I’ve been writing for a Quaker newsletter called What Canst Thou Say? (WCTS?) for about twelve years now. One particular editor, Mariellen, has kept me in the query loop all these years after we were connected by the death of a mutual friend, who also wrote for WCTS?. This newsletter is a place for Quakers to share their mystical experiences and the insights which have come from their contemplative practice. Reading their essays and poems have helped me understand some of my own experiences, and to feel less alone and strange! There is an honest poignancy to their writing, which speaks candidly of the light and dark, blissful and tragic, mundane and sublime that lives in us all. Here is the website if you wish to check it out: http://whatcanstthousay.org.
As my hips fell out from under me, much of my world also changed. I found myself home and sitting much more than I was ever inclined, or allowed, to do before. I felt irresistibly drawn to the writings of mystics and contemplatives, discovering a number of books on my own shelves thanks to my friend who passed and left them to me those twelve years ago. I again recognized some of my own experiences and realizations in their stories, just like I had on the pages of WCTS?.
Some time before my first hip replacement, I had a transformational experience related to a past life and I wrote an essay about it. Mariellen asked if I would be willing to Guest Edit an edition of WCTS? on “Other Lives.” I agreed to do so. More related experiences happened around my surgery and I added to the story. Now I am in the final editing process of that newsletter. It has been a beautiful process where everyone works to come to consensus about what is included and how it is edited. Editing is done gently, with reverence and respect for the offerings of each author. Here is a PDF of my essay:
Simultaneously, I was reading editor, Mike Resman’s book Immersed in Prayer (available on Amazon). Many of the authors in the book spoke about their experiences during silent meetings for worship. The desire grew in me to experience a meeting for myself. I remember getting online and discovering a Quaker Meeting House only two miles from our home http://renofriends.org. I had to LOL while reading their page on “Wonder If You Might Be A Quaker At Heart?” This past Sunday, I decided it was time to go.
Quakers believe that we all have the living spirit of the Creator within us. They seek to be quiet and listen to the “still small voice within.” When they feel moved to do so, they speak from this place. The Reno Friends (another name for Quakers) meets for silent worship from 10:00-11:00 on Sundays. Inside the cozy, brick house, chairs are set up in two concentric circles in a large, well-lit living room. You pick your spot and sit quietly, allowing yourself to settle and center, to be receptive to that “still small voice” and to anything Spirit might wish to impart. In my own experience, it is most like sitting in a meditation circle or group. Sometimes people speak; sometimes there is only silence, punctuated by the breath and stirrings of those in attendance. During my first meeting, no one spoke. I recall thinking how refreshing it was to come and simply listen, to wait expectantly and be still, not needing to say anything.
When the Clerk ended the meeting, we were again invited to speak and again we chose silence. Then the peace was passed to those near us–touching hands and smiling into each other’s eyes. Announcements came next. Some people left. Others stayed to talk, and to find out who I was and how I came to be there. So, I told them this story.
Here is some of what I wrote in my journal afterwards:
I forget the sweet depth I can enter when sitting in circle silently with others. The restlessness settles and my mind quiets. There were 8 of us–a small group. I sat between a mother and her son. Later, I discovered they are neighbors of mine, only two blocks away. Being here feels like coming home. Coming home to something that was always within me and has been pursuing me for 12 years now. Finally, I have turned around to embrace it. I can’t shake the strong sense of having been here before, like being wrapped in an old, familiar quilt from childhood.