Every week, we pose a new Quaker query for our readers to respond to. We’ve gotten so many thoughtful responses! We thought we’d start compiling them here.

How do you turn daily habits into opportunities for connection to Spirit? How have you noticed the sacred appear in the mundane?

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

How does physical movement change your spiritual experience? How do you prepare your body for worship? How does your spiritual life enhance your appreciation of the physical world?

My beautiful aging is my response: I enjoy much health and enough pain to remind me of my end; The pairing is spiritually guided by any light I may hold within; I am my body — all that it is and all of my acts can be worship. My awareness of impermanence, joy, suffering and bliss IS my life.

Jean N., Ingleside, IL, USA
I am a long-distance athlete. In my younger years, it was running marathons or triathlons. Now it’s mostly swimming. Especially early-morning, open-water swims in fresh lakes. The repetitive movement of my breathing and strokes center me. The first third of my swim, my mind is everywhere, then I settle in. During my last third, I’ve usually connected to my inner light. When I’m done and sitting on the dock drying off, I feel immense gratitude and connectedness to the natural rhythms of the world around me. I then begin my day, knowing I will be guided.

Peggy H., Vassalboro, ME, USA
I think realising that my body and what I consider my soul/spirit were connected really helped me learn to love myself and helped me heal. It also gave me a physical connection to spirituality that was more than just symbolic. For me, being fully present in the spirit means being present in my body and not trying to separate the two. Feeling my heart and focusing on my breathing not only helped me calm down physically, but allowed me to slow down spiritually and really appreciate and connect with what was around me.

Nicole L., Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

How do you create the conditions that help you hear that voice? What does “expectant waiting” mean to you?

Generally, thankfully, I move from nanosecond to nanosecond without a stop in my mind. However, there are still plenty of moments where I am unsure exactly what love and truth (i.e. God) are asking me to do or say. Therefore, I am happy to pause.

In that pause (which may be a few more nanoseconds, or may be something which sits with me for years), I wait patiently for a clear sense of "being right." Or at least, "being right, right now" — I'm also aware that things / thoughts / feelings / knowledge / insights can change!

How do I know? Head (reasoning), heart (feeling) and gut (mystery) feel aligned / right / good / at peace.

David T., Bassendean, Western Australia, Australia
These days I am experiencing a new-to-me kind of expectant waiting. Rather than deep centering in Meeting or Church, it is taking just a few moments when engaging with another person to try to listen to what the Lord has in mind for this encounter, how I can be present, or more importantly, how Christ can be present through me in this encounter; and how I can listen to voice of Christ through the other. I am not always successful or present in this, but am working on it.

(Substitute your own word for "Christ" and "Lord" if needed.)

Joe S., Portland, OR, USA

What happens for you when you try to sit still in silence? How do you maintain a state of inner stillness through the noise and demands of your daily life?

I start out by inwardly repeating the phrase "Thine, not mine." If my mind starts to wander, I return to that prayer for God's Will to take precedence over my own, to get away from my own ego running the ship. Then it's just a question of, for me, asking. Not asking a question, just asking. Asking for the Will of God. It takes courage to stand still in the searchlight of the Lord, submit to what it shows me, hearken to the advice that comes and trust that advice, but it is always worthwhile. Most often, a heard-feeling, a felt-voice quietly arises. 

When I am able to be sufficiently present throughout the day, then I focus on these verses: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). If I can focus my day on these things as a ceaseless prayer, as a way of being and acting, it's always a wonderful day!

Mark D., Lechlade, Gloucestershire, UK
Where is that settled faith that God is always with us, holding us in the palm of their hand? that each new event is an adventure, an opportunity to let our lives speak? I know it is there, on some deep level, but cannot seem to get there. So I sit still in silence and am consumed by thoughts and apprehensions. Only the fleeting moment with the heron, the rabbit, or the overwhelming beauty of a work of art or landscape provides a moment of escape into joy and life.

Joe S., Portland, OR, USA
I remember the presence of the Great Knower of my experience, my Being, the silent "I am."

David D., Honolulu, HI, USA

What does “centered-ness” mean to you? What does it feel like when you reach a centered state?

To be right here, right now. I focus on an intersection of a vertical and horizontal line as if it were a timeline. Everything to the left of center is the past and I cannot change that. Everything to the right of center is the future and I don't know what that will be. The intersection of regret and fear or the intersection of remembering and hope. The center is a point of now, a point of awareness and a point of connecting to God in everything. The center is a point of gratitude for what is right now.

Michele D., Ruther Glen, VA, USA
I seldom reach [centeredness] these days.

Due to feelings of responsibility regarding community tensions and our drop in attendance, my thoughts seem stuck in “worry.”

