Youth at Western Quaker Mystics Retreat

Youth Report by Miriam Fiorentino

The Youth Program Committee of Pacific Yearly Meeting sponsored youth to attend the Western Quaker Mystics Retreat held on February 4th-7th at Berkeley Friends Meeting. Miriam Florentino reports:

The Western Quaker Mystics Retreat, sponsored by What Canst Thou Say? held at the Berkeley Friends Meeting on February 4th through the 7th was a special time of gathering of individuals who came to share, be encouraged, and experience the Mystic way. I was fortunate and honored to be able to participate, thanks to your sponsorship and assistance. I was in awe of the vulnerability, openness,  trust, and deep listening that took place during this time together. I was reminded of how Spirit works and manifests in many different ways in people’s lives and grateful that Spirit moves and is ever present in our lives. I gleaned a deeper appreciation and importance of having communities to share and support in our spiritual paths. It was humbling to hear of folks’ stories and the courage they had in discovering, navigating, and understanding their mystical experiences and gifts. I felt the connection of ancestors laying spiritual groundwork for those who came after and appreciative of their faithfulness to listen and engage with Spirit. I was inspired while hearing these stories and felt held by the legacy of those who shared. It was profoundly meaningful to me to see the inter-generational nature of our gathering and the valuable asset of this shared space. The beautiful inner workings of these exchanges was grounding to my own experiences and a blessing to be able to see that I was apart of a larger community of mystics, however each person defined it. I felt heartened, as a young person, to continue to explore and be present in my own engