Finding stillness in a Quaker meeting

20th Jan 2023

Many Quakers use the term “centering down” to describe how they calm the mind in a Quaker meeting. The approach is different for each individual. In this Medium article, Sharon L Shelley shares her process for finding stillness.

Quiet the body. Settle into a position you can maintain comfortably. Try to release muscle tensions and avoid any unnecessary movements. Breathe slowly and deeply. If you are experiencing physical pain, acknowledge that pain with each inhalation, and visualize breathing it out with each exhalation.

Quiet the mind. Give the scholar, the scheduler, and the problem-solver a rest. Let go of thoughts about what you need to do today or next week, or what you should have done yesterday, let alone 10 years ago. However urgent the social or political issues you are passionate about, lay them aside for now.

Quiet the ego/judge. These are a single Janus entity, two faces of the same impulse. The assertive ego will make flattering judgments about itself and less indulgent evaluations of others. The stern judge, absorbed in distinguishing “right” from “wrong,” will challenge the ego’s conclusions even while basking in its own egocentric sense of self-righteousness.

To quiet the ongoing dialectic between ego and judge, lay aside “I,” “me,” and “mine” for the time being. Stop wondering what anybody thinks of you. Lay aside vertical (hierarchical) human relations in your life and focus on horizontal and circular ones.

Be aware of the other people in Meeting. If they are well known to you, remind yourself of the things you love about each of them. Recognize also any tensions there might be between or among you. Then decide to lay those personal conflicts aside for now and remember that you are all gathered here for the same purpose — to connect with the Light, to hear the “still, small voice” of conscience or, if you will, the Holy Spirit.

In actual practice, these three steps are circular rather than linear. As I settle into my seat I may find myself beginning with any one of them and then proceeding to either of the others, allowing the process to unfold naturally according to my condition on that particular day.

Meanwhile I direct my inner self to: Listen.


You can read all of Sharon’s article on Medium. Sharon L Shelley (Wooster Friends Meeting, Wooster, Ohio, USA) – reproduced with permission.