I don’t believe in one “inner light”. Rather, the light one accesses is what one has suppressed, so that it can only be heard with concentrated attention. This will be different for each individual. So it is like the Shadow, unconscious, feared parts of the human being, until it is brought to consciousness, healed, matured and integrated. Then one acts as one whole human being, in the light which is from the whole human being, and there is no more shadow.
In worship I do not find one Inner Light. I find something which I do not trust. I have only been clear about a concern in retrospect: when it is complete I recognise I passionately wanted to do it, did it, and it was Good.
Humans understand in words by creating stories, and we understand immediately without words, and I found that direct perception painful, untrustworthy and difficult. I was badly damaged as a child, cut off from my feelings and desires so I did not know what I felt or wanted. In my early thirties I found my feelings were anger, resentment, frustration and fear. I wrote in my diary that it is time to rebel against my parents. Since then, I have been doing teenage. Then I found Quakers.
Still for me my feelings were that shadowy inner light, things that seemed wrong or threatening or not properly deferring gratification so not adult. In this culture we refer to an “inner child”, denigrating it: my inner child is as old as I am. Or praising it: we become like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Usually I simply suppressed my feelings. Then in 1999 I found a suppressed vulnerable part within me which I could suppress no longer. As it surfaced the conscious part of me identified it as the Real Me. I saw it as feminine, and have expressed it in part through my transsexual transition.
And I feared my feelings. I would feel anger or fear, and fear that the feeling would overwhelm me. You will have had the experience of fighting back tears- it’s like that. It was paralysis.
Or a feeling was impossible for me. I could not be confused, I was highly intelligent and should see what is going on. Recently I saw I was acting as if anxious and confused, and thought, perhaps I am anxious and confused. Confusion is easier for me to see in myself, now.
So much was unconscious. I was blind to it, and excavating it has been difficult, painful, rewarding work. I realised I saw myself as absolutely worthless, and seeing that, then observing myself, I have been able to discern good qualities in myself.
I had the idea one should sit still in worship. Some Friends shifted in their seat occasionally, some sat in the same posture throughout, feet flat on the floor, hands folded in lap. Wherever I am I want to fit in, not make a fuss, follow the rules, so I wanted to sit still. I was concerned to find myself adopting closed body language, arms crossed, legs crossed, and perturbed that I was shifting in my seat. I resisted it.
What you resist persists. I thought about it more. Living with it during worship, I gradually permitted the moving. I began to see it as self-protection. Open body language signified openness. I would be open to the space and the people. Then I would curl up, and close off, when I needed to retreat. Recovered, I would open again. If I ministered, it was from the open position.
Over a period of years, I moved from resisting closing off, through accepting it, then valuing it, seeing what it achieved for me, then needing to do it less. Around Autumn 2016 I had mostly stopped.
In 2017 I was seeking to be aware of the flow of my feelings in worship. I resisted this, too, at first. I have an inner light, I thought, my link to God, pure good and truthful, and this is nothing like that. It is mercurial, painful, incomprehensible, often ridiculous. I am quite clear now that seeking to know my feelings was my way to find that inner light, but at the time it felt selfish, a misuse of Meeting.
One thing stopping me hearing the inner light, or the integrated human, is my conception of what it is and what it would say, my inability to conceive it saying that. So I ignore it until it convinces me it is in fact saying that. Behold I stand at the door and knock.
Also a Friend was quite sure of the complete separation of spirituality from “mere” emotional states, from her own experience and her wide reading. That might be true, for a person fully in touch with her emotions.
I became more aware of feelings. I would find myself thinking during worship of something that had made me angry years before, and chide myself- surely that is not still bothering me? Then it seemed that the feeling was real, and the thought of the past event was a way to bring a current feeling into consciousness.
This was a painful process. I resisted and feared my feelings. I would rock, cry, occasionally gasp, twist tense and contort my body, and be in discomfort. And it was a blessing. I was finding myself and growing to value myself- two entwined processes.
In October 2018 I received a blessing. I meditate by myself at home, irregularly. I had been avoiding meditating because I feared I would be conscious of all my pain, and it would crush me; all my trauma would retraumatise me, and I would be only the pain. Then after weeks I suddenly and spontaneously knelt to meditate. I felt all my pain, and felt no fear or resistance to it. I was with my pain, and I could bear it.
People seeing me worship since will see me rocking or contorting less. I might even sit still for a whole meeting!
I am profoundly grateful for the time in worship doing this. Often, at the start of worship, I would look round the people there and think of what I knew of them that was honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy, and now I might spend a meeting dwelling on Love; but this was a healing process for me, bringing me closer to Light, and I am grateful for it.
I knew it might bother other worshippers but had no idea how much. One described me as a ticking time bomb preventing her from centring down, such that she ceased attending. I am desolate that that happened, and not solely responsible. I want you to see the benefit of that stage in my worship for me. It was what I needed to do, and in times of confusion or growth in the future I may be back there again: I think the process is mostly complete, not totally. Had I known I might have done something different; or possibly explained, so that I was not so distracting. We should speak our tensions before they explode.
I was blaming myself, though. Then a Friend wrote, the woman who left should own her actions. So I feel a bit better.
I am more integrated than I was. I am more able to discern my inner light. Worship has profited me. I would work hard to help it profit others, whenever I see the opportunity.