Jim Wilson's recent post and comments on mysticism are very stirring for me, as are the words of so many who respond to his post "A response to Madeline Schaefer...."    This statement of Jim's unique faith experience speaks not just "my mind" but my heart, my experience, and God within me too...

I appreciate Forrest Curo's name for all this as a "call to inaction". This conversation that is unfolding in some larger way among us is profound.

Jim offered up a followup comment on his post where he said "I want to expand on one point I touched on in my original post. I stated that 'I do not experience the Spirit as a call to action', but I didn't elaborate on how I do experience Spirit. "

I feel perhaps a leading to try to articulate why the call to inaction is necessary for all of us. I fully agree that some are absolutely made for activism. The silence I am speaking of will not take that away from them so this willingness to be inactive is a safe experiment for anyone. Since this surely sounds cryptic for some I'd like to try to flesh this out a bit...subject to what light I can shed and what Light you can find to share as well.

First I need to name something, a bit cantankerously:

How can we be so sure what God wants to fund, financially, socially, and energetically (the energy that makes up our world and ourselves)? The specifics I mean: who is to do exactly what, exactly when and where and which actions will profit the world and which don't seem to be as fully supported by divine intent... How is it that we already are clear on what God wants to fund? What gives us the sense that we already know what the work is that needs doing and are just supposed to aim straight toward doing it? These questions are not as rhetorical as they sound. Was it scriptures that gave us that impression? Or church community? Or protestant work ethic?

Whatever it was, without the call to INaction first, it is simply us making assumptions. Or us being guided by external input instead of the Light within us. The Holy Experiment of Quaker reality is the discovery that it is the Light within us that has answers needed and is enough. The Light within is all we need. If we think "oh bother!" or "how naive!" at this thought and that we also had better get busy living out the Gospel, that is suggesting that we probably need a little of this time in silence...to bring ourselves into alignment with the grace and silence and Light within us first. There are so many things wrong in our society, yes, and so many pains in our own hearts, yes. I don't deny those. But has God called us to be coming from "here's everything that's wrong..." or otherwise react out of the pain in our own hearts that we haven't let go of? No, we are called to act out of LOVE. And -- Christ would have us know -- out of abundance.

We must consider this: A natural reaction to not being centered in the Light is often to find stopping&resting, or praying while others are suffering, to be an irritating choice, unnecessary, or otherwise not a good idea.

I found the initial call to inaction utterly devastating. I was so overwhelmed with a loved one's pain as I was caregiving...so overwhelmed with my inability to do enough to stop her pain...so sure that I needed to keep handling the basic supports that kept things 1% less terrible for her in her suffering. So sure that doing anything else was selfish. Meanwhile I was so stressed that my digestive ability was greatly diminished and my body was starting to shut down in significant ways. My weight got down below 90 lbs and at 5' 5" i looked like a holocaust victim. But I wasn't the point, someone in my midst needed more than I did and there wasn't time for all my needs to be the focal point. And thus I became more and more incapacitated.

For me, after 5 years of the above-mentioned stress, the call to inaction was the recognition that I had a lot of mental garbage telling me a lot of things and judging me a lot of ways for why I couldn't do more and why I should need less and why I was responsible for any part of the pain my loved one was facing...

THE LIGHT was that which was telling me that I was sick to death of hearing from this mental tirade of anxiety and was going to sit down and be quiet -- Quiet -- within and without, until it passed. I began sitting in the silence for probably an hour to an hour and a half every day. Sometimes twice a day. On top of that I began taking long, slow, meditative walks. My silent times were a discipline of internal quiet, but kindly toward myself. I let all that rose within me rise on out. I was not going to stop and think about this or that, focus on this or that, get distracted by this or that...only return to Silence and hand even that over too.

To me, this was the beginning of a whole new life. One in which although my loved one is still ill and I am still involved in her care, I am no longer "a caregiver". One in which I am no longer the caregiver to others either, in ways that I tended to do that before.... That all seems to have passed those years ago. I now feel that I am living a life of abundance in which the energy I need is slowly given as I align with God's peace within me. But even better than all this! I am now aware that through my own limitations whatever they may be in a particular situation and whatever my needs, God is also speaking. I have become more willing, more able, to allow the whole picture. I have also become more willing to allow the picture to start with God and not with my assumptions about what needs to be done. I have become more willing to discover whether I have assumptions, rather than going full speed right through that chance to draw close and discover divine connection and meaning.

I now experience my own health challenges and limitations as God-in-relationship-with-me. Over the years these health challenges showed themselves and released as I released a past conviction that I had to go-go-go instead of what I learned later. In truth, the only thing that would come to any good was if God really wanted to fund the thing AND DID, through energy provided, circumstances operating in synchronicity, and funds needed.