I remember earlier times of experiencing a pathway between my “to-do” list on the left and my “dreams for the future” on my right. When I could keep walking ON the path, a deep purple light appeared before me and I joyfully walked into it, wrapping its light around myself.

Judy B., Haddon Heights, NJ, USA

If God is in every person, how does that inform your approach to conflict? When have you had a conflict that resulted in deeper trust and connection?

Over time, I have become effective at handling and resolving conflicts. I tend to be forgiving, always striving to find alternative solutions. However, it didn't start out that way. 

On my first day of school at a Friends school as a fifth grader, I got into a physical fight with a girl who later became a close friend. What intrigued me was how the teacher handled the situation. She sat me down and said, "In this place, we do not resolve our problems or frustrations through fighting. You will learn a better approach." She asked me some questions and then allowed me to return to the class activities. Looking back, I realize that my teacher skillfully listened, reduced my anxiety, and recognized the divine within me. All year, she repeated this with various students in the class. 

As an adult, I try to remember that when conflicts arise, it is essential to decrease anxiety among those present to foster better listening. Lastly, true forgiveness sometimes requires time, and I must remind myself to be patient with the process.

-Trayce P., Tucson, AZ, USA
Every few months, a group of Friends gather for a 3-day working bee at a Quaker venue. This has been going on for years. One man had a habit of discussing things during epilogue rather than adopting a more worshipful (i.e. more silent) approach. After several years of this I finally confronted him. I said he was being disrespectful and secularising the nature of epilogue. He explained that, as he lived alone and rarely had the opportunity, he was seeking deeper spiritual conversations, more than silence. This made sense to me. He also showed me a photo of a woman wearing a dress. "What colour is the dress?" he asked. I said it was green. He said he saw it as being gold because he is colourblind. Something new registered in me. A deep acceptance of difference. Green/gold… who cares! It's still a dress! We both see a dress. Since then we have had a warmer relationship and have been able to offer more of what the other is seeking, more attention to having spiritual conversations and more worshipful epilogues. Everyone wins.

-Anonymous, Sydney, Australia
I tend to withdraw from conflict on the whole, but if the conflict is in regard to a justice issue, I will stand in the fray and speak my Truth. Sometimes this has resulted in the group being able to see things from a different perspective and other times it has ended in animosity. I use non-violent conflict resolution techniques and try to approach every situation with a listening heart, but sometimes the Truth is not heard. I make every effort to be open to new ideas myself, but in these fractious times, it is difficult to be open to people who believe in bigotry, oppression, and denial of basic human rights.

-Lisa E., Gulfport, FL, USA

What have you learned from those in your community who are different from you? What is the value of religious and theological diversity? What have you done to be a welcoming presence to people of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and identities in your community?

Looking back on a long Spiritual Journey among Friends, much of what I have learned and been inspired by has come from people who are different from me, either in their backgrounds or theology. Surrounding ourselves with people like ourselves may be a human instinct, certainly seems to be a cultural norm in these times, but is not conducive to change and growth. The desire to be transformed and grow in our faith has been central to Friends from the beginning, from my understanding.

It is always, for me, a stretch to reach out to someone who is different. The fear of offending is very real for me, or the risk of the other person not being interested in me, dismissing me as an "old white guy". Nevertheless, on those occasions where I have been able to reach out, to be present, the outcome has almost always been positively transformative, in small or large ways and likely in both directions.

That said, there is also deep value in finding the ways in which we are similar: our shared joys, transformative events, fears, hopes. Our growth as individuals and especially as a faith community depend to some degree on this. One of the greatest joys is to be able to reach across our diversity and differences to encounter those shared qualities, experiences, places of being in each other; but it is not always easy. Fortunately, we have a Guide.

Joe S., Portland, OR, USA
My husband and I became convinced Quakers because we were welcomed by the Quakers with absolute Love and compassion. What I have learned as a gay man in my Quaker walk is to acknowledge and lay down my discrimination, either conscious or unconscious! Especially the discrimination that I gave to Evangelicals that had shunned me. To forgive and not assume everyone that is Evangelical is homophobic.

Kurt G.-H., Granbury, TX, USA
Interacting and worshipping with people of diverse backgrounds challenges me and helps me articulate and develop my own beliefs. In those encounters and relationships, I can learn so much more than by only interacting with people who are very similar to me. Deep listening to others helps me to stretch myself and to grow.

Lisa M.-S., Evergreen, CO, USA

How does the intentional lack of a creed make belonging easier? Harder?

People belong in the Quaker community when they experience a kindred spirit with the testimonies and practices of Friends. Sometimes this kinship is carried lightly through association with Quaker meetings and churches or in Quaker organizations and schools. A person may not always identify as a Quaker, but may feel that they belong to the wider Quaker community. These associations create a richer diversity and vibrancy for the Religious Society of Friends.

