for them?

  • I have developed a stronger and deeper faith in Baha’u’llah as the Great Teacher for our age.
  • I have gained more empathy and compassion for others (including myself).
  • I’m become more humble (although there’s definitely room for improvement here).
  • I have learned more patience.

Each time I have been hurt, I have learned something about myself and about humanity. I choose to view those experiences as an opportunity to grow. I am more an optimist about the future of humanity than I ever have been before. Our struggles have an ultimate purpose: the development of an ever-advancing global civilization. I am but a very small part of that, as we all are.

I don’t want to say too much about how I have been hurt, but some might wonder if those hurts were really so bad if I can be so positive about them. The answer will always be relative; what hurts me may not hurt you and what hurts you may not hurt me. Nevertheless, some of those hurts are objectively severe by any standards. I struggle every day with traumas from those hurts.

I sometimes wonder why I was able to withstand and then grow from those hurts. I want to credit that resilience mostly to how I was raised by my incredible parents, Valerie Senyk and Garry Berteig. There are probably other factors, but they both demonstrated in words and actions a standard that I have always admired and tried to live up to myself. They introduced me to the Baha’i Faith and the incredible principles and guidance that gave me a growth mindset. They supported me through many of the hardships that I have experienced. Thanks!

As a result, I don’t have enemies. There is no one that I hate. There is no one that I wish vengeance upon. There is no one that I will not try to empathize with. Even those who gave me some of my worst hurts, with the deepest, most permanent damage… I wish them well, and I hope their life is full of love, healing and progress.

alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic Beverages and Behaviour

I grew up as a follower of the Baha’i Faith. Part of that faith is that I believe that consuming alcohol is bad for the world, so I don’t do it. Not only that, when I can, I also encourage others to not drink alcohol if the situation is appropriate.

What if your livelihood depends on alcohol? I have family members who are / have been servers in licensed restaurants. Their ability to earn a decent living depends on the high cost of alcoholic beverages and the tips that go along with consumption thereof. I wish that someday they would not have to depend on that means of earning a living. But I don’t feel any need to berate them for the circumstances and choices that led them to choosing that work.

There are many people who feel that it is just fine for them to personally consume alcohol. They handle it well. Possibly – I honestly don’t know.

Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve never unfriended someone because they consume alcohol (although I did once break up with a girlfriend where excess consumption was a factor in the breakup). But I’ve had people unfriend me because I don’t consume alcohol. Not many people… but enough to know that it happens. Not only that, but I’ve lost business deals because I don’t consume alcohol. Again, not many that I can guarantee were for that reason, but some.

When is it okay for me to talk about my belief in the harmfulness of alcohol? Well, there are certainly some situations where I think it is okay:

  • when I’m asked about my behaviour or beliefs,
  • when I’m speaking with a peer or someone with more power / influence than I,
  • when in my own judgement, sharing my beliefs would not come across as insulting or patronizing,
  • when someone is asking about the expectations for the personal conduct of Baha’is in general, and
  • when my listener has a choice about stopping listening (e.g. here, where you can just click away or close the tab).

So, am I judgemental when I see or hear other people drinking alcohol? I suppose it depends on what it means to be “judgemental”. Here are some situations and my mental responses:

  • Stranger ordering drinks in a restaurant: I don’t notice it.
  • Stranger ordering drinks in bar: I don’t go to bars.
  • Business or personal acquaintance making a joke about alcohol or talking about going for a beer or the great wine they bought on the weekend: I have a tiny twinge of discomfort… like “too bad I can’t do that”. FOMO.
  • Close friends or business partners who are not alcoholics (to my knowledge) talking about or drinking alcohol: I often ponder why it is a part of their lives and if there is some way I might help them eventually give it up.
  • Other Baha’is talking about drinking before they became Baha’is: I’m intensely curious to learn what it is all about.
  • Other Baha’is talking about drinking while they are Baha’is: this is the only situation in which I feel a moment of judgement – but I quickly suppress those thoughts and tell myself that I don’t know their situation… and that I aught not judge.

Alcohol is one of the scourges of the earth, similar to slavery/racism, materialism, promiscuity, inequality between men and women, individualism, and religious fanaticism (I might be missing some others as I write this). I can’t claim to be free from all of these perfectly myself…. but I’m self-aware enough to continue to work on improving.

