Monday, October 31, 2005

FGC Central Committee

Affirmed. I come away from FGC Central Committee feeling most strongly affirmed. Coming together in the Spirit with Friends from every FGC-affiliated yearly meeting, fellowship, and directly affiliated meetings as the "governing body of Friends General Conference" was a very important experience for me (though technically I was not a member of Central Committee this time around but am now for a different reason than the one for which I was present this year.. but let's not get into technicalities right now). Being present among many of the Friends who have been doing so much positive work both within the Religious Society of Friends and without and experiencing some of the passion of these Friends was inspiring and incredible to be around.

It's difficult to describe my experience, which makes it difficult to write about. Having recently joined the Publications and Distribution Committee of FGC - which does work with publications and with Quaker Books of FGC and such; it's a Program committee - this was my first opportunity to meet other committee members in person and begin to get a better feel for the work of the committee. With plenty of [shameless] promoting of Whispers of Faith during Central Committee, those Friends who did not already know me began to recognize my name and who I was - something I have not necessarily experienced among Friends, but it was very affirming for me. Feeling connected to and active among the wider body of FGC Friends is incredibly grounding for me, as is seeing Friends with whom I share a deeper connection. Quaker Process, too, was certainly central to my experience these last few days - even after four days of intense Quaker Process among mostly adult Friends (rather than among high school Friends, as most of my previous experiences have been), I do still love it. I love it even more, even. I walked away from Central Committee - or rather, rode in a car, a plane, a bus, a subway, and another bus away from Central Committee - feeling connected, valued, affirmed, and loved on a level deeper than one might usually find out in the "real" world. Though that love does continue even after I take of my name tag and dive back into the "real" world.

I hugged my way into the room where the Plenaries occurred on Thursday night after arriving late, and then hugged my way back out this morning as I left a little early. It was in hugging my way out that the feeling of affirmation and love really hit home for me, and that feeling stuck with me rather strongly during my entire trek back to campus, and lasted almost overwhelmingly until I finally hankered down and did my German homework - and homework is usually quite distracting from the Spirit.

I learned a number of things this weekend, one of which stands out quite distinctly and importantly for me. Central Committee this year approved the formation of a new Program Committee: the Youth Ministries Committee. Being already on Publications and Distribution, I am unable to join this new and exciting committee for the time being, but that aside, I had to reconcile with myself where I stood with Youth Ministries, as it has been a passion of mine in the past couple years. I was soon clear that I needed to learn to put faith into a committee for an issue about which I am passionate, to let go and trust that this committee is just as passionate if not more passionate about Youth Ministries as I am, and that my gifts are needed elsewhere at this time. Feeling that youth ministries is such a deeply important issue makes letting go of my need to be on the Youth Ministries Committee a bit more of an issue, but right now I see it as a situation where I love it so much I have to let it go; this is not where I am led right now. Instead, I currently remain on the Publications and Distribution Committee as one of the youngest members, doing the work of Youth Ministries by creating a more intergenerational environment within this particular committee, setting an example, and working faithfully where my gifts are needed, regardless of my age. I do hope to be as involved as is possible, appropriate, needed, and feasible with Youth Ministries projects as they develop.

I was deeply touched by the passionate presentation of the work of the Ad Hoc Youth Ministries Discernment Committee by the clerk of this committee, Robin Greenler - this was the committee created last year to discern issues and concerns surrounding youth ministries among Friends. She spoke clearly and with much energy of the concerns and experiences of young(er) Friends, and of the work of the Committee; so much that I have experienced/have been experiencing was articulated passionately by Robin during this report, and it touched me deeply. I have so much faith in the formation of this committee, as complicated as forming a new FGC Program committee as such is looking right now, and I'm so thrilled.

Feeling more grounded in the Spirit, more grounded in a wider Quaker community, and excited about the work in which I am now involved, and with the affirming love of incredible and dedicated Friends, I can continue in my collegiate life holding all of this in my heart.

