Rodney Owen, 1
Interview with Rodney Owen
What would you consider the most effective form of meditation in your life?
OK, I have to premise my answer by saying "at this point in my life" because my answer is not the same answer I would have given three years ago– and possibly will be different three years from now. Anyway, the most effective form of meditation in my life is standing meditation.
I'm excited to hear about how standing works so well for you now, but you have piqued my curiosity. I want to ask what other forms have you used in the past.
Well, I am a Quaker and our form of worship is what we call waiting meditation that could be described as a cross between Zen and Christian Contemplation– there is much to be said about that, but I want to be brief. In any case that process has been and still is a very important practice for me. I have also found Vipassana to be very intriguing and beneficial. My spiritual search has been greatly influenced by Buddhism, Castenada/Don Juan, Paramahansa Yogananda, Taoism and Christian Mysticism. So my approach has been sort of a mish-mash of styles.
Can you tell me briefly what waiting meditation entails?
To quote from quakerinfo.org–
It is a time when friends become inwardly still and clear aside the activities of mind and body that usually fill our attention in order to create an opportunity to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, we still our minds and empty our cups. A major difference between this practice and what most know as meditation is that Quakers have no designated ministers. So if during worship one feels led, he/she will stand and share a message. Of course this breaks the silence. But we believe that if the leading is sincere, the message is to be shared.
It sounds so Zen to me that the focus is on emptying the mind. Were you successful at this, and was there any guidance given outside this suggestion?
I've only been a Quaker for ten years now– I'm near fifty. I was already practicing meditation long before I started sitting with Quakers. So it was a very neat fit for me. My experience with Quakers has been that there is little to no guidance given unless one asks. I should also say that there is an enormous variety of Quaker beliefs and practices. So my explanation, while correct in general, is not comprehensive or absolute.
I am enjoying this interview and am quite honestly fascinated by your description of waiting meditation, so I'd like to break this into two parts and get a bit more clarity on this form before we move on to standing meditation. Would you say that the choice not to have a designated minister recognizes that we all have equal access to the divine?
Oh yes. The other thing that is important to this school of thought is the place of scripture. While scripture is important, Quakers traditionally recognize that scripture is divinely-inspired words written by other mortals. So instead of focusing on the words themselves, per se, we focus on finding ourselves in that place where we too are equally inspired. That place is typically (though not exclusively) found through waiting worship, which leads to an experience where one is led to break the silence and share said inspiration with fellow worshipers.
I am assuming that the waiting is for this sort of clarity or inspiration. Is there a belief that waiting as a group is more powerful than waiting alone? Also, I want to get back to the question of emptying the mind. Is it a general consensus among Quakers that this is the way to contact the divine– empty space or formless awareness?
I think Quaker worship is premised on this idea that Jesus said where two or more of His followers are gathered, He would be as well. Also, in the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus gathered in an upper room and waited on His return. His return was in the form of the Holy Spirit. I think that is what the "waiting" is about. The essence of Quakerism is the continuing Revelation of Jesus. And yes worshiping as a group is considered preferable to worshiping alone. But my experience with any type of meditation follows that– including Tai Chi and Qigong, which I consider moving meditation. Now I am no theologian, nor an expert on Quakerism. This is just the way I understand it.
There is something special about more than two as it implies a division being reconciled and unity of the common being recovered through communion. I actually had one more question about Quaker practice and that is whether it is believed that the divine is in us, or that the divine is external to us?
Central to Quaker belief is that there is that of God in everyone. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and within us.
I appreciate you sharing your understanding of the waiting meditation. Let's move on now to your current practice of standing meditation.