by Marjorie Isaacs with support from Ray Geers
It felt like a real loss when the pandemic stopped us from meeting in person for First Day worship. Jim Newby’s messages still inspire and give us fresh perspectives. Worship on Zoom holds some special times, but it just isn’t the same. The spiritual experience of silent worship face-to-face is missing.
I believe walking meditation, a small-group, face-to-face, outdoor worship experience, gives people a way to meet during the pandemic. The group must be small to meet health guidelines. Because we do it outside, observing social distance, walking meditation meets current safety guidelines.
Because it is small, each person’s simple presence helps create the group experience. The small group is a special kind of “beloved community.” It has value beyond this difficult time. I trust we co-create the experience as a group. Each person’s presence has unique value. Coming together, each of us gives something of himself or herself to the experience. We accept each other as part of creation. We appreciate the value of each person’s presence as we take in the vibrancy of the natural world around us.
The silence without words is valuable, not as just a place holder between instructions or spoken prayers, but as an opening to the Light within, the core belief shared by Quakers. Here is a Presence greater than any one of us on our own. In giving ourselves to this form or worship, we are opening, as best each of us can, to the moment that we have here together. We walk within and beside the natural world, then sit socially distanced, yet spiritually closer, for informal worship sharing. While walking and while sitting, we move towards greater awareness of the good in each person and of the good in the natural world. In accepting all nature, including each one present, we walk closer to accepting ourselves.
Our focus is on lived experience, with a minimum of planned ritual. Here we are not leaning so much on prepared words or melodies. Instead, we prune away our over-reliance on readings from the wise, past or present. In our walking, we voluntarily fast from a diet of assumptions and judgments that may find their way into our hearts and minds without our permission or awareness. Freedom is a learned thing that is not held down or overburdened by old ways.
We cultivate it both in our aloneness and our togetherness. In walking meditation we may find both individual and shared experience happening at the same time! Learning from our freedom in this way can open us up to a greater flourishing of life.
A worshipful silence may illuminate both our walking meditation and the worship-sharing that takes place afterwards. We acknowledge the transcendent and imminent Presence in all things in both activities. The Inner Light shines through our shared experience when we each give what we can.
Some days will be better than others. We discover that each of us is given the ability to try. The real experience of being there and staying grounded in all kinds of emotional weather is what this school of wisdom is all about. Here is the home base of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Here is the place where needs and shortcomings evoke our compassion and inch us closer to what Quaker John Woolman called the “great channel of universal love.”
We move about, seriously, playfully, and full of hope toward that day when we learn to live in the channel of love all the time.
Walking meditation is not entertainment. It is not a commodity or a service like a massage. It is not a class or committee meeting. It is a form of shared worship and spiritual experience. Its focus is on the now.
Walking Meditation is held the every other Thursday at 5:30 PM on the grounds of our Meetinghouse and is open to all. The dates are posted on the calendars in the bulletin and website.