We must have the humility to accept doing nothing. It terrifies us to stop and be faced wiht the need to see our assumptions and our external-faith-practices that propel us onward without resourcing in the Light first.

We may find that we think (if we actually let ourselves think it through): "well if I sit down and stop, and my only job is to wait here until God shows up, or shows up enough to fund this thing...... WHAT IF GOD DOESN'T SHOW?"

We may find ourselves thinking even "What if God DOES show? Aren't I at least supposed to look busy at the time?" ....Perhaps this not being a literal belief but a spirit at work within us nonetheless.

These fallacies will rise and need to rise. We need to live a more examined spiritual life with the ability and practice of facing down our demons. We need this because we don't want it. We're much better at doing than we are at giving up doing. But sitting still in attentiveness to only the Light and going through the internal landscape until we get there? Souds mortifying! Most of us would rather run from that for years, so this is what we must do intentionally. And this is what being a Quaker is all about.

In following the call to inaction, one spends more time inactive. However then the actions that result begin to feel like a life of synchronicity and divine relationship. The actions that occur create divine good.

I experience the Spirit as a call into that Silence by which all things are fulfilled. My own past choice toward action-first was ultimately limiting the potential of the present moment. The practice of inaction-first-(and-until-guided) means that sometimes amazing things happen! (and even when they don't I feel at peace, and more clear that I'm listening, and that that is all I ever needed to do).

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Olivia

I always find healing in  your words. Healing and wisdom...

You are a blessing.

Rick

Be Still and Know that I AM God.  (Psalm 46:10)

Thank you, Laura and Rick. 

This Stillness...

I think so often how terrible this Stillness is which (as Elijah's story goes) is not in the fire and not in the hurricane, etc. etc. but God present in the Silence.  How utterly devastating it can be to approach that silence at all, to even allow for that to happen and clear the way for it....

It seems that there's nothing for us to do but run from it. I guess some days that's what sitting in the silence is like:   I'm going to sit down and allow all this "running from it" to run right on through. 

I don't think there is any goal to any of this.  I think it takes one to the place where there no longer are goals and plans-for-what-we-accomplish-here...   

I don't spend much time in that space now, not nearly as much as I did during that period, though I should. 

Mostly I stopped because too much was happening (not too little). I was overwhelmed with the sense of God-with-me and the synchronicity occurring in my life.  I needed less of that abundance and to slowly try to integrate it. 

But I remember that that was the best I've ever felt.  And that something about the experience was not me being just me anymore but perhaps more like an Ear.  Being part of the Body?   No objective but to listen and the joy of listening.  It no longer mattered at all that I hear, or what I heard.  What I heard was irrelevant, as with an ear, perhaps we may be organically called to simply sense and resonate with the Divine...no other goal than that "just being".  

It gives one hope that it is up to the rest of the body / Body then what they do with that sense but perhaps we are free from needing to be responsible for all that.  Let the Brain handle it!  Let the Arms do the work!   We may be called to sit and resound.  More good may be done with that than we realize (ears after all are not good at realizing either).  ha

I think my metaphor is chewing me up and spitting me out....or some other metaphor.  Must stop this now. :-)

Thanks, Olivia, for the inspiring posts.

Jim



Olivia said:

Thank you, Laura and Rick. 

This Stillness...

I think so often how terrible this Stillness is which (as Elijah's story goes) is not in the fire and not in the hurricane, etc. etc. but God present in the Silence.  How utterly devastating it can be to approach that silence at all, to even allow for that to happen and clear the way for it....

It seems that there's nothing for us to do but run from it. I guess some days that's what sitting in the silence is like:   I'm going to sit down and allow all this "running from it" to run right on through. 


What good is a metaphor that can't chew on one...?
We get embodied in a world that's sometimes oppressively full of noise; and it can be a great gift to yourself to just stop distracting yourself with more... literal noise, emotional noise, even mental noise
but we are embodied in it, as limited creatures. "When a plane is flying over, just listen to the plane." Silence provides the opening for God to enter the conversation without needing to interrupt anything... but sometimes God is in the whirlwind...
Ursula LeGuin: ~"It's all right to worship Apollo but sometimes you should sneak off to a dark bar and have a beer with Dionysus."
Me: Just say "No!" to oversimplification!
That is, when we're called to that type of 'action', well, that's a valid call, orders from the Boss who loves us & knows what's needed. When we're called to something else... God is there, too!
----
That 'Mary and Martha' story. Martha is in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove so everyone will have something to eat. She asks Jesus to make Mary stop hanging around listening to him, to come out to the kitchen and help. (My wife Anne: "So why doesn't he come help?" -- Well, in that culture it would have embarrassed everyone horribly, but...) It isn't that 'the one thing needful' is singled out as something to take the place of everything else.
As my mother was getting old and close to death, I was able to visit a couple of times. We'd been pretty estranged for a long time; and I wanted to talk. What she wanted was to keep feeding me stuff... and that blocked all communication. But shouldn't need to...

