Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quaker meeting

Well, I finally stirred my stumps and went. Did my zazen, geared up, and went down to the local Quaker meeting.

There were blond wood benches on a blond wood floor. The benches were situated, three-deep, roughly in a circle. The walls were a spotless cream. There was a lot of light. And there was the usual pleasing quality of a group of people (maybe 40 of them) who got together and didn't talk. Ages seemed to range from about 25 to 80. There were a couple of black faces. During the sixty minutes or so of silence, only one man rose to speak and he spoke briefly. Otherwise there was some shifting and scratching and coughing, but not much. My ass got a bit bench-weary.

Afterwards, there was a potluck lunch at which I got to eat more health food than I have in a while. There was pleasant conversation at long tables.

I can think of a time when I might have drawn or imputed some deep meaning to it all, but basically I was neither moved nor not-moved. Sunny day, good food, friendly gathering doing something I would call sensible. I'm glad I went -- I hate thinking I would like to do something without actually doing it -- but I doubt if I will return, though I'd be happy to recommend it.

I think maybe I'm not terribly interested in spiritual efforts, although hearing people speak of their efforts interests me.


  1. Huh. I've always wondered. Thank you.

  2. Your post reminded me of what is reported to be the only Quaker joke:

    A young man visits a Quaker meeting for the first time. After sitting in silence for some time, he turns to his neighbor and asks, “When does the service start?” to which his neighbor replies, “When the meeting ends.”

  3. Sitting in Silence individually is different that Quaker Meeting for Worship, which is corporate, what's sometimes call a gathered Meeting. Have felt this same gathering on retreat, but the focus is still primarily on one's own zazen practice. For me, Quaker Meeting fills the sanga role, something that mostly missing in Western Buddhism just because it takes a while to build a community. Plus, the early Quakers were startlingly awake--they just didn't leave a rich practice tradition, which is partly why there's so much interest in Buddhism among Friends. For a tour through this terrain, I recommend visiting Richard Hayes' various websites: . Think you'll find it interesting reading.