Category Archives: Blogs

Sin and the Arrow

When I was in college, I had the great fortune to take a class on the Old Testament from a rabbi. It gave me a different perspective on these texts that I had been raised with and on life in general.

One thing that really stayed with me was his explanation of sin. He told us that in Hebrew, the word “sin” comes from archery, where it means “missing the mark.” I like that much better – it implies that our mistakes are not heavy, hopelessly immutable objects, but can teach us where we need to improve our aim, focus, and strength so that in time we may hit a bulls-eye, or at least the target.

If you’ve ever tried archery, you know that at first, there is little consistency. The arrow may hit the target, but more likely, we undershoot, overshoot, or the arrow goes wildly to the left or right, hopefully not hurting anyone in the process. And sometimes as we release the string, it will smack us on the arm or even the cheek. There are things we can do to improve our aim; for example, stand closer to the target, use the right weight bow, and be mindful of what we are doing. But what makes the most difference is practice – not giving up just because we only hit the hay bale once that day. If we persevere, our results become more consistent and increasingly close to the mark.

For me, this is one of the key differences between “sin” and “missing the mark.” The surest way not to repeat a sin is to avoid that action again and stay as far away as possible from the situation that caused it. “Missing the mark,” instead, suggests that we learn what we can from the mistake, put it behind us, and if appropriate, be prepared to try again in the future.

In order to improve, we have to be honest with ourselves. Sure, there are things outside our control that can cause an arrow to go off course – an errant gust of wind, for example. But we have to recognize that the most likely cause was the archer, not the equipment or the environment. To make progress, we need to assess what happened, where we went wrong. Was our stance correct? How was our technique? Were we focused? And if it does turn out that our form was good, but something out of our control occurred, what could we have done to anticipate or circumvent that problem?

The Japanese martial art Kyudo, the Way of the Bow, sees archery as a deep, almost mystical practice, teaching calm, patience, focus, gracefulness, and respect. The goal is to be mindful as you go through the steps to release the arrow.  And once the arrow has been launched, you are not finished yet – there is a last step of being present until the flight of the arrow ends. The archers hold their position and attempt to send their spirit out, even after the arrow has hit. Immersion in the task is meditation through action. Master archers concentrate so purely that they exude an aura of serenity. Most of us don’t have the purity of mind it takes to do this perfectly, but all we are responsible for is to set up the shot and perform the steps from our center and in the Light. Kyudo teaches that if an arrow is launched in truth, goodness, and beauty, it will hit its mark.

Edie Uber, RFM Blog Contributor

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.

The Genesis of Embodying the Light

I teach a Qigong/Tai Chi/Yoga class for Reno Friends three times a month and was recently asked how I came to this practice and what it means to me. I thought a blog post would be the perfect way to answer that question.

I have been practicing yoga since 2008 and Qigong/Tai Chi since 2014. I came to these practices after injuries and during rehabilitation. You might say I discovered them after breaking myself repeatedly. In Western culture, we are programmed to push ourselves to attain physical goals and fitness. Like many people, I was able to do this in my youth, but as I aged, this strategy was no longer working!

Continue reading The Genesis of Embodying the Light

The Meaning of Life

Last year I took a class at UNR on Qualitative Research which taught methods for conducting in-depth interviews. I was tasked with conducting two interviews about a sociological concept that interested me. Apart from my academics and in my personal life, I had been thinking a lot about my own life:  what made me feel passionate, and what I might be here to do. I decided to take the project as an opportunity to interview two people that I thought would speak beautifully on the topic of “the meaning of life,” Rhonda Ashurst of the Reno Friends Meeting and one of the Buddhist priests from the Reno Buddhist Center, Rev. Shelley Fisher. At the root of this question was a desire to feel my soul a little and share an exceptionally profound idea with two incredible people.

Continue reading The Meaning of Life

Quakers and Prayer

Reno Friends gathered online earlier this year for a spiritual discussion about Quakers and Prayer. Newcomers to Silent Worship, puzzled by the unprogrammed quiet, often ask me if Friends are praying. I can understand their confusion, because it’s not clear during Silent Worship what, exactly, we’re doing. Some of us would say we’re sitting in silence waiting to hear what God might have to say to us. Others say they are meditating, and some might say they are praying.  

Continue reading Quakers and Prayer

Preparing for Re-Entry

Near the end of my two years of teaching in China, Volunteers in Asia (the organization that had hosted me) sent me materials about reverse culture shock. I was so excited about going home that I hadn’t thought about problems I might experience upon re-entry. In some ways, returning to “normal” life as pandemic restrictions ease will be a bit like returning home from a foreign land, and we might smooth the transition by taking time to consider the impact of the last year and anticipate what might come.

Continue reading Preparing for Re-Entry

What is God?

When I proposed the topic “What is God” for the February Reno Friends spiritual discussion, I was both excited and anxious. Would anyone come, and more importantly, would we have the courage to share from our hearts and souls about this big question? Fourteen of us met on Zoom last month, and almost immediately we opened into a gathered space of deep sharing. It was truly magical!

Continue reading What is God?

Domestic Noise

On a recent Sunday, our Quaker Meeting was gathering for our Zoom Silent Worship, when something lovely happened. As usual, there was a bit of chitchat as folks welcomed each other to the zoom session, and then people began settling into the silence.  As the session quieted (and before the host muted everyone) there was a short period when we could all hear domestic noise from each others’ homes: the clink of a spoon in a mug, the scrape of a chair on the floor, the whistle of a cockatiel.  It was intimate and wonderful.

Continue reading Domestic Noise

Bringing Light into the World

This is the time when sunlight returns to our winter world and a new year begins. 2020 has been a year of retreat for many of us, clouded by uncertainty and anxiety. We spent more time with ourselves than usual. I have seen this year as an opportunity to go the “mountain”, to use a metaphor common to many spiritual traditions. There has been less outward activity and more inward reflection. But now the energy is shifting, and the time is coming to re-engage with the “marketplace”—to bring our inner Light into the world.

Continue reading Bringing Light into the World

What Does Quaker Membership Mean?

Several weeks ago Reno Friends met online for a spiritual discussion about membership, which was something of a rare event. Usually, modern-day Quakers don’t talk much about who’s a member and who’s an “attender.” Many devoted Quakers spend their lives as attenders of Monthly Meetings, volunteering for leadership roles and participating in Silent Worship, Business Meetings and social events, but deciding against the step of membership. In truth, that pretty much describes me: I’ve been attending Quaker Meeting (with varying levels of devotion) since I first went to the Florida Avenue Meeting in Washington, D.C., more than 35 years ago. I’m a really good attender.

Continue reading What Does Quaker Membership Mean?