Inward Quiet, Outward motion

In yoga class this morning the teacher talked about three gunas, or energies related to our practice. One, called tamas, is stillness, quiet, calm. It’s like the quiet potential of a seed. If this energy is out of balance, it can turn into stagnation, inertia. Another, rajas, has to do with action. It’s like the seed bursting through the seed coat and growing. It’s good to move, stretch, and so on, but going beyond your limits can be damaging. It can burn us up. The third, sattva, is a balance between the two, finding the sweet spot of stillness within action. [1]

This last one reminded me of the words of Thomas Kelly:

There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be at prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.”

For me, as I settle into silent worship, I am quieting my body and my mind in order to engage fully in expectant waiting. Ideally, that quiet center is carried into daily actions so that those actions are grounded in Spirit. Finding and sustaining the balance is a constant challenge, but it has been a guiding principle for me since I seriously adopted Quakerism as a life path. My practice of yoga helps me engage my body and consciously integrate my movements.

At the annual gathering of our Yearly Meeting this year, a member spoke passionately about how sitting for a long period of time is harmful to our bodies. Her young meeting has adopted a rather unconventional approach to Quaker worship—one which includes movement and song (Unconventional for our Yearly Meeting, at least). She says this form of worship is more accessible for children and young adults.   Her words made some of us uncomfortable, not so much because of the chosen practice of this new meeting among us but because she was challenging us to do likewise—to get outdoors, to move around, recognizing that, as Kelly says, we may be in worship all the while.

I have not fully processed her words. I am loathe to abandon our current practice of waiting worship but recognize that there may be other ways to enliven the movement of Spirit in our midst.








[1] Shared by Tracy Lease from Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga


2 thoughts on “Inward Quiet, Outward motion

  1. Catherine Walling

    Dear Charley,

    What a bonus treat to have been attending the yoga practice that inspired this post! I too was feeling the interweaving of Quakerly sensibilities with these three gunas… and the inbreath- outbreath, stillness-action aspects and the “dance of the balance”.

    My understanding of some of the yoga roots of the asanas… is rooted in the physical preparation of the body is to assist the body and mind to be “prepared” to sit in meditation. Tracy might have more “yogic” words about this too.

    Makes me wonder how it might be received to offer this sensibility to our Yearly Meeting Friend… how the outward actions/ activity might “prepare” the body/mind/ Spirit for Meeting for Worship…

    Thank you again for your post!!



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