Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Human Spirit and the Social World

"He [Baha'u'llah] bore these ordeals, suffered these calamities and difficulties in order that a manifestation of selflessness and service might become apparent in the world of humanity; that the Most Great Peace should become a reality; that human souls might appear as the angels of heaven; that heavenly miracles would be wrought among men; that human faith should be strengthened and perfected; that the precious, priceless bestowal of God, the human mind, might be developed to its fullest capacity in the temple of the body; and man become the reflection and likeness of God, even as it hath been revealed in the Bible: "We shall create man in Our own image."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 223)

I've returned from the Baha'i Association of Mental Health Professionals Conference, "Human Spirit and the Social World" and have been immediately sucked into Hurricane Phillipe (in other words, my life). I promised to finish letting you know about the conference, though I failed miserably at so called "live blogging". Luckily I have a high self-esteem.

I'll just offer a brief synopsis of each of the presentations that took place after the ones I have already described. I getting ready for another post soon so want to clear the deck so to speak.

Dr. John Grayzel, (a wicked cool guy) gave a wonderful and humorous presentation on "Cross Cultural Paradigms of Health". Unlike the usual rhetoric we hear about "cultural competence" he directly questioned whether Western paradigms of health actually help people of any culture to get healthier. His main message is that we need to start listening to the voices of the people we are trying to serve who might actually teach us healthier ways of approaching health itself. Having spent 27 years of so in Africa, he used the example of the approach to health used by two different tribal groups in the Congo to offer insight into non-western views of how people heal.

Dr. William (Billy) Roberts, who helped to found and has guided the activities of the Black Men's Gathering for over two decades, talked about how the Gathering began as a kind of psychospiritual intervention with black males, within the context of challenges facing them both in the society at large and within the Baha'i community. He emphasized the healing power of prayer and the creation of a safe space for black males.

Friday evening, Jack Guillebeux and John Grayzel participated in a panel discussion. Particularly noteworthy was an experiential exercise led by Jack Guillebeux to demonstrate how quickly one can create bonds between people as well as change how they feel inside.

On Saturday morning, Drs. Barbara and Rick Johnson, the co-administrators of Louhelen Baha'i School led an experiential exploration of the Four Valleys, a mystical text written by Baha'u'llah, and its implications for education and mental health. This was one of the most fascinating of the presentations as far as a way of interacting with the Holy Writings. What emerged was the Four Valleys as a kind of metaphor for health as a cycle that involves both mind and spirit in a developmental process.

Dr. Elena Mustakova-Possardt discussed the concept of "Authoritative Communities" which are essential communities that are organized in such a way that the conditions are created to optimal health. The importance of principle based patterns of behavior and relationships characterized by love were central to the presentation.

Dr. Jenni Menon Mariano, gave a magnificent presentation on the role of purpose in moral development, looking at a sample of youth and young adults from around the country to understand the impact of purpose was in their lives. Bottom line: Purpose makes a difference.

Saturday night all the of the Saturday speakers participated in a panel. The overall theme that emerged was understanding the role of balance in health and weighing that against the high value placed on sacrifice in Baha'i teaching.

Sunday morning we had the great blessing of hearing thoughts from Counsellor Stephen Birkland who it turns out is a social worker! (Hoorah for social workers). The focus of his remarks was on the relationship between individual action and institutional authority in Baha'i thought and the implications that has for our efforts to promote an ever advancing civilization.

So I have to run and do some homework. Catch you later!