Lynn Patricia was the scheduled speaker at Semi-Programmed Meeting for Worship on March 30, 2014.
I belong to a meditation group that follows a Quaker practice called experiment with light.
It was devised in 1996 by Quaker and theologian Rex Ambler, based on his extensive study of the writings of early Friends.
At the core of the practice is a meditation that guides Experimenters through the following steps:
Mind the Light (pay attention to what’s going on inside you, particularly where there’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable)
Open your heart to the truth (don’t run away from anything that’s difficult or that you don’t want to face, but keep a little distance from it: ‘be still and cool in thy mind’)
Wait in the Light (be patient, let the Light show you what is really going on, ask questions if what is offered to you isn’t clear or you want to know more, and wait for the answers to come, don’t try to explain)
Submit (accept and welcome the information or images, and the insights, dreams and perceptions that may come later, and allow them to show the truth)
Experiment with Light is often practised in Light Groups that have sprung up in many places, mostly in the UK and a few in the US.
A quote from Rex Ambler’s book called What is Experiment With Light?
Experiment with Light is a Quaker practice, but it may not sound familiar when you hear it for the first time, or feel familiar when you try it out for yourself. This is because it is indeed relatively new. It has not arisen from the contemporary practice of Friends. It is rather a recovery or retrieval of an old Quaker practice that has long been forgotten. It is what the early Quakers of the 17th century meant by ‘waiting in the light’. It is what we today would call a meditative practice, that is, a disciplined use of silence and stillness aimed at achieving a greater awareness and insight.
History of the Group
Our Light Group consists of five people. One of our members brings her dog Katie who rests on the couch with us. Initially we gave ourselves three months to see how we worked together and if the chemistry felt right. After three months we decided we wanted to continue together. We have been meeting monthly for four years in the comfortable living room of one of our members.
We begin by greeting each other informally over tea and fruit. I will describe each step in the process. During the meditation we allow 5 to 10 minutes for each step. There is no conversation, feedback, or cross-talk once the process begins.
We go around the circle, each person taking approximately five minutes to answer the question, “What has happened in your life since we last met?”
The person prompting leads us in a progressive relaxation beginning with settling in a comfortable position (in the winter we make sure everyone who is chilly has an afghan). We begin by closing our eyes, relaxing our neck and shoulders, our arms and fingers, our torso, our legs, feet, and toes.
Creating a space
We visualize ourselves in a pleasant setting such as a cozy attic room with a skylight, sitting on a soft rug in front of a warm fire, sitting in a soft grassy clearing by a peaceful stream, or any other setting a person may wish to visualize. We do not have to clear the space of everything. We gently move objects, thoughts, etc. to the edges of the space to make room for whatever comes into that space.
Waiting in the space
We rest quietly in the space we have created. We wait and see what comes into the space.
Accepting what comes into the space and asking, “What is all this about?”
We do not try to analyze what comes into the space. We accept the whole of it. We are prompted to pay attention to how our body feels with what has come into that space. Some people experience physical sensations in their heart area, some in their abdomen, some in their midriff, etc.
As thoughts, ideas, and images come to us we pay attention to how our body feels. Does the tension increase in our bodies with certain thoughts, ideas, and images? Do we feel a relaxation of tension in our bodies with other thoughts, ideas, and images?
Reconnecting with our surroundings
Reversing the relaxation process; wiggling our toes, moving our legs, moving our torso, wiggling our fingers, moving our arms, our heads and necks, and finally gently opening our eyes.
Reflecting on our experience
We take our time writing down what has come to us, in some cases sketching images. Clearing a space, accepting what comes and experiencing the whole of it without analyzing creates a distance between us and the issue/problem and allows us to see ourselves and our actions more as others see and experience them.
Examining the reality of our lives allows us to see and feel what is out of balance, not in right relation.
Restoring the balance and harmony in our lives prompts us to make changes and take actions.
Knowing how to proceed with an issue/problem or make a decision can be a result of this process.
Expressing and sharing our experience with the group
When it appears that everyone has finished writing down their experience and reflections each of us shares what we wish with the group. People share out of the silence. Again, there is no feedback or cross-talk.
We have another cup of tea and fruit, talk informally, and set the date for our next meeting. Katie, the dog, reluctantly leaves.