This morning I went to my first ever Quaker meeting. I’ve been intrigued about meetings of Friends for over 15 years and after seeing an advert in the local church paper, I decided to finally attend a meeting. I arrived early and at peace with my decision. It’s been a while since I went into a new place and I’m often full of nerves. Maybe, this time it’s because I’m a much more confident person or that I knew this is where spirit had lead me.
On paper, the Religious society of Friends matches well with my own beliefs. That the main belief is that by being still in worship, we are able to hear the guidance of the holy spirit. They recognise that there is a part of God in everyone. That everyone deserves love and peace, free from judgement and war.
An hour being still, felt like a challenge before I went. I often find it difficult just to sit and meditate for more than 5-10 minutes. So the prospect of a whole hour seemed a little daunting. Particularly as I often feel guilty for seemingly doing nothing. I found I had to give myself permission to sit and enjoy the experience, without feeling I was doing something unproductive.
I also wasn’t sure about the whole being silent thing as soon as you go into the meeting. As I found out, this only applies to the room that worship is held in. Downstairs, before it began there was an opportunity to introduce myself and be welcomed.
Once worship began, everyone took their seats quietly. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes a few more others arrived quietly and settled themselves in their chosen seats. I was especially pleased that the chairs were low enough. I often struggle seating for long periods, as I cannot place my feet flat on the floor with most seats. As such, I was more than comfortable enough for the hour.
To start with, I wasn’t really sure what I was suppose to be doing. I meditated on my breath, which helped to clear my mind. It helped me feel a little more at peace and not feel out of place. It also highlighted the tension in my body. If I was on my own, I would have gotten up and stretched. But I suppose that also interrupts the hour of worship so I acknowledged it and let go of the thought. As the time moved on, I began to pray for those that I wanted to offer support for. I thought of the things that I was thankful for in my life. I sent Angels to those that needed protection.
Then I was quiet to let God’s presence speak to me. I felt the peace of being in worship with others and the sense of togetherness. Yet, I also felt the tension within me, that yearned for a true and lasting peace. Not a sense of peace that washed over the outside of me. A deep, nourishing peace that would feed my soul. The peace that always seems to be out of my reach. I knew, that this would not be an instant journey and that good habits and spiritual practice is going to be needed.
After the meeting, I took a number of leaflets back home with me. As I read them, I questioned whether Quakers was the right spiritual home for me. There is a great emphasis on political activism and the avoidance of war. For myself, I feel like I work on a much more local level and this felt almost like a conflict of interest for me.
I believe in teaching love and forgiveness, and extending that to others around me. I know on a collective conscious level, that I have contributed to wars on the other side of the world. My fear, anger and judgements, have a direct effort on the negativity in the world. But I also know, that through love and healing, I can help to heal that same war through my love.
I find the idea of being more active in the pursuit of world peace, rather challenging. I don’t take a large interest in world affairs. To the most part, I generally keep to myself and my little corner of the world. I know, that simply by living from a place of spirit, one of love and not fear. I am creating ripples around me, that have an accumulative effect far bigger than I could imagine. By not watching the news, I avoid feeding fear into the collective conscience and promoting dis-ease into the world.
However, this didn’t seem like a reason to discount the other values of the Quakers. I am looking for my spiritual home. A group that will support me and remind me to seek answers from spirit. Not a set text that dictates how I should live. I particularly like that Quakers are encouraged to take the more adventurous path if that is where spirit guides them and not to take the safest path out of fear.
As I sat with this conflict over the concepts of war and peace, I began to see insights that opened my perception of it. I recall reading, that peace doesn’t exist because people don’t believe it is possible. That until our belief in peace deepens, we will not look for alternative ways to resolve conflict. Our belief in fear and ego based thinking is too great.
For myself, working towards peace, begins with learning to live in the spirit. It begins with learning to let go of fear based thinking and to listen to my inner guidance. It’s about surrendering and letting go of trying to do everything alone and by myself.
So the challenge of a organised religious group promoting peace on a global scale, seems to far and out of reach for me right now. It’s a vision I struggle to connect with but I also recognise one that is important. Which when I sit and contemplate the issue does make perfect sense. While I am in a state where I am not accepting full inner peace for myself, it’s difficult to accept the idea of global peace for everyone else.
It also means that my work teaching love and self acceptance, is no less important than before. If I want to both accept world peace myself and help others to do the same, it begins with a belief that a true lasting inner peace is possible first.
I look forward to worshipping again in the near future with the Quakers. I hope each week brings new insights into my relationship with God as I set aside regular time. The sense of quietness in myself day, has been greatly appreciated and is a state I hope to enjoy more often.