There’s been some discussion recently on the Quaker Renewal Facebook group about spiritual practices beyond Meeting for Worship. It’s focussed a bit on spiritual direction, of which I have no experience, but knowing that I find such accounts from other people interesting I thought I would share with you some of my spiritual practices – as they are at the moment; my experience is that these things can, do, and need to shift and change through time.
My core communal spiritual practice is Meeting for Worship, followed by Meeting for Worship for Business (which includes committee meetings, Meetings for Clearness, and other related Quaker processes). I’m also happy to participate in a variety of Neo-Pagan rituals, Buddhist and other meditation or chanting groups, Bible study, church services, other Quaker practices like Appleseed or Experiment with Light, and so forth, but these tend to come and go as the opportunity arises rather than being core to my practices – I enjoy them but I don’t particularly miss them if I don’t go.
Over the past year or so, my core solitary spiritual practice has been a short period of meditation in the morning – typically ten or fifteen minutes, using a handy timer on my phone. I use this for all sorts of things. Often, it will be a recognisably Pagan, often Druid, visualisation meditation – visiting my Sacred Grove in the inner world, for example, or exploring a landscape or symbolic image. At other times, I might use a set of words, such as a Pagan chant, song from Taize, or Buddhist mantra. Sometimes I hold a focus object which is significant to me at the time – a leaf, a stone, an ornament. Sometimes I do Experiment with Light, sometimes I focus on the breath or on listening, and sometimes I just lie there. This practice is core in the sense that I miss it if I don’t do it – it’s not always practical, but it does seem to be beneficial when I can manage it. It’s my practice, since it’s warm and comfortable, to do my meditation in the morning before I get out of bed. This doesn’t work if I’ve been woken by an alarm, as I’ll just go back to sleep, but if I’ve woken naturally because I’ve slept enough it’s in fact the time when my mind is most alert and I am least likely to drift off. This is clearly a quirk of biology and YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
I have, at other times, tried other practices. Sometimes I have found the need to have more tactile stuff going on in order to keep my mind on the practice – at the moment, a meditation bell set to ring every three minutes or so during the time is enough, but I have used music, poetry, incense, candles, lectio divina, various divination systems (such as runes, ogham, and oracle cards), and movement, at different times. I find Scott Cunningham’s book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, John Pritchard’s book How to Pray: A Practical Handbook and Ginny Wall’s book Deepening the Life of the Spirit: Resources for Spiritual Practice to be useful, and go back to them when I feel stuck, although as you may have gathered from the rest of this post I also find inspiration in a lot of other places.
My other core practice, although it’s not as regular as morning meditation and weekly Meeting for Worship, is being outdoors. This can be walks in the countryside, strolls in the park, gardening, feeding the birds, tree-hugging, etc. It’s much more free-form, except when something arises from my meditation or my OBOD course which prompts me to something specific, but no less important for that.