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A New Way of Looking at Service

Every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Bahá’u’lláh:  the love and respect one has for one’s parents, the pursuit of one’s education, the nurturing of good health, the acquiring of a trade or profession, one’s behaviour towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard, one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community . . . and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (Universal House of Justice, to the European Baha’i youth Council, 7 December 1992)

Where has this quote been all my Baha’i life?  I realized when reading it, how narrow was my understanding of service.  I used to think that service was just participating in the core activities and raising up the community building process within our clusters.  I can see how I would get that impression because study of the Ruhi curriculum teaches us that this is what means to walk a path of service, and when the Statistics Officer contacts me to see what I’ve been doing, these are the only things they want to track.  Living in an inactive cluster and being an introvert, happier teaching and serving in an online environment, I have beaten myself up mercilessly for not being a good Baha’i, because I’m not currently serving in my cluster the way I think I “should”.  So I was very grateful to find this quote today!

I relate better to bullet points, which I can use as a checklist, so let’s take these one at a time:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behaviour towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community
  11. reading the Writings
  12. saying the Obligatory Prayer

Were any of these a surprise to you?  I was certainly surprised that they are all aspects of service.  I was happy to see that nurturing good health is also part of service, because of course, we can’t serve when we aren’t healthy.  I love belonging to such a compassionate religion and am grateful for the House of Justice elaborating on this issue!

Knowing that service is much broader than just “walking a path”, I can relax and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy



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A New (to me) Definition of Service

At the same time we must be sensitive to the fact that Bahá’í artists may sometimes feel outside the mainstream of community life because they are unsure as to what form their service might take. They may feel their contributions are not valued if service to the Faith tends to be equated only with serving on committees or Assemblies.   (letter from the International Teaching Centre addressed to the Continental Counsellors, date unknown)

Most of my service to the Faith is done online, through this blog and my books, and through interactions with my readers and not at the level of my (inactive, pre-milestone one cluster).  It’s easy for me to beat myself up for not serving in the “right” way, especially when the statistics officer calls and wants to know which core activities are happening.  This quote really brought comfort to my heart, hearing this from an Institution of the Faith, even if it’s not “authoritative”, I can’t find the date and I can’t find it online.

Then I came across this “new” definition of service, which I’d never seen before, and which takes all the pressure off my concerns about not serving at the cluster level.  Here’s the quote:

…every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Baha’u’llah: the love and respect one has for one’s parents; the pursuit of one’s education; the nurturing of good health; the acquiring of a trade or profession; one’s behavior towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard; one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community, whether this be in such simple matters as attending the Nineteen Day Feast or the observance of Baha’i Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith; and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (The Universal House of Justice, December 7, 1992, European Baha’i Youth Council)

Here are the 12 elements of service embedded in this quote:

Service to Bahá’u’lláh includes:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behavior towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community (attending the Nineteen Day Feasts or Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith)
  11. to take time each day to read the Writings
  12. to take time each day to say the Obligatory Prayer

Knowing I can relax and stop feeling guilty for not more actively participating in the community building process, particularly at the cluster level, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety


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Understanding Being vs Doing

A few years ago we started to see the House of Justice refer to “being and doing”, both words I thought I understood.  Indeed the dictionary defines them as:

Being:  to exist or live

Doing:  to perform (an act, duty, role, etc.); to accomplish; finish; complete; to put forth; exert

It seems to me that one is passive and the other is active.


In a materialistic culture obsessed with “doing”, it is believed that as we “do” the correct things, success will follow.  In fact who we are while “doing” is more important than “being”.

I wondered:  Is there a dangerous side of goal-setting, to-do lists, and being efficient?  How much time do we need to spend in “doing” at the expense of just “being”?

As a recovering workaholic and perfectionist, the concepts of being and doing are synonymous in my mind!  Working is my form of play!

It’s been pointed out by many people over the years that I need to slow down and take time for rest and recreation.  They tell me that work and play are different and it’s hard for me to get my head around this concept. In fact Shoghi Effendi tells us:

You should . . . force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 53)

As always, whenever I’m puzzled about something, I take my question to the Baha’i  Writings.

In contrast to the dictionary definition, “being and doing” seem to have different meanings in the Faith.

Here’s how the House of Justice describes the two:

The importance of “doing”, of arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls, must be harmonized with the notion of “being”, of increasing one’s understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in one’s life.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

So here we see:

Being is increasing our understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in our lives

Doing is arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls

Unlike the dictionary definition, both of these definitions seem to be active.

The House of Justice tells us that “being” has to do with the acquisition of knowledge (studying the Writings) and “doing” is applying what we’ve learned.

They warn us against false dichotomies:

Every effort is being exerted to ensure that the process reflects the complementarity of “being” and “doing” the institute courses make explicit; the centrality they accord to knowledge and its application; the emphasis they place on avoiding false dichotomies . . .  (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

Closely related to the habit of reducing an entire theme into one or two appealing phrases is the tendency to perceive dichotomies, where, in fact, there are none. It is essential that ideas forming part of a cohesive whole not be held in opposition to one another. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi warned:

We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two.   (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

So they want us to find the link between the two.

