Monthly Reflection: Sultan (Sovereignty) – On Our Environments

This month had some intense spiritual challenges.

My family is often pushed off kilter during the Christmas holiday season as my children, despite all my best efforts, are affected by the rampant materialism that surrounds them leading up to the holidays, and in the sales season that follows quickly on its heels. Outside of our home, they are bombarded with talk of things, things, things. It’s no wonder they are dispirited and out of sorts. I strive to make Ayyam-i-Ha a special time for our family, but I am aware that I do not want to match the consumerism that Christmas now carries with it where I live.

I often think of this passage by Shoghi Effendi where he describes how we are shaped, and how we shape, our environments:

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.

To help soothe frayed nerves and to create an environment conducive to calm, we’ve been listening to the Shaping Your Day affirmations created by the Day by Day team as we drive to school in the mornings, when patience has worn thin and cooperation is waning. Day by Day is an initiative from some of the Baha’i Blog team that offers meditations and affirmations to connect with your spiritual self and there’s something about CC’s voice and the concepts she presents that bathe us in gentleness before we go our separate ways into harsher and more challenging environments.

In thinking about our larger environments, I’ve been pondering on the analysis provided by the Universal House of Justice in the 28 November 2023 message where it reflects on the dual processes of disintegration and integration. Like many, I’m still in the early stages of studying this document, but the questions Matt Giana put together are a helpful starting point in navigating the depths of this message.

Two songs shared on Baha’i Blog this month have reminded me about the environment I wish to create, and ultimately who we are in the context of our environments. The Leith Neighbourhood Group sang the following sacred words:

O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love.

Similarly, the song “Whatever We Are (Still Are We Thine)” that was composed a few years ago for the centenary of the Passing of Abdu’l-Baha hasn’t lost any of its savour or significance. In its chorus we hear Luke Slott sing these words of Abdu’l-Baha:

Whatever we are, still are we Thine, and what we speak and hear is praise of Thee, and it is Thy face we seek, Thy path we follow.

Last but not least, my thoughts about our environments have been steeped, marinated and influenced by this incredible presentation given at the 2023 Parliament of World Religions: it’s brimming with insights and personal anecdotes on humanity’s coming of age and the environments we are all striving to create.

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Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she’s driving at night.

Sonjel Vreeland

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