be still.

We sit. Quiet. Breathing. How loud loud loud my mind. So full of fast thoughts. So full of fast thoughts. So full of fast fast fast fast fast thoughts. So full and busy and I can’t hear anything because so much is going on in my mind.

People sneeze, cough, shift in their seats. What is it like, at meeting for worship?

meeting room

Portland Friends Meeting

Settling in to a comfortable position. Aware of my posture, my legs, my arms and hands. More aware of my body as the chaos of my mind’s voices chatter away in the background. Noticing new aches and pains, behind my left eye, throughout my jaw, my spine, my lower back. How my jaw clenches tightly over to the side. Becoming aware. Gently reposition my lower jaw so my teeth rest not quite touching, but in line. How awkward the rest of my face feels. How I notice my spine more now. I lift my head lightly as if a string comes from my spine up through the top of my head. Lifting.

New people enter the room, finding seats. Some have loud shoes on the wood floor. So much shuffling and adjusting. The room’s sounds flow in waves. More than the clicks and hums of human sounds, my anxiety comes from thinking of people who might be bothered by those sounds. I notice that about myself. I breathe. I return to my body. Someone’s stomach gurgles. Someone may be snoring. As the sounds mingle I notice. I notice I can find quiet even in the middle of the clutter careful accidental necessary noises of these friends. My mind is slowing. As each of my to-do items flashes in I welcome it and say, not now, and say, goodbye. As a new column or blog post begins forming, I enjoy playing with the words for a while, then notice my distraction away from the moment. Each moment of distraction, when I am not mindfully resting and seeking the space and light I know I will find in the silence, I don’t fight. I don’t fight the distractions, I only notice them.

Inside me, like the quiet sounds of the other humans around me, there are waves of noise and quiet. Again, a flowing.

As more space opens in me I notice I’m feeling sleepy. Oh, how tired I am. I begin worrying this will be one of those meetings where the struggle to fight sleep is so miserable, I consider leaving (I did leave once). Instead, I adjust my legs and my arms. I bend my head to one side and then the other. I imagine my blood flowing from my heart through my body, especially along my spine, and back into my heart. I catch myself in a deep and possibly loud exhale. It’s okay. We are all here to find the light. The space. The peace.


5 thoughts on “be still.

  1. All that sound at the start- it seems to me your meeting begins with your heightened awareness of your surroundings. When that happens to me I find it beautiful, my attention being poured out into the space.

    I went into the meeting room I have worshipped in the last two years, this morning, and was overwhelmed by the holiness of the space.

    • I find everything about meeting beautiful, yes. I realized after posting this I mention nothing about the thoughts and ideas I have that have deep meaning for me. Those times I almost feel moved to share, even. The connection of all of us together being still… It sounds like you understand. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Dear Heather,
    thank you for that beautiful description of gathering in silence! I have recently reflected on the initial part, the fast fast thoughts, and as a Worship Group, we have found a technique that really works for us (besides the discipline of being on time – no heavy winter boots on old wood floor distractions!).
    We sing a simple hymn to gather and centre down. You can read my story and listen to the hymn here:
    Of course, I still notice many thoughts coming to me while worshipping in silence, but they seem to be of a different quality now. And I am more ready to be truly listening for the ones that come from the Inner Voice.


    • I’m not sure if I commented here about this, or if it was in an email to Friends-friends. But, one thing that surprised me when I re-read this piece was how much it focused on the “distractions” rather than how much space and freedom I find inside. That “Inner Voice,” yes.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

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