In The Light Practice

Into The Light Practice

A path of personal transformation (Quakers)

Quakers are known for their social activism.  They have an orientation toward peace, social justice, environmental causes and more.  These issues give Quakers a unique identity and a sense of community with like-minded Friends. Quakers have a proud heritage of utilizing peaceful social activism to help to bring about needed change.

Quakers have many systems for the development of an orientation of social activism.  They have business meetings, committees, workshops and many Quaker organizations that are devoted to a sense of fairness and justice.  All of these systems give Quakers a systematic way to develop their view on social issues.

The area that Quakers are not known for is personal transformation.   Quakers use the term “weighty Friend” to describe a Friend who has experiences, deeds and wisdom that give them an informal position of respect or authority.  Quakers have terms which describe personal transformation such as simplicity, silent worship, equality, community, centering down, clearness, continuing revelation, eldering, inward light, labor with, waiting upon the Lord and more.  All of these terms are informal practices that Quakers use to move toward personal transformation and the possibility of becoming a “weighty Friend”.

This blog seeks to address a series of queries related to personal transformation.

Is personal transformation and spiritual development an important part of your monthly Meeting?  Is personal development and spiritual transformation nurtured at your Meeting?   Would a list of strategies used by Quakers for personal transformation be helpful for personal and spiritual growth?  What are some ways that current informal Quaker practices around personal transformation could be nurtured to achieve some of the research benefits that are found in other inward spiritual traditions?

Into The Light Practice (discoverymeditation.com) is a clearinghouse of methods that Quakers use to experience personal transformation toward the experience of That of God within each of us.  This website/practice also showcases research from other spiritual traditions that have shown positive social and emotional benefits.  The website challenges Quakers to be a witness to the truth of how personal transformation can create a healthy relationship with God and provide significant health benefits to individuals.

The Light of God

An inward transformative practice of revelation by Quakers is often referred to as the Light of God, the Christ within, That of God in everyone, the Light within, the inward light and the inner light.  Quakers sometimes quote scripture to signify the origin of these terms.  John 1:7 “Walking in the light is to be guided through life by God; walking in darkness is making your own decisions as to what to do and say.” Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

This type of revelation is sometimes referred to as “God consciousness” or “Christ consciousness”. Entering into God consciousness is accomplished by being in the light through transcending yourself and your reality.  In doing this Quakers are not leaning on their own understanding (ego) but are transcending ego to experience the light of God and to come out of the darkness of the self.

Along with this transcendent aspect of Quaker practice the Religious Society of Friends also has a daily practice of testimonies.  According to the American Friends Service Committee in a pamphlet entitled “An introduction to Quaker Testimonies”, 2011, “Quakers believe in living life in the spirit of love and truth and peace, reaching for the best in oneself and answering “that of God” in everyone. Quaker testimonies are expressions of the commitment to put those beliefs into practice. The testimonies bear witness to the truth, as Friends in community perceive it—truth known through relationship with God. They do not exist in any rigid, written form; nor are they imposed in any way. Each Quaker searches for how the testimonies can best be expressed in his or her own life.”

The transcendent aspects of Quakerism and the daily practice of testimonies show similarities to many eastern spiritual practices of meditation and mindfulness practice.  Although Quaker practice has not undergone significant research on the personal benefits of participation, eastern spiritual practices of meditation and mindfulness are well researched.

According to the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx) Meditators enjoy greater empathy and a feeling of more compassion than non-meditators. They demonstrate a decreased level of stress and anxiety.  Meditators express that they have a better quality of life than those who do not meditate.

Along with meditation research, there are also notable benefits of practicing mindfulness according to the American Psychological Association. The research determined that there was reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, greater ability to focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and a higher degree of relationship satisfaction.

If these benefits are indeed based upon research and carry the weight of truth, then Quakers may want to consider a continual process of development of In The Light Practice.  To gain the health benefits that meditators achieve, one could practice daily sessions of silent worship to increase time spent transcending their own understanding and moving toward “God conciseness.” The testimonies could be a daily tool to promote more mindful awareness of the values that Quakers know to be true in creating a healthy life style.

In The Light Practice website (discoverymeditation.com)is a clearinghouse of ideas for Quakers to realize the personal benefits that can be achieved through transcendence and living in a relationship with God. It is a place for those who are not comfortable with traditional eastern spiritual practices to find a healthy practice that is rooted in Christian traditions and values.

 

 

 

Born in the Town of Bigotry

I have been teaching and working with people with disabilities for over 40 years.  When I heard Donald Trump mocking a reporter with cerebral palsy I was sickened.  I truly have not seen an adult mock a person with a disability since my childhood. For those who were born before the civil rights legislation of the 60’s you may not be aware of the kind of bigotry that existed at that time.

I wrote the following poem as a reaction to the spectacle of seeing a presidential candidate mock someone with a disability.

Born in the Town of Bigotry

By Joel Ottenbreit

 

I was born in the town of Bigotry. A place where my neighbors taught me well,

I learned that poor Blacks were lazy and that foreigners often smell.

 

That a women’s place was in the home cause that’s what made life stable,

They must look their best, care for the kids, and have dinner on the table.

 

Where people with disabilities are those you pretend not to see,

And if they come to close to you try everything to flee.

 

To be different. That is bad and truly kind of queer,

Push them, beat them, bully them. You need to make them fear.

 

In Bigotry, life was large, seemingly as big as a brontosaurus,

To increase the fun, so I could stun, I decided to join the chorus.

 

I told their jokes and sang their songs that those not like us were dumb,

They had no real place being here with us cause they were only scum.

 

Though I grew up in Bigotry one day I had to leave,

Tears in their eyes, their screams and cries, made me question what I believe,

 

I came across a mean and angry boy I knew who recently became transgender,

Instead of a broken person, stood a woman who was quite tender.

 

I discovered those with disabilities were not given less,

They just needed accommodations so they could be their best.

 

And those from other cultures were truly not the same,

But the differences they taught me were wonderfully insane.

 

When I failed to notice the color of their skin, aquaintinances became quite dear,

We could laugh and cry together as friends, from them I had no fear.

 

That women are our equals and a great part of this nation.

They should not be seen as less, no need for objectification.

 

I have the one true religion, this is what my priest would say,

Soon I discovered love and compassion from different faiths along the way.

 

But sometimes in your travels the path will bring you round,

One day I awoke in Bigotry with a new mayor in the town.

 

He’s loud and brash and full of hate with the old ideas to plate.

Restore what was once ours, we need to make America great.

 

Mexicans are bad, they’re not sending us their best,

They’re criminals and rapists, they are our new found pest.

 

Those with cerebral palsy are really kind of irrelevant

They speak funny with poor speech and are truly unintelligent.

 

And women without big breasts, they are just not right for men

How could you even consider them for they are not a perfect ten?

 

And those of the Muslim faith we need to ban them from our town

Cause they have some bad ones who want to bring us down.

 

And those who disagree with me are such a big disgrace,

The best way to deal with them, is to punch them in the face.

 

The mayor was concerned with numbers and wanted me to join his chorus

But this time my heart had grown and my will was no longer porous.

 

Instead of singing his praises and telling vulgar jokes,

I stood in line with my protest sign and claimed it was all a hoax.

 

For now I have to stay in Bigotry and pray it does not become violent,

And encourage good people in the town to no longer remain silent.

 

And when this mayor is forced to leave the fears of the marginalized will dissipate,

 

We’ll learn that kindness and love were the true things that made America great.