A Deeper Understanding of Quaker Practice

Dear Friends,

There is so much to say about how meaningful it has been for me to compile this week’s Daily Quaker Message, but I will keep it brief, as I believe these messages speak for themselves.

I remember when I first encountered Elise Boulding’s idea that joy can be rooted in something deeper than happiness – it was a revelation that set me free to be at peace with my range of emotions and not to try and suppress or control them, but to appreciate each as it comes, grounded in joy. Monday’s message from Boulding set us on a path this week of inward exploration, further punctuated by Margaret Fell’s description of the Light on Tuesday.

The above revelations lead us into a deeper understanding of Quaker practice, an unfolding that we are all participating in, no matter how “inexperienced or unqualified we think we may be,” and ultimately leads us to take courage, and try from the bottom of our hearts to do that which we believe truth dictates.

Finally, I want to encourage you to spend some time with Saturday’s message, if you haven’t already, a Thomas Kelly essay on Chinese landscape painting and Quaker worship that has informed the very core of my understanding of Quaker faith, accompanied by a beautiful video made by my brother in his senior year at Guilford College. 

Thank you for subscribing to the Daily Quaker Message, and I hope it supports you as you explore your own unique spiritual path.

In peace,
Jon Watts

P.S. — Quick reminder that the Daily Quaker Message will be Sunday-only for a bit as we redesign some elements based on your feedback. Daily installments of the message will return in September.

Photo credit: Jess Horton

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How do you live your life to affirm the sacredness of the everyday?

Many years ago, soon after I was married, I announced to my wife that I was fine with being the one to wash dishes because "the Buddha is in the dish water." I wasn't being terribly serious, but had in mind similar pronouncements in the Zen tradition about the sacredness of everyday tasks. Only recently have I run across the account by the late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh of how as a novice monk he learned to apply mindfulness to the job of washing dishes for over a hundred of his fellows. He concludes: "Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane[...]. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end. We do the dishes not only in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them, and to be truly in touch with life."

These days I have an automatic dishwasher, so that avenue of connection to Spirit is probably lost. However, one of my current daily chores is cleaning the catbox. More challenging to find the Buddha or the sacred there, maybe, but no reason not to try doing it mindfully!

David S., Charlottesville, VA, USA
As a teacher, it is difficult to find quiet moments during the day, but I use planning time as well as lunch to refill my vessel at the well. Then, when class begins again, I can draw on that well to give an open mind and heart to the students. I am often gifted with moments of Spirit or the sacred in things students say or do.

As for the other half of my life, when I come home, time with my spouse is a constant experience of the sacred. We share worship together and speak of matters of Spirit as well as infuse every other part of our lives together with a quiet peace.

Lisa E., Gulfport, FL, USA
When I start a shower, as the water is heating up, I use a bucket to collect the cooler water. Then I water some of my outdoor plants with the bucket water. It helps me connect with the Spirit every day by using the Gifts that have been given to us (clean water).

Elizabeth G., Santee, CA, USA
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Banner photo credit: Jess Horton

This week’s messages are guest edited by Jon Watts, Quaker songwriter, videographer, and founder of Thee Quaker Project (the organization that publishes the Daily Quaker Message). Find out more about Jon.