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Tag Archives: spirituality

Conquering oneself

chevalSir Edmund Hillary apparently said “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” He should know as he climbed for the highest mountain on earth.

As a teacher, there is nothing more fulfilling than the glee of a child saying “look, I did it myself!” As we advance in life, this exhilarating feeling is rarely felt unless one takes courses, classes, learns a new language or just tries something new or silly like jumping over a bridge with a rope tied to your legs. But this is still well-named child’s play compared to conquering the self.

Conquering our fears, taming our character, channeling our emotions is indeed a steeper trail. Some useful pickaxes: prayer, reflection and meditation. Prayer helps us tap into this mysterious well of spirituality, gives us strength to develop our virtues and connect to others. While reflection combined with meditation ” frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.”(1). For those who like me have vertigo standing on a stool, there is a beauty in having tools that do not require to go up a mountain or be locked in an isolated spot.  We can use them every day as we go about our daily business. Daily prayer for ourselves, our loved ones or by working in a spirit of service; reflection at the end of each day on our actions and how to improve;  meditation (2) on the meaning of events, words, concepts.  So one day, I might conquer myself and my self, pulverize this monstrous mountain in me and become the person God had intended me to be.

“Great is indeed your blessedness inasmuch as His unfailing grace hath been vouchsafed unto you and ye have been aided to recognize this Cause — a Cause through whose potency the heavens have been folded together and every lofty and towering mountain hath been scattered in dust.”(3)

(1) Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174

(2) disclaimer: I do not advocate any particular technique. Holding still in silence for a couple of minutes is already a feat in my too talkative, hyperactive opinion.

 (3) Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)

 

Feeding teenagers

My husband and I volunteer every year as cooks at a summer camp for teenagers in the South of France which our children attend.  We were in charge of feeding 35 thirteen-years-olds with their young animators. As these are French kids, they expect an entrée, a main course and a desert. So all in all they ate some 75 kg of tomatoes, 25 melons, 20 kg of rice, 20 kg of pasta, and some 48 kg of delicious French bread! They also drank 108 l of milk in the morning!

As we were in charge of quenching their infinite hunger for food, the team of animators catered to their thirst for knowledge and the life of the spirit. Through study, games, sports, arts and music they helped them develop their spiritual perception,  investigate their talents and capacities and discover how these could benefit the world on both the spiritual and the material plane. At an age where they struggle with their bodies and their identity, these teenagers surprised me with their understanding for each other and subtle humour. Of course the adults with them were totally exhausted by the end of the camp as these soon-to-be adults have what seems like unlimited energy. I admired how the animators were able to stay calm and focused with the kind of “background noise” a group of teenagers makes.

As I am now back home, I remember each one of them and especially how they sang every morning and evening  these verses: “Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny. Suffer not your labors to be wasted through the vain imaginations which certain hearts have devised. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll.” (From the Writings of Baha’u’llah)