Tag Archives: quaker

Spirituality & Religious Expression

It is in silence that we connect to our highest Light—that spark which lets us know we are part of the Sum of Life. After an experience of the reliable silence of profound spiritual Union and after we have regrounded into our individual bodies, we often search for a physical venue of religious expression.


In mature marriages which have served to grow an individual member’s spiritual depths, there is sometimes a parting of ways because the chosen means of religious expression for an individual member (or both members) of the couple no longer matches that of the younger couple. If a middle-aged seeker returns to a religious organization of childhood familiarity, which he or she may have eschewed in early adulthood, this act of return often draws him or her away from the partner who was part of that person’s spiritual growth.

This is not a theoretical model, but a phenomenon which I have observed on two separate occasions in different unprogrammed Quaker Meetings.

What the two narratives illustrate for me is that in listening to the individualized leadings of our hearts, we are sometimes lead to walk places where we must go alone, to resolve unfinished business or return to a core sense of Self, the expression of which may or may not fall into step with the established rhythm of a mature, marital march.

John Woolman

In Quaker tradition, individual seekers are encouraged to follow their leadings or individualized spiritual guidance. If feeling uncertain about a particular leading, a member of a Quaker meeting may call for a Clearness Committee to help discern what course of action might be taken around a specific nudge from the Light.


In the 1700’s, John Woolman (1720-1772) referred to his spiritual guidance or revelations as “openings.” Woolman moved through Quaker society speaking out against slavery during a time when many Quakers still held slaves.

Woolman must have been quite a sight as he travelled wearing undyed clothing, of a natural off-white color, after being informed that dyes were produced almost exclusively by slave labor. His work as a travelling minister caused Quakers as a group to renounce slavery decades before society would move in that direction.

John Woolman’s life and work remind us that we, as modern readers and individuals, have the abilty–when we listen closely to the urgings of our hearts–to make significant contributions through our personal decisions and actions.

That Light

In Quaker tradition, there is a turn of phrase a speaker may use when meeting someone with a highly divergent opinion:  “That Light has not yet come to me.”


The statement is a simple, respectful acknowledgement of another person’s current, working truth, as well as a polite way of maintaining the working truth of the speaker’s opinion on an issue.

In Advaita Vedanta, as in Quaker tradition, there is the understanding that there is one Truth, binding us and residing in all of our hearts.  That Truth may be accessed when we, as individuals, come into alignment with our inner Light (or Atman in Sanskrit). Living our daily lives from the space of this awareness causes us to affirm not only our individual life and sacred place on the planet, but it also causes us to honor the Light of creation in others.

So, for today, bow–internally and with reverence–to all of those whom you meet as you travel, no matter how their external circumstances may cause you to respond initially; and, with this practice, your lamp will burn brightly and Grace will support you as you move through your days.

Spiritual Seasons III

Most people I know, who would like to garden but who do not or who would like to simplify their lives but do not, tell me that the idea of taking on such tasks seems daunting.

Truth be told, if anyone attempts to look at a large yard, with multiple garden beds, or a home of overstuffed cupboards, packed closets and bulging drawers, the perspective of affecting a beautiful, transformative change is overwhelming.

(Did you know most Americans wear only twenty percent of the clothing in their closets?)


Yet, dedicated gardeners, as well as those committed to simple living, have learned to approach each area  as a discrete location of potential and extraordinary possibility. Then, with the laser like focus, granted to us through prayer or meditation, work is commenced in only one, specific location at a time.

Thus, planning, planting, weeding—and even winter, closet cleaning—are all completely doable. And, the results are always worth the effort.

Effort.  The winter season begins to pick up speed.  Somewhere in the space of sorting through the third closet and around the time of a top shelf, I begin thinking about spring and expanding my garden for the upcoming season.

As I approach giving away the fifth, large bag of extras, a local magazine features an article about a dedicated butterfly garden.  What if I were to choose plants for this next season with, not only people in mind, but also the butterflies and birds?

Less stuff, more time to garden.

It is while there are a few, wild “everything” drawers in the kitchen yet to sort through that the sun turns its corner onto longer days.  January is when committed gardeners feel the first desire to begin planning for spring.

“Yes,” I think to myself, “This year, there will be an expanded garden, one that honors more of Creation.”

Spiritual Seasons II

In the space of my devotional practice, I place my concerns before the Light of God. A clear leading comes through, “Simplify.” In Quaker tradition, a leading is the nudge granted to us by the Spirit.