And, for many Friends, the lack of a creed attracts us to go deeper in understanding Quaker faith and practice by belonging to a Quaker meeting or church. Through membership and through regular attendance and participation in the life of the Meeting, we build both spiritual and social community. Quakers are seekers and our seeking is enriched through corporate worship and through a commitment to one another. In our worship together as we listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and as we act on those leadings with the support of our community, our lives manifest our faith. There is a power beyond creed to this inward-outward movement when our faith and practice come alive on a daily basis.

Diane R., Washington, DC, USA
I am not a Quaker, not formally anyway. But I have worshipped with Quakers many times over the years. In particular, at a time when I had been seriously spiritually and emotionally wounded by my own faith community, Quaker meetings gave me space to worship without demanding that I have my faith journey mapped out. Friends honored my small contributions and seemed to value my presence. It was through their quiet caring, even without knowing my story, and the atmosphere of waiting worship that allowed my faith and my heart to heal. I'm still a member of my original faith tradition, but I attend Meeting for Worship when I can because I know the worship makes me a better Christian and knowing Quakers makes me a better human.

Roger M., Knoxville, TN, USA
After attending and participating in Friends Meetings for 60 years I am still not a member. I like seeking the Divine in community but I have a problem with the Faith part of Faith and Practice. I don't think that anyone's relationship with what they consider the Divine or the unknown origin of our existence is exactly the same. Some members of the Quaker community essentially consider the Testimonies as a substitute for a creed. Integrity constricts me from doing that since we are all individuals seeking along our path of life for what is true for us.

Juan W., Amelia, VA, USA
Lack of intentional creed is, for me, more inclusive. Therefore more accepting of individual quest. No ifs, buts, or maybes — an open door through which anyone may enter.

Hazel P., Preston, UK

How does it feel to worship alone? As part of a community?

Other people have consistently provided the example for me of the spiritual life I wanted to attain. I have encountered people who could be welcoming, literally with arms open wide; who could put care and concern above tasks and accomplishments; who knew how to stay with their friends in moments of sadness and grief; who knew how to listen without judgment and encourage without falseness. Some of these others have been examples of what is possible; some have been actual teachers and mentors with whom I could wonder about the mechanism of becoming more faithful. Either way, I would not know what I want my spiritual life to be—or know what it could be—without their presence in my life. 

Dan K., Richmond, IN, USA
This query is not an easy one for me. While I cherish the intimacy of worshiping alone, there's a part of me that yearns for the shared experience of worshiping with others in person. While online opportunities offer some connection, they can't fully replicate the energy of a group gathered in the same physical space.

However, I've come to recognize that many of my most profound spiritual experiences have been nurtured through relationships. Sometimes it's only upon reflection that I fully appreciate the impact these connections have had on my spirituality. 

Sarah S., USA
I came to the Friends from Catholicism. There’s a lot I miss about the RCC — the liturgy, the Eucharist, the incense. 

But with the Friends I found a group of people who loved me that I had never found elsewhere. So relationships have shaped my spirituality significantly. 

The Queer Quaker (response via Twitter)

What do you find yourself doing when you are stressed or upset? When you’re joyful? What does your body need before you can connect with Spirit?

Noticing is one of the keys for me. Whether I'm stressed or joyful, recognizing how the Divine manifests, particularly if it's in interesting or unusual ways, nourishes my whole being. Today I noticed an interesting shadow (photo above). Shadow is such a rich and deep spiritual subject to ponder.

-Rachel C-H, Dennis, MA, USA
I am a 66-year-old who has been blessed with amazingly good health most of my life. Always when any ailment hit me I was confident that if I ignored it, it would go away. And it did! However, since turning 60 I'm aware this practice, this habit, no longer works so well. Therefore, I am aware that if I am to look after this temple-of-my-body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) then I need to be more disciplined in caring for my physical self. My life's journey from being a militant, evangelising, tub-thumping atheist to someone who treasures his fear of God as a wonderful and guiding, constant companion has been a gift spiritually and mentally. The very least I can do is look after the physical gift of my body that I journey with a little better.

-David T., Bassendean, Western Australia, Australia

What areas of spiritual practice would you like to improve on? How can you practice patience with yourself as you move toward your goals incrementally?

It is so easy for me to think of all the ways I do not practice spiritual disciplines. And yet… The last couple of weeks have been emotionally difficult. And I notice (and appreciate) that for decades I have been developing a spiritual muscle I will call Possibility or Potential. (And we develop muscle only through practice.) This muscle points me away from complaining and toward the glimmer of opportunities, lessons, and spiritual growth. This muscle helps me stay grounded when faced with the unexpected. It encourages me to hold my judgement of others lightly, and look for ways to pray for them in their journey toward wholeness and faithfulness. It does not obscure my own pain and imperfection, but neither does it require that I be perfect or joyful to continue to be open to Possibility, to the movement of the Divine in my life.