Ruhi Book 5 was the first place I found that really addressed this issue head on, and I had a total meltdown going through that section!

In the section “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth, pages 18-20 of the Pre-Publication Edition — Version VI.B” It says:

If we are not careful and adopt such a fragmented approach to our lives, we can create all kinds of dichotomies that are largely imaginary. Work, leisure, family life, spiritual life, physical health, intellectual pursuits, individual development, collective progress, and so on become pieces that together make up our existence. When we accept such divisions as real, we feel pulled in many directions, trying to respond to what we consider to be the demands of these different facets of life.

In my training as a life coach, I learned that it’s important to have a balance between the materialistic view of “being and doing” in life.  In fact, I often help people set goals in each of these areas, to help people live a life in moderation.  And now you’re telling me these divisions aren’t real?  That got my attention.  Of course, it’s the opinion of Ruhi and not from the Sacred Writings of our Faith, so that brought me some comfort.

The quote in book 5 continues:

We are bewildered by apparently conflicting aims: Should I sacrifice my family life to serve the Cause? Will not serving the Faith interfere with my efforts to raise my children? These are two examples of the myriad of questions that can arise.

These questions certainly arose in my life and I’ve spent many decades trying to resolve them.  As a single mother with clinical depression, serving as an assistant to the auxiliary board member in 2 clusters, I frequently sacrificed my family life to serve the Cause.  I would get up in the morning, get my son fed and made sure we said prayers together.  Once he was on the school bus, I would go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until it was time to meet the school bus again.  Many nights I would take him to Baha’i meetings.  He could see I wasn’t well, and at times he just wanted to hang out with me, but the Faith always came first.  I would make a herculean effort to rouse myself from my depression to make sure his needs were met and put a smile on my face as I went to the Baha’i meetings.  I frequently wonder if this is why he didn’t become a Baha’i.

Maybe there are ways to serve the Faith while raising children as a single parent, but I do wonder, especially in light of the fact that the World Centre will not accept single parents, and when there is a couple with children, only one parent will serve.

If I had my life to do over again, I would spend more time with my child, and focus the bulk of my service after he’d left home.   That would be how I would balance being (time with my son) and doing (time for service, later on).  Service to my son would also be “doing” as I was fulfilling the most important work there is – raising the new generation.

The quote in book 5 continues:

To resolve the dichotomies we have created, we sometimes try to divide our time equally among the various demands placed on us. On other occasions, we attempt to prioritize responsibilities and focus our energies on those we believe to be the most important at any particular moment. A careful allotment of time and energy is of course necessary. But it is only fruitful when we remain conscious of the interconnectedness of the many aspects of our lives. If we fail to see the whole, the tension created among all the parts can give rise to anxiety and even confusion.

I certainly feel anxiety and confusion whenever I struggle to understand this concept.  Shoghi Effendi, the best example of a goal-setter and planner on a grand scale, has told us we need to:

. . . leave the important for the most important.  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 109-110)

So he focused his energy on what he believed to be the most important at any particular moment.

What follows is a series of questions to consider in our example from Ruhi Book 5.  Here are the instructions we were given:

Below are various aspects of life placed in pairs that should reinforce each other, but which are sometimes thought to be in conflict. For each one of the sentences that follow the pair, decide whether it represents the kind of thinking that is conducive to an integrated way of life or whether it is indicative of a tendency towards fragmentation.

Family and Work

  • My family life will suffer if I work hard at my job.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking but I believe it to be true.  How can we possibly fulfil the roles set out for parents while working hard at a job?  You just have to look at the rate of divorce in the Baha’i community to see that family life is suffering; and educating our children is so important that ‘Abdu’l-Baha warns us:

Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 126)

For more on the role of parents, you might find these articles helpful:

The Role of Parents in Training us to be Obedient

The Responsibilities of Parenthood:

The Role of Fathers in a Bahá’í Family:

  • I often discuss with my family my accomplishments at work and the challenges I face there.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • Of course women can excel in their careers, but the children always pay the price.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking, but again, I believe it to be true, based on the information in this article:

Should Bahá’í Mothers Stay at Home?

  • If I want to raise my children well, I will have to forget about my profession.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking.  I think we can do both well, at different times in our lives.  If children are being encouraged to marry young (sometimes as early as 15) and understand that the purpose of marriage is to have children, it’s easy to see that the parenting role could be fulfilled with plenty of time to build a career later.

  • I can advance in my profession and fully attend to my family responsibilities.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking and I believe it’s not possible.

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us we can combine service with marriage:

As to the terminology I used in my letter, bidding thee to consecrate thyself to service in the Cause of God, the meaning of it is this: limit thy thoughts to teaching the Faith. Act by day and night according to the teachings and counsels and admonitions of Bahá’u’lláh. This doth not preclude marriage. Thou canst take unto thyself a husband and at the same time serve the Cause of God; the one doth not preclude the other. Know thou the value of these days; let not this chance escape thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 100)

I think this means rethinking how we can make our family life a priority by thinking of it as the most important service we can render to humankind.

Education and Service to the Cause

  • I have to choose between pioneering and education, since it is not possible to do both.

