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An open heart leads us higher to happiness

We live in a time that feels like we are being tested. No matter what your political party or religion is, you may feel great division with our society.

What we counted on as the solid ground of truth and integrity to steady us seems to have slipped, and down the rabbit hole of uncertainty we spin.

Families, friends, religious congregations, co-workers and neighbors struggle to keep relationships together amid polarities that seem to pull us apart. Could this be the Divine’s way of testing us and teaching us to look deeper than appearances in the outer world?

I read the following paragraph this week in The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, a book we are studying at Unity Church of Pomona.

“Things are going to happen to you, and you’re going to feel the tendency to close. But you have the choice to either go with it or let it go. Your mind will tell you that it’s not reasonable to stay open when these things happen. But you have limited time left in your life, and what’s really not reasonable is to not enjoy life.”

I personally struggle to stay open to those who express views that oppose mine. Yet when I open to them I find great discoveries and amazing healing.

When I feel uncomfortable with what I find in Scriptures, the Qur’an, the Bible or other books, I seek to learn from others about their understanding of it and a modern interpretation. As I seek, so I find.

In this time when Muslims have become the target for many hate crimes and general misunderstandings, I feel I need to better understand the Qur’an and Islam. Therefore, I must be open to learn.

“Faith is the opening of all sides and every level of one’s life in the Divine in-flow,” said Christian Martin Luther King, Jr.

After the Islamic Center of Claremont received a threatening “hate letter” at the end of November, a number of us found the blessing of attending a candlelight vigil at the University of La Verne in support of those at the mosque.

Many there felt our closing hearts reopen as we heard Muslims speak and felt our love come pouring out. It was there that students initiated writing “love letters” to the mosque.

Claremont resident Tahil Sharma, a Sikh leader, took this process global by posting it on Facebook, thus allowing people from all over the world to open to the plight of those under attack from Islamophobia by sharing words of support.

Amazingly, the same week the mosque received the hate letter, it opened its doors to the greater community. They did not close their doors or their hearts in spite of the hate directed toward them. They did not give in to fear, but opened their threatened doors to hear what the community needed to say to them. What they heard was love and support.

Many spoke about needing and wanting to know more about Islam to better defend their Muslim neighbors. Those speaking were from the surrounding cities, from many religious traditions and none, and from many professions, as well as students and the retired.

Opening her heart to those of another mosque, Zaina Syed, an enterprising high school youth from the Chino Valley Islamic Center, wanted to support the Islamic Center of Claremont and the Muslim-American community at large and created an event called “99 Love Letters.”

As featured in the COURIER, she invited her community and the general public to come to the Islamic Center of Claremont to write love letters to America, using art supplies she furnished. Her spiritual director, friends and family came and spoke and they even offered dinner to all. These are the kind of youth we need to lead our world: kind, creative ones with open hearts.

After the travel ban on Muslims was put into place, there was mass confusion and upset within our interfaith community. Do we shut down in discouragement or do we open up into action? Wanting to show our solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbors, many went to demonstrate at the Ontario Airport in January. I carried a banner we use often at church, which says, “We’re All One.” It was made by one of our youth.

Then the students from the University of La Verne again urged open-hearted action to deal with the immigration ban from seven primarily Muslim nations. They planned a two-mile interfaith solidarity walk from their interfaith chapel to the Islamic Center of Claremont on Friday, February 12. The plan was to arrive at the mosque in time to hear the Friday sermon.

In spite of the rain, we did just that. We were blessed to hear over and over how to open to and find good in each and every situation. That is what I heard and certainly what I believe: God and good are everywhere present. However, one must stay open to finding the blessings in the challenges.

The next event I am aware of in this unfolding saga to learn more about Islam is on Sunday, April 2 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Open Mosque Day, the Islamic Center of Claremont, 3641 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona. There we can learn about Islam and Muslims, observe a Muslim prayer service, enjoy multicultural food and try a hijab and henna hand painting, and write our names in Arabic calligraphy. We can even receive a free translation of the Qur’an. For more information, contact Basem Aweinat at (626) 786-9264.

“While man judges another from his own moral standpoint, the wise man looks also at the point of view of another,” said Sufi Muslim Hazrat Inayat Khan.

As we stay open, in spite of our challenges, or maybe because of our challenges, we find the blessing of inner happiness. It’s a happiness that no one can take from us because it is not conditional on what happens outside of us, it is happiness that is an expression of the essence of our being.

 

Rev. Jan Chase has been the minister of Unity Church of Pomona for the past 14 years. She is passionate about bringing religious communities together through interfaith dialogue and is involved in the Claremont and Upland interfaith councils, the Inland Valley Working Group for Middle East Peace  and the Inland Valley Interfaith Interfaith Network.

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