I'm not sure if I managed to capture the way I feel right now and where that feeling came from with this post, and I certainly did not describe all that happened at Central Committee this year, but I needed to articulate something here. More later on this, perhaps.

Love and Light,

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"What we need is here."

I just went to see Parker J. Palmer speak. I was fortunate enough that he came here to Wellesley College, to the very building next to my dorm to speak. I was captivated, and made tender by his words. "We need to learn how to wear our hearts on our sleeves," he said, in a society so focused on what's outward and ignorant of what's within. We need to think with our minds in our hearts. The soul is like a wild animal; resilient and tough, but very shy. We need communities that support and encourage our souls. He spoke of a moment where one stops living a divided life - with the divide between our inward souls and the outward way of life - and starts living in ways that reflect what is within. He called this the "Rosa Parks Moment", as it is what she did when she sat at the front of that bus for the first time. She started living her life from within, honoring her selfhood and worth, her humanness, rather than setting it aside for the racist societal standards by which she was surrounded. Parker spoke of when the police came on the bus to take her off to jail she said "You may do that" as a free human being. No physical jail could overcome the freedom she gained from the prison of that divide.

His words struck a deep chord within me as memories of past experiences and current struggles flipped through my mind, wordlessly relating themselves to these things of which Parker spoke. In a sense, I've been having a long and drawn out "Rosa Parks Moment" as I struggle to draw closer to living outwardly that which I find within.

I feel that I'm drawing nearer to something profound within me, some profound potential. I'm beginning to climb that mountain. Or perhaps it is that I've been climbing it all along, but just discovered something new about how to climb. The world around me is beginning to feel differently.


On that note, I'm leaving town (and the internet) until Sunday. Tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon I will be leaving for FGC Central Committee in Maryland as an invited member. The only way my excitement is concealed right now is through an odd sense of disbelief or denial about how exciting it really is for me. I'm one of those nuts who loves Quaker Process.

Love and Light,

Just Who Is This "Claire" Person, Anyway?

An interesting result of having a blog for spiritual thoughts, feelings, and writings is that I only hint at other things occuring in my life and other contexts of where I am. I'm a firm believer that there is no divide between secular and spiritual - if there were, where then, would I suggest that the spirit was not? However, this does not automatically lead to describing everything going on in my life in a spiritual blog such as this.

Today, partly inspired by some memes over on Amanda's blog, I felt like filling in a few more bits of the "rest" of my life. Needless to say, a lot of this post is not necessarly going to be spiritually inspiring or anything, but will perhaps give a little more insight about my life as it is and has been recently, and perhaps how rapidly it's changing these days. I'd like to point out also that it is by no means comprehensive - not all aspects of my life are covered here, of course. (There's a lot more to it, but this is a start.) So, here goes. Feel free to comment or ask questions or just entirely ignore it, as you see fit.

1 Year Ago:

I was nearing the end of my first trimester of senior year in high school (we had three trimesters rather than two semesters my senior year). I was attending the NC School of Science and Mathematics, a public boarding school 5 minutes from my house and from Durham Friends Meeting (my home meeting), a school with intense academics and a schedule that resembled college more than high school. Being at that school was tough, frustrating, fantastic, and allowed for more opportunities and growth - academically and spiritually - than I ever would've hoped to experience in the two short years I was there.

I believe, actually, that I was about to enter one of those weeks that I look back on with the thought, "If I can get through weeks like that, I can get through anything." It was less than a week before my Early Decision application to Wellesley was due, finals were going to begin in a couple days - including organic chemistry, asian history, and AP calculus with adv. topics; quite a load! This was also around the time where I learned that my SAT score had improved by 140 points, and that I had done very well in a prestigious, national science competition; this was the point where I finally gained some confidence about the possibility getting into college, and started feeling really good about where I was going, academically. However, doing well in this science competition meant that in the next week, on top of finals and my Wellesley application, I had to work with my research partner to prepare a 12 minute presentation on the research project we'd done, and be ready to answer judge's questions - a trip to the regional competition in Georgia was scheduled for right after our finals.