Of course it’s possible to gain an education in a pioneer post, so this can easily be integrated.

  • Academic achievement is a prerequisite for entering the field of service.

Absolutely not!  Junior youth are being encouraged to enter the field of service long before they’ve completed their academic education.

  • The knowledge I gain through my studies is an asset in the field of service, and the experience I gain in the arena of service enhances my abilities.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • I have to abandon my studies if I really want to devote myself to the Cause.

Not true!  You can easily find ways to be of service while continuing your studies.  For example, studying with others; sharing meals; trading chores; being a friend; living the life; teaching the Cause, etc.  Service to humanity comes in many forms, not just participation in the core activities.  It’s all part of community building.

Here’s a quote to consider, to make this more integrated:

All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God. Bahá’u’lláh has thereby encouraged action and stimulated service. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

  • One of my greatest aspirations is to learn to apply the teachings of the Faith in endeavors that promote the betterment of the world.

Of course, this is an integrated approach.

  • The period of service that I dedicate to promoting the Faith or participating in a Bahá’í-inspired social and economic development project will assist me in choosing a suitable field of study.

Of course!  Here is a quote to balance these ideas:

It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas”, one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

Intellectual Development and Development of Spiritual Qualities

  • The independent investigation of truth requires the cultivation of the intellect, as well as the acquisition of spiritual qualities.
  • In teaching the Faith to others, we should just show them love; what we say is not important.
  • Intellectual development requires justice, honesty, and lack of prejudice.
  • To develop spirituality, one has to let go of one’s intellect.
  • Our minds and hearts are not separate from each other; they represent complementary and mutually interactive aspects of one reality—our soul.
  • Spiritual qualities are developed through conscious knowledge and the exercise of good deeds.

These all make sense to me and it’s easy to distinguish integrated from fragmented.

Material Life and Spiritual Life

  • I must deny myself material pleasure in order to develop spiritually.
  • Spiritual matters should be put aside until we are old; during our youth we should take advantage of every opportunity to advance materially.
  • The material needs of people have to be satisfied before they are ready to pay attention to spiritual matters.
  • The purpose of my life on this material plane is to develop my spiritual qualities and powers.
  • We should enjoy all the bounties that the world has to offer but should not allow earthly desires to take hold of our hearts and prevent us drawing nearer and nearer to God.

Here is something to consider:

In Paris Talks (p. 98), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that some people’s lives are occupied only with the things of this world, and their minds are so constrained by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence or to the spiritual significance of all things.  He gives us examples I’m sure we can all relate to:

  • they think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress
  • sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon
  • their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances
  • they don’t curb their lower propensities
  • they eat, drink, and sleep! like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being

Although we need to take care of the necessities of life (eat, drink, sleep), the cares of the lower things of life should not monopolize all our thoughts and aspirations. Our heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, our mental activity should rise to higher levels and we should hold in our souls the vision of celestial perfection so we can prepare a dwelling-place for us in the next world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 98)


This issue of being and doing as presented in Ruhi Book 5 certainly arises anxiety and confusion in my life, particularly in the area of family life, and now as I face my life as a workaholic in burnout, I’m even more confused!

I took book 5 with a group of youth who weren’t parents, so they couldn’t help me with my dilemma, and since then, I’ve tutored to groups who couldn’t help me resolve these questions, so I’m sincerely interested to hearing what you, my readers have to contribute on these issues.  Please, post your comments below.


Tell the Rich of the Midnight Sighing of the Poor



One of my readers posted the following story as a comment on my blog posting about Disaster Planning  but it was so poignant I wanted it to stand on its own.  This is printed with her permission, and she has asked to be anonymous.

There is another type of disaster that is in a different category than those caused by natural disasters. That is financial ruination and difficult for people with serious health handicaps.

I can speak from personal experience. Our story is similar to the stories of most working middle class Americans whose lives have drastically change due to medical catastrophe or a serious illness in oneself or the family.

We are Baha’is, and find that the Baha’is who are understandably not equipped to handle serious social/financial problems among the friends, but who also lack the knowledge to be resourceful in finding unconventional ways to be of assistance.  So, I share my story with you, just to give one person’s narrative and efforts for solution.

My husband and I do work and research from the home which means we have a huge library. We also inherited lovely furniture and china.  Work involves his professional consulting, my returning student’s school work and stuff, our Baha’i Books, spiritual literature, inspiring and help yourself types of books, books about illness, mental health and addiction (all related to my schoolwork).

We have made some mistakes along the way concerning our economic plight.  When my husband underwent a major life changing surgery (the type that is physical to the point where everything changes: ambulation and how to do activities of daily life, etc.).   I have major disabilities myself, physical and neurobiological which precludes us from working at most jobs.

Our Social Security income is not enough to live on and spouse’s business has taken a drastic downturn.  Especially with his illness, like many Americans, our advice is, “Don’t get sick in America; you will lose your shirt.”  Good bye house, good bye savings, good bye capabilities that non-handicapped people take for granted, good bye financial stability.  Hello, depression, some bad decisions along the way, not wanting to downsize and give up comfortable lifestyle, debt.  Bills dog us all the time.

