An article I read from the Stanford Center for Longevity notes that there is a relationship between volunteering and improved physical health and cognitive function. “Research also shows that volunteers report elevated mood and less depression, and that volunteers report increased social interactions and social support, better relationship quality, and decreased loneliness.” longevity.stanford.edu A contributor to Deseret News had this to say about her volunteer experience: “I’ve experienced the boost in happiness, the sense that I was part of something bigger. I made friends, formed connections that I still have to this day, and I felt more optimistic about the world when I was surrounded by people who, like me, were trying to help others.” deseret.com/coronavirus/2022/4/17.
Of course, volunteering strengthens communities as well. As people of different backgrounds come together to serve our neighbors, we discover that we have much more in common than we ever imagined. Whether it is donating our time, talents or resources, each selfless act truly does help make the world a better place.
Want to learn more about some of the non-profits doing phenomenal work in the Tysons area? Spring and summer 2023, Tysons Interfaith will present a series of blog posts highlighting local organizations that are working to improve the lives of our neighbors. Please look for these periodic posts, or feel free to visit the Tysons Interfaith Resources Page for a comprehensive list of non-profit organizations in our area: tysonsinterfaith.org/resources.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
What is your “worldview”? What do you hold dear? The answers to these questions are both the composite and the creator of your attitudes, values, stories, and expectations about your world and the world around you. They inform your every thought and action. Your worldview manifests as your ethics, religion, philosophy, and beliefs.
We arise from our cultures of origin, so we are a product of that culture, and we have everything that is necessary to be the producers of new cultures. Humans have been creating cultures since we first walked the earth.
Are you a “glass-half-full” person – an optimist that sees the positive in everything, or a “glass-half-empty” pessimist that goes to the darker side, thinking the worst of any situation? Most of us vacillate between the two depending on context.
If you had magical powers (which, of course, you do), what culture would you create? Would it be utopian? Would everyone get along without challenges or disagreements? Would it be so peaceful that terminal stasis might set in? Or would it be a world in which citizens are truly free to think independently, to share the breadth of their creativity, to debate respectfully, challenge other’s opinions without fear, collectively focusing on solutions and constructive evolution? Could a world of health, harmony, and unconditional high regard that supports everyone in living their best yet to be, prevail?
Thousands of people gathering in small groups are responding to the heart-call to create a world that works. In the interfaith world, we are creating a culture of connection that begins with compassionate curiosity. We are concerned about others’ experiences and encourage everyone to learn with and from one another. Kindness, stemming from mutual respect, is blossoming. Curiosity, which plays a huge role in how we relate to our world, is the strong desire to learn something more, something new. Our willingness to reach beyond the culture in which we were raised depends on our internal sense of safety blended with the divine urge to experience the unknown. Our culture of origin instilled acceptable and customary beliefs and social forms and formulas in us. We unconsciously embraced the material traits of our racial, religious and social groups. This worldview has out-pictured as our everyday existence – our way of life and the people with whom we share our lives. It is how we relate to all creation, our chosen diversions, the places we reside and our travels. As years have passed, some have stayed deeply linked to those original perspectives. Most of us have evolved, some more than others.
Some people look at the world and see it fractured, fragmented into myriad separate pieces. All they see are differences: different skin color, different size, shape, ethnicity, religion … different climates, different architecture. Different everything. Theirs is a world of “me and us” versus “other” – constantly contrasting what they believe to be known and safe with all that is different. The leap to an assumption that “different is dangerous” is all too easy. Gripped in fear, “fight, flight or freeze” instinctive, defensive reactions take over. Resourcefulness disappears.
Others, drawn by our common human desire to connect, may be challenged to find ways to relate to those individuals and groups that don’t align with our worldview. When confronted with personalities and appearances unlike ours, we may fumble and experience a jumble of emotions, yet continue to pursue connection. We experiment. Some of our tries turn out to be life-affirming and others quite opposite, and we don’t give up. We look around and note in awe and wonder, the myriad distinction of creation in expression. We drink in commonalities and celebrate all the differences. We recognize that we are looking at the same world through different subjective filters.
Commonalities prevail throughout nature. We are all made of the same stuff. For the most part, it is only when personality, rather than physicality, is brought into the equation that concerns about “different” crop up. Distinctions within commonalities are what make Life rich. Innate distinctions are what express as myriad appearances, gifts, talents, and desires.
