Facilitators should re-read Loring Volume II, CH 2 – 4.
1. Identify personal learning and meaning of this nine months
2. Name and claim spiritual gifts
3. Identify one’s ministry
4. Recognize the spiritual disciplines of accountability, stewardship, community
5. Consider next steps
6. Evaluate experience
5:30 pm Set up for Dinner
6:00 pm Dinner and clean-up
6:45 pm Begin settling into worship
7:00 pm Worship Sharing.
“Something important I learned or experienced this year…”
7:45 pm Overview and Objectives.
8:00 pm Cradling .
From Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life
Introduction: Joseph Chilton Pearse in his book, The Magical Child, defined a matrix as a place of safety, energy and potential for growth. And that the mother’s womb was the primary matrix. As we experience our earliest times, after our birth, we experience the safety, energy and potential for growth in being held, cradled, carried in the arms of our parents, grandparents and other folks who care for us. We experience it when we awaken to the loving gaze of these folks, in the eye contact and smiles that come from enjoying each others presence. This safety and nurture allows us to explore the world boldly, and to learn how to engage it and grow.
In a very real sense, our Meetings and our spiritual formation groups provide this safety, energy and potential for growth as well. The experiences we are offering today are intended to help us reflect on how this all works, and perhaps open us to new dimensions of this nurture.
Purpose: A guided meditation on the body, the cradling exercise serves many purposes. It permits deep relaxation, all the more welcome after dealing straight on with fearsome issues. It builds trust among participants, and a kind of respectful cherishing. It widens our awareness of what is at stake in the global crisis, for the dangers we face—pollution, ecological collapse, famine, warfare—are dangers because of what they do to the body. The Cradling also taps deeper levels of knowing, stirring reverence for life and for its powers in us. Usually, in dealing with the deterioration of our world, we try to get our minds around it; we deal with it on the informational level, as if we were brains at the end of a stick. The Cradling stills for a while the chattering computing mind and opens it to the wordless wisdom of life.
Description: People work in pairs, taking turns. First you model with a volunteer how Partners A lie down and Partners B, following your verbal suggestions, will “cradle” them, which means lifting arms, lower legs and head.
Now Partners A, removing glasses and shoes, loosening ties and belts, lie down on the floor, close their eyes and relax. Assist with a brief guided relaxation (stretching, feeling the breath, letting weight sink down, releasing tension from feet, legs, hands, etc.). Soft background music like flute is helpful, but not essential. Carpeting makes a large difference, but even on a hard floor this exercise has worked well.
Caution: proceed with care and respect. Touching another person’s body is a sensitive and often problematic issue. In some cultures it is virtually taboo; don’t offer this exercise in south Asia, for example. In the U.S., even California, people can interpret touch as an invasion of their personal integrity, especially if they have suffered physical and sexual abuse. So inform people that the exercise involves letting their arms, legs, and head be lifted and held; ask them to choose a partner with whom they will feel comfortable.
Respect the participants for their trust and stay matter-of-fact in your manner, avoiding a portentous or sugary tone. Interspersing your words with silence, remain casual and reflective, as if observing some constellation in the heavens or a conch shell on the beach.
The following description of Joanna guiding the Cradling is offered for illustrative purposes only. You will not be repeating this word for word when you are the guide; you have your own style, your own experience to use. Now, however, read it reflectively to get a feel for the process, its pace and unfolding.
Lift gently your partner’s arm and hand… Cradle it, feel the weight of it…flex the elbow and the wrist, not e how the joints are hinged to permit a variety of movement… Behold this arm as if you had never seen it before, as if you were a visitor from another world… Observe the articulation of bone and muscle… Turning the palm and fingers, not the intricacy of structure… What you now hold is an object unique in our cosmos: a human hand of Planet Earth… In the primordial seas where once we swam, that hand was a fin—as it was again in its mother’s womb… Feel the energy and intelligence in that hand—that fruit of a long evolutionary journey, of efforts to swim, to push, to climb, to grasp… Note the opposable thrum, how clever and adept it is… good for grasping a tool, a pen, a gun…Open your awareness to the journey it has made in this lifetime…how it opened like a flower when it emerged from the mother’s womb…how it reached to explore and to do… That hand leaned to hold a spoon…to hold its parents hand while learning to walk…to tie shoelaces…to throw a ball…to write its name…to give pleasure…to wipe tears… There is nothing like it in all the universe.
Gently lay down that hand, move now to your partner’s leg and slowly lift it… Feel its weight, its sturdiness… This species stands upright… Bend the knee, the ankle, not the play of bone and muscle. It allows this being to walk, run, climb… Holding the foot, feel the sole, no hoof or heavy padding… It is this being’s contact with the ground… Feel that heel; when it kicked in the womb: that was what the parents first felt through the wall of the belly… “See: there’s its heel!”… And such journeys that leg has been on since then…learning to take a step and then another…walking and falling and getting up again…then running, climbing, kicking a ball, pedaling a bike…a lot of adventures in that leg…and a lot of places it has taken your partner…into work places and sanctuaries, mountainsides and city streets…gotten tired…sore…still kept going… Gently putting it down now, move around to the other leg and cradle that one, too.
