Last year I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about spiritual matters for several reasons. Having been born into a Quaker family and community, and educated at Scattergood Friends School and Farm, I was taught how important one’s spiritual life is. But more importantly, I have been fortunate to have had a number of spiritual experiences myself. One of the most important Quaker concepts is the emphasis on personal experience, especially in matters of the Spirit. Because we believe God, or the Spirit, continues to be a force in our world today, and that every single one of us has the ability to communicate with the Spirit, we also believe we should work to create the conditions for this communication to occur. Rather than relying on a minister or teachers, we are responsible, ourselves, to develop our own spiritual life, and seek spiritual experiences.
Silence, meditation and prayer are common spiritual tools. Quakers add the dimension of coming together to share the silence as a group. Sitting for about an hour together with other spiritual seekers adds to the power of the silence. Knowing those around you are sharing your spiritual work is often helpful. And surprisingly, the messages that are sometimes spoken into the silence very often relate to what you have been meditating about that morning. There often seems to be a common theme to what people are dealing with. Following the worship hour, Friends spend some time visiting, checking to see how each other are doing, and discussing current concerns. This is where you can learn a lot from others about how they approach their spiritual life.
Trying to be so attuned to the Spirit in our own lives, we can’t help but also be aware of, and care about the spiritual condition of others. Spiritualism is empty and incomplete if it doesn’t guide the way we live and how we treat each other and the Earth. Some examples follow.
It follows from the Quaker belief that there is that of God in everyone, that each life is precious. Killing can never be right, so Quakers refuse to fight in wars. I was born into the rural Iowa Quaker community of Bear Creek, in 1951, at a time when the community was dealing with the recent imprisonment of nearly twenty Quaker men who refused to participate in the peacetime draft. A group of Quakers left the United States at that time, for those reasons, to establish a community in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I was a student at Scattergood School in the last half of the 1960’s, and also refused to participate with the draft.
I moved to Indianapolis in the early 1970’s. This was before catalytic converters, so the smog from the cars was nearly overwhelming. Although I owned a couple of cars, when one was involved in an accident about forty years ago, I decided I was so uncomfortable with the idea of personal automobiles and their effects on the environment, that I decided to see if I could live without one, and have ever since that time.
A non-Quaker example is the amazing gathering and actions that occurred in North Dakota as the Native Americans gathered to protect the water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. The water protectors provided a great example of the power of the Spirit, and the power of nonviolence. Nonviolence is the spiritual tool used to advance spiritual matters in the secular/material world.
Too many people have let their spiritual lives falter. As the title of this post indicates, I think now is a time when we need to invite more people to work on their spiritual lives. We seem to be moving into a dark time. Attention to the Spirit is how we can navigate the future, and stand up to the forces of oppression.
I’m hoping we will continue to see the rise of Spiritual Warriors. Quakers, Native Americans, you. Where can you sign up? Quakers aren’t your only option, of course, but if you’d like to connect to Quakers near you, you can use this tool: http://www.fgcquaker.org/connect/quaker-finder