The tension of opposites – the pull and push of life – stirs creativity. New solutions, new ways of being together are revealed. The Divine Urge within each of us desires to resolve conflict and harmonize our world. Coming together across myriad cultures and faith traditions, contemplating co-existence, I hear within me, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” What if we were to ask, “What do we have in common? Let me count the ways.” I am sure we would discover ways to love one another. And, what if in love, we were to ask, “Tell me how it is to be you, your life, and those you love.”
Ernest Holmes shared what won’t work: “You cannot draw love into your consciousness through hate. You cannot draw peace from confusion. You cannot see beauty through ugliness, nor hear harmony while your ears are filled with discord.” So what will work?
We must develop a Culture of Connection! It may be easier than you think, here are some simple steps:
- Embrace your desire to create a Culture of Connection and commit to doing your part
- Set your intention to consistently be present in your conversations
- Silence our fear-mongering self-talk to the best of your ability
- Enter a consciousness of Love because it is contagious
- Express genuine, compassionate curiosity
- Initiate conversations – talk to strangers even though your mother told you not to.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
The holy month of Ramadan came to a close on April 21st.
During this period, our brothers and sisters in the northern Virginia Muslim community hosted several Interfaith Iftars. An Iftar is a meal taken at sundown to break the daily fast that occurs during Ramadan.
Our Muslim friends invited people of all faith traditions to join them for this special meal for fellowship and to learn more about Islam and the meaning of Ramadan. Interfaith Iftars were hosted by the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, the American Turkish Friendship Society and by the McLean Islamic Center in conjunction with the Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington (JIDS). There may have been others, but these were the ones known to me.
I was honored to attend the Interfaith Iftar hosted by the McLean Islamic Center/Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington (JIDS). We heard a panel discussion led by member of the Muslim and Jewish communities, enjoyed conversing with people from different faith traditions, and dined on delicious food prepared by the Bombay Tandoor Restaurant.
Gatherings such as these remind me of why my participation with Tysons Interfaith is so meaningful in my life. What a privilege it is to learn more about how people of other faith traditions experience and worship God and to be in community with people who respect and honor the spiritual practices of their neighbors. Please consider joining us! tysonsinterfaith.org
The following photo was taken at the McLean Islamic Center/Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society Iftar on April 16, 2023. Representing Tysons Interfaith and their faith communities at the event (left to right): Bill Larson, Emmanuel Lutheran; Susan Posey, Redeemer Lutheran; Andra Baylus, the Meher Baba Spiritual Community; Adarsh Khalsa, the Sikh Community; and Stephen Wickman, St. Thomas Episcopal.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
Tysons Interfaith is honored to present this blog post (with date revisions) first published in 2022:
The Jewish holiday of Passover occurs every spring, as surely as the daffodils bloom, and it is perhaps the most central in terms of Jewish life and history.
The holiday begins at sunset (as do all Jewish holidays) on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Because the Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar system, with 28 days in a month, corrected 7 times in a 19-year cycle by adding a leap month, the holidays can only move on the Gregorian calendar from late March to late April, this year beginning on Wednesday, April 5th.
Passover celebrates the biblical account of the Israelites’ redemption and escape from 400 years of Egyptian slavery. The story is told in the Book of Exodus, but many only know of the parting of the Red Sea. The story unfolds with the Israelites as slaves and the long attempt to be set free. Even before this freedom happens, in Exodus 12:14 the Almighty is describing a holiday and how to celebrate it: “This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Eternal throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. 12:15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leavening from your house ….”.
The unleavened bread is Matzah and is central to the celebration of the holiday.
Passover is celebrated with a special meal called the Seder, where family and friends gather to read from the Haggadah which relates the story of Passover, the Israelites leaving Egypt and going from slavery to freedom. On the Seder table is a special plate which contains food, symbolic for the holiday. There you will find a roasted lamb shank bone symbolizing a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, a roasted egg, a sacrifice brought by the pilgrims, parsley symbolizing spring, Charoset (made from apples, nuts and wine) symbolizing the clay that was used by the slaves to make bricks for Pharaoh, horseradish symbolizing the bitterness of slavery and romaine lettuce, another bitter reminder. In addition to telling the story, there is singing, a bountiful meal and the warmth and closeness only family and friends can bring.
The Torah, a Modern Commentary
Celebrating and Creating Traditions, Passover Recipes and Ideas
People of the Baha’i faith celebrated Naw-Ruz earlier this week. We hope you enjoy this repost discussing Baha’i spring observations:
Probably many people know that Easter and Passover occur in the spring, but spring is also a time of sacred observation for people of the Baha’i Faith.
