July 31, 2012

summer time fun for Ayana, Dyami & Domani

Ayana, Dyami & Domani's summer break began in June when we left Ghana to stay at their Nana & Poppy's home in the States.

the boys have especially loved being able to shoot hoops and develop a lot of skills and understanding about basketball.  all of them enjoy playing Phase 10 and Marco Polo with Nana.. 

Dyami & Domani shooting hoops
Domani stood on the bench to make a slam dunk like the professionals :)
it's been exciting taking weekly trips to the library and reading a wide variety of books that we can't find in Ghana.. 

fun past-times have included painting nails and toes, sticking stickers and wearing tattoos.

a treat for them has been being able to watch the Avatar episodes.  watching Avatar inspires the boys to create PowerPoint presentations about them..

on sunny days, many hours have been spent swimming, diving, and wearing goggles..

a special part of being back in the States is gettin to eat all kinds of food that we don't eat in Ghana --  ice cream, bagels, pizza, blueberries, popsicles, donuts and watermelon. 

bagels for breakfast

they love getting to sometimes eat out at places like Friendly's, Baja Fresh & Applebees..

using a gift certificate at Applebees
they have especially appreciated observing deer, butterflies, bunnies and chipmunks.  their favorite moment was rescuing a large frog from the pool and making a little muddy home for it amongst the tall grasses (with the hope that it would return).. 

ayana took lots of photos to capture the memories..

the kids rescued this frog from the pool

it's also been fun for them to harvest vegetables from the garden, and have that relaxing quiet time to draw, write and create cards and other artwork without any time pressure that is always present during school days.

the most joy has been derived from playing with the dogs..

going to sleep in Nana & Poppy's bed with the dogs while they are away

it's been a summer full of rain showers.  they love dancing in the rain.. taking walks in the rain.. and swimming in the rain. 

last but not least, they have enjoyed time spent with cousins -- at a nature center, the playground, the beach and at home..

angry faces with cousin Nina :)
photo with Poppy
one day down the jersey shore

July 17, 2012

Ndikhokhele ~ South African gospel/hip hop video

nothin' better than spiritually-oriented hip hop from south africa!!  to me, this music uplifts the soul to the realms above and beyond this material world.  it makes me get up and move!

music truly serves as a means of uplifting our souls if it is spiritual:
"We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high. Change it not into wings for self and passion."

 (Lights of Guidance, p. 410)
"Ndikhokhele" is a song about praising God.. i hope you love it as much as i do!

July 15, 2012

mindful of our thoughts

i have been thinking a lot recently about the many kinds of thoughts that enter my mind each day..

i bring God to mind throughout the day -- mindful of my wholehearted reliance upon Him, gratitude toward Him and above all, love for Him, the one Creator.  this is the overall spirit in which i live this life as a soul..

as much as these elevated thoughts are consciously wrapped up in and interwoven with love in my heart, there are a lot of other thoughts happening in my mind as well.  i am constantly thinking about friends, past memories and future possibilities, reflections from what i've read, news stories, world issues, life decisions, family, meals to prepare, things to get done, etc.. these thoughts are random and almost effortless, just part of what makes up who i am in terms of importance and responsibilities as an individual.

at a deeper level, though, there are the kinds of thoughts which creep into my mind and trouble the soul, agitate the heart, and detract from the light within me:   hurt, regret, prejudice, negativity, anger, fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc.  they take the form of sentences like 'i wish..' and 'what if..'

these kinds of inner thoughts require conscious attention and effort to purify, discipline or silence.  the more pure my heart is and the more attached i am to God rather than this world, the less present these wayward thoughts are within me.

i strive to empty my mind of these thoughts by replacing them with prayer and meditation.  i am learning to be evermore conscious of what i am thinking so that my mind can be free of the clutter which pollutes my soul and prevents it from being purified of all that is worldly.  i want to protect my soul from thoughts which are harmful to my well-being.

there is much guidance from the Baha'i Writings on how thoughts must be directed in this life.  through effort and attention, we can elevate and focus our thoughts, enabling ourselves to grow in detachment from this material world and grow nearer to God:
O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men.
Center your thoughts in the Well-Beloved, rather than in your own selves.

He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him.

So great is the folly and perversity of the people, that they have turned their face toward their own thoughts and desires, and have turned their back upon the knowledge and will of God -- hallowed and glorified be His name!

...material ideas and worldly thoughts attract man to the center of self. Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jealousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holiness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.
(Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 546)

What could be better before God than thinking of the poor?

The man who thinks only of himself and is thoughtless of others is undoubtedly inferior to the animal because the animal is not possessed of the reasoning faculty.

He who is so hard-hearted as to think only of his own comfort, such an one will not be called man.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 42)

Leave all thought of self,
and strive only to be obedient and submissive to the Will of God.
...the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.

Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.
 Think not of your own limitations, dwell only on the welfare of the Kingdom of Glory.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks)
Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs.
Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race.

Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good.

...ye must also be thinking of everyone, so that mankind may be educated, character moderated and this world may turn into a Garden of Eden.

So long as the thoughts of an individual are scattered he will achieve no results, but if his thinking be concentrated on a single point wonderful will be the fruits thereof.

Think ye of love and good fellowship as the delights of heaven, think ye of hostility and hatred as the torments of hell.