Spiritually, especially with all of this craziness going on, I was quite distracted and unfocused. I had a Pendle Hill clerking workshop to look forward to attending that was a few weeks away - I was to be one of the FGC Gathering high school program clerks in 2005, but other than regular attendance at meeting, spirituality was not in the forefront of my mind. Even so, it'd been a year and a half since I'd stopped attending First Day School (and had been attending the full hour, instead). Earlier in October I'd attended my fourth and final Young Quakes, a national, FGC-sponsored, young Friends gathering, and I yearned to retain the centeredness I usually found at such gatherings once back at home. Usually, though, the glow would wear off, and with it would go my spiritual focus.

I had not yet read a single Quaker book - a thought I now can no longer understand. I have traveled so tremendously far in my spiritually journey since then - and I'd been traveling right along before, too. Many turning points were on my horizon a year ago. Perhaps I'll post on those, soon. I keep encountering more!

1 Month Ago:

It was nearing the end of September, and goodness, it feels like yesterday! (Is it really almost November? This is ridiculous!) I'd been here at Wellesley for a month, and was frustrated by a lack of stress - it sounds odd, I know. (No worries, things have picked up a bit and continue to, slowly.) I had quickly learned that at this point in my life, I don't function very well without a certain amount of stress. A month into college, while taking organic chemistry, I still wanted (and want) to do research, I still loved (and love) chemistry and it's application to biology (biochemistry, really). I had discovered the possibility of being a chemistry tutor in the department, and am still planning on looking into that possibility. I had already started doing some computational chemistry research with one of the chemistry professors (though I'd rather be doing "wet" chemistry, or lab work, rather than just computer modeling). Exploring Boston had proved to be a wonderful experience, and an exciting new level of independence.

Spiritually, as evidenced from some of my earlier September posts, I was still searching for grounding. It wasn't an ungroundedness like I had a year ago; I'm certainly in a different place now than I was then. I just wasn't focused as I felt I wanted to be and needed to be. However, I was beginning to get closer to that groundedness.

1 Week Ago:

I was still chugging along here, academically speaking. A couple tests, a paper, an almost-all-nighter. The sun was out, after over a week of gross rain.

Spiritually, well, see what I posted a week ago and in the last week.. My journey continues.

1 Day Ago:

Monday afternoons and evenings I usually meet with two different groups for organic chemistry, and usually also have to set up for my Tuesday afternoon cell bio lab. I suffered from a bout of complete distraction. For an unreasonable amount of time I was entirely unable to focus on setting up for my bio lab, which I knew wouldn't take that long to do once I actually did it. There are times when I need to bite the bullet and just do something, and there are times when I can't fight the distraction. Don't worry, this isn't a huge issue. I'm not talking about having ADD (which I don't), but about finding the balance between distraction and focus, as everyone needs to do. Last night, the balance was just inconvenient. Yesterday I also got some laundry done, and it was fabulous.

12 Hours Ago:

I was in my cell bio lab, listening to the instructor go slowly through the procedure that I'd read the night before and had made notes about in my lab notebook. Well, actually, I wasn't really listening to the instructor; I was spacing out, thinking about other things in my life. The redundancy of listening to the instructor go over the procedure and theory again was just too much (too boring, unhelpful), as it usually is.

That, my Friends, is all for now.

Love and Light,

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Walk to Simply BE

Today I walked. I walked a lot. For two and a half hours, I wandered around the Charles River, through the crowds and with the crowds as everyone looked on at the Head of the Charles Regatta in the River. I observed jackets and sweatshirts and hats of individuals and entire groups as they walked around, finding people from all sorts of places around the country (and a couple other parts of the world). Listening to some upbeat music with headphones as I walked, I just was.

I didn't overthink anything, I didn't contemplate spiritual matters, I didn't stress about my classes, I didn't think too much about friends or family. I was just walking, letting brief thoughts of the moment pass into and out of my mind, wondering if I'd encounter anyone I knew, but not really expecting to.

