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Quaker Practice

Contentment

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I’ve been reflecting on contentment, curious about why I have been feeling increasingly content. January is usually when we resolve to change for the better, not a time to be content. I think what has changed for me this year is that I’m slowly dropping a lifelong habit of perfectionism; perfectionism and contentment do not make good bedfellows. In my practices of Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga and meditation, I’ve been focusing on being present and in complete acceptance with what is happening in the moment, what I can and cannot do. Perhaps after many years of practice, something is sinking in more deeply. Maybe it is part of aging and accepting of reality. Probably, it’s a combination of practices and life experience. There are blessings in getting older!

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Quaker Practice

Shedding the Cloak of Over-Responsibility

Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”

~  E. B. White

I can’t recall when my mission to save the world and others began or how I became overly responsible. It’s been such a part of me for so long I didn’t realize what a toll it was taking until I got older. This cloak of over-responsibility is heavy. It slows my steps, saps my life energy and joy. It keeps me so busy; I don’t have time to slow down, rest and savor life.

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Quaker Practice

The Spirituality of Creativity

Last month, Reno Friends gathered for a lively discussion on the spiritual aspects of creativity. Some in our group are artists, some musicians or writers or poets. Others said they tapped their creativity in less obvious ways, such as organizing their home or working on financial spreadsheets. But whether we paint or build or write or puzzle over math problems, all of us shared interesting ways that spirituality in general – and our Quaker faith in particular – enhanced our creative process.

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Quaker Practice

Detached Compassion

What does Detached Compassion mean? Doesn’t being compassionate involve passionate caring about others? I began exploring this concept while I was in the throes of burnout. After years as a counselor, I wasn’t sure I could go on caring so much for others and neglecting myself. I was suffering from compassion fatigue, which is a common problem in helping professions.

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Quaker Practice

New Year Messages from My Redwood Retreat

Sometime last summer, I hit a wall. My Light sputtered and I felt exhausted and depressed. I think it was Pivot Fatigue–a condition caused by too many changes and adaptations brought on by Covid, and then by our relentless wildfire season. Add to that the growing needs of our elders, which had also changed our lives considerably.

In a moment of despair, I was inspired to search for a place to retreat from the world and retore myself. I immediately thought of the California Redwoods and found myself on Airbnb searching for a cabin amongst the trees. I found a small gem and booked it immediately for early November. It was a magical spot in the forest, near the state park and my favorite trails through the majestic giants. I stayed for 5 nights–hiking; meditating; reflecting; journaling; listening to Spirit; napping; practicing yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi; dancing; and playing my wood flute.

I was frightened to go. I had received a very clear message from Spirit that I was not allowed to bring any of my books. I had never done a retreat without my books! What was I going to do with all that time by myself? Would I go mad?

Spirit was relentless. You spend too much time with the words and experiences of others and look to them for your answers. They are within you. Go and listen quietly.

I brought a notebook and pen with me and wrote what came through from the Beyond That is Within (another of my names for Spirit). As we begin this new year, I was led to share the highlights of what I heard and experienced.

As I walked through the forest, I was struck by its beautiful perfection. It is a jumble of new life growing out of death and decay, feeding lovely fungi that eat and transform wood that then grows new trees, ferns, and other plants. It is constantly renewing itself in an endless, intricate dance. Some trees are burned all the way through their centers and yet they still stand strong and vibrant, green boughs reaching for the blue sky and new children sprouting at their feet.

I remember asking for forgiveness for humanity and the destruction we are causing to the natural world and I received this message:  You and your species are as wondrous a creation as this forest.

I was aghast! How could that be true?

You are part of the Creation, unfolding Itself endlessly like this forest. You are a young species with much to learn. You are learning. Be patient with yourselves. Allow yourselves to be taught by Nature, to be transformed.

But we are killing nature, I argued.

You cannot kill Nature. Creation is endlessly resilient, like these redwoods, like you. Everything changes and transforms. Yes, you are changing the biosphere into something new. And you are learning through this process.

But species are dying, landscapes are forever changed!

Look around and within you. Everything is always dying and changing, including yourself. Yet from the decay, new life is born. Always new life. Embrace the changes, learn how to dance with Nature, remember we are all connected and nothing ever really dies. It just changes form.

I realized with sudden clarity how judgmental I have been of myself and all of humanity. As the days went by, my heart softened towards us all. We have a role to play in how creation unfolds on this planet. I determined to return to my life and allow Nature to teach me how to dance with Her, how to care for Her and cherish Her as part of myself. We are all intertwined in this magnificent Creation.

Meditation on the Redwoods

Be rooted in the Earth

Reach for the sky

Open your heartwood

Be fireproof

Create

Decay

Die

Give Birth to New Life

Repeat

I was encouraged to be present in each moment, not elsewhere in my head, to embrace what is so without thinking it “should be” something other than what it is. Along that same line, I was also encouraged to embrace myself as I am, while also honoring that I am continuously growing and changing like all that surrounds me. It is perfectly unfolding. My OCD/Perfectionist self was definitely challenged by Spirit during this retreat!

I heard this message:  BE more; DO less.

I spent time taking stock of what I am doing that dims my Light and feels like a “should”. I resolved to make changes to my schedule and open up more space to BE, to listen deeply more often.

One of the joys I discovered about halfway through the retreat was that I was having fun and it was effortlessly delightful! All this fear I’d had of being stuck with myself for a week vanished. I realized I still had the same ability I’d had as a child to get lost in nature and keep myself company.

Heaven is right here under your nose, open your eyes and see it.

I have a tendency to look for what I am seeking other than where I am standing and living. Repeatedly, I am directed to grow where I am planted and realize the beauty right here and now. I’m sure these redwoods understand this wisdom and are trying to transmit it to me!

The purpose of your existence is to give and receive LOVE.

I could feel that love was in the forest, connecting all the amazing life forms to each other in a symbiotic dance, and that I was also part of this dance. I was challenged to see that it is the same when I am in the human world.

Life goes on. It adapts, transforms, changes forms, but it always goes on. You are part of the Creative, Holy Spirit which goes forever on, creating the next manifestation. Rest in that, trust, and then do the next loving thing in the moment, led by the Inner Light which is ever part of the Great Light.

Rhonda Ashurst, RFM Blog Contributor

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

Categories
Quaker Practice

Speaking in Silent Worship

Quakers are known for gathering to worship in silence, and yet they also gather to hear the many voices of God. Instead of a prepared sermon or liturgy, Quakers worship through “vocal ministry,” messages offered out of the silence by those who feel moved to speak.

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Quaker Practice

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.

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Quaker Practice

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!

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Quaker Practice

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.  

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Quaker Practice

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.