For those who practice silent worship, whatever branch of Quakerism you belong to, how do you "settle into the silence?"

I ask this question because I notice that my meeting is comprised mostly of people who enjoy silence and thinking for their own sake: scholars, artists, people who work outdoors. And yet "thinking" is not what we are there to do. On the other hand, most of my extended family, my siblings and others, react with horror at the idea. It's the very definition of excruciating boredom to them, an hour of silence. They have no idea what to do with their minds in that seeming emptiness.

I have experienced covered worship, both my own and my meeting. And I've experienced hours when I entertained myself with my own thoughts and failed to worship. Lately I have "resorted" to centering prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to gather us in and dwell in us many times throughout meeting whenever I became aware that I was not in a state of worship.

Sometimes I find the writings of early Friends, the kind of thing that Fox writes in his pastoral letters, powerfully evocative and helpful, but it is also highly mystical and metaphorical. I don't know how to "dig deep." I only know that sometimes I am brought deeper as a gift. And I don't think this command would make sense to most modern Americans. So I'd like to hear from Friends today what you do when you sit down. Can you describe what you have taught your mind to do in order to reach stillness?
Thanks so much,
Rosemary

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Yes, it's not something one controls for oneself... but I'm greedy, and sometimes want more stillness, more atunement than I'm feeling. & that too is God's working...

"Sufic and other spiritual practices do not bring Grace. For in truth, Grace is always there. Every human soul is always under Divine Grace but does not know it; therefore the practices" [Sufi Sam Lewis]
Thank you, Stephanie. That is all really helpful advice.
Thank you, Geoffrey. Your simplicity is very inspiring. I always need to remind myself that God can reach me without my having anything to do with it.
Rosemary,

Sometimes "just watch." Sometimes I am more engaged in thinking through whatever the issue is, in order to get it resolved so I can then lay it aside and move on to deeper worship. It hadn't occurred to me to pray for help with thoughts per se, though of course I've prayed about subjects that were of concern and thus would have been thinking about. Though not during meeting for worship, I have on a few occasions prayed Psalm 19:14 (May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (NIV). Since as we think in our hearts, so are we, perhaps praying for help with our thoughts is a good idea!

"And in the seed Christ, your way, you have life and peace; and there you do see over all the
ways of Adam in the Fall, in which there is no peace." George Fox, Epistle 227. I'm drawn to Fox's idea of Christ as a Light that allows us to "see over" all that which draws us away from life and peace. In his letter to Lady Claypole, he says that the Light shows us all these things, but advises that we not look to what the Light shows, but to the Light itself. (An excerpt of the letter is found here: http://153.106.5.3/ccel/fox_g/autobio.xvii.html). As applied to thought (or emotions, or anything else, for that matter) we come to a point at which we are conscious of it. We are not merely caught up in the thinking like an actor who is so earnestly playing a part that he is convinced the part is real, but we are able to stand apart and say to ourselves "I see that I am thinking...." At that point we are starting to "see over" our condition and we can shift, as Fox advises, from focusing on "what is seen" to the Light that shows it.

However, I have never experienced this as the complete obliteration of thought! (At least not for very long). On the other hand, I am gaining a growing awareness of the difference between self-referential ideas, which are past or future-oriented, and the presence of God in each moment.
Thanks so much, David. So many helpful ways to understand worship better here.
I listen and wait for that still small voice to speak to me or through me either directly or through others.

When I cannot settle I meditate on an episode in Scripture -God is not in the wind or the fire or the ceiling fan. Sometimes, it's Christ calming the storms -I'm the boat and all the chaos around me the storm, but it's the disciples running around like chickens with their heads cut off (my anxieties and worries) that are the problem that the inward Christ deals with. If I'm focused on all the stuff I have to do then it's Mary and Martha.

Recently at MfW -we meet outside in the summer at a park, I was distracted by the lack of silence as the Meeting was well attended by cicada (fireflies are more Friendly) and what came to me was that I would have no problem sitting in nature silently with one that I loved and I needed to simply sit with Jesus and his Friends and ENJOY the moment -to practice the presence of God as it were.
Thanks, Jeffrey. These are all great examples of how to respond skillfully to whatever state of mind we find ourselves in.
For me, mantras and sayings never get me in the head space I need, and I prefer something visual. Mostly, I close my eyes and imagine that I am getting larger, absorbing good energy, growing upward, and sending it out again. I picture rivers of light coming in with my breath and leaving through my fingers in whichever direction I want. I let my breathing become very slow, and eventually I feel incorporeal.
Yes to images! I tend to be such a verbal person that I always concentrate on words, but when images come that is usually a much more profound experience. Rare, but wonderful.
I try to "begin" to "Center down" before I ever get to Meeting....although sometimes this is difficult to do...but I find if I prepare to enter into the Presence and join the "Living Silence"....I seem to have less distractions if I prepare first.

I do deep breathing when I first seat myself....I envision a place of Light....and visualize all present to be "joined" in this Light.....I keep myself, as much as possible anyway, in a comfortable position and "hold" the thought in my mind as long as possible....sometimes I fail miserably...but more often than not...I have a positive experience in Meeting.
I'd like to also mention that at times I have used a "prayer rope" in Meeting....and "Orthodox prayer rope" as opposed to a rosary as the prayer rope is "silent" as it moves through one's fingers...the rosary might "click, click, click"....when I do use the "rope", I recite a portion of the Jesus Prayer...."Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me...." or..."Light beyond Light calm my anxious heart"....or a line from the Psalms or Gospels that has a particular relevance to me......

I used a prayer rope one time and looked up across the meeting room and another Friend had a Buddhist "mala" he was utilizing.....we "caught each other's eye" and smiled to one another.
I found . . . that if I schedule a specific time to listen to Gods voice . . . the results are so so.

My most productive times are . . . when God just pops in . . . on his own schedule . . . and starts teaching . . . I then . . . must drop everything . . . and listen . . . if I loose the slightest focus on him . . . bam . . . he's gone.

What ever we think the most about . . . is what we love the most.

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