Quaker Practice

Opening to the Light

But in the central innermost region of our minds there shines one pure ray of direct Light from the very Throne of God; one ray which belongs to each one individually; which is for that one supreme and apart; the ray which shining from the heavenward side of conscience, and so enlightening and purifying it, must of necessity dominate the whole being.

      ~ Caroline Stephen, 1834-1909

Have you ever wondered how Quakers center down and open to the Light? How they sit patiently for an hour in silence, waiting for messages from the Beyond That Is Within? In April, Reno Friends gathered for a worship sharing to explore these questions.

Here are some of the secrets we shared:

  • Call up an image of a calm space or place that you love and put yourself there.
  • Look at each person in Worship and hold them in the Light for a moment.
  • Think of Silent Worship as a secret space where you can let go of worldly cares and anticipate the pleasure of not needing to do anything for an hour but listen to Spirit.
  • Settle into “being” rather than “doing” for an hour.
  • Think of staying centered in the Holy Light and know that if you can do that, you will automatically do the right thing.
  • Think of the “Passing Clouds” move from Tai Chi that reminds us things rise, then pass, then other things rise and pass, all in endless motion. Crises pass.
  • “Catch the draft” of the group as it sinks into silence.
  • Come in with no expectation and try to be in the moment.
  • Follow the breath.
  • Imagine your concerns and distractions as a bundle that you can hold in the Light and ask, “Help me quiet and find the serenity underneath that will help me deal with all this.”

Towards the end of the sharing, I had the privilege of teaching a couple of my own practices from Tai Chi and yoga. These are practices, amongst others, I do every morning and before I arrive for Silent Worship. One of my big challenges with sitting for an hour is my physical restlessness. I’ve found moving meditations helpful in settling this restlessness so I can sit. These practices also help me get out of my own way and become a purer conduit for the Light. They remind me of the natural rhythms of life: ebb and flow, give and receive, do and be, breathe in and breathe out.

Here are the two simple practices I shared:

  1. Standing Mountain and Drawing Down the Light. This is a practice from yoga, which is done standing (can also be done in a chair). Standing Mountain is the foundational pose in yoga that aligns the body, grounds it into the earth, and opens the heart. Drawing Down the Light is done by sweeping the arms up towards the sky and then placing hands in prayer position above the head. Slowly the hands are drawn down the front of the body, pausing at the heart in gratitude, and then floating down towards the ground. At the end of the downward sweep, the hands are released, palms turn up and sweep back up to the sky to gather more Light. The idea is to empty oneself and become like a lantern or a vessel filled with Light, or Prana as it is called in yoga. You can also visualize the Light purifying you and removing any blocks within you so that Divine Energy can flow freely through you and out into the world. When I do this practice, I also like to reflect on being that which connects Heaven and Earth.
  • Pulling in the Light. This is a practice from Qigong/Tai Chi. It begins with a standing position (it can also be modified for those who prefer to sit), opening into the Tai Chi stance with the left foot extended in front of the right, in a slight lunge. The hands are cupped together beginning on the left side of the body, then the hands extend in a circle out and around and back in towards the right side of the body. At the same time, the body moves forward onto the extended left leg and then rocks back onto a bent right leg (like a slider rocker). While doing the movements, visualize offering Light to the world around you as you extend out, then pulling Divine Light in to your body as your hands return. Pause at your heart and say a silent blessing of gratitude for all that sustains your life before beginning the next circle. Complete nine circles on the left, then shift to the right and complete nine more circles. The sequence is finished by bringing both hands together in front of the chest, facing the palms down, and releasing them towards the ground (settling the Chi). This brings both strands of energy—giving and receiving—together in balanced harmony, honoring that Life is a circle.

Afterwards, some Friends expressed interest in learning and practicing more of these moving meditations. In April, Business Meeting approved “Embodying the Light” classes on June 12, July 10 and August 14 (all second Wednesdays) from 6:30-7:45 pm in the Meeting House. Classes will draw upon Tai Chi/qigong and yoga practices with the intention of embodying the Light in our physical bodies and our daily lives. Learn about becoming a clearer vessel for the Light, clearing blocks, releasing tension, being present in the moment, feeling the flow of inner energy, improving balance and breathing, and strengthening the muscles that carry us through physical life. These practices are also helpful in decreasing back, muscle and joint pain, plus they are a wonderful way to wind down mid-week and get a good night’s sleep. Movements will be gentle and easy so anyone can do them. They can be done in a chair if standing is difficult for you. Most of the practice is done in silence as a moving meditation. Following the movement, there will be time for questions, discussion and reflection.

I look forward to sharing these practices which have helped me deepen my own spiritual practice, improve my health, manage stress, flow through life with more grace and Light, and recover from two hip replacement surgeries within one year.

Rhonda Ashurst, RFM Blog Contributor

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