Friends “center down” when they enter into communal worship, leaving worldly thoughts behind to focus on the presence of the divine.

This month you are invited to reflect on your own process for centering and experiment with new ways to still your mind and body.

Four Doors to Meeting for Worship

Four Doors to Meeting for Worship

I once thought worship was something I do, but for many years now it has seemed as if worship is actually a state of consciousness which I enter, so that I am immersed into a living, invisible stream of reality which has always been present throughout all history. In some mysterious way this stream unites me with the communion of the saints across the ages and brings me into the presence of the Living Christ, the Word, the Logos written of in the Gospel of John.

Soak Up the Gift of Life

Soak Up the Gift of Life

As I silence myself I become more sensitive to the sounds around me, and I do not block them out. The songs of the birds, the rustle of the wind, children in the playground, the roar of an airplane overhead are all taken into my worship. I regulate my breathing as taught me by my Zen friends, and through this exercise I feel the flow of life within me from my toes right through my whole body. I think of myself like the tree planted by the ‘rivers of water’ in Psalm 1, sucking up God’s gift of life and being restored.

The Faith of a Quaker

The Faith of a Quaker

When I sit down in meeting I recall whatever may have struck me freshly during the past week. This is in part, initially at least, a voluntary and outward act… It means that the will is given up to service; and it is quite possible to stop everything by taking an opposite attitude. So thoughts suggest themselves – a text that has smitten one during the week – new light on a phrase – a verse of poetry – some incident, private or public. These pass before the door whence shines the heavenly light.

You are Held by a Love that Passes All Understanding

You are Held by a Love that Passes All Understanding

I discovered the way to the interior side of my life, at the deep center of which I knew that I was not alone, but was held by a love that passes all understanding. 

This love was mediated to me, in the first place, by those with whom I worshiped. For my journey was not solitary, but one undertaken with my friends as we moved towards each other and together traveled inwards.

Quakers and Mindfulness

Quakers and Mindfulness

To clear your mind and become ‘spiritually focused,’ you have to learn to concentrate what George Fox called “thy wandering mind.” Unfortunately, many Quaker writings don’t specify a way to develop this concentration.

But concentration is a central part of mindfulness, and the literature on mindfulness contains a lot of advice about learning to concentrate. Most of it boils down to repeatedly focusing your attention on your breath or some other aspect of your experience.

How to Practice Centering Prayer

How to Practice Centering Prayer

In 1987 I first came across the fourteenth century text and foundational text for Centering Prayer, The Cloud of Unknowing and I knew then that I’d found something I was looking for – a way to enter the sacred, a direct approach to God, and something that I believed would deepen my experience of meeting for worship:

‘Do not pray with words unless you feel you really must’ and ‘…look that nothing remains in your conscious mind but a naked intent stretching unto God, not clothed in any particular thought about God – what he is like in himself or in any of his works – but only that he is as he is.’

The Silence of All Flesh

The Silence of All Flesh

The silence we value is not the mere outward silence of the lips. It is a deep quietness of heart and mind, a laying aside of all preoccupation with passing things — yes, even with the workings of our own minds; a resolute fixing of the heart upon that which is unchangeable and eternal.

Bring Back Your Heart Patiently

Bring Back Your Heart Patiently

When your heart is wandering and distracted, bring it back quickly to its point, restore it tenderly to its Master’s side, and if you did nothing else the whole of your hour but bring back your heart patiently and put it near our Lord again, and every time you put it back it turned away again, your hour would be well-employed.

That Which is Holy and Living

That Which is Holy and Living

Oh, that ye might inwardly know these things! Turn in, turn in. Mind what stirs in your hearts; what moves against sin, what moves towards sin. The one is the Son’s life, the Son’s grace, the Son’s Spirit; the other is the spirit and nature which is contrary thereto. If ye could come but to the sense of this, and come to a true inward silence, and waiting, and turning at the reproofs of heavenly wisdom, and know the heavenly drawings into that which is holy and living, ye would soon find the Lord working in your hearts.

Do Not Protect Yourself From Silence

Do Not Protect Yourself From Silence

In contrast to traditional ways of living, modernity relies on what we can consciously think about and talk about, what we can demonstrate or exhibit in the public arena. We moderns need to be in control. That is our strength. But it is also our weakness, because we dare not trust those aspects of our life that elude our control, our rational understanding. We become insensitive to them, even sometimes denying their very existence.

Heavenly Power That Draws Hundreds

Heavenly Power That Draws Hundreds

The Lord of Heaven and earth we found to be near at hand, and, as we waited upon him in pure silence, our minds out of all things, his heavenly presence appeared in our assemblies, when there was no language, tongue, nor speech from any creature. The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us and catch us all, as in a net, and his heavenly power at one time drew many hundreds to land.

God’s Attention

God’s Attention

The central thrust of Early Quaker preaching was a call to people to know Christ as the Prophet, the one who is to be heard and obeyed, in all things. One of the first things that people did, when convinced by this message, was to gather together with others, likewise convinced, to hear their Christ, their Teacher. Once we understand this, we can see that gathering together in silence to hear Christ Jesus, is the only proper human response to God’s call to hear His Son. In that way, Quaker worship is itself, a response to God’s call to hear and obey Christ Jesus.

A Perfect Pandemonium of Voices

A Perfect Pandemonium of Voices

I began to get still. But I had no sooner commenced than a perfect pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din. Some of them were my own voice, some were my own questions, some of them were my very prayers. Others were the suggestions of the tempter, and the voices of the world’s turmoil.

Quaker Worship and Meditation

Quaker Worship and Meditation

Those who are familiar with meditation, often from the popularisation of Buddhist meditation methods, but not with Quaker worship practices, often get the idea that they are very similar. I have read accounts of Quakers who first came to a Quaker meeting because they had been enjoying Buddhist meditation, but moved to an area with no sangha or meditation group, and were advised that what Quakers did was like meditation. There are, obviously, some superficial similarities – a whole bunch of people sitting in silence being the obvious one – and even some comparability of the inward practice, but there are fundamental differences that clearly separate the two experiences and practices.