Over the last few months I’ve been in a very dry spiritual place, but until today I hadn’t realized how significant the void had become.
This morning I lay in a warm bath, scented with Weleda’s wonderfully invigorating Rosemary Bath Milk, and this, in itself, was a gift that I had given myself. It is a busy week for me, and I have been worrying about fitting in all my commitments. But today was a day when only a bath would do, so I got up early and made the time. While I was laying there, I read a few more pages of Quaker Faith & Practice – the wonderful book that comes in small bite size sections (so easy to dip into!) and does exactly what the title promises: outlines and develops, through the insights and discernments of Quakers and Quaker bodies over many hundreds of years, how we experience and practice our faith.
Quaker Faith & Practice is a living and growing testament to Quaker faith in the world. It provides advice and counsel and encourages us to question ourselves and to listen to each other in a spirit of humility and love. When I first encountered this wonderful resource I found the questions that it posed me were challenging and stimulating. ‘Take heed,’ it said, ‘…to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.’ ‘Do you recognise the needs and gifts of each member of your family and household, not forgetting your own?’ it asked (I am very good at ignoring my own), and: ‘Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern?’.
When the need arises, Quaker Faith & Practice is revised, and the content altered and added to. This is a major commitment within the Quaker community, and a revision is currently under consideration. As part of this process, Quakers in Britain have been encouraged to embark on a programme to re-visit our book – reading particularly chapters each month over the next 19 months, with the opportunity for discussion and feedback – hence my bed and bathtime reading forays.
Recently, in my life, I’ve been bogged down with the strategies of coping. I’ve had several changes of house-sharers and many difficult dad situations to deal with. I’ve had visits to Dorset and France. There seem to have been a multitude of medical appointments for myself. I’ve kept up my mood charts and searched for triggers and risk factors. I’ve monitored my stress levels – which have been sky-high – and tried out new drugs for the resulting monster migraines. I’ve tried to maintain friendships and relationships whilst planning in space for myself. I have been so busy planning, that somewhere in the equation I managed to miss out God.
So today, in the bath, I was reading from Chapter 21: Personal Journey. This chapter moves from experiences of youth, to middle age, to death. From living a full life, to creativity, to suffering and healing in our lives. I was engaged, and warm from the water, with the lovely fragrance in my nostrils, and suddenly I realised I was with God again. In a real, kind of incarnated, way.
This has been such a lovely experience, I had to come and capture it in writing while I still could. I am trying to hold on to it, but I know that the connection may ebb and flow. My Spiritual life is very important to me, and the aforementioned planning did include my Quaker meetings and meditation/prayer time – it’s just that I’ve been feeling one-step-removed from everything for a while now.
Someone once talked to me about the idea of spiritual ‘fitness’ – about the need and importance of getting to meeting even when we are not spiritually fit or in the mood. Perhaps this is my pay-off; that keeping in touch and maintaining a spiritual discipline keeps the connection alive in some way. We had a wonderfully gathered meeting at my local Quakers on Sunday, and now Quaker Faith & Practice is speaking to me in volumes.
I am certainly planning to read on.
My nutty cat and his mad moment last night: lying on the windowsill trying to pull down the curtains, swiping all the ornaments off my shelves, then chasing every ping pong ball he owns under the sofa… Full moon rising, perhaps?!
See blog entry above!
© Anne de Gruchy