I was reading an article this morning in an old issue of Unity Magazine (September/October 2005) describing a Quaker meeting attended by the author, Mason Hayek.
Here's what he shared of his experience:
The Friends who have gathered have brought in their feelings from life as it is for each of them today...Each person has brought a bundle of feelings and sits clutching it. (p. 44)
Image via WikipediaAs time passes, the silence deepens, so that any sound will seem like a rock breaking the window of one's mind. And yet, part of what we come for is the ministry, the message that we or others may speak. The ministry of presence is helpful and the strength that comes from meditation, contemplation, creative thought, or worship will reward our coming. But the words that arise from the honest and open searching for truth by others can open new paths for us. The words can catalyze our searching. (pp. 44-45)
From one's own worship and meditation, perhaps aided by the ministry of others, may come thoughts that are too strong to restrain. When the words beat against our brains irresistibly, we must speak. (p. 45)
A Friends Meeting for Worship is a gathering in quiet, waiting and listening for the "still small voice within." (p. 45)
The essential elements of worship can all be practiced and experienced when one is alone, but Meeting for Worship has special qualities. It is a shared experience in searching for the truth, a religious experience enhanced by interaction with other persons. That interaction allows us to test reality. We can see our lives, wishes, and fears in better perspective when we interact with others under conditions where we respect our neighbors as well as ourselves. We feel joined to one another. (p. 45)
In her online article, Silent Worship and Quaker Values, Marsha Holliday notes:
...Friends in the unprogrammed Quaker tradition base our worship entirely on expectant waiting.
"Expectant waiting." I think that's such a lovely way to put it!
Two summers ago I attended a class at Pendle Hill, which is a Quaker retreat Center, where we were invited to participate in a Meeting each morning.
I went once or twice, and I reflected then, as I did again this morning, on how similar it felt (to me) to the process of music therapy, especially when working with people who don't use speech to communicate. (I've written quite a few blogs- here and here, for example- about silence as an important aspect of music therapy.)
In particular I was struck by the idea of presence within the silence and being present to the experience of silence.
Unexpectedly (or maybe not), as I was thinking about this, I happened to read a blog, also this morning, about the experience of silence from the perspective of a person on the autism spectrum.
Mike, the author of the blog Journal of an Autist reminds us:
Even silence speaks...Start by listening through all your senses, and you will hear us speak, even in our silence.
I'm not sure whether it's a taboo or not to talk about therapy and spirituality (I certainly don't see music therapy, or any kind of therapy, as a space to conduct one's religious agenda), but it's hard to not see the parallels. We create a sacred space within which the therapist, the client, and the music come together for the purpose of growth. There is complexity within these relationships and an effort to make sense of the complexity. There is a joining together for a common purpose...all of these seem like deeply spiritual experiences to me.
I wonder what your thoughts are about this.