We have drastically “downsized” our lifestyle, especially compared to most people, although still have some luxuries.  We refuse to give up our dirt cheap wonderful health insurance, with no co-pays, not given our complex problems.  Even if we applied for government poor peoples’ medical coverage which we may not even qualify for we would receive crappy care and have to pay co-pays for everything with fewer services and medications.

I have told my husband on more than one occasion that we are no longer economically sustainable.  Sometimes he gets it and sometimes he doesn’t. He has profound grief and many losses due to his illness, which I believe are more devastating than mine.  He is used to being boss of the house, stubborn, and understandably in a lot of fear.  The resources of the Faith and 12-step programs don’t seem to be “in his vocabulary.”  I have those resources but still slip into fear and worry.  I also have a lousy short term memory.

I have been resourceful in getting as many free services as I can outside normal social services channels and being a part-time older student for dirt cheap opens a lot of possibilities for assistance and, believe it or not paying work!  Work I can actually do, despite my many disabilities and not having worked at a paying job for several years.  However, my work can be sporadic but it has helped a lot.  It actually earns us money for me to be a student.

When we moved to our new town,  our LSA saw our predicament.  They helped us move things to a storage unit, and then to a new house when our landlord wanted to move back into the home we were renting.

Here is our part:  we never adequately went through our possessions and there were a lot of things we should have thrown away and didn’t.  Truthfully, we were too ill and depressed to do it, and I think I did not make certain decisions wisely.  I opted for finding ways to be happy and find a new purpose in life, but that led to certain critical  practical considerations being overlooked.

Now we are faced with another move, are both disabled, and are a few hundred dollars per month above the “poverty line” so we don’t qualify for most social services. My husband has dragged his feet, and obtained help from a professional disability counselor.  On his suggestion, he put my husband in charge of house hunting since I was doing everything else and needed help. So we are now faced with moving again and, like before, at the last minute.

After my cancer last year, I spent hours looking for help with things like housecleaning.  Several friends have been generous and have helped financially and with their free labor.  Our friends, for some strange reason, have not given up on us and are still there (is God watching out after us?)  For months we have had trouble paying our rent and often paying it late.  We have had trouble financing mowing the lawn which our lease said we were supposed to do.  We get the lawn moved by neighbors and a friend who loans us his lawnmower, a God send (He seems to be watching out after us); but that is not enough lawn care to please the landlord.  He refused to renew the lease.

At one point I requested assistance from the National Assembly and they gave us a one-time grant to pay rent for a month.  They had also talked to our Assembly about us and don’t know what was said in that conversation.  In their letter with the grant, they advised me to focus on getting out of the financial mess and set school aside.  Apparently, they did not know that school was a mental necessity for me that actually made us money and gives me a future, for the first time of better things to come.  I consulted 5 of my medical professional care givers, and they all agreed that it was important for me to stay in school and that it would be bad if I quit.  I have stopped most of my volunteer activities except for hosting a Ruhi class at one point and doing Baha’i teaching on my campus, with no college club!  The teaching actually makes me happy and energizes me and I think it would be bad to give that up.

One member of the Assembly scolded me for not following advice of NSA.  Eventually I got up the courage to write NSA with copy of letter to LSA, explaining my position.

In fairness to the LSA, I can see why they might not know how to help us.  Most of them are either disabled themselves or to tapped out with family, work, and service commitments to do much of anything.

I don’t drive, so two members always make sure I get to Feast.  That is a good thing.

One member accepted government poor peoples’ insurance and did lots of things to uplift herself from poverty and after several years got a part-time and then full-time job.  Unfortunately, her way is not workable for us, and especially not for my husband.  She has gotten good care with poor peoples’ insurance, with a very complex and difficult medical history.  She has downsized and from what I can tell has more common sense and planning skills than we do.

I even went to the LSA on two occasions, asking for help.  One idea was to sell things on the internet (I just don’t have the time or energy to do that; I would give away most of things first!  A professional organizer was recommended to us, who would have helped us and when I talked to her seemed caring and good at her job, however, we couldn’t afford the down payment to get started.  Our Disability counselor is now helping us with that stuff, and the services they can provide only go so far.

One Social Service agency that is highly recommended is purported to help people with housekeeping and other services.  I have called or seen them on more than one occasion.  They offered nothing too people who weren’t below the poverty line.  We are in the same class as the “working poor,” who don’t get as many services as the poor people get.

I make no bones about the fact that I go to some food banks and am grateful to them.  Most have great people, especially the one at the University.  I see nothing wrong in talking about this as a very normal thing for people to do, as there is a lot of shame and stigma about this sort of thing.

My offers to help be of service in some way are generally turned down; I should be sensible and pay my debts first.  However, per twelve step guidelines, a sensible amount of service activities is good for ones survival and especially one’s soul.  One LSA member, and probably his wife, support my idea to start a College Club.  The first activity is very simple; a monthly prayer meeting and making friends.  I am happy with a meeting over the phone while I pray on campus.  After months, I finally found another Baha’i on campus who is too busy to attend most things.

What can the LSA or even the NSA do for someone like me? 

For one thing, they or community members could keep me company while I work.

