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.