I was just being. And it was okay to just be.

I spend so much time thinking about who I am and how I am, thinking about where I am spiritually and academically, and where I'd like to be. It's important to take a break sometimes! I felt more centered with myself today. This is a slow process, but it's ok, I don't have to know everything right now.

Love and Light,

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Toward the Mountain

I find it interesting where I am now, spiritually. I feel almost as though I've just begun my journey, though I've been traveling for quite awhile now. Perhaps it is more like I feel that I just encountered a new mountain to climb; I can see it in the distance and am working my way toward it. There was some initial excitement about having discovered this new direction, this new focus for my journey, but it's beginning to settle in a little.

I'm working on being careful to not get too caught up in the branches in my way or the beasts I may encounter, but to keep a firm eye on the mountain ahead. It'll always be there, even when I trip and fall..

It's tough and it's tiring when you go it alone
I learned about wiring, I learned about stone
The building is done but the work's never through
And I won't give up, no how, it reminds me of who I am and where I am now
I remember myself, that's the work that I do
On a spring night when the snow is melting
You'll see two sets of footprints walking
Look at all the stars, and turn around,
and walk home,

Slowly walk home.

[From "This is not the House that Pain Built", by Dar Williams]

Love and Light,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Two Days Later..

[Oh goodness, it's 1am again. But this time, I'm about to go to bed (and believe it or not, 1am is an earlyish bedtime for me these days). For any who were concerned, I did get very little sleep Sunday night, but I finished drafting my paper, my tests went went well, and I slept a lot last night.]

I've been tender with myself these last two days [see my last post for better context]. When I think about my idea of God, I often challenge it and put it into all sorts of situations to test it - this goes with all the overthinking and rationalizing. After all, I'm not one to just have blind faith, right? I refuse to believe something "just because". However, in these last two days, I've been more patient, more gentle; my recent experience of God is not yet ready to be compared and rationalized into a compromise. I'm beginning to realize that it is not blind faith even if I don't do this thinking; my evidence is my experience of God. Experience is not "just because".

I also have a tendency to want to know everything now. My overthinking is not only testing my idea of God, but is also my way of determining explanations for things. I experience God, but I must be able to apply what this means to every possible situation right now.. right? But it is not so. I can take my time and keep listening. I don't need every explanation figured out immediately, it's ok. So every time I find myself venturing into thought processes that I usually do, I stop and remember that I need time. I need to listen, rather than trying to reason everything out on my own. I do not need to do thought experiments to test my experience of God right now, nor do I need to know everything right in this moment.

I still foster a small fear that this renewed focus will fade.

one day at a time, one day at a time
I will hold on to this love, one day at a time

Baby steps. No need to fear the long term; if I can pay attention to the short term, the long term will follow accordingly.

I've been taking care to focus on my recent spiritual experiences while walking from one place to another, or just sitting. Not just thinking, but focusing and feeling. I've been taking a little more time for myself, not doing homework or other important things from time to time. I've begun re-reading If God is Love, and though I read it a couple months ago shortly after FGC Gathering, I feel as though I'm reading it for the first time again. I'm reading it anew, refreshed, with new eyes from a new perspective. I'm in a different place now than I was before, and it's changed how I experience a lot of things.

This has been another turning point (of which I've had many in the last year). I feel that I may be in the midst of what could be called a spiritual transformation. I feel like I've taken a new turn in my spiritual journey, and am continuing with care and tenderness that I have not allowed myself previously. I'm learning how to trust even more, and not feel unreasonable or irrational.

[As a scientific thinker, I'm very wary of having unreasonable, irrational, out-of-line-with-what-we-know-to-be-true beliefs. This leads to my tendency to test any new spiritual idea or belief I encounter within myself in ways which I am now learning may be too rushed, or just down right inappropriate. This can sometimes be a frustrating roadblock with faith, eventhough I'm convinced that science and religion are not opposed to each other, and instead actually go along with one another.]

