Quaker meetings as a group mysticism experience

The following is an article by Nina Joy Lawrence.

“I’m 71. I’ve been a Quaker all my life and a Focuser the last 25 years. In the past half year, as a group of us Focusers began to explore what happens between us in the whole field of “We Here”, I noticed how this connects to experiences in my Friends (Quaker) Meeting. Friends experience a state we call a “gathered” meeting. A gathered meeting could be seen as a group mysticism experience. It is felt by the whole group or most of the group, and participants can experience the impact in differing degrees from sublime heights to very mild moments of feeling lifted.

“A gathered meeting might develop this way… a group of Friends sits in silence as is usual in an unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship. During the week at least a few of us have been practicing silently waiting for inner guidance and come to the meeting feeling collected, grounded, ready to wait in expectant stillness.

“The meeting group is familiar with each other personally, knowing one another’s hearts, sharing deeply with each other from our inner lives. We may have been working together on a vital concern about which we are trying to find a way to act together. After a time of settling into silence, someone may speak briefly, moved to share something that has come in the stillness and feels right to share in the group.

“Silence returns as we take in the message and fully receive it. As the meeting continues, several others may speak out of the silence with insights or gifts of sharing. If we speak, we feel inspired to do so, like we are being given a message to share, not just saying something we feel like saying from our own thinking. Messages may be around the same theme or not, but each message is tested by the Friend before speaking, discerning whether the message that came is personal, or feels like it is for the group.

“The silence between us develops a sense of fullness. It feels to us that something greater than ourselves is drawing us together. When we try to speak about it, we might say the Inner Light or the Spirit that connects us all has gathered us. We feel we are awakened by the shared insights and receiving them together. A gathered meeting is experienced, It is not ever completely describable in words. It is transient, rarely sustained more than three-quarters of an hour. The group can not grab it and keep it from fading. It leaves a feeling of uplift, blessing, connection, unity with each other.

“A few times I have experienced a silent meeting crossing of Quaker practice and Focusing. In 2004 at the International Focusing Conference in Costa Rica and in 2006 in Holland some Focusers and Quakers who also are Focusers held silent meetings to experience what might happen. I found some of those meetings very deep, even gathered.

“This maybe happened easily without the long association that happens in Friends Meeting because Focusers know how to go inside and listen well, and we do it regularly. We also share with each other from our deep inner experience readily. We practice frequently holding our inner routine issues in something akin to the Quaker practice of being guided by the Inner Light. We receive each other in our hearts when we companion each other in Focusing. We know where to attend inside to speak from our depths, the creative Edge, the place where words find their meaning. And we are familiar with that “magic” shifting that we can’t MAKE happen, that may happen as a gift. All these aspects could make the shared field between Focusers rather like a Quaker gathered meeting. Maybe such an experience can be even more reliably entered into by Focusers if they can also tune into that which connects us all.”

Nina Joy Lawrence

Nina Joy Lawrence found Focusing around 1990. It fit well with her lifelong Quaker practice. By 2000 she began learning with Ann Weiser Cornell to become a Focusing Trainer. That same year she found herself in Pakistan collaborating with Patricia Omidian and local Afghan refugees to share Focusing as psychosocial support. Out of this came a name for what many Focusers were already doing, Community Wellness Focusing. Nina Joy is a Certifying Coordinator with the Focusing Institute and served on the TFI Board in 2014 during the transition of leadership from the Gendlins to the Focusing community.