They are praying for me, and one community member offered to help.

They could help me make phone calls.  They wouldn’t have to do all my calls, just take some of the load off my back.

They can let everyone know that the Regional Council might have some resources (I didn’t know that until I read your post).  I will be contacting them.

I am doing everything I can to help my profoundly depressed husband who is actually going to a Psychiatrist and staying on his medication.  LSA members have tried to reach out to my husband, but he has not reciprocated.  They have not given up on him.  That is a wonderful thing.  These good people need help too!

Another great thing they did: they moved a person who had cancer and no close family to a new apartment.  They found an apartment for him too.  They drove him to doctor’s appointments and found good medical help for him.  These are all things he could not have done on his own.  They invite them to see rented movies at their house.  They found a beautiful apartment for him and he has even hosted a feast.  So obviously these good people are doing something right.

There has to be a way, we can be helped by the same LSA but I don’t know what it is. Is it because my husband and I don’t appear to be making good decisions or have a different and incomprehensible sense of needs?  Do we appear to be not letting go of our old life style or still making decisions that they don’t consider to be good ones?

If there is even an answer to dilemmas like ours, I say “bring it on.”

Perhaps the Regional Council could have a Ruhi class on how to help poor people with physical and mental limitations!  Especially on helping poor people who are making what they consider to be bad choices.  Also, do they know the whole story?

How to Start Selflessly Serving Others

By Badi Shams

In our community we had a soul-searching discussion about the role that service to humanity can play in teaching the Faith. That heart-felt consultation and realization that some friends wanted to do something but did not know where to start, encouraged me to write these few lines and make a list of possibilities of service open to us.

As Baha’is, we are often struggling to balance our time among our own efforts at spiritual growth, our family life, our work, our commitments in the Baha’i community, and our core activities and teaching. And no thanks to technological advancement with so many gadgets that enable us to multi-task more and more, we have been transformed from human beings to human doings. Added to that is also the rampant spread of materialism that is consuming our spiritual growth and draining our energy. How can we have time for one more thing- one more social action, one more commitment? Though providing a service may sound like one more thing to fit into our already busy lives, in reality it does not necessarily need to become a big project. Any look, gesture, word or action that helps others is an act of service.

The concept of service is nothing new to people of all religions and as Baha’is we have the wealth of Writings on this subject and we have read how Abdu’l-Baha exemplified service throughout His life.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

And do not forget to do good to one another.  (Quran 2:238)

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250)

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Service to humanity is service to God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8)

How else can our world become united if, as citizens, we don’t try to help each other? How else can the sufferings of the world be reduced? The ordinary people of the world like you and me will ultimately make a difference, and make this earth a better and more peaceful place—if we take one more extra step to help our fellow human beings.

The Baha’i Teachings encourage all people to extend themselves into the arena of service to others:

A Baha’i who serves others is like unto a candle which burns and sheds light upon all those who circle around it. The highest attainable station of the candle is to burn and brighten the dark room, and the loftiest pinnacle of our progress and perfection is to be confirmed in service… (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 61)

Serving others has the added benefit of healing and can give peace and contentment to our souls. It helps us to deal with our problems and tests which can destroy or undermine our happiness.

Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you — and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.  ([The Research] Department has found that these words were attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated)

So perhaps it is a good idea to revisit this concept and with the help of the list below look at the possibilities of service open to us. Maybe we can get involved with some kind of service that fulfils our commitment and connects us to the larger community. This may also create more opportunities for enhancing the conversation and introducing Baha’u’llah’s message in the best light possible, through our actions. The list below may help you to find a service matching your talent or your passion:

  1. Doing one’s job the best way possible is not only a great service but an act of worship
  1. A kind gesture, a kind word, a kind act
  1. Random acts of kindness e.g. paying for someone’s coffee, paying for someone in front of you in line, giving your place in line for someone in a rush, presenting a stranger with a bouquet of flowers, mowing the neighbour’s lawn. Your imagination is the limit.
  1. Paying for the education of children who are poor
  1. Paying or contributing towards hospital bills
  1. Visiting in senior facilities
  1. Visiting in hospitals
  1. Volunteering to serve residents in group homes
  1. Driving people to appointments
  1. Shopping for your neighbours in need
  1. Cleaning homes
  1. Volunteering in women’s centres
  1. Volunteering for the Red Cross/ Red Crescent
  1. Volunteering in treatment facilities and organizations
  1. Cleaning roads and highways or cleaning garbage in your neighbourhood or on trails
  1. Teaching: Dance / Music / Painting / any other forms of the arts
  1. Coaching sports
  1. Picking fruits
  1. Calling or visiting those in need
  1. Offering companionship to lonely people
  1. Connecting with Baha’is outside of Baha’i meetings
  1. Offering services to literacy agencies
  1. Volunteering at homeless shelters and halfway houses
  1. Manning school crossings
  1. Teaching yoga / Tai Chi / martial arts/ any other exercise classes
  1. Self-help classes
  1. Teaching product-making classes like soap-making
  1. Teaching gardening classes
  1. Teaching farming classes
  1. Teaching woodwork classes
  1. Providing jewellery making classes
  1. Teaching bead work
  1. Teaching home decoration
  1. Providing food preserving classes
  1. Providing driving lessons
  1. Providing foreign language lessons
  1. Teaching house repairs
  1. Teaching appliance repair
  1. Teaching basic car repairs
  1. Teaching computer classes
  1. Helping refugees and newcomers
  1. Teaching adult education
  1. Volunteering with the Welcome Wagon for newcomers
  1. Picking up medicine or food
  1. Translating written materials or interpreting
  1. Cutting grass or doing landscaping
  1. Baby sitting
  1. Doing taxes
  1. House cleaning
  1. Giving financial advice
  1. Offering counseling
  1. Providing medical services
  1. Providing legal services
  1. Doing the makeup or costumes for plays
  1. Teaching others to apply makeup
  1. Volunteering in community gardens
  1. Connecting with volunteer organizations for possibilities
  1. Volunteering with food programs in schools
  1. Providing accommodation for the sick and needy
  1. Cooking for the sick
  1. Remembering in your prayers and supporting those who are going through a difficult time