Observe this companion leg and foot…which shared these journeys…and many yet to come… For all its weight and sturdiness, it can be broken, crushed…no armor…just skin that can tear, bones that can fracture… As you hold that leg, open your thought to all the places it will take your partner in the future…into places of suffering perhaps…of conflict and challenge…on missions that your partner doesn’t know about yet… As you lay it back down, extend your wishes for its strength and wholeness.
Lift your partner’s other hand and arm… Observe the subtle difference form its twin… This hand is unique, different from all other hands… Turning it in yours, feel the life in it… And note also its vulnerability…no shell encases it, for those fingertips, that palm, are instruments for sensing and knowing our world, as well as for doing… Flexible, fragile hand, so easy to break or burn… Be aware of how much you want to stay whole, intact, in the time that is coming… It has tasks to do, that your partner can’t even guess at…reaching out to people in confusion and distress, helping, comforting, showing the way… This hand may be the one that holds you in the moments of your own dying, giving you water or a last touch of reassurance… The world of sanity and decency that lies ahead will be built by hands like this one. With gratitude for its existence, put it gently down; move now around behind your partner’s head…
Placing a hand under the neck and another beneath the skull, slowly, gently lift your partner’s head… (Partner A keep your neck relaxed, your head heavy, loose). Lift that head carefully, cradle it with reverence, for what you now hold in your two hand is the most intricate, complex object in the known universe… a human head of Planet Earth…a hundred million neurons firing in there…vast potential for intelligence…only a portion has been tapped of that capacity to see, to know, to envision…
Your hand holding your partner’s head—that is likely the first touch your partner knew in this life, coming out of the womb into hands, like yours, of a doctor or midwife… Now within that skull is a whole world of experience—of memories of scenes and songs, beloved faces…some are gone now, but they live still in the mansions of that mind… It is a world of experience that is totally unique and that can never be fully shared… In that head, too, are dreams of what could be, visions that could shape our world…
Closing your eyes for a moment, feel the weight of that head in your hands. It could be the head of a Chinese soldier or an Iraqi mother, of an American General or an African doctor… Same size, same weight just about, same vulnerability, same capacity for dreams that could guide you through this time.
Looking down at it now, think of what this head may have to behold in the times that come…the choices it will make…the courage and endurance it will need… Let your hands, of their own intelligence, express their desire that all be will with that head… Perhaps there is something that you want your partner to keep in mind—something you want them not to forget in times of stress or anguish… If there is, you can quietly tell them now, as you lay their head back down…
Allow for the recumbent partner to stretch, look around, and slowly sit up. Then A and B reverse roles, and the verbal cues are offered again, with some variations.
If the number of workshop participants is uneven, the guide pairs up with the extra person, then leads the whole exercise while acting as Partner B, but not reversing roles. The extra person can then join another pair as a second cradling partner, if desired.
When participants lie down, remember to have them place themselves so that there is adequate room for their partners to move around them to cradle arms, legs and head.
8:30-9:00 Process the experience Share in groups of 4 (20 min) (JP/WW)
At the conclusion of the whole process, time to reorient is important. Let the partners talk quietly or remain in silence for a while; then let them gather in foursomes to speak of their experience.
Whatever words or images are used, it is good to touch on certain themes. Interweaving through the spoken words, these motifs renew and sharpen awareness of what it means to be a living person. They include:
The uniqueness of the human species in the cosmos,
Its long evolutionary journey,
The uniqueness of each individual, and of each personal history,
The intricacy and beauty of the human organism,
Its universality, linking us to other humans around the globe,
And its vulnerability:
In large group (10 min) (JP/WW)
Then participants are invited for share in the large group about their own experience. Not all are required to share
What was this experience like for you?
Did any themes emerge for you?
9:00 pm Closing Worship
8:30 am Volunteer(s) makes coffee
8:50 am Participants arrive and have morning hospitality
9:10 am Worship and Introduction to Spiritual Gifts. Definitions and examples
10:00 am Break
10:20 am Worship Seeing. This is a way to practice communally a way of calling forth and affirming the strengths, qualities and spiritual gifts we have seen or recognized in those around us. Allow for images and metaphors which might arise. For example, I see in Wade a shepherd’s gift of finding a song that speaks to our condition, that comforts, that soothes, that gives energy. Not everyone needs to “see” because as a body, we need those who are the pray-ers, and we each need to be unpressured to speak.