I find it fascinating (and a little sad) that no one around me (physically) really has any idea what I'm going through spiritually right now. My behavior has not changed radically or suddenly, and I don't often speak of my spirituality, especially not in casual conversation. I don't need the answer to this problem right now, though. In time, an answer will come. (Last year my response was to create this blog, which has been nothing but a positive experience so far.)

Do forgive me if this entry seems a little disorganized and unclear. I'm still fleshing all of this out. I just felt the need to write about the impact that my experience Sunday night (/Monday morning) has had on me so far. My spiritual focus is returning in a new and awesome way.

Love and Light,

Monday, October 17, 2005

Called into the Depths

Your faith was strong but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne, she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah


There was a time you let me know what's really going on below, but now you never show it to me, do you?
Remember when I moved in you; the holy dark was moving too, and every breath we drew was Hallelujah


It is past 1am. I have two tests in the morning, and a draft of a paper to finish writing, yet in this moment the stress of that is backround fuzz. I may not sleep much tonight, but it'll be ok; this, right here, right now, is more important.

I feel moved, struck, pulled into the Light. For many months I have felt a little lost and unfocused, spiritually. My faith not shaken, but turned down, backround. From time to time I'd read a moving blog post or a book, or I'd catch some peace in meeting for worship and think to myself, I need to remember this as I go through my classes, my week, my semester, my life, but moments later, the feeling would be gone and I was again distracted by the pulls of daily things.

Something within me has begun to finally converge. I've caught myself thinking too much, rationalizing too much. I have this idea of God, but what does that mean in this context? Does that rationally make sense? Does that fit with my scientific experiences, my social experiences, my bad experiences, my good? Overanalyze, overanalyze, overanalyze; think, think, think; rationalize, rationalize.. this is not how I experience God! While all this thinking has been going on, a muffled feeling has been desperately calling out for my attention; my need for groundedness coming from within. I can think consciously all I want about how ungrounded I am, but hearing it from deeper down pulls me into it and forces me to pay attention. Like right now. I've hit "pause" on the surface details of life for this short time in the middle of the night. My spirit is moving, and I must pay attention.

Slowly, I am being shown on a deeper level that there are greater things outside my bubble of daily academic life. It's so easy to become wrapped up in getting to class, going to this club meeting, that soccer practice, this study group, getting that homework done, study for these tests, to the point where spiritual matters fall secondary and become distant. I begin to think about spirituality until my thoughts turn me in a circle. But this is not how I am to be. I need to begin to learn how to feel more about God, to listen more, rather than rationalize, to just be.

Living on the surface makes love harder to recognize. It makes God harder to recognize. I feel distant, ungrounded, and like something's missing. I keep gazing down below and conjecturing about what I could find down there if I only had time, but where is the surface without the depths? What supports the top, but the bottom? Foundations should be priority, and who am I without love, without God, but the unsupported top of an unstable structure? I must search below this surface, I must dive into the richness, into the Truth.

Here I am, the depths have caught up with me. This inopportune hour of the night has taken ahold of me and forced me to pay attention, to listen. I am listening now. I am really listening, even if I don't fully understand where this will lead. This opening may well pass, unnoticed on this too-familiar surface of my life, but I will be more careful to leave an ear in my heart, always, and to keep moments like these fresh and deep.

I have been worked on, today. I have been made tender. I have been reminded of love, if even only vaguely. It moves in me, and I am called to move with it.

Oh so much Love, and a world of Light, my dear Friends,

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Attending Unfamiliar Monthly Meetings - First Impressions

It's amazing how easy it is to let two weeks pass before writing again.

Before coming to Wellesley, I had not attended any monthly meeting other than my home meeting, Durham Friends Meeting. I've certainly gone to meeting for worship at larger gatherings, which allowed me to be comfortable with worshipping with unfamiliar Friends, but never a new monthly meeting. I have since attended Wellesley Friends Meeting three times (it's right near campus), Northampton Friends Meeting, and now, as of this morning, Cambridge Friends Meeting.

