Finding My Spiritual Ground at FCNL
By Annie Boggess on 10/16/2012 @ 01:05 PM
Last week I shared some of my reflections about our Field Committee meeting in September. There’s one more important story from that weekend I want to tell you about, because it relates to a theme I’ve been noticing in my life for the past couple of years: Spirit moves in many ways.
I started suspecting that Spirit brought me here to FCNL during my first week as I got to know my podmates. My podmates are wonderful. The three folks who sit nearest to me in the office have all been taking care of me in their own ways. They are kind and patient teachers, they joke around with me, they help me think through important parts of my work and support me in bringing my best to the task we are all set with: affecting national policy.
After orientation, I was busy with the many and varied responsibilities of my job. I was happy, if a bit frazzled, so I didn’t even realize that something was missing amidst all the beautiful things in my new DC life. Then I sat down in Meeting for Worship with the Field Committee. We settled into silence, my spirit stirred, and the Light within me grew warmer and brighter as I focused in on it for the first time in weeks. I went to Meeting for Worship every Sunday this summer while I was in Mexico, but I hadn’t been since I got back to the States. My spirit re-awakened that morning with the Field Committee. That’s not to say I hadn’t felt alive and happy during my first month at FCNL - I had. But this joy was calmer, less talkative, a joy that made me want to be a better listener and really hold Friends in that space.
That first day with the Field Committee was wonderful, and highlighted for me many of the things I wrote about last week - a commitment to action, a drive to organize, a sense of optimism about the potential for constituent action to affect change. The second day of our meeting fed a different part of me. That Saturday morning, it was really difficult for me to settle into the silence. My duties that morning stressed me out more than they should have, and my mind was in a million places dealing with a million different worries, large and small. I couldn’t center. I kept my eyes close, listening to the ministry offered by the other folks around the table, trying to breathe deeply and stop fidgeting.
Just before the clerk broke Meeting, I finally got to that place. My breathing evened out, people’s words sunk in, a beam of light held me up in my seat. My mind knew peace and my heart knew that warm light that connects me to everyone else. As the clerk, Tom Ewell, broke the silence and asked for any reflections that hadn’t risen to the level of worship sharing, chatter broke out around the table. Folks were excited about messages that had been shared and how they related to the work we wanted to do that weekend and into the future. I kept still. After several minutes of talk, Tom said: “Annie, I notice you haven’t spoken yet. I feel like you’ve been holding us.”
In that moment I had clarity about what my role was that day, and perhaps this entire year. I understood with a new clarity the value of the experiences I bring to this organization, felt renewed gratitude to all the people who helped me get to this point. After Tom acknowledged me, I took a moment. I had felt the growing strength of my own heartbeat, that odd sensation I get in my stomach when I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to share something, and collected my thoughts. My voice broke as I began: “I feel so lifted up by everyone at this table.” And indeed I felt the power of Love inside them all, a beam of Light holding me up tall and connecting me to what felt like everything.
There aren’t many other places where you can feel comfortable having a spiritual experience in front of your bosses, one that makes you shake and cry without really understanding why. I can’t quite remember all of what I shared, as can happen with moments like that in Meeting. But I know I acknowledged the necessity of deep listening in the work we were going to do that day, the importance of silence in my own life, and the realization that I had been neglecting practices of self-care in the midst of my excitement about my new job. I was reminded that Quakerism suggests we begin with reflection. There we can find the clarity and strength to move forward.
As I spoke through tears I didn't understand, a committee member's hand on my shoulder kept me steady. She accompanied me through to the conclusion of my ministry:
"Perhaps peace is found in that space between reflection and the action that it inspires."