I was talking to a man about the pain in his leg and through our conversation we realized we were both Virgos and born the same day.
The next time we talked, I started to mention my rising sign, but instead blurted out “Quaker” and we both looked surprised. I said, oops, Quaker isn’t one of the chart options, though I am one. He asked, are they the ones with horse and buggy and I said no that’s the Amish.
I quickly summed up Quakers as the ones for peace, not war, and equality of the races, and women’s rights. You do not have to be a vegetarian but several are. He gave a thumb’s up. He said he quit the Catholic Church at 12 because it “wasn’t a good fit.”
I think Quakers were in my vocabulary because I just attended the virtual Northern Pacific Yearly Meeting. NPYM for short. This was my first Quaker conference. At one point there were 80 Quaker faces spread out on four screens. I wondered if angels met this way when they are spread out all over the world.
I liked seeing the elasticity modeled by the Quakers, making an in-person conference go the zoom route, in response to the pandemic. These are not the people in horse-drawn buggies. I like the people and horses and buggies, by the way, nothing wrong with that.
At one point, the zoomed faces were so still I thought my screen was frozen. No, they were just still. Suddenly I felt like a balloon lifting off a few feet, absorbed in a drug-free haze of molecules of a larger understanding. The mind and body became unified in a more timeless place. There can be waves of this, with impatient interruptions (for me) that pop up. Like, I look at the clock and there are 45 more minutes to go and no one is talking or sharing and doesn’t seem to be going to and it feels like an endurance event. I wonder how can this go on? Will it ever end? We were all under a collective silent snow drift. At that point, someone spoke and what they said was marvelous, moving, I was moved.
There were several variations of sections to attend. Some were reports, others discussions, others in contemplation. During the “unprogrammed” contemplation time, there was a leader, but they really aren’t The Leader. They act as the guardian of the container of this intentional get-together, you might say. They greet us and give us a focal point on our screen. Someone needs to kick off the shapes of silence, beams of light, container of mysteries among us.
We were given things to think about sometimes, like “what gets in the way, what prevents you from taking action that allows your life to speak?” “What keeps you from living out your most deeply held truths and convictions?” “How might we come into right relationship with the indigenous people who were here before us?”
Zooming in community with 82 Quakers in total silence, I felt the soft mist of relaxation. Though it’s not just relaxation, it’s something more. It surprised me that it came through the airwaves of electronic devices. During this time, I trade with different forms. I start with a feeling of liquid, floating to the top of my ceiling, figuratively. It felt like floating on the top of water. The water is flat with some soft surges of wide slow waves. Following this, I sink down, through the flooring into the rocks, the dirt, about 5 feet under the house. I feel like I’m in dreamtime, a bug hibernating in the soil. After more time, I am back in my seat, a stool. I can feel the stool, but I can also feel myself a long ways out in the cosmos at the same time. I am in my house on the stool and I am out out out in space, several of me, in fact. I think about how to be in right relationship with the planet, those on it, and with myself.
from Mary Ann Petersen, Eugene Friends Meeting (7/31/2020)