Practicing stillness

I am not the person I thought I was. I get to know myself. I am not the thoughts in my conscious mind. I make decisions then work out rationalisations after, designed to show I am a rational, good-hearted person.

I suffer internal conflict. St Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

I am a mystery to my conscious self.

So I practice silent contemplation, with Quakers, seeking to bring the unconscious into consciousness.

I also do walking meditations. When my mind starts wandering I use the mantra, “I am here. This is. I am.” I am a being in the world, and I focus my senses on my immediate surroundings. I see their beauty and strangeness. I escape the repetitive thoughts. There is something else underneath those thoughts, something I do not consciously know, something it is worth getting to know, something so important Quakers call it the Light, the Seed, or That of God.

In a Quaker meeting, when I was filled with anger and fear over what I had just read on facebook, it seemed that there was the I plunged into that trivial conflict with all the emotions it raised, and there was a greater I, holding it, observing it, not drawn into those feelings.

In the Quaker meeting on Sunday, I sought to be that greater I, and it was more difficult. My neighbour considers that a flat is a good place to practice a drum kit. There are my Friends, visible on the screen. There are various other thoughts and feelings.

There is my attention: can I hold these things in my attention at the same time, without being wholly involved in one of them (probably that insistent drumming and my resentment of it).

The problem with wanting to change is that my preconceptions of what change will look like get in the way. Just as a five year old cannot know what it is like to be six, so I do not know how I will be next year.

(perhaps I am a fool, and you all, mature human beings, have no need of such practices.)

There is the moment when I know all of me comes together and I speak from my integrity. Gabrielle Roth talked of a moment when she is being danced- the movement comes from something spontaneous, unconscious, liberating- powerful.

I want that unconscious self to become conscious, to unite my whole self. The tool I use to develop this skill is Quaker worship.

3 thoughts on “Practicing stillness

  1. There are my Friends, visible on the screen“. I assume by that that you attend meetings remotely, by Zoom perhaps? While we’re able to attend meetings in our meetinghouse, and most do, I attend via Zoom, because (a) it’s in another town and takes 40 minutes to get there, and (b) with my migraines being so unpredictable and incapacitating, I’m reluctant to travel that distance on my own.

    Prior to covid, it was rare for me to be able to attend, but the initial lockdown in March/April last year motivated the meeting to set up Zoom as an integral part of worship. So since then, I’ve been able to attend every meeting. I’m fortunate to live on a quiet cul-de-sac in a home surrounded by trees, so outside distractions don’t seem to happen apart from when The Wife occasionally forgets that I’m attending meeting for worship.

    I too attend for the stillness and silence. It’s something I greatly appreciate. It allows me to rediscover my true self but not needing to understand precisely what that is. While I do practice the stillness and silence on my own, there’s something more to it when centering down as a group/community, even when it’s via Zoom.


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