We are now preparing to enter our fourth month of living in a pandemic. Our outward responses have included staying home, social distancing, mask wearing, and lots of hand washing. We have all learned the new technology of Zoom, which helps us to connect as we remain apart from one another. It is a time filled with anxiety, when we are especially cognizant of the inner turmoil being played out within us. We know how to respond outwardly, but how do we nurture ourselves inwardly during a time such as this? How do we, as Quakers, use our faith tools to help us find the inner peace that we so desperately need right now?
I would suggest that our first response should be silent meditation. Since the founding of the Religious Society of Friends more than 350 years ago, Quakers have learned that in silence we can commune with the Living God. It is in this silence that we seek to connect with the Inner Light, or the Inner Light of Christ. As a community, we gather in silence once each week, but it is important, especially during this time, for us to sit in silence and meditate every day. Sitting in silence, focused on God’s love and the world that desperately needs God’s love, I seek to grow spiritually and to find that inner peace in a world that is filled with anxiety.
Secondly, I am finding time every day for what I call simmering walks. I love the word simmering. It is a word that touches my soul and is important in helping me find the peace that I seek. On these walks, I think about the persons I love, the world that is so filled with hatred and violence, and all of those who have been sickened by COVID-19. During my walks I wrap these persons and the world in the Light and pray that God’s love will surround them and give them peace.
Third, I am trying to keep a journal, sharing in writing what I am going through. Journal-keeping is steeped within our faith tradition. During this time of isolation, writing a journal—reflecting upon my experiences and how I feel God is working in my life—is an excellent way to help find the peace that I seek.
The use of queries is a fourth way I am trying to nurture my inner self. Quakers have a non-creedal tradition. Although we do not use creeds, we have queries which can be most helpful to our spiritual growth. An example of some queries would be:
How is God working in my life?
Am I careful never to wound the hearts of others?
Do I avoid those things that distract me from living a life centered in God?
During this pandemic, we may ask:
How is God at work in the midst of the pain and struggle of this pandemic?
Am I using my time and God-given gifts to help others during this difficult time?
Queries are helpful spiritual tools because they move us to reflect on our lives and how we are coping, as well as how we are helping others cope.
These are a few of the ways that I have nurtured myself over the past few months, which helps to lower my anxiety and helps me find the inner peace that I seek. These practices lead me to what Thomas Kelly calls a “life of unhurried peace and power.” In Kelly’s words, such a life is “simple…It is serene…It is amazing…It is triumphant…It is radiant…It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And such a faith makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. God is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.”