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Quaker Practice

The Magic of Meeting for Business

Few people love a meeting, but most organizations hold meetings because they have essential business to accomplish. Quaker Meetings are no different:  once a month, most Quaker Meetings hold what is formally known as “Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.” To be honest, a Quaker Meeting for Business is unlike most meetings I’ve had to attend in my life, either for work or with community organizations. And the key to the difference is in the formal name.

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Quaker Practice

The Case for Silence

There is something about the stillness of midwinter that soothes the soul. Much of the natural world sleeps. Though the wind still blows and birds hop about searching for seeds, for the most part the cold and dark confer a deep, healing silence.

Many of us who attend Quaker Meeting on Sundays are drawn by the opportunity to sit in communal silence for an hour. The Quaker silence started, in part, as a reaction to church services of the seventeenth century, which were filled with ritual and liturgy. Early Quakers believed, instead, that each person must come to her or his own understanding and experience of God. The silence is a chance to listen for God – the stillness enables us to quiet the busyness of our brains and discern what God might want us to hear. It requires waiting.

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Quaker Practice

The Dark Side of Gratitude

January, the season of resolutions, is always a time when I vow to do better with my Gratitude Practice. I usually start out strong, listing three things every day that I am grateful for, but – inevitably – sometime in the cold, dark days of February when it looks like winter will never end, I give it up. I’m not sure why. But I found a clue the other day: a note to myself that I should write a blog about the dark side of gratitude. And that was all it said; I had no idea what I had meant when I made that note months earlier.

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Quaker Practice

The Hold-In-The-Light List

Every First Day, at the end of Silent Worship, the clerk of Reno Friends Meeting reads the Hold-in-the-Light List. This is a list of all those we are “holding in the Light of God.” It usually includes the names of loved-ones we are concerned about because of illness, injury or trouble, and also a statement extending our concern to “all those who live in places where there is strife and need.” In difficult times, the list can get quite long.

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Quaker Practice

The Gifts of Silence

My husband and I were hiking on a ridge above Lake Tahoe recently when I suddenly realized I could hear almost nothing. This happens out west – if you go far enough off-road you can often find a place beyond the whine of the highway or the hum of the city. We were hiking late in the day, so there were few others around. Even the birds were quiet. The tall pines and slanting light made it feel like we were walking through holy space, the world hushed in reverence.

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Quaker Practice

The Book of Joy

In March I went on a retreat to Graeagle. My friend, Peggy, sent along The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. What an amazing teaching this book was for me during my sacred time! It was exactly what I needed. Before my retreat, I had been feeling increasingly hopeless about the future of humanity and all of our relations that share this planet with us. This is a familiar issue for me and one I’ve blogged about before.

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Quaker Practice

Growing Old, Gracefully

The Reno Friends monthly book club recently met to ponder both the challenges and blessings of growing older. Or at least to try and find a few blessings.

Our book for the month was On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Growing Old, by Quaker writer Parker Palmer, a primer to both the yin and yang of the aging experience.

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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.