early rising

steps to nowhere, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

This morning I awakened spontaneously, at about 6am. Perhaps it was the soft light filtering through the windows that woke me, perhaps it was the noises of Friends around me stretching and shifting in their bunks. In any case, I figured that as long as I was up so early, I would attend the early Meeting for Healing that was scheduled before breakfast.

We were staying in Temescal Canyon, just a few miles away from Malibu, with Quakers from all over southern California. It was our family’s first regional Quaker gathering–so much of it was new to us.

For example, the night before I’d watched a group of Friends worshipfully dancing in rhythm around candles. That had been strange to me, but beautiful. I hadn’t ever seen anyone participating sacred dance before. I’d sat and watched out of the corner of my eye while chatting with a few other women. Amazed at bodies young and old, in rapture. I’d been tempted to join in, but realized that I could enjoy it better from watching on the sidelines…

This morning as I stepped into the room where the Meeting for Healing was taking place, it seemed like any other Meeting for Worship. A small group of Friends sat in a simple circle of chairs. The one main difference was the empty chair in the center. Within a few moments a woman stepped forward and sat in the chair. All remained silent for quite some time. And then another woman walked over to her and placed her hands on the other woman’s head. Then hovered her hands over the seated woman’s shoulders, neck, and arms. Then she walked around and hovered her hands over the Friend’s legs. Then she returned to standing behind her chair again and placed her hands on her head for several moments.

After some silent time, that woman left the center chair and another woman took her place. A Friend from the circle came up behind her and wrapped her in a warm embrace, holding her tightly for several minutes.

This process continued through several different people who chose to sit in the chair. Friends spontaneously rose and ministered to them in very physical and loving ways. Through embrace and touch.

I was moved by this so deeply that it was hard for me to process what I was seeing. Such generosity of spirit. Without rules. Without gender. Without words. Wrapped in love, hope and faith. It was as mystical and as strange to me as the dancing had been the night before. But it was also completely comfortable and familiar.

When I was in the hospital last summer, our Meeting gathered and prayed for my healing. Then, I had no idea then what exactly it meant for Friends to minister to each others’ bodies and spirits in such an intimate manner.
But I’m beginning to understand now.
And I’m also slowly realizing that those times I am so insistent on carrying my own burdens…
even when they are weighty…
Perhaps sometimes
I can let a Friend reach out and help me along the way.

Picture of some stone steps along a pathway near the Lodge where we at our meals at Temescal Canyon. I loved the stonework all around the camp area and especially here, covered in red leaves.

11 thoughts on “early rising

  1. D'Arcy

    I have recently opened up myself to new ways of healing than I was taught in my religion. Most of it has come from women, and most of it deals with energy and love and healing and peace and such good things. I love that you had such a good experience.

  2. Erin G.

    Love it. I used to be a part of a similar thing when I was in acting school. I was in a class of 12 for 2 years and three times a week we would open class by standing in a circling and – without speaking – intuit who needed a hug or to have energy sent somewhere in there body. It was really tender and brought us very close to one another.

  3. jana

    Wishing I could sit in a healing circle with all of you and my other dear friends.

    A virtual hug coming your way right now, Erin (and to G & JohnW & D'Arcy, too!).

  4. xJane

    The more I hear how wonderful and spiritual your Quaker meetings are, the more I wish I could find a group like that. I even love the use of the word Friend as a member (like Muslims address each other as "Sister" or "Brother", but better because everyone is on the same ungendered level).

  5. jana

    Mormons use the "sister" "brother" thing, too. I prefer Friend–because of the gender neutrality.

    Quakers can be maddening at times–the process of reaching unity for decision making is molasses-slow. Quakers are a pretty quirky bunch, too, and this leads to some tensions within Meetings.

    But given all that, I am amazed at how this community continues to grow in my heart. I would love to attend a Meeting with you sometime, xJane–either in Orange County or Los Angeles. 🙂

  6. Jessica

    I'm glad you had this experience, Jana.
    I like the way the healing appears to happen without a lot of detail about what exactly needs to be healed.

    It also reminds me of the divinity with all of us.

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