As you embark on your quest to serve humanity, a few words of caution: Please make sure, while offering your services, that you respect the boundaries of agencies, individuals and families. Also, focus on why you’re there serving rather than the motives of others. Some people volunteer in organizations for self-recognition or out of boredom, and don’t really capture the essence of serving others with selfless intention. Be aware of this in any voluntary situation, so that it doesn’t discourage you or influence you in a negative manner.

If you approach the opportunity to serve others with a radiant countenance and the pure motivation of kindness and love, you’ll find that the gifts you give will come back to you a thousand fold.


Responding Helpfully to Those Who’ve Experienced Trauma


It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who’s suffered a traumatic or distressing experience, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery.   Everyone can become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit:

The work of healing the sick, however, is a matter that concerns not the patient and the practitioner only, but everyone.  All must help, by sympathy and service, by right living and right thinking, and especially by prayer, for of all remedies prayer is the most potent. “Supplication and prayer on behalf of others,” says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “will surely be effective.” The friends of the patient have a special responsibility, for their influence, either for good or ill, is most direct and powerful. In how many cases of sickness the issue depends mainly on the ministrations of parents, friends or neighbors of the helpless sufferer!  Even the members of the community at large have an influence in every case of sickness. In individual cases that influence may not appear great, yet in the mass the effect is potent. Everyone is affected by the social “atmosphere” in which he lives, by the general prevalence of faith or materialism, of virtue or vice, of cheerfulness of depression; and each individual has his share in determining the state of that social “atmosphere.” It may not be possible for everyone, in the present state of the world, to attain to perfect health, but it is possible for everyone to become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit and thus to exert a healing, helpful influence both on his own body and on all with whom he comes in contact.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

In this quote we learn:

  • healing the sick is a matter that concerns everyone
  • all must help, by sympathy and service, by right living and right thinking
  • supplication and prayer on behalf of others will be effective
  • the influence of friends, either for good or ill, is most direct and powerful
  • even the members of the community at large have an influence – it may not appear great, yet in the mass the effect is potent
  • it is possible for everyone to become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit

What’s Helpful:

Encourage active participation in Baha’i teaching and community events:

The House of Justice advises you to persevere in your efforts to secure good medical assistance, from psychiatrists or others, and to follow the advice of these specialists. It also suggests that through daily prayer, and specially by observing the daily obligatory prayers, through study of the Writings, through active participation in teaching efforts and in the activities of the community, and through constant effort to sacrifice for the Faith you love so well, you will obtain a spiritual counterpart to the professional help you will receive from the experts. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 26 July, 1988)

Encourage people to find a good therapist:

Failure to encourage an appropriate healing remedy for an emotionally or psychologically traumatized member of a family is likely to adversely affect the future happiness and well-being of every member, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all.”   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 60)

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Know when to ask for outside help:

If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Assemblies are encouraged to seek advice from local mental health professionals, including social service agencies, and qualified non-profit organizations concerning specific situations and to draw upon these resources in deciding upon any course of action.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Appoint a liaison with a capacity to listen:

If individuals with mental disorders are repeatedly writing letters or making phone calls to the Assembly, it may wish to appoint a liaison with a capacity to listen to interact with the individual. It may be helpful to assist people to clarify and focus their thinking by asking, “Why are you telling me that?” It is also possible to politely interrupt a flow of monologue that is unproductive.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Establish Clear Boundaries:

If the person’s problems are affecting the community, the Assembly may wish to establish clear boundaries regarding his or her behavior in relation to itself, the community and, if necessary, to particular individuals within the community, with explicit consequences for violating the boundaries. If that approach is used, care should be taken to establish boundaries that are reasonable and consequences that are appropriate. If possible, this should be done in consultation and cooperation with the individual involved.

