Holding in the Light –My experience
Moira Darling, Victoria Regional Meeting
It was the experience of being held in the Light during a time of discord and misunderstandings in my local meeting that convinced me I was a Quaker. It was many years later that I realised it was the person I had the disagreement with that was holding me in the Light. It was an act of spiritual discipline and love that I deeply respect and aspire to in my own practice. Although I knew I was being held in the Light, I thought it was some quiet Quaker in some corner of Australia doing this for all Quakers. I didn’t connect it to an intentional action directed towards myself, yet I could feel it.
Quakers hold each other in the Light during times of duress and debility and many of us have felt that loving embrace during our times of trial. I recall the experience many years ago of being held in the Light following surgery. It was a tangible feeling in my body that I connected to the intentional action of friends in my local meeting caring for me. It was at that time that I learnt to know consciously what it was to be held in the Light. Over the years Quakers have spoken with gratitude of being held in the Light and knowing they were held from feeling the sensation in their bodies.
The healing power of being held in the Light is something we often speak about or engage in. Less frequently do we speak of holding each other in the Light as we embark on a course of work or engagement in the world. I learnt the power of this when, during a period of deep burn-out, I visited Friends General Conference (FGC) in the USA to attend a course on Spiritual Experience. (I just want to note that I had committed to the course before I became burnt out.) I had, with some encouragement, applied to the Thanksgiving Fund for support and been granted financial support for the journey. However, the most unexpected, and greater, level of support I received was being held in the Light by a group of faithful and mostly unknown Quakers whilst on my trip. It was on the way to the airport that I noticed that familiar feeling and said to my partner, “I think I’m being held in the Light.” As I finished saying that, a text message came through from the Thanksgiving Fund Committee to say that I was being held in the Light. It felt like a miracle.
The miracle continued at FGC. The whole conference and venue felt like a crucible of love and Light. It was palpable from the moment I arrived. At the opening night session there was a line of people sitting on chairs across the stage. When I asked what they were doing, I was told they were holding the session in the Light along with others scattered around the room. Being held in this way at the gathering and by Friends in Australia made the week at this conference such a powerful experience. Usually I am extremely uncomfortable at any large gathering, yet here amongst 1,500 strangers I felt comfortable and at ease. Every conversation was important and I was able to use my time well with both the formal and informal sessions. It felt like another miracle.
There have been other instructional experiences around holding in the Light. One time another Friend and myself were holding a workshop group in the Light for Elaine Emily. As the participants broke up into small groups, it was as though a wild storm erupted around and inside each of us. It took great concentration to hold ourselves physically stable and maintain focus on holding the group in the Light until they settled into their work and came back into the large group. It was quite exhausting and proved a lesson on how much energy and focus is required to effectively hold others in the Light.
Sometimes it happens that no matter how much we want to, we are not able or ready to hold others in the Light. We have to have done our own “inner work” in order to do this work. This was starkly brought into focus for me when I tried to support the work of the First Nations Committee at their first workshop with Indigenous and Quaker participants by holding it in the Light as an additional support. I failed miserably. As the workshop progressed my mind was filled with images, remembrances and connections in my own life and ancestral line that needed to be known and worked through in relation to our impact on the first nations people of this land. The Elder at the workshop, who was holding it in the Light, was a great support in helping me understand the importance of the “inner work” in enabling a deeper engagement with the spiritual work and providing a foundation from which it is possible to hold others in the Light. In subsequent workshops with First Nations People I was able to contribute more deeply and hold the people and space in the Light.
One last thing to be aware of is the importance of a gentle release so the folks being held don’t have a bumpy landing. I am sure there are many ways of managing this transition. I tend to tuck my image of those I’m holding in the Light into a pocket of my heart.
Although I have spoken about the energy, effort and focus required to hold others in the Light, there are also exceptions. At one AYM I was called into a business meeting working through issues around the development of Silver Wattle Quaker Centre. This was very contentious at this time amongst Quakers. Even though I rarely went to business sessions I was strongly called into the session on Silver Wattle. I found a seat in the room and sat. I wasn’t called to speak. I just sat, and while I sat I could feel a strong stream of energy entering the top of my head during the meeting. It was extraordinary. I stayed for the course of the meeting and was most surprised at the end of the session when the Clerk thanked all those holding the meeting in the Light and looked straight at me. I was astounded – was this what I had been doing, while I just sat here in this meeting, feeling this energy come through me? Sometimes we are just called to sit and direct our focus in some particular direction and it is up to us to obey. In this instance I was energised and blessed.
So it has been that I have learnt the power of holding each other in the Light to facilitate healing, growth and engaging in the world. The act of holding each other in the Light is a deliberate and intentional action that takes practice, focus and energy and can effect a major transformation on others, their capacity for action and what happens in the world.
It takes time and practice to build this skill and develop confidence in it. People new to Quakers are largely left to figure things out for themselves. A simple yet powerful activity for us as Quakers would be to regularly practice this holding of each other in the Light in pairs, taking turns and providing feedback to each other about the experience of holding and the experience of being held.
In undertaking such an exercise it is important to have a sense of connecting to Spirit and being a part of something outside your direct control – the words “Thy will not my will” come to mind. Steps that help with this include….
- being grounded, centred and relaxed in the body.
- calming the mind and as holder focusing on the other.
- coming from the heart and practicing holding the other without attachment to outcome.
- having the gathering well held. Participants could take turns in holding the whole group and share how that experience was for them.
An important part of developing confidence in the development of this skill is providing feedback and sharing with each other what the experience of being held and holding was like.
How was the experience? (taking turns for the holder and holdee to speak)
What sensations were felt?
If there were lapses in concentration / focus how did it feel to both the holdee and the holder?
Was it easy or difficult?
Was it similar or different to other times?
How much energy / effort did it take?
It is my hope that we share in practical ways our knowledge and experience of holding in the Light, especially with people new to Quakers. In doing so we will be taking time to deepen our spiritual practice, skills and understanding as well as contributing something unique and powerful to meeting the current challenges of living in our world.