I was visiting a f/Friend with another f/Friend in Northampton (at Smith College) last weekend during my Fall Break, so naturally, we went to meeting in Northampton on Sunday. I found Northampton Friends Meeting quite a lovely, comfortable place, and would love to go back again sometime, whenever I'm next in that area.

Wellesley Friends Meeting is easiest to get to, but I find myself having trouble relating. I'm not quite sure what it is. Perhaps it's because the last two times I had to rush out right after we broke for fellowship so I wouldn't be late for a club soccer game and have thus not yet had the chance to meet people, but I think it may be something else. I think it may be a lack of people my own age. There are other college-age Friends here at Wellesley that I need to get in touch with more, but I don't think there's any way to "fix" this particular problem. I still plan to attend Wellesley Friends more to give it more of a chance. I've begun to reach a point in my Quaker spirituality where I need meeting for worship, so if I were to decide not to go to Wellesley Friends Meeting, this would be quite a problem.

This morning, I attended Cambridge Friends Meeting for the first time, and it was fantastic for me. I felt very comfortable, and was excited to discover a couple familiar faces - the wonderful result of having attended multiple national gatherings over the last few years, and also to meet three fellow bloggers in person, finally - Jeffrey Hipp, Amanda (Of the Best Stuff, but Plain), and Rob (Consider the Lillies), *waves*. I also spoke to a few Friends I'd never met before, which was also wonderful. I quickly felt a much greater connection to Cambridge Friends than I have with Wellesley Friends, and hope to go back rather often - eventhough it takes a 40 minute bus ride (which costs $2 each way) followed by another 10-15 minute walk to get there, and then the bus takes about an hour on the way back (there are other stops after Harvard Square). (It's really not that bad, though - definitely worth the commute!)

I recognize that it takes more than a couple times attending to get a decent sense of a meeting, but these are my first impressions. Since all I have right now are first impressions, I'll just have to do some more attending. I'm so glad to have found a couple Quaker communities up here; it's incredibly comforting and important to me. I also hope to get a little involved with NEYM YAFs - many opportunities there.

Well, that's it for now - it's getting late and I have a couple tests tomorrow, a paper to write, and.. well, I'm sure I've made my point.

Love and Light,

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Philosophical Reason, God, and Faith

In my philosophy class - intro to metaphysics and epistemology - we've been examining arguments for, and some against, the existence of God. This may initially sound like a spiritually challenging course; all these careful rationalizations or valid arguments for a particular concept of God, or against, or the argument that it's rational to believe in God or that it's rational to either believe or not believe.. It's quite possibly very overwhelming.

However, through all of this, I have been quietly testing my faith, prodding it a little, if you will, to see if things have been shaken up or disturbed. What if my belief isn't based on reason alone; is that completely irrational? While I don't want to be unreasonable about believing in God or some sort of "divine" being or thing; quite the contrary, I feel that it is actually unreasonable to try and even use reason to "prove" or "disprove" the existence of such a being as God. My faith has not been so shaken because it's based on experience. Reason, in my mind, becomes secondary.

This, though, feels a little unnerving; am I tossing reason out the window in favor of experience? What if I experience something completely a function of my pschological state of mind, such as a hallucination? Instead of rejecting the validity of my experiences based on the possibility of hallucination, I can actually provide a little reason - this reason being 'secondary' to my experiences - to explain. A hallucination completely out of line with my other experiences of reality I feel is an unreasonable thing to believe as real; however, if I were to hallucinate something line with my other experiences of reality, how would I know that my supposed experiences of reality were not hallucinations in and of themselves? It is irrational to continue thinking in such a way, because one could argue one's self out of reality into a place where nothing matters. Instead, I think of my experiences and I find faith. Not blind faith; blind faith would be to believe something unreasonably, without careful weighing, but faith that I cannot know everything, and that my experiences are real to me is enough evidence as I'll ever need.

I experience love. Love is real to me. I put my faith in love.

Love and Light,

Powered by Blogger