The Assembly may find it helpful to put the boundaries and consequences for violating them in the form of a written contract at the time of the agreement so that both the individual and the Assembly will have a copy. If possible, the actual wording should be agreed upon by both the individual and the Assembly. This will help to reduce confusion and minimize individual differences of perception in recalling what was decided when referring to the agreement in the future. Once consequences are specified, if the predetermined boundaries are violated, the Assembly must act to impose the consequences. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11-12)

Suggest that the person get a referral from his primary care physician:

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see. If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

What’s Not Helpful:

One of the least helpful things anyone can say is “get over it” or “all you need to do is pray”.  The House of Justice has told us:

Advice given by well-meaning believers to the effect that you should seek to transcend psychological problems does not qualify as competent advice on what is essentially a medical issue.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Prayer is of course important, but by itself, it’s not enough:

There are two ways of healing diseases, the material and the spiritual way. The first is the remedies of the physicians; the second prayers and turning one’s self to God. Both must be practiced and followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 653)

It’s also not helpful to say “everything you need to heal is found in the Baha’i Writings:

It is possible for a man to hold to a book of medicine and say, “I have no need of a doctor; I will act according to the book; in it every disease is named, all symptoms are explained, the diagnosis of each ailment is completely written out, and a prescription for each malady is furnished; therefore, why do I need a doctor?” This is sheer ignorance. A physician is needed to prescribe. Through his skill the principles of the book are correctly and effectively applied until the patient is restored to health.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 248)

Or “you should just forgive and forget”:

Although individuals are admonished to forgive one another on a personal level, this does not imply a right on the part of one individual to excuse another from the consequences of serious misconduct or criminal behavior. Judgment in such matters, whether involving violation of Bahá’í laws or violation of civil laws, can only be provided by duly constituted institutions.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, pp. 51-52)

For more information on this topic, please see Learning How to Forgive 

You should also not tell them they have a mental health issue – as you are likely not qualified to make that determination:

If the Assembly becomes aware of a problem that might be an indicator of mental illness or other disorder it should avoid suggesting that there might be a mental problem, as it is not qualified to make such a determination.  Depending on the circumstances, it may wish to suggest that the person undergo a medical evaluation through his or her primary care physician or other health care practitioner.   (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

When to Contact a Professional

You should seek professional help if symptoms persist and interfere with day-to-day activities, school or work performance, or personal relationships.

Signs that a child may need professional help to cope with a traumatic event include:

  • emotional outbursts
  • aggressive behavior
  • withdrawal
  • continued obsession with the traumatic event
  • serious problems at school

Psychologists and mental health providers can work with people individually to find ways to cope with stress. They can help both children and their parents understand how to cope with the emotional impact of a traumatic event.

Physical, social and psychological resources to help buffer and heal the negative effects of traumatic events

Signs that an adult may need professional help:

Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.

Seek help for emotional or psychological trauma if you’re:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Finding a Trauma Specialist

Working through trauma can be scary, painful, and potentially re-traumatizing. Because of the risk of re-traumatization, this healing work is best done with the help of an experienced trauma specialist.

The House of Justice has said:

You can draw on these powers by your prayers as well as your participation in the work of the faith and the life of the Bahá’í community; through this effort, and through your consultation with competent professionals having expertise in your area of need, you can promote your healing from the damaging effects of your past experiences, and can find happiness and tranquility.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September 1992)

Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist you choose has experience treating trauma. When someone went to ‘Abdu’l-Baha with eye problems, this is the advice he was given:

According to the explicit divine text the sick must refer to the doctor. This decree is decisive and everyone bound to observe it. While thou art there thou shouldst consult the most skilled and the most famed eye specialist.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)

If ‘Abdu’l-Baha wanted him to consult the most skilled specialist, I think it’s safe to say that trauma victims deserve the same!

It’s OK to get a second opinion.  With regards to surgery, Shoghi Effendi has said:

Before having any serious operation, you should consult more than one qualified physician.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

The same should hold true for therapy.

For more information, please see How Do We Find a Competent Physician 

Once we’ve found a therapist we have confidence in, the next thing is to follow his advice, and put your trust in God, through prayer:

The basic instruction in the Writings to one who is ill is to find a doctor in whom confidence can be placed, to follow his advice and to put one’s trust in God through prayer.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

The quality of the relationship with your therapist is equally important. Choose a trauma specialist you feel comfortable with. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, respected, or understood, find another therapist. There should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your trauma therapist.

The House of Justice has told us:

You should feel under no obligation to continue to consult with someone in whom you have lost confidence or who you believe may cause you to act contrary to the teaching of the Faith. However, it should be understood that counselling of the type you are receiving may cause a variety of emotions to surface as a normal part of the therapy. Individuals sometimes feel close attachment to their therapist or experience other feelings which might be unsettling because they are unexpected; such emotions may simply represent a beginning of helpful change and need prove no danger to one’s moral standards.   (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 7 September 1990)

Obviously, any healing techniques which would lead the practitioner or the patient to contradict the Laws of the Faith is not acceptable

Of course, no healing technique which would lead the practitioner or the patient to contradict the Laws of the Faith is acceptable.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

After meeting a potential trauma therapist, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you feel comfortable discussing your problems with the therapist?
  • Did you feel like the therapist understood what you were talking about?
  • Were your concerns taken seriously or were they minimized or dismissed?
  • Were you treated with compassion and respect?
  • Do you believe that you could grow to trust the therapist?