I would add to this though that we must allow ourselves to find that God does make our crazy world and crazy values and crazy demands extraordinarily simple.   One may be given divine fuel to be the one in the kitchen cooking or the one telling the story or the one feeding her son who has come to visit her on her deathbed....it could be anything.   I see the necessity of letting go of our assumptions about what our role is in these situations.   For me -- being "an ear" maybe more than most other parts -- the only way that actually works is where i just listen and whatever results results from listening.   In ayurveda there are the concepts of 3 currents that operate on multiple levels but on one level that is about overall health and energy through our body, one of the 3 currents is fiery active energy, another is more water-related receptive energy, and the the 3rd is essentially neutral.   But the magic (I find) in that 3rd neutral current is that in this neutrality, all the other currents can flow. 

In keeping with your interest in non-black-and-white thinking...I am just stating that when we focus on the simple Awareness and just receiving that Light and set everything else aside, everything else will be given back to us that needs to be.   We will be drawn to do the things that we are made for and to let go of the rest and really let go of all of them either way...   Letting go is a valid spiritual path.  It does not leave one with nothing.

Amen.  "Letting go is a valid spiritual path".

I am rendered speechless by your post, which is a rarity for someone who produces words for a living. Thank you for sharing this.

I'd prefer a call to group worship versus a call to inaction. 

Lone worship too often allows individuals to redefine their own focus to meet their own needs.

Olivia:  "How can we be so sure what God wants to fund, financially, socially, and energetically (the energy that makes up our world and ourselves)? The specifics I mean: who is to do exactly what, exactly when and where and which actions will profit the world and which don't seem to be as fully supported by divine intent..."

Friends have struggled with the problem of who does what for centuries.  Some early Quaker communes failed.  Friends benefited from William Penn's inheritance but they didn't service the debts that Penn accumulated, so that Penn lived a year in debtor's prison.  And so, early Friends found that a free market economy served to motivate people to all work.  Friends profited by starting sole proprietorships and partnerships, not businesses by committee. 

Now we're getting some backlash about the free market.  Free for who specifically?  Are monopoly enterprises really the "free" that we want?

Also, why do we have about 15% structural unemployment?  Why doesn't everybody in our community get an honest chance at a career with a living wage?   Why can skin color make you so unemployed?  Why do so many 19 year olds wind up crashing at home?  Why can't 50 year old people get jobs?  Why do the women make 77 cents for every man's dollar?  Why can't people with disabilities have some jobs?  Why must some nurses work a backbreaking 60 hours a week while other people go unemployed?

In modern times Friends have succeeded in running schools, retirement villages and social advocacy corporations by consensus process.  Friends may have learned something new in the past two centuries.  Our knowledge grows.

In general, I'd like to see a mostly incorruptible government, an equitable jobs economy and an end to climate change and war.  I'm willing to help pull together a community to attempt this on a micro-sized test scale, or to try a series of safe, tiny experiments that don't waste much of our collective time and energy. 

Having said my feelings in general, I call for periods of group worship at FGC this July.  We can move in God's time toward specifics.

Hello friend Paul!

Everyone will have a different view, but I believe that group worship can just as easily keep a person from going as deep and personal with themselves as they need to...

You have a lot of concerns about what matters and what should change, and on the human level I completely understand and agree that it feels there are many things that are wrong. But I can offer perhaps one area of clarification, if you would like to consider it: I have attempted to relay here not "I don't know what to do?!" ...but "there is One who knows." However, we must go deep, very deep, into and through our own terrors about that (about not-knowing, about being powerless, about being tired but needing things to change, etc, etc.).

There is a place of owning our own fears ("What if the free market isn't actually free? What if I don't know what to do about that next?") and angers ("Why can't 50 year old people get jobs?") and limitations and longings, and essentially feeling every bit, every single bit of the pain of these things that we already hold within us...but this as part of a prayer and a relationship in which my role is to let go of these pains and convictions and let all this no longer have power over me.

In that state in which I am no longer holding the most important belief system in my own life but this powerful Dawning that I am discovering is there....in that state of raw vulnerability, there is indeed One to be found who is "all the power we ever needed." ...all the answers, all the hope, all the solutions.... We still don't have the power but we begin to feel connected to the One who does. And all the while we still feel very vulnerable. I have never felt like this outside of this context. I experienced feeling more vulnerable and simultanously more powerful than I have ever thought possible at the same time. These seem to be of one piece.

