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Peter on Centering and Silence

This is Peter, chiming in at last. Cat has been after me for months to post something here, but I just don't have a Blogger's temperament. I do keep a journal, though, so I'm going to post a few of my journal entries here. I'll start with one from last Sunday:

Quaker meeting this morning, followed by an 11:40 hour on centering and silence, and it is clear to me that I need to begin a regular practice of preparation for worship that will include some serious Pagan/Wiccan trance and spell work. Probably starting with a Tarot spread. I probably also need to stop napping in the middle of the day, ever. I just don’t have the focus to listen for the silence this year, and I need to recover that. I fall asleep in meeting, often, but more than that, my mind wanders off in all kinds of directions, mostly thinking about miniatures. [I collect and paint pewter Dungeons & Dragons miniatures as a hobby.] I’ve known for years that I can’t let myself paint minis on a Sunday before meeting. I can spend the morning looking at hard-core porn and not have it interfere with meeting for worship, but even a quick perusal of a pewter miniatures site and my mind is hooked, my mental CPU locks up and gives me the blue screen of death if I try to do anything spiritual.

And it’s been getting worse. Going out to see the new X-Men movie on a Saturday night, and I’ve got blue-skinned mutants on the brain all through meeting the next morning. And music. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been playing in my head for the last two weeks, after listening to it a couple of times in the car. The week before that it was Suzanne Vega. And if I’m not replaying in my head something I’ve heard recently, then it’s almost always Mahler’s Second Symphony (The Resurrection) and it’s been at least two years since I last played that CD. Music usually doesn’t interfere much with meeting for worship (unless I’ve got lyrics playing in my head and I can’t remember them all) but it’s a sign that my brain is becoming a generally noisy place again.

Paganism prepared me to become a Quaker by leading me into mystical states of consciousness using techniques that were active and LOUD. Shamanic drumming will sweep though my brain like a psychic chimney brush, cleaning out all the soot, and in the quiet clarity that follows, I can hear the silence of a Quaker meeting. Or at least that’s what I remember. It’s been a while since it’s worked that way, and maybe that means it’s time to dig out the old Michael Harner drumming tape again.

No…not “maybe.”


I think the Quaker testimony on plainness is about finding ways not to let the glitter and glossiness of everyday distractions (like our beloved pop culture) get in the way of spiritual experience. Though of course it's complicated--among Pagans and among our non-Q friends, pop culture stuff is part of what we use to link us together. When you and our friends' kids discuss pewter miniatures of their RPG characters, for instance, the connections we're forming with community are very real--and community is as spiritual a value as I know.

And I know I'm as capable of allowing "plain" stuff--like knitting, such a Quaker addiction--to get in the way of my listening in meeting. (The hours I've lost to distraction over another Quaker's hand-knit sweater!)

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