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A Few Thoughts On Becoming A Quaker


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By Alyce Barry

I recently became officially a member of a Quaker meeting I've been attending off and on for nearly 25 years.

This is the first time I've been a member of an organized religion since my twenties, and I felt a good deal of trepidation about it.

I became a member both to express my commitment to this wonderful community of people and in order to serve on a committee which cares for the spiritual life of the Meeting and requires membership in order to serve.

Quakerism and the ideas of Carl Jung meet quite happily, and a good deal has been written on that subject. Quakers don't have a written creed, but they nevertheless have core beliefs. Perhaps the most central is the belief in "the Light," referring to the presence of the Divine within every person. During silent worship, most Quakers seek the Light inside themselves in order to experience the Divine.

I have visualized this "seeking the Light" in different ways over the years. Originally I think I pictured the Light as a candle flame, and myself as an eager observer. While there was a certain awe as I watched the flame, this image never stirred my heart very much.

THE LIGHT SHOWER

A few months ago, during silent worship, I visualized myself standing in a very bright shower of light coming down from above, from a source I couldn't see because the light was too bright. The light was moving and flowing over me, as the water in a shower does, with a very soft kind of rushing sound.

The experience was an emotional one that touched me in a way the candle flame never had. The rushing shower also seemed to overcome some of my resistance to receiving the unconditional Divine love I believe it symbolized.

For that hour, I bathed in the light shower as much as I could, though my thoughts strayed from time to time.

I began to sense that I was in an emotional container not unlike the containers we create in order to do Shadow Work®. That I was connected to this group of people sitting in this room, and perhaps connected to the light that was streaming through them as well as through myself.

CONNECTIONS

In the social time following worship, I chatted with a woman visiting from the Pacific Northwest, who had spoken during Meeting and referred to a Biblical passage that intrigued me. I asked her for the chapter and verse, and somehow we got onto the subject of books. I happened to mention that I'd finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin the night before. Her face lit up, and she said her son was about to start studying the civil rights movement, and she'd been wondering what books to recommend to him.

Wandering downstairs, I came across a woman who was formerly quite active in the Meeting, whom I had admired some years earlier for skillfully facilitating the Meeting community through a time of significant conflict. She was on her way out the door, and I told her how glad I was to see her again after such a long time. As we walked toward her car, she told me a little about a difficult time she'd just been through, and that it had brought up a lot of shame for her. I said somewhat comically that I'd spent eight years writing a book about shame and perhaps knew more about it than I really wanted to. She expressed interest in reading it, so we went together upstairs to the Meeting Library, where she borrowed the copy of the book I had previously donated and took it home with her.

In the Library I found one of my closest friends in the Meeting, a man whose wife was seriously ill and would likely need around-the-clock care. We talked for some time, and he shared his worries about the types of caregivers he'd need to hire. I shared information I'd encountered while caring for my mother, and he thanked me profusely.

In all three conversations, I had the impression that words intended for others were coming through me. It seemed to me a clear message that the light shower connects me with the people in the room. It's as if the light is flowing from the Divine through me to others, and we connect through it.

The experience left me feeling "filled," with a sensation of fulness in my chest, as if I had been fed with something I deeply needed.

 

Alyce Barry is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She is the author of Practically Shameless, on Amazon.com's Bestseller list of books about Jungian psychology for more than a year. The book is available in paperback and on audio CD. Read more about Alyce.

This article originally appeared in our free email newsletter in August 2010. To subscribe, visit our subscription page.

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