An Experience of Silent Worship

A woman sits in the circle, waiting, hands resting in her lap. A burgundy wool shawl flows over her shoulders, its tips nestling on her forearms. She has traveled far to be in this circle, in this chair by the window, to wait in expectant silence. She and three men and three women have been waiting in the silence for some minutes, enough for her brain to switch from daily conscious mode to meditative mode. The silence signals to her.

Silently she expresses appreciation of the Creator, using words that speak to her, as English cannot. "Danke Goddum, wie immer und sei mit. Drinnen und draussen. Drinnen und draussen." (Thanks to you God, as always, and be with me, with us, inside and outside, within and without.)

Minutes pass. The woman has not moved—no twitching, no adjustment of her hands. Her eyelids stay halfway open—rarely do they blink. Only her breathing, slow and deep, indicates to an onlooker that she is alive. The woman is separate in her space but not alone. She hears but does not react. She is aware of no particular odors other than an earthy emanation, as from wet wool socks. She feels warmth in the air around her—air that was cool when she arrived.

Her vision centers on a scintillating point of light perched on the carpet somewhere toward the center of the circle. This light moves when her focus moves. She stares at a labyrinth-like pattern, traces it slowly and methodically. Then her focus moves to the brown leather boots across from her. Their edges become fuzzy, and soon there is no distinction between the matter that is the boots and the matter that is the carpet. Ribbon-like waves of energy reach upward from the boots and the carpet, not unlike energy particles that rise upward from freshly cut stumps of trees.

As her mind centers, slows, and changes, she feels an increased density of air and a pulsation of something newly revealed. It slowly envelops her. Now she feels a particular density of particles approaching. It passes around the back of her neck and head, and through her head, neck, shoulders, and shawl. A Presence has come into their midst, like a large umbrella whose points extend down, around, and into the carpet. The hovering, drifting density is sensed as protection.

The others wait silently. Now the woman recognizes spoken words. A man has risen. The woman’s ears receive the sounds while a part of her mind chooses whether to reflect on them, decides not, and effortlessly stores the message and tone in her shortterm memory. She accepts this offering without being changed within herself.

Silence returns. The man settles into his chair. The woman continues her meditative centering. The six others wait in their chairs, hands resting in their laps, breathing quietly. She can sense them but is not distracted by their presence.

Suddenly part of her is high above the circle, looking down on the worshipers, the meeting room, the building, the shape of the prairie town, and the blue marble planet called Earth. In this high, distant space she feels safe, while knowing her physical body remains rooted in her chair. If she were to react, she would smile slightly, in appreciation for the wondrous universe.

After a while her eyes rest again on the fuzzy light shimmering on the carpet. Soon the woman in the burgundy wool shawl senses movement. She returns to regular consciousness and joins in the long moment of handholding. She feels relaxed, serene, at peace with herself and the universe—ready to go forth. Meeting for Worship has drawn to a close. The rise of meeting has begun.

The technique of participating in meditation from both the micro and the macro perspective was taught to me by a Quaker who is also an ordained Buddhist monk.
This article appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Canadian Friend and is reprinted with permission.

Joy Belle Conrad-Rice

Joy Belle Conrad-Rice is a member of Vernon Meeting in Kelowna, B.C., Canada.