For approximately a year and a half, we have been offering meditation/devotions on a bi-weekly basis. When it started, the primary participants were Bahá’ís and it was conducted in our home. Along the way, Kathleen Benson (my wife) decided to get a Certification in Meditation and Mindfulness from the “School of Positive Transformation.”
Almost immediately, there was an opportunity to offer meditation through the Fort Wayne Library system, and this certification would help obtain approval. In order for this to be done at the library, it could not be directly associated with any religion and it had to be open to everyone. A proposal was made and approved by the library and the certification was nearly completed. Then Covid happened and the process was stalled. Kathleen was certified in May of 2020, just in time for lockdown. For a while, the devotions ceased to exist. We really had no idea how to proceed.
After a while, we figured out how to utilize the Zoom program. At the beginning, only a few Bahá’ís took part and we weren’t yet using video. The format for the meditation/devotion was to begin with a body scan. The purpose of the body scan meditation is to simply notice different parts of the body in order to relieve tension. The style of meditation was a guided meditation where Kathleen was the sole presenter.
After the meditation, a time was set for devotions. They came from a number of sources: the Bahá’í writings, other religious writings, words and thought from authors, philosophers, musicians, world leaders, etc. The devotions took on a specific orientation: spring, peace, love, nature, travel, and so on. During the entire time, there was light music in the background from YouTube.
This is the format we continued to use. Eventually, when we began using Zoom, the musical background had to be eliminated because it did not work well through the Zoom phone connection. After a while of simply using the Zoom format, we decided to open it up to a few people who would join us in person. We continued to let more friends, family and neighbors know about the effort.
We also decided to offer a simple meal to people so they wouldn’t have to worry about dinner when they came. Eventually we asked some to bring or help prepare a little something; Fruit, nuts or the like. It also happened that a number of those coming played music. So, we opened up a space after devotions to share our musical talents. As we became more confident in the efficacy of what we were trying to do, we invited more and more neighbors and friends to join us both on Zoom (this time with video) and in person. Deeper connections were made with some of our neighbors. In part, this was also due to a food distribution service we are involved with that allows us to take substantial amounts of food and distribute it to neighbors and friends in need.
This deepened interdependency and friendship has been slowly established in our neighborhood. Furthermore, there has been more willingness to be involved with each other’s activities including the devotionals. We have become more trusting and aware of each other.
At this time, there are approximately 10 to 15 people who are aware of the Zoom meetings, eight of whom attend consistently. In person, there are about 20 who might show up. On December 15th, we had 15 people here, two of whom were Bahá’ís. Six joined on Zoom; two were not Bahá’í. Most were between 15 and 30 years old. About a dozen stayed for dinner and music after devotions. The entire time was about two hours.
In addition, over the past few years we have established a strong relationship with the staff and patrons at our local YMCA. Two of the staff have attended our devotions. Not long ago, Kathleen approached the staff about the possibility of having a meditation on site. They have agreed and in January 2021 she will be doing a weekly meditation/devotional program for them. The details have not been finalized. But it is another opportunity to further develop community, neighborhood, and share both the writings and principles of the Bahá’í Faith with our fellow citizens and friends.
Another outcome of these efforts is that one of these friends is starting a Ruhi Book 1 in January and there are two others who have expressed an interest in a Ruhi Book 1. Among the devotions that was used on December 15th was: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ― Barack Obama
Vic Chaney, Fort Wayne, Indiana