March 20- 21 are the Baha’i Holy Days of Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year. Naw-Ruz
coincides with the spring equinox and is an ancient Persian festival celebrating the “new day.” For Baha’is it marks the end of the annual nineteen-day fast and is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended, and children are exempted from attending school.
Also in the spring is the Festival of Ridvan. This annual Baha’i festival commemorates the twelve days when Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, publicly proclaimed His mission as God’s messenger for this age. Elections for local, national, and international Baha’i institutions are generally held during the Festival of Ridvan. The first day (April 20 or 21), the ninth day (April 28 or 28), and the twelfth day (May 1 or 2) are celebrated as holy days when work is suspended, and children are exempted from attending school.
To learn more about the Baha’i Faith, please visit: www.bahai.org
The holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on Wednesday, March 22 at sunset.
To our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community, we say Ramadan Mubarak.
In honor of this special time, we are pleased to share with you this poem, written by Yerusalem Work of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center:
in an atmosphere of fear, hope, and love,
I seek refuge in a profound truth that
Allah pardons and protects those in need of
mercy and compassion,
kindness and the process of peace.
Humanity aligns with You when prostrate
on a prayer rug with niyah
and facing the qibla.
A perfect rain descends
and our hearts You mend.
May our prayers rise above
the fitnah of this world until
unity is a living dream
that we see as reality
and belief strengthens us
on a path He knows is best
that leads to Paradise –
May our worship be reserved for the One
who bleeds no blood,
but Whose words we hold in our hands
and recite according to His plan.
We thank You for the glorious Qur’an.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members. Photo credit to Yerusalem Work.
In recognition of Black History Month, I commend to you this prayer by Howard Thurman:
Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me
Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, peace for my turmoil
Open unto me, joy for my sorrow
Open unto me, strength for my weakness
Open unto me, wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me, forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me, tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me, love for my hates
Open unto me, Thy Self for myself
Lord, Lord, open unto me!
Thurman was born in 1899 and raised in the segregated South. He is recognized as one of the great spiritual leaders of the 20th century renowned for his reflections on humanity and our relationship with God. Thurman was a prolific author (writing at least 20 books); perhaps the most famous is Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), which deeply influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Thurman was the first black person to be a tenured Dean at a PWI (Boston U). He also cofounded the first interracially pastored, intercultural church in the US.
On Sunday, February 5, Tysons Interfaith will host a workshop entitled, “Reconnecting Post Pandemic.” We invite you to join us on Zoom for this event. (Details can found here.)
In the spirit of this event, we share with you these observations from Trish Hall of the Centers for Spiritual Living Metro.
It dawned on me recently that what I have been experiencing in the aftermath of the pandemic, was described in a story by Washington Irving. A few years ago, my life seemed to have some order to it. The pandemic hit. I felt like the letter-cubes being shaken in a Boggle cup. I accepted the role of the letters and made sense of my life within the confines of pandemic rules. Then the rules changed again. Like Rip Van Winkle, an amiable farmer who wandered into the Catskill Mountains where he came upon a group of dwarfs playing ninepins, I found myself in a different world among many unrecognizable people behaving in ways that were foreign to me. Rip accepted their offer of a drink of liquor and promptly fell asleep. I watched horrific scenes and appalling statistics on television, listened attentively to learn about medicines and sequestered. He awakened, 20 years later, as an old man with a long white beard; the dwarfs were nowhere in sight. Rip wandered into town and found everything was different.
I didn’t grow a long white beard. My slumber was only 2-3 years, but my disorientation was on par. Information (and misinformation) was coming from all directions. Schools and scheduling changed. Workplaces had been transformed. We learned, on a daily basis, which people, companies and organizations had survived. Everyone, in some way, had been impacted.
For many, re-socialization has been a struggle. Some adjusted to isolation so well that reconnecting with the world in-person was, and still is, scary. Navigating the new rules, or lack thereof, caused a sense of instability. Wobbling, tumbling, scrambling for a known that no longer exists, stressed many relationships to the breaking point.
Yet, deep within the disorientation, there is a vital energy calling us to emerge out of the cave of illusion into the light. We are being called to embrace the divine creativity within us.
Just as the phoenix rose from the ashes, we have the opportunity to discard behaviors and beliefs that do not serve us. Whether they ever did is irrelevant. Now freed from our tethers, we can overcome obstacles, achieve goals previously thought to be unattainable and create a world that works.