EXPLANATION. This is a prayerful process involving three roles, the Clerk; the Focus Person; the Recorder, rotating so each person serves in each role. Clerk’s job: “Let us turn our prayerful attention now to our friend _____(name) . After some moments of worship, let us speak out of the stillness, naming the ways we have seen the Light shine in this person. “ After there seems to be a completeness , the clerk discerns the call for the close and asks for any comment by the focus person.
Focus Person: Rests, listens and receives.
Recorder: Records the name of the focus person at the top of the page, and scribes the words or phrases offered in worship; at the end, the recorder hands to the focus person the recording. It is OK if for any reason, a person prefers to PASS on being a recorder (a really slow writer, for example).
Facilitator asks “Who would be willing to be the first clerk? “. Then, the person across the circle opposite the clerk, Are you ok being the first focus person”? The facilitator asks for a volunteer to serve as the first recorder, and hands the recorder a pad of paper and a pen.
At the close, next clerk is the person seated at the RIGHT hand of the first clerk, and the next focus person is seated at the RIGHT hand of the first focus person, and so too for the recorder.
12 NOON Lunch
1:00 Quiet time. No talking. OK to journal, walk, sleep.
2:00 pm Footwashing at Marlborough Story read aloud. Ask for comments and reflections. Then, set up the instruction: Go to each person, milling about the room, and say ”Please forgive me for any way I hurt you or judged you or placed a barrier. I want there only to be truth and love between us. The person says “I forgive you.” The two part, going on to other people. Let the moment between you be what it is, and the Listener should hold off his or her own immediate request for forgiveness. This “milling about the room” continues until the facilitator calls time, and ask people to recreate a circle. Acknowledge any incompleteness. We do what time permits, and hope that soon you can create the opportunity for completions.
ALTERNATIVE: Read I Corinthians 12-14. This is a practice of minding our unity while “travelling” or moving through a conflict facing us. It is a reading with perhaps new or challenging material on the topic of spiritual gifts and being “church.”. The instruction is: Read one sentence. Reader pauses and asks Is anyone stopped here by a word or phrase? If yes, the person(s) stopped, share their distress or confusion or annoyance. Is there a way to acknowledge this “stop” and be mindful of it? OK to proceed? If not ok, what might be needed? IF and when ready, a second reader reads the second sentence, and asks if anyone is stopped? In this way we travel slowly, “minding our unity.” Here we value each person, use compassionate listening, and know that we are “travelling” together, not falsely arriving at some preset destination but with the group being scattered or lost.
3:00pm Discerning One’s Ministry
Brief Presentation: What is ministry? How have I been “well used”? A time when I felt great joy in serving in some way. What do I know about my own gift?
Facilitator shares personally and offer public examples.
Reference Loring. Reference Wade Wright’s Discerning Spiritual Gifts and Ministries
3:15 pm Exercise: Journal on recognition of one’s gifts named this morning, and how one might have use this gift going forward. How can I name my ministry at this moment? How clear am I?
3:45 pm Sharing in small groups
4:30 pm Processing in Plenary:
What was that like? Where are you ? How many have an idea about their ministry?
What was hard?
Any openings, new understanding?
Have you had encouragement along the way?
Sources of encouragement?
What role does “naming “ by others have?
Did low points in your life turn out later to be openings toward your true calling?
Can anyone identify seeds of ministry that were planted far in the past, noting the sometimes long germination time
5:00pm Closing Pennington Quote: Our life is ….
8:30 am Prepare coffee
9:00 am Participants arrive for morning hospitality
9:15 am Opening Worship and Agenda Review. Distribute information about Other resources for spiritual growth: The School of the Spirit, Shalem, Oasis, etc.
9:30 am A Tool For Going Forward. Calling out Friends to ministry, a method for discerning clerks or naming a committee. Source: Margery Larrabee’s Friends Journal articles.
10:15 Evaluation. The responses are all typed into a document randomly and anonymously after the weekend is over, and all of the working group members read them and consider changes suggested.
Questions on the evaluation:
1. Tell a little about your experience with a spiritual practice/discipline in the nine months of the Spiritual Formation Program… How helpful was this experience to your spiritual life?
2. Tell about the usefulness of your friendship/accountability group in deepening your spiritual life…
3. Tell about your experience with the readings….
4. Tell about your experience of the monthly reading discussion….
5. Are you more able to nurture others spiritually as a result of this program? If yes, in what way(s)…?
6. Name the most important learning/benefit that you have gained from participation in this program…
7. Has your Meeting benefited as a result of your (and others) participation in this program? If yes, in what way(s)?
8. What do you think about the importance of the discernment of spiritual gifts to a Meeting community?
9. How clear are you with regards to your “ministry” as a member or attender of the Religious Society of Friends? Would you name it, briefly?
10. Do you have any advice for the Spiritual Formation Working Group as to how to improve this program?
11:00 Worship-sharing on a query: For me, I felt the transforming power of God when ….
12:00pm Closing song and Dismissal