Considering this gentle command, I have to admit that, of late, caring for our household inventory has become less joyful and more of a chore. On some days, I feel like a warehouse queen rather than a spiritual being.  Internally, I postulate that this overabundance of inventory is probably one of the reasons I have spent so much time in the garden over the summer. Even though I know logically that avoidance does not solve problems of excess.


As a life experience, sorting through items stored in a large closet is nothing like kneeling in a yielding, freshly turned plot of earth, where living plants will soon produce incredible rewards. After all, I have never seen a bucket list where the sorting through of one’s personal belongings is in the top ten.

Committed gardeners know that working in the soil, directly with the earth, is capable of warding off feelings of disconnectedness, as well as banishing a sense of the mundane. Overstuffed closets seem to produce the opposite emotional impressions. Yet, if the answer to my query is to simplify, then—for this winter season—closets, cabinets and drawers it is.

Approaching the process of going through our personal belongings, I decide to think of each area as I would one of my garden beds. What would I like to give to someone else, so that another person might benefit?

My heart reopens with the prospect of another and decidedly unique season of giving. I crave the experience of largesse.

So, I decide to envision each space in my home as a potentially empty piece of acreage—a garden bed, where I will be able “to cultivate” what I most desire. This approach to the work at hand prompts me to ask the question: What do I want to plant and grow in my interior, domestic life?

Sifting through the belongings in each area of our home, I feel a welling sense of joyful anticipation. The possibility of unbridled spiritual living is returning to my heart. With each donation and regifted item, given to a charitable organization, neighbor, friend or acquaintance, my heart experiences an expansion, spaciousness and a renewed lightness of Being.

Before approaching an area, I say a short prayer for guidance. With this prayer, decision making is decidedly easier.  It is as if the items sort themselves.

Spiritual Marriage, First Marriage

Typically, we look upon marriage as a social institution in which two people are committed to supporting one another long term.  Yet, in reality, our first marriage is internal.  Our first marriage, and most profoundly spiritual relationship, is a between our every-day, social self and our, perhaps more elusive, higher Self or highest Light.  Ideally, we would devote as much–if not more–time, energy and tender care to this internal marriage as we do to our existing external marriage and/or our most intimate, long-term friendships.


Tending to an internal, first marriage requires us to listen to the voice of the heart, because the heart is where the Self resides. The Self views the world in terms of care, respect, integrity, the web of life and thoughtful dignity; whereas, the social self is concerned with issues of status, race, age, gender and possibly creed.  When the higher Self is grounded in the heart, we ask questions like, “How may I best honor my Light today? Or, how may I best honor the Light in someone else?”

Listening for and discerning the heart’s Truth takes patience and practice, as well as the sometimes needed assistance of our most trustworthy friends.

In Quaker tradition (The Religious Society of Friends), a member of meeting may call a Clearness Committee, from among the membership, to assist him/her with a quandry and the discernment of the true leadings of the heart.  The Committee meets, without judgment, to listen to the question or questions at hand.  Then, each member of the Committee brings forth further, pointed questions meant to lead the convening individual toward his/her own heart-centered Truth. The Clearness Committee neither advises, nor do members offer opinions, though sometimes members of the Committee may repeat the quandry-holder’s own words back to him/her.

Sometimes the only way for us to hear ourselves is through the repetition of our own will words coming from someone else’s mouth.

When conducted with respect, diplomacy and confidentiality, a Clearness Committee is capable of removing the debris of confusion from even the most confused of hearts.  Consider this means of approaching your own serious questions.  I offer this practice as one method for opening the door on your own clarity, highest Light and the sacred, first marriage, which is awaiting your attentive care.

Spirituality & Peak Experiences

One Sunday—while attending an unprogrammed Quaker meeting after a long absence—a Friend walks over and kneels down beside my chair.  From his pocket he produces a small notebook and pen.  Opening the notebook, he begins drawing a triangular solid with multiple sides.


As he is drawing he explains, “Each side represents a different faith tradition.

“I have been working on this theory,” he continues.  “Most of us start somewhere near the bottom, where we simply accept what we were taught.  Then, some people—those who are more attuned, perhaps—make decisions and choices, leading to spiritual experiences that cause them to travel up.

“At the pinnacle of the form is where the people of universal compassion, understanding, love and goodwill reside.  You know, like Desmond Tutu.” he continues.  “These people have a perspective about our interconnectedness.”

An image of Maslow’s hierarchy comes to mind, as he finishes talking to me.  According to Maslow, persons who self-actualize describe having “peak experiences.”  Maslow defines peak experiences thus:

Feelings of limitless horizons opening to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that important and valuable has happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.