Now is the time to come together to cause a paradigm shift in the course of history. We need not be concerned that there may seem to be only a few who understand that this is our time to make a difference. Margaret Wheatley advised, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This is a time of new beginnings. Everything we thought we knew has been impacted in some way – some cataclysmically, some minorly – none have escaped completely. Not in my lifetime, have I experienced a potentially clean slate on which to design a new world. Multitudes are still clinging to pieces of the past, terrified of the unknown, grasping onto tendrils of the past, impeding the emergence of a new way of being. Some have surrendered and given up, heading back into the cave to be re-shackled to the wall. Others have surrendered in a different way: they have released their attachment to trying to reinstate the past and are enthusiastically awakening to possibility … to calling forth pure creative potential. These are a new breed of investors – willing to invest heart and soul in creating a world that works. These are the ones that see the opportunities that abound – opportunities to be the facilitators birthing a world that works.
Imagine with me, a world in which all persons live in alignment with their highest spiritual principle, understanding the interconnectedness of all creation – in which there is an awakening to its spiritual magnificence. There would be no atrocities perpetrated. Kindness, and respect of each other as divine emanations would be the norm. Resources are valued, grown, cared for, and shared so that everyone has enough so that terms such as homelessness and food instability would only be words in the dictionary from times gone by. Everyone belongs in our new world.
Imagine a world which draws on spiritual wisdom and the lessons of experience -in which people respect and honor the interconnectedness of all life. This is our time for awakening heart based social conscience in every area of the political, corporate, academic, and social sectors, building sustainable structures to foster the emergence of global consciousness – a global ethic – a world in which the kinship all life prospers.
Imagine everyone discovering the creative power of thought and using it for the betterment of all people: a world that works on the individual and global levels. Feel the world becoming peaceful, when, as Jimi Hendrix said, “…the power of love overcomes the love of power …”
I love the imagery of creativity, on the brink of chaos, thriving. We have experienced more than enough chaos – now is our chance to midwife the birth of a new world – a world of peace, prosperity, compassion and caring across the planet and in each household.
Imagine with me, people everywhere emphasizing unity with their creator and connection with each other – individually and collectively responding to the call of Spirit to take action. An awakened “world that works for everyone and for all of creation,” is emerging as each of us does our part.
Listen deeply and respond! How are you to be? What is yours to do? What cause is spirit calling you to set in motion?
At a recent Tysons Interfaith meeting, my friend Reverend Trish Hall opened the gathering by reading an excerpt from the Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here.”
You know words are timeless when they strike a chord and send a chill down your spine. Trish read the opening passage of this excerpt to us:
“I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.
And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain.
What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.“
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 16) is a nationally designated day of service. Whether you participate in an organized event, reach out a helping hand to a friend or neighbor, or offer an unexpected uplifting smile to another person, thank you for deciding to stick with love.
Looking for additional ways to observe the holiday? Reverend Trish Hall will be a contributor at the Unitarian Universalists Church of Arlington’s MLK 2023 Weekend of Remembrance.
We are imbued with the ability to use the most powerful healing force in the universe: Love. It cannot be destroyed. It can be ignored. By denying its power, we cause ourselves and others pain. Embracing it is the only answer. Through the power of love, we can release ourselves from history’s entanglements and begin again. Love heals and makes whole.
Embarking on this transformative journey of shifting from individual moments of peace to continuities of peace, we must release attachment to how it’s always been, how we want it to appear, and ready ourselves so that Divine Possibility can have its way with us. An ancient Zen story provides guidance. It tells about a university professor who went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.” We must empty ourselves so that we are available to new learning and new experiences.
We are always at choice: the choice of how we are to be in each and every situation, the choice to be a conscious activity of God, the choice to apply spiritual principles to every circumstance, the choice to remember that the Truth that we know within must express into and as form, as circumstance, the choice to simply perpetuate our mistakes or learn from them and manifest our global vision of a world that works for all.
The Heart of Peace Initiative invites you to be a catalyst for global healing and sustainable peace, transforming moments of peace to continuities. You are encouraged to experiment with being a conscious presence as peace in a variety of settings and being kind and respectful when circumstances might lure you to be otherwise. We welcome you to meditate with us weekly on Facebook for Collective Peace Meditation at 1:00 PM (US Mountain Time) and for our array of other peace practices throughout the year.
Start 2023 by attending the World Healing Peace Meditation at 12:00 PM GMT December 31, 2022 (7am Eastern) on Center for Spiritual Living, Heart of Peace, Facebook Live. https://www.facebook.com/centersforspiritualliving/.