Here's one small, mundane incident of this sort of thing. This is not the purpose of the letting go and silencing the mind and the passions. That is worth doing for itself, because God is there. But I want you to also hear that if action is needed it can be truly powerful and right also by just letting go and sitting still, in divine rest.

Some years ago I found myself in a conversation with a dear relative. She had called me up and was excited to tell me about her recent experience going to a shooting range and how great it felt to fire a gun, and how good she was at it! I listened with openness and was interested in what she was experiencing.

Now I'm pretty Quaker but have no particular problem on a personal level with someone going to a shooting range if that's their thing, so there was a certain amount of feeling-neutral and also I'd been (at the time) in such a deep habit of resourcing in God I had become more okay with messy circumstances and not judging them prematurely.

... and yet I was listening to her and sensing that there was some answer that mattered to give on this topic and was knowing that I had no idea what that was.

She shared a little bit about how Really Great it felt to her to feel that kind of power and control at the shooting range...and I gave her space and listened but at one point she said "I felt soo powerful!" And I was surprised to find these words come out of my mouth, very tenderly: "yes, but why does the power always have to come from outside of yourself?"

She suddenly uttered a sort of cry-gulp sound...and there was a moment in which the silence was deafening, and then she simply said with the catch still in er voice "I don't know..."

We both sat there very surprised that this particular moment was occurring. I don't know if she remembers that moment, but for me this was a holy realization: that her own self had just let her know that she felt alone, afraid, and powerless within. And my words, which were not my words, had just helped her to experience herself differently and discover a hole that she didn't realize was there.

No part of what I said to her was with any interest in talking about gun issues or killing or needing to voice this or that....In that moment I was perhaps just pretty neutral and a bit tamed by God (though I can assure you that has not been a permanent condition).

All I have is my own experience of this powerful possibility, and you will have your own values and experiences. I just feel that we have undercut the Divine with our absolute clarity about what the issues are that need our attention and our feeling that "somebody has GOT to do something!". This inner frenzy of worry and anxiousness and need-for-things-to-be-something-else... has got to change if we are to become a part of the divine flow.

Olivia,  thank you so much for your thoughts here.  I had forgotten how much one small comment or question can change thinking and clarify truth.  It takes great openness and trust to wait until the moment is ripe and the Spirit moves us.  

Hi Juliana,

This is kind of you to say....however, I suspect it's more like:   it takes great disaster to make one give up on themselves and their own clarity.     I can only guess but maybe one version of this, if aimed for intentionally, might be for a person to ask the Divine what it wants from you, and to keep returning to sit down until it has burned up something of you that you felt was crucial YOU, only you feel better afterward.

I am kind of dense and stubborn so it's entirely possible that someone more receptive who doesn't have to fight with God about everything knows an easier version than I do!   This is all about being honest with yourself and nonmanipulative in your relationship with the Divine.  If you just want the divine, it is powerful good stuff that is within you and wants you too.  It is, in its utter simplicity, right here with you, through you or in you...   But everything you hold back determines how close you get to it.     .... or maybe determines how much of it you let out from within.

hmm.  I think this is drawing me toward the fact that God / the Divine is something that is not about us and yet is onsite within us, as us....the Divine Wholeness Us.   Given that this is true, if we are afraid of it and give it 1/4 of our attention and hope the whole time that we get prompted to go do something else more worthwhile next, we will produce 1/4 of any sort of attentive result and that a half-hearted "whatever can squeeze through" from God.   

If we are, on the other hand, honestly tired of being separate from divine peace and utterly void of any manipulations in that moment of silence and we want nothing but the Divine, and want to give up anything that interferes with that....the junk will rise, the fallacies we live by in our unique case will rise.   Leaving space -- room for joy.   I can't imagine that anyone is exempt from this need for the junk to rise first.  I think this is just part of the way.  This great good thing that is within you as you  will show you how to clean house.   It just won't show you how to skip having to clean house.   In my case, I think I had to clean the WHOLE HOUSE (and still am working on this project).  In fact it looks like I've moved now, and I'm still having to clean house.  But it kind of feels like my old to-do list got burned up in the trash pile a long time back....I think that's what I'm trying to make sure the Activists understand.   God makes activists yes.  But if one has any inner work to do, your to-do list might not still be there on the other side.

I'm giving a "shout out" here to all people who feel drawn to let the Divine clean their house and leave nothing out.    Just say that brave stuff in your quiet time with God and then start handing the angsty stuff over when it rises.  You don't have to hold on to your plans for the future, that's where it gets kind of tough.   

ha    Man, I feel like a real jerk right now.    This is the great Good News Bad News. 

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