Monday, June 24, 2013

I Quaked Today

I visited a Quaker meeting today.

This meeting was the unprogrammed sort, which means that there is no music, no sermon, no agenda.  Instead there is silence until someone feels like they have something they should share with the group.  (and if nobody shares, everybody sits in silence for the hour)

So, imagine a circle of chairs, with 12 adults sitting quietly, many with eyes closed. They sit and breathe and pray or think or meditate for an hour.  (I think some people fall asleep too....)

Two people spoke in the group, each for maybe 2 or 3 minutes.  Both said things that resonated with me.  The distillation of what I got from these two things was the challenge and beauty of learning to love without control.  Since much of the past 7 months of my life has been strongly themed with the words "I don't know" so I could very much appreciate this message and what it means to live it.  I have gotten rather comfortable with loving and living without knowing or expecting a particular outcome.  I have been continuously put into a position of open heart, open hands, and waiting.  It has been hard and it has been good.

I gave personal meditation a brief attempt back many months ago, but let go of trying once the new kiddos came to us.  Sitting for an hour of silence made me think it would be worth getting into again.  Whether I do or not, I can see that there could be benefits to removing myself from the noise of life to slow all the way down to silence and peace for an hour.  I can see how this could be part of an actual day of rest.

Yes, I guess I could be silent at home, but I do not think I would.  There is that pressure within the group to be still and quiet.  No phone-checking, no getting a mint out of my purse.  I can't replicate that at home.

I enjoyed being in a service where I wasn't having any reason to mentally push back at anything.  At our regular church I have an internal dialogue going the whole time, and in reflecting today I realized that it's a lot of negative.  I'm usually unhappy with the music, disliking feeling pushed to socialize with people in a way that seems too surface-y to be enjoyable, disagreeing or disliking the sermon, and whatever else.  So it was nice to instead be listening to chirping birds, seeing trees and plants swaying in the breeze, and just chilling out.  I will admit that I had a Macklemore song running through my head almost all of the time (despite the fact that I purposely didn't listen to the radio at all on my drive), so there was that weird thing, but I just accepted it and carried on.

After the hour was done, the children and teens returned to the meeting room and then everyone went around and introduced themselves, and some shared something about their week.  It was very pleasant.  There were also announcements, all of which were given in a way that felt unique in language and delivery, and all of it came across as very peaceful, non-pushy, open-spirited, and relaxed.  It was nice.

I liked it that it seemed like nobody had to stress to prepare much for the meeting.  Surely there were people who cleaned, prepared coffee, and planned for the children's meeting, plus undoubtedly other things I'm unaware of.  But there was also no sermon, no music, no usher schedule, no nursery workers.  It was a level of peace and relaxation that seemed sustainable.  That was nice to see.

From what I have been reading, it appears that Quakers vary some in their beliefs and practices, but that a large part of what they believe is that God is at work in each person, and will speak to that person and guide and direct them personally.  So, there doesn't seem to be a strong need to teach, direct, sermonize, or in other ways get the group to conform to a particular set of beliefs.  It seems that there is trust that God is at work and the individual can respond and live according to that and their conscience.  I'm sure the community probably plays a role in encouraging discernment, etc. as well.  Apparently there are opportunities for actual discussions as well as just silence.  It is appealing to me to be in a community that has that level of trust in God at work.  For years now my beliefs have shifted away from what most mainstream evangelical denominations teach, and so I have been sitting there disagreeing with a lot of what has been said in church.  It is nice to imagine a scenario where I can feel more like I fit in with what's already been happening--I live according to my beliefs, and continue to learn and grow.  I have long since passed any need to convince others of anything, and indeed I don't even care to discuss my beliefs.  I know what they are and that's been enough for me.

It was a positive experience today.  I am still processing it.  I don't know yet if I will go back.  I am not sure that the rest of my family will be open to trying it out.  I am still doing a lot of thinking about what we need and what makes sense for me and my family right now.  I'm not sure that I would continue to be willing to drive a half hour to sit in silence for an hour.  I don't know if it makes sense to make new connections with another church group that is also impractical in distance.  (Right now all 3 of my church options are 30 minutes away, each in a different direction.)    I also asked myself today why I felt the need to keep trying to find something, when I already know that my husband and I both feel almost entirely *fabulous* about staying at home on Sunday mornings.  (The only non-fabulous part is the niggling question of whether we are doing the right thing for our kids. Other than that, taking Sundays off has been wonderful for us and we have no regrets.)  My friend that I go walking with said something to me the other day that simply reminded me that it has only been a few weeks since the kids left, and we are still walking out my husband's recovery from his heart surgery.  She was pointing out that there is probably still a lot of recovery to go for me and all of us, and I'm sure that's true.  So maybe expecting to have answers and not feel like we need a Sunday rest is unrealistic.  Certainly worth considering.  Of course, the thing is, this summer break is as relaxed as we will be....until next summer break!  Once school starts and marching band starts and basketball starts, Sundays will quite literally be the only days that we have for R&R.  So, if we aren't going now, I don't see much chance that we'll go then either.

All points to ponder for another day.  I'm satisfied that I woke up with enough time to get to the Quaker Friends meeting today and that I had a new experience and a small adventure.  I enjoy having new and interesting things to think and learn about.  It is an inexpensive form of entertainment and is life-enhancing.  :)

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