Many of my Facebook friends have not hesitated to say things like “I would punch a Nazi”, about themselves. The Nazis killed approximately 6 million people in the Holocaust! Alcohol kills that many people every two years. Should I punch people who drink? Or go out and accost the purveyors of alcoholic beverages? Of course not…. But really, why not?

Because punching people doesn’t solve societal problems. Racism (and the Holocaust) are societal problems. Alcohol is a societal problem. Religious fanaticism is a societal problem. I can blame society and judge the ills of society without being judgemental about any individual’s behaviour. Not only that, I can be loving, patient and have a “sin-covering eye” for the individuals I interact with. In fact, I can choose to focus on people’s good qualities and actions. All this while still asserting that alcohol is one of the worst things for the world… on the same level as slavery.

So what does solve these kinds of problems? It starts by individuals recognizing our spiritual oneness with all the members of humanity around the globe.

4385/500000 and 17th Day of the Baha’i Fast

Last week I was on vacation so some discipline slipped. My sleep schedule became very poor: staying up til 4am, lots of long naps. And I missed a whole extra day of exercise besides my official rest day. And, I also accidentally had a sip of water one day when I was supposed to be fasting (I blame it on tiredness diminishing my mental awareness).

But, I still did well overall with my exercise. I did 900 reps in total for the week. Three days were 200 rep days, and the last day was 200 reps in 5 back-to-back sets of 20 sit-ups followed immediately by 5 back-to-back sets of 20 crunches. Admittedly, the last 50 crunches weren’t done with great form. However, I feel confident in setting a goal for 1200 reps this coming week. I’m getting serious enough that I’m starting to consider getting some equipment to help me, like a bench. I haven’t researched it yet, but if you have suggestions, I’d appreciate them! I’ve been putting off a proper start to my cardio work due to a foot injury. Tomorrow I finally see my GP about it, and hopefully I can start healing soon. I hope to start cycling soon since I think that will be okay for the type of injury I have. I’ll ask tomorrow.

Here are my records for the last two weeks:

20190305 232.6 day of rest

20190306 233.2 40SU + 30+20+20+20SU

20190307 50SU + 20+20+20+20SU

20190308 233.0 100SU + 15+15SU

20190309 232.8 30+20SU + 20+20+20+20SU

20190310 230.6 20+20SU + 20+20+20SU + 15+15CR

131/92 89bpm 30.57%

20190311 231.4 50+25+25SU + 25+25CR

20190312 day of rest

20190313 25SU+25CR + 25+25SU+25CR+25SU

20199314 none – failed to exercise

20190315 25SU+25CR+25SU + 25SU+25CR + 25CR+ 25SU+25CR

20190316 25CR+25SU + 25CR+25SU + 25CR+25SU

20190317 25CR+25SU + 25CR+25SU + 25CR+25SU + 25CR+25SU

20190318 20+20+20+20+20SU+20+20+20+20+20CR

I admit that the period of fasting has not been as spiritually rejuvenating as I would like. I think that’s partly due to my own lack of discipline wrt prayer. I’m typically not saying prayers in the mornings. However, I also think it’s because I haven’t been forming or strengthening bonds of friendship. So, I have a plan: I’m going to set aside Saturday nights for visiting. I’ll start by inviting friends and acquaintances out to dinner, and hopefully bringing along a family member or two. Eventually, I hope to have people coming over. I’ve realized that I’m actually pretty lonely. As an introvert it has kinda crept up on me.

In other news, I’ve done some nice ceramic art work. I’m working on another “vase”. It hasn’t been bisque-fired yet. I’ll post photos of it and some other pieces soon.

The featured image for this post is a double rainbow seen a few days ago from my deck.