Treatment for Psychological and Emotional Trauma

In order to heal from psychological and emotional trauma, you must face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories you’ve long avoided. Otherwise they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable.

Trauma treatment and healing involves:

  • Processing trauma-related memories and feelings
  • Discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight” energy
  • Learning how to regulate strong emotions
  • Building or rebuilding the ability to trust other people

For more information, please see:

Fight, Flight or Freeze 

Finding Love Again

Trauma Therapy Treatment Approaches

Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets stuck in overdrive. Successful trauma treatment must address this imbalance and reestablish your physical sense of safety. The following therapies are commonly used in the treatment of emotional and psychological trauma:

  • Somatic experiencing takes advantage of the body’s unique ability to heal itself. The focus of therapy is on bodily sensations, rather than thoughts and memories about the traumatic event. By concentrating on what’s happening in your body, you gradually get in touch with trauma-related energy and tension. From there, your natural survival instincts take over, safely releasing this pent-up energy through shaking, crying, and other forms of physical release.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Hugh Smiley is a certified Hakomi therapist, teacher and founder of the Korason Method for authentic voice and dialogue, which will help you in finding and using your true and natural voice as an important building block towards genuine dialogue and relationships.  Hugh teaches specific techniques which can be applied to real-life, day-to-day situations, interpersonal challenges, physical and emotional balance and health. He uses the languages of music (tone, harmony, resonance, vibration), mysticism (mindfulness, meditation, oneness, spiritual connection) and neuroscience in his practice.  For more information visit his website.

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Douglas Waldruff, PhD:  Treatment specialization includes:  Personal Growth and Empowerment; Performance Enhancement; Stress Management; Trauma and Recovery; PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing); Hypnotherapy; Energy Psychology; Depression and Anxiety; Panic Attacks and Phobia; Sexual and Relationship Problems; Medical and Health concerns; Grief and Loss; Work and Career issues; Addiction & Recovery; For more information visit his website.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma. While cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn’t treat the physiological effects of trauma, it can be helpful when used in addition to a body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing or EMDR.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Keyvan Geula is a licensed marriage, family, and child therapist specializing in mindfulness approach in therapy, transformation and education.  In her clinical work she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach, Mindfulness techniques, and John Gottman’s approach in couple’s therapy.  For more information visit her website.

Albert Schmaedick, MA, Albert specializes in mindfulness training, holistic health therapies, psychotherapy and is a freelance consultant in the area of Detox therapy. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Rapid Therapy).  For more information visit his website.

Mary K. Radpour, is a psychotherapist with 30 years’ experience. She has worked with individuals, families and groups, focusing on Post-trauma symptoms, resulting from physical, emotional and sexual abuse; Phobias; Depression and dysthymia; Anxiety.  She has trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Family systems and strategic family systems therapy; Hypnosis and hypnotherapy; Transactional Analysis; Dialectical Behavior Therapy; Mindfulness Focus therapy; and Rapid Trauma Resolution, a newly developed approach to clearing the effects of traumatic experiences.   For more information visit her website.

Other Baha’is doing trauma work include:

Diana Kite:  addresses smoking, alcohol, drug, gambling & other addictions, anger management, depression, anxiety, allergies, Asthma, control issues, Bi-Polar disorder, OCD, fears & phobias, brain damage, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, memory issues, marriage & relationship difficulties, impotence, migraines, nail biting, Anorexia & Bulimia, digestive disorders, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue syndrome, bladder issues, TMJ, ulcers, high blood pressure, Restless Leg syndrome, immune & autoimmune disorders, abuse, death of a loved one, childhood trauma, aging issues, guilt, rejection, reading & math issues, school & test anxiety, insomnia, grief, job loss, nightmares, stress relief, stuttering, weight and body issues, writer’s block, etc…  For more information visit her website.

Nancy Watters:  wants to help you find relief and restore JOY to your life. She’ll show you ways to . . . quickly boost your mood, anytime, anywhere;  natural ways to reduce pain and stress; get a solid night’s sleep; overcome depression, trauma, abuse; ditch negative thinking and improve your memory.  For more information visit her website.

Tabasom Eblaghie:  provides counselling services to individuals who want to make a positive change in their lives with respect to relationships, self-esteem and career. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or trauma, give her a call.    For more information visit her website.

Flora Todaro-Luck:  Online Psychotherapist/Counselor – individual and group psychotherapy, anxiety, depression, social anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem, confidence, emotional focused couples therapy.  For more information visit her website.

Adrienne Carter:  MSW with a specialty in trauma management, providing direct treatment services to traumatized individuals and setting up community based mental health services for victims of wars, violence or natural disasters working with refugees and Doctors without Borders in Nigeria, Kosovo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Iraq Liberia, Russia, South Africa and Canada.  To download her resume, go to her website.

Please Note I provide these names for your consideration only – and do not have first-hand knowledge of their competence; so cannot endorse any of them.

For more information, please see:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Baha’i Perspectives on Mental Illness

Dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder in the Baha’i Community

Does Becoming a Baha’i Make People Crazy?

Mental Health is at Risk when Love and Justice are Absent

Surviving Spiritual Depression

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below.