...think none to be your foe.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha)

...now assure thee, O servant of God, that, if thy mind become empty and pure from every mention and thought and thy heart attracted wholly to the Kingdom of God, forget all else besides God and come in communion with the Spirit of God, then the Holy Spirit will assist thee with a power which will enable thee to penetrate all things, and a Dazzling Spark which enlightens all sides, a Brilliant Flame in the zenith of the heavens, will teach thee that which thou dost not know of the facts of the universe...
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v3, p. 706)

...search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace)
...must always be thinking of doing good to someone, of love, consideration, affection and assistance to somebody.
Every soul of the friends of God must concentrate his mind on this, that he may manifest the mercy of God and the bounty of the Forgiving One.

looking through this window of the Baha'i gardens fills my mind with prayerful reflections.  it makes me feel present and still with myself as a soul, conscious of my inner spirit.  no thoughts of myself linger in this moment of stillness.

if our thoughts are like a mirror, then they are reflecting what we focus them on.  if we live this life in love with ourselves, rather than worshiping our Creator, our thoughts will be consumed with greed, jealousy, vanity, and covetousness.  if we are striving each day to see the Beauty of God within us and around us, then our thoughts will be considerate, fair, honest, and full of care.

i wonder what occupies other people's minds and how they are managing the throne of their inner temple..

July 07, 2012

oneness. medicine wheel. hopi prophecy

Turtle Island ~ depiction of America by Native Americans
all the peoples and cultures of the world bring beauty to God's garden of humanity.  i learned many years ago how the Native Americans view this world as a circle.

they divide the peoples of the world into 4 colors, each with their own significant characteristics and contributions to civilization.  this is best depicted in the Medicine Wheel.

the Medicine Wheel depicts our oneness as a humanity and as a creation; it also portrays our interconnectedness and wholeness as a human race.  i use the Medicine Wheel as a basic foundation and symbol for understanding God's Creation.  in this view of humanity, there is no separation, no superiority, no division -- only complementary parts of one whole..for we are all part of one creation.

for me, the medicine wheel represents the Baha'i theme, 'unity in diversity':  one creation with infinite diversity.  the 4 kingdoms of creation -- mineral, plant, animal and human -- are held together by the spiritual force of Love which brought creation into being.

the human kingdom, with the distinguishing feature of that part of us which belongs to the Creator, our soul, fully manifests all of the qualities of spirit by means of those eternal powers from God we call virtues:  loving-kindness, patience, purity, holiness, forgiveness, mercy, humility, generosity, courage, courtesy, justice, etc.

in order for life on earth to be healthy and thrive with infinite progress, we as a human race must utilize these virtues in every possible way with the natural world.  in the spirit of infinite diversity that exists in both the natural and human worlds, everything is honored.  nothing is oppressed, or eliminated, or degraded.  what each of us does affects everything else, just like the human body as a whole experiences health or illness depending on all the parts working together to create the quality of one's life..
"Now concerning nature, it is but the essential properties and the necessary relations inherent in the realities of things. And though these infinite realities are diverse in their character yet they are in the utmost harmony and closely connected together. As one's vision is broadened and the matter observed carefully, it will be made certain that every reality is but an essential requisite of other realities. Thus to connect and harmonize these diverse and infinite realities an all-unifying Power is necessary, that every part of existent being may in perfect order discharge its own function. Consider the body of man, and let the part be an indication of the whole. Consider how these diverse parts and members of the human body are closely connected and harmoniously united one with the other. Every part is the essential requisite of all other parts and has a function by itself. It is the mind that is the all-unifying agency that so uniteth all the component parts one with the other that each dischargeth its specific function in perfect order, and thereby co-operation and reaction are made possible. All parts function under certain laws that are essential to existence. Should that all-unifying agency that directeth all these parts be harmed in any way there is no doubt that the constituent parts and members will cease functioning properly; and though that all-unifying agency in the temple of man be not sensed or seen and the reality thereof be unknown, yet by its effects it manifesteth itself with the greatest power.
"Thus it hath been proven and made evident that these infinite beings in this wondrous universe will discharge their functions properly only when directed and controlled by that Universal Reality, so that order may be established in the world."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, p. 20)

below is a Hopi 'shield symbol' which means,
"Together with all nations we protect both land and life, and hold the world in balance."

the cross-section of the circle touches all 4 corners.  the cross is the symbol of life eternal.  the 4 colors represent the elements:  water, earth, fire and wind.  these colors also represent the 4 colors of humanity, each with their own beauty and qualities necessary for the progress of civilization..

below is a depiction of the Hopi's "Prophecy Rock" which i find interesting as well..


Drawing pf Prophecy Rock
Near Oraibi, Arizona, there is a petroglyph known as Prophecy Rock which symbolizes many Hopi prophecies. Its interpretation is:

The large human figure on the left is the Great Spirit. The bow in his left hand represents his instructions to the Hopi to lay down their weapons. The vertical line to the right of the Great Spirit is a time scale in thousands of years. The point at which the great Spirit touches the line is the time of his return.

The "life path" established by the Great Spirit divides into the lower, narrow path of continuous Life in harmony with nature and the wide upper road of white man's scientific achievements. The bar between the paths, above the cross, is the coming of white men; the Cross is that of Christianity. The circle below the cross represents the continuous Path of Life.

The four small human figures on the upper road represent, on one level, the past three worlds and the present; on another level, the figures indicate that some of the Hopi will travel the white man's path, having been seduced by its glamour.

The two circles on the lower Path of Life are the "great shaking of the earth" (World Wars One and Two).

The swastika in the sun and the Celtic cross represent the two helpers of Pahana, the True White Brother.

The short line that returns to the straight Path of Life is the last chance for people to turn back to nature before the upper road disintegrates and dissipates. The small circle above the Path of Life, after the last chance, is the Great Purification, after which corn will grow in abundance again when the Great Spirit returns. And the Path of Life continues forever...

The Hopi shield in the lower right corner symbolizes the Earth and the Four-Corners area where the Hopi have been reserved. The arms of the cross also represent the four directions in which they migrated according to the instructions of the Great Spirit.

The dots represent the four colors of Hopi corn, and the four racial colors of humanity.