3485/500000 and 10th Day of the Baha’i Fast

My day of rest was good and I’m taking another ont tomorrow (one a week). This past week I set two new records: 100 reps of sit-ups in a single set (!!!) and 800 reps total for the week. The 100 reps was really hard and I felt awful afterwards. I also did another 150 reps day. However, I’ve added crunches to the traditional sit-ups, and I’m just calling them all “sit-ups”. So now, I will do 100 proper sit-ups per day and start working on increasing my crunches. I’ve also lost a bit of weight, about 7 lbs, mostly due to eating only one meal per day due to…

The Baha’i Fast has been great this year. It’s a little harder than last year, truth be told, probably because of my week off of work. I find it hard to ignore hunger and tiredness when I don’t actually have to do anything during the day. The part I’m having a hard time with is really getting some good prayer time in. There are distractions, but also I’m just having a hard time remembering. I have, however, been trying to spend time with each member of my family during this week. I have to do something with Ocean and Justice still. I went for dinner with Melanie, dinner with Haifa, and a movie with Verity (Captain America – good, but not great, btw).

I’ve tried doing a bit of pottery/ceramic art, but I feel like I haven’t got the hang of it right now. I tried an experiment for making tentacle sculptures, but it didn’t work out so well. And this evening I started a new “vase”, but it’s too early to say if it will work out.

I finished reading “Great North Road” by Peter F Hamilton. Fantastic sci-fi/detective/creature novel. Some really touching moments. Nice long read too, and completely self-contained. No sequel to wait for. No really unique ideas, but extremely well-written and enjoyable. I highly recommend it!

6th Day of the Baha’i Fast

Today I was sick. I woke up with a bad sore throat. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, has provided a number of exemptions to fasting. Specifically, if one is sick, one is exempt. So today, I decided that I would drink water, but I would continue to avoid food between sunrise and sunset.

I broke the fast in the evening with a nice meal out with my daughter Haifa. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant here in London called Addis Ababa. The food was great! It was also plentiful… when I’m fasting, my stomach seems to shrink very quickly and I’m not able to eat meals nearly as large as before. Which is good. Haifa and I had a very short visit, we didn’t linger, but it was still really nice to go out with her.

Melanie and I had a good discussion about addiction and other aspects of mental health. I realized very young that I had a strong tendency to addictive behaviour… I can certainly place that realization back to at least age 12. I also realize that a huge part of avoiding major problems with addiction is my inspiration from the Baha’i Faith: both the community and the writings. I recently went out with some friends for dinner and one of them asked me if I had ever had alcohol… nope. I’ve also never tried smoking, or any other substances… wait for it… except for food. That’s the one addiction I struggle with. Like most people, I’m not completely emotionally healthy so, for example, when I’m travelling for work, and lonely, I eat. A lot. Anyway, Melanie shared the idea from Gabor Mate that we can sometimes consciously replace addictions with more healthy ones. I hope my sit-ups goals can become a more healthy addiction than food and eventually replace it.

In other news, I finished building the second set of book shelves for our mini pottery studio. Just some cheap Ikea Billy shelves to put all our forthcoming pottery on! I’m super happy about my upcoming week off. I’m hoping to make two or three new pieces by the end of the week.

2nd Day of the Baha’i Fast

Much much easier!

No headache, less tired. Had a great visit with an old friend that I don’t see much, Daniel. We went for a walk together. However, I forgot to have my mom over. Bad son!!! Got a glaze run in on the kiln… see photos. And best day yet for total sit-ups: 150. My goal is in looking more and more possible (full weekly update tomorrow). Sat with Verity and Ocean at prayer time at the end of the day and talked about the rules and purpose of the Fast. Oh… and I built an IKEA bookshelf for out new mini pottery studio room!

Here is the loaded kiln before firing:

Here is the main piece after firing:

1st Day of the Baha’i Fast!

First day of the Baha’i Fast was tough… but I got through it. Lots of service to my family including shopping, chauffeuring, and cheffing. Went to the market in the morning, didn’t snack (like I normally do). Went to Costco and the Chinese grocery store in the afternoon. Took my family to pottery in the morning, and took Ocean to sleep over at a friends in the afternoon. Made dinner (with Melanie’s help) in the evening: fruit smoothie, turkey and onions, and yucca fries. I also took a nap and did some pottery stuff at home, and built the LEGO set Melanie got me for Ayyam-i-Ha.

