Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ruhi Intensives at NABI

A view of the scenery from NABI, the white haze is from the recent and still out of control fire, now the largest in Arizona history

After some tough decision making and painful but necessary spiritual growth, I am now serving at the Native American Baha’i Institute near Houck, Arizona. I’ve only been here for about two weeks, but I’ll try to fill you in on what I’ve learned thus far….

Since I’ve been here I have helped with children’s classes and junior youth groups, facilitated an intensive Ruhi book 4, made a few home visits, and washed dishes (no less important of a service, and a needed one!) I have learned the most from the facilitating, which, by the way, just ended today! The study circle consisted of nine to ten people, although that number fluctuated from day to day as people had various appointments and commitments. Here are a few gems of learning I mined from this week:

1. It is part of Navajo culture to take things at a slower or more contemplative pace. This makes an intensive challenging because they are meant to get people through one of the books in a short amount of time. Intensive studies of the Ruhi books tend to feel rushed no matter what the setting. The books are, after all, meant to be carried out in study circles which might meet once a week over a period of months. So taking a Ruhi intensive in 5 days might sometimes feel like one has been hit and squashed by a very fast moving truck, and when it’s all over you might not remember what hit you! Some options for making intensives more manageable are to skip some exercises and suggest participants work on them at home, include ample arts and crafts to keep it from being dry, and splitting participants into small groups or partners.

2. I thought it important to remember that as a facilitator, I am also part of the learning process and in no way the “teacher figure”. Especially being a young facilitator with elder participants, I thought it necessary to establish that I was not an “authority” on any of the matters within the book 4, but rather a more experienced member of the group sharing what I had learned from when I took book 4, as well as the experience all tutors gain from taking book 7, which is all about how to facilitate Ruhi books!

3. Don’t be afraid to do the practices. In fact, you must do them for a Ruhi book to achieve its purpose. In this case, participants visited a few families and shared a simple presentation on the life of the Báb and Baha’u’llah. Sure, the presentations weren’t perfect and sometimes felt unnatural or awkward, but the group learned from the experience, even if all we learned was to overcome our fear of visiting someone in our community whom we’ve never met before or don’t talk to often.

There might be a few readers of this blog who are not Baha’i and wondering what I am talking about with all this “home visit” and “Ruhi” business. Am I some weird spiritualist or involved in some kinda obscure cult? Absolutely not! Here’s a very brief overview on some aspects of the Baha’i Faith and its emerging plan of action for bringing the family of man closer to universal peace and understanding.

There are Baha’is all over the world: from the mountains of Colorado to the villages of Zambia, from war-stricken Iraq to ever-peaceful Canada and Australia. Baha’is are followers of Baha’u’llah, whose name means “The Glory of God” in Arabic. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) is the Promised One of all ages, fulfilling prophecies in many of the world’s religions and cultures. In Baha’u’llah’s writings we find instruction on how to build universal peace, how to improve our characters and grow spiritually, among countless other topics. A few Baha’i tenets/principles are:

1. Elimination of all forms or prejudice
2. Equality of men and women
3. The responsibility for every individual to independently search for truth and not see through the eyes of others
4. The harmony of science and religion
5. Universal education

That is not even a taste of the Baha’i Faith, but a very brief and incomplete representation. So if you agree with everything I have said up to this point, maybe you ought to check it out for yourself and delve a little deeper into the search for truth. You can start here: http://info.bahai.org/

Now for all this Ruhi business: Ruhi books are a series of materials developed by the Ruhi Institute which Baha’is around the world are using as a tool for social action with religious principles as its base. The sequence begins with Book 1, which investigates the life of the spirit, the meaning of prayer, and life after death. Book 4 covers the history of the faith, specifically the life of its two manifestations (messengers from God): the Bab and Baha’u’llah. As one progresses through the sequence, skills are acquired for teaching virtue-based children’s classes (book 3) or mentoring junior youth groups (book 5). In book 6 participants learn the meaning of a home visit, which is to visit a community member and engage in deep and meaningful conversation on spiritual matters.

Is the purpose of the sequence to convert people to the Baha’i Faith? Nope. The Ruhi books empower individuals to lift up their community. Baha’is all over the world are learning how to weave close ties of friendship with people from all walks of life and how to knit together the hearts of their community members. This sequence of courses is open to all, Baha’i or not, and all are warmly welcome to join the process of community building, which is part of a greater goal of global unity.

Baha’u’llah says:

“…These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family…Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind…”

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