My experience of Meeting for Learning
When I heard that Meeting for Learning (MfL) was being offered in Adelaide, my response was an immediate ‘Yes!’. I had spoken to people who had participated in MfL previously and had seen the profound effect it had on their lives. The fact that MfL was finally being offered near where I was living was an opportunity too good to pass up, despite the obstacles in arranging to go (such as, a week off work means a week without income).
Although my decision was made independently of any knowledge about who else was attending, it was a relief to see a few familiar faces there. Little did I realise how much the week’s retreat and subsequent year would change my relationships with these people.
The retreat was the beginning of a vastly enriched spiritual life – though not in the mystical, spiritually enlightened way that sounds. For me there wasn’t one all-defining moment during the retreat. Rather, it was the still space that the retreat provided for exploration of what everyday spiritually means, for me individually, for other retreatants and for various great spiritual writers. It was terrific to have the opportunity to share with others at a deeply personal and spiritual level, without feeling compelled to share more than I felt comfortable with. As a bookophile, the range of reading material made available at the retreat was an absolute blessing. The facilitators were brilliant in sharing their personal journey and resources, without in any way suggesting that anyone else’s would be similar. The mid-week period of silence was one of the highlights of the retreat. It was both challenging and liberating to experience prolonged silence and to have the opportunity to use it in whatever way I chose.
One of the unexpected blessings of the MfL journey was the way in which it enriched and created new F/friendships. I felt more a part of the wider Quaker community and more connected to my local Meeting. By choosing to invite my sister to be part of my support group, I developed a more meaningful and spiritual relationship with her than I imagined possible. I was honoured to be included as a companion on other people’s spiritual journey, enabling me to develop a deeper relationship with them. I remain closer to some of the people who shared the MfL journey than to almost anyone else. The group of us who chose to study Quaker Basics in the year between the two MfL retreats which book-end the MfL journey, developed a deep, enduring connection. During the meetings with this group, I felt upheld, valued and encouraged, with large measures of laughter included.
MfL provided me permission to give priority to things other than work, congenial company, meetings with other like-minded people, time for reflection, a sense of being on a valuable journey, opportunity to discuss spiritual matters, joy, laughter, permission to make reading a priority, deeper friendship, the opportunity to know people in a different way, a sense of belonging, greater clarity about values, and a sense of anticipation about the journey ahead.
Would I recommend Meeting for Learning? You bet.