My eating plan is simple: eat between sundown and two hours after sundown, eat healthy and no sugar/sugary foods, drink lots of water throughout the evening and early morning. Sunrise, say some prayers. I’m also continuing my sit-ups goal… not sure if it will be sustainable… but…

Today I set a new personal record for continuous reps of sit-ups: 70. I did it listening to “bury a friend” by Billie Eilish.

Sabbatical Day 26 – Missed Class, Homework

Today was the first day I missed a class.  Honestly, it’s because I was unwise with my sleep schedule.  I bought a couple books yesterday and read one of them cover-to-cover and read about half the other.  Both are fiction.  And I stayed up until after 3am doing so.  I got up in the morning anyway, and when I discovered that Justice had already left for class by bus, and didn’t need a ride from me, I decided to go back to bed.  I didn’t really consciously think about it but I didn’t set another alarm so I slept in until 11am – and missed my class from 10:30 to 11:20.  Honestly, it’s not a hard class, but I really can’t miss them regularly because I need to keep up with the concepts and terminology.  I’m still a bit ahead of the class in reading the textbook so there’s that.

So given how late I woke up, I decided to ask Melanie to go to lunch with me.  We had a very nice date.  We talked a bit about work (almost inevitable), but mostly just enjoyed our food and company at a great little place called “Which is Wich” downtown London.  The “Wahn Mi” is an excellent choice if you find yourself there.  After lunch, I came home and spent a bit of time on the phone with a colleague.  There are some “adjustment pains” that are partly related to me being on sabbatical.  I’m not going to go into any detail here, but suffice it to say that I believe it is part of the maturation of BERTEIG that various large and small crises will be dealt with.  One of the things about BERTEIG is that there is no individual positional authority in the organization.  The “management” structure is that the three Partners, myself, Melanie and Travis, must make significant decisions as a group (usually unanimously) in order for them to be valid.  This includes hiring, firing, major changes to people’s roles or other structural aspects of the business, strategy, business goals, large spending decisions, etc.  It’s an experiment in governance that is based in part on the Baha’i principle of consultation.  The key concepts include that consultation is about searching for truth, that consultation results in united action,, ideas are not owned by individuals, and that conflicting ideas (not conflicting people) leads to truth.

After my colleague’s phone call, I basically just continued to read my new novel for much of the day until dinner time.  After dinner, Verity, Haifa and I went to the Baha’i community gathering in our neighbourhood.  Haifa brought along her dog Katara who is being trained to be a service dog.  She (Katara) did very well in her first social setting.  She was mostly calm, obedient, and quiet.  It wasn’t perfect – she’s a puppy and she had a small pee accident – but everyone at the gathering enjoyed her presence.

After the gathering, Verity started to feel quite anxious about her homework project.  She and I spent about two hours working on it together.  She made some good progress and I think she feels much better about it.  She and three others have to create a public service announcement for the London Arts Council.  Verity is tasked with writing the script for the PSA.  So we talked about slogans and other ideas that she could take back to her group tomorrow.  I love being home to help the kids out.

At 11pm I sent Verity to bed and I got on the elliptical.  I’m trying to get significant (30+ min) of exercise every day.  I miss a day here and there, but with biking to school, walking the dog, swimming or the elliptical, I’m doing a pretty good job of getting the activity in.  Yesterday, I took my racing bicycle in to get it tuned up.  I hope to use it a bit before the fall weather gets too cold.  It’s much easier to ride on than my mountain bike, and I can go waaaay faster!  The only problem is that the handlebars are really low so I’m bent over quite far… and my big stomach gets in the way!!!  It’s very uncomfortable and provides some motivation to lose some weight.  So that’s something that I’m officially working on.  The exercise is part of it.  The next part of it is to restrict the hours when I eat to a 8 hour range (e.g. noon to 8pm) to do a mild form of intermittent fasting.  After a week of that, I plan to start adding more vegetables and fruit to my diet.  Currently, I eat very little greens.  It’s probably not healthy.  I eat a bit more fruit, but still it’s only a few times a week, not every day.  Eventually, I’ll try putting limits on some of the more unhealthy things I eat (sugar mostly).  I don’t expect to make rapid changes, but I want to get from my current weight (about 233lbs) down to under 190lbs, and then keep it there.  I also have an intermediate goal.  I hope to be about 215 by mid-December when we go on our family vacation to Panama.