Traci H.S., Philadelphia, PA, USA
I am reminding myself through my day to be thankful for all moments, even the difficult ones. Especially the difficult ones. The moments of grief or confusion are invitations to calm my mind. Almost always, the load is lightened by the blessedness of whatever I am doing, wherever I am. The warm dishwater. The sunlight on the leaves of a tree. The first butterfly of spring.

Julie B., St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
My experience is that the Spiritual Disciplines help one to be more attentive and receptive to the the voice of Christ (Holy Spirit, etc.). For many of us, this is the primary goal of our walk in/with the Spirit. Currently I am trying to get back into the practice of daily writing in a journal, focusing on the presence of the Spirit in daily life, celebrating the day of small things. I need to forgive myself for lapses and for seemingly empty entries and lack of skill. As a youth, I learned to ski (downhill). We used to say to each other: "If you're not falling down, you're not making any progress." I fell a lot. I got better.

Joe S., Portland, OR, USA
First, it is important and necessary to be clear that we are always close to the spirit – God dwells in us. This query is really asking when are we paying attention? I find that I am more aware of God within me when I am more aware of my physical body – when I pay attention to my breath, and my heartbeat and the sensations on my skin. Then I can know that the breeze which I feel on my arms and face is Spirit breathing with me. Then the warmth from the sun is God’s love  radiating through me.

What I find essential is that I make space in my life, every day, to pay attention. My thoughts can distract me, my worries can distance me from God, and my plans and responsibilities can take up all my time.

Fritz W., Portland, ME, USA
One of the simplest ways for me to connect with the Spirit is through hiking. It offers many opportunities for deep listening, with each step guiding me forward. Whether amidst towering mountains or observing the resilience of tiny plants sprouting from urban cracks, I am constantly enveloped in the awe-inspiring embrace of nature.

Sarah S., Switzerland
I feel so close to spirit all the time. I am moved by spirit (it seems to me) on so many things. But I feel closest to spirit on the things I have begun, then abandoned. Because I'm moved by spirit to abandon the thing that I thought spirit had moved me to begin.

David T., Bassendean, Australia

How do you define spirituality? How has your spirituality changed over the course of your life? What is different when you are more or less connected to your spirituality?

When I was 14, my father told me I didn’t have to go to Mass or Sunday school anymore, but I did have to attend some kind of weekly service from a religion; it was up to me to find my religious home, if any. I have enjoyed many different spiritual paths in the 54 years since then. The path I walked the longest was being a public school teacher. Every day, I was a servant to my students, offering a caring environment in which they would hopefully grow intellectually, socially, and individually. And, in those moments when they were engaged, working together, seeking knowledge eagerly, the world, the universe, hummed.

Spirituality is seeking a connection to something greater than the one, a connection to the world & to the generations past & future. Thich Nhat Hahn refers to that as the “ultimate dimension.” Some refer to it as God. It’s a way to seeing life beyond the obvious. 

I’m looking at my breakfast banana. If I could look deeply, I’d see the atoms, and spaces between. In fact, the atoms at the edges of the banana would blur into those of my plate. Spirituality helps us see the atoms, the spaces, the blur, the unity with the ultimate dimension, with the spirit, the love and breath of God.

When I’m connected to my spirituality, I am aware of that connection as I read, pray, ponder; as I love, cry, laugh; as I walk the park with my dog; as I laugh with or comfort a loved one; as I teach a yoga class. I am connected to all and with all. The world hums.

Toni W., Burleson, TX, USA
I can define spirituality on my side as a deep closer getting to know God more and more. The more I get myself occupied with Godly work, the deeper I get to understand myself in the vision of God. I have found myself involving in daily Morning Bible devotion, more time of praying and listening from God.

George B., Bura-Tana, Tana River, Kenya
Spirituality, for me, is our connection with everything outside of ourselves. When people are at a sports game and feel that connection with each other, I believe that is a sense of spirituality. When we empathize with somebody and attempt to understand them, that is spirituality. When we help an animal, or even take a moment to watch the trees blow in the wind and recognize how we are a part of everything, that is spirituality. I used to think that spirituality meant obedience or submission. Now I believe that the servitude that is spoken of, is to each other. The praise that is spoken of, is for each other. 

In the sermon on the rock, Jesus said that what we do for each other we do for him. He taught us that we are all created in God's image and are brothers and sisters. The best way to serve God is by serving each other. The best way to practice our connection with God, our spirituality, is by connecting with each other.

Jorden M., Chula Vista, CA, USA