A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Friday, November 02, 2007

To Do or Not to Do

The following is a response to a message on our meeting listerv. The original question was about how we prepare for worship. Mary replied that its not necessarily so much about "doing" anything....

Interesting, I was thinking about the "not-doing" aspect of much of spiritual practice yesterday. For example, Mary says in essence that she "does" meditate, but meditation or Quaker worship are imbued with less of "our doing" and, as M says, being open to spirit.

I've read that some seekers in the 17th century thought Quakers were going too far in setting up organized times to meet for worship. After all, if the spirit is in charge, why should there be a set time or place? Some Advaita teachers recommend no spiritual practice at all, as they claim that will only enhance the practitioner's ego ( e.g., "I'm becoming ever more spiritual!")

Both Advaita (non-duality) and Christian teaching come to a similar conclusion: understand that, while "doing" occurs, the "doership" is not ours. Advaita and Buddhism would say there is no separate "doer" while Christianity traditionally (in its European-derived configurations at least) maintains the duality between humans and God but holds that we should submit to God. Advaita teacher Ramesh Balsekar urges us to understand that we are not separate from God but if we think we are, then take the "thy will, not mine" approach. As for meditation, he says, "don't do it unless you happen to fall into it." Similarly for speaking: "don't speak unless speaking happens."

So how to prepare for worship? Whatever you fall into! After all, the very unique set of causes and conditions that lead up to the occurence of "Elizabeth" (e.g.), are undoubtedly too unique and complex to be susceptible to a list of instructions!

Of course, many if not all of the possibilities have been assayed by Richard Foster in A Celebration of Discipline and are also set forth in the Renovare Bible. These include such things as fasting, solitude, prayer, celebration, study, etc. Foster's sidekick, Dallas Willard, writes in "The Great Omission" that we should not undertake these things mechanically, but only as the spirit moves us.

They don't mention playing the drums, by the way, though I'll put that under "celebration!" In the end perhaps its not the "what" that matters as much as the "how." Do it all for God, or for our non-G-word Friends, for all-that-is, the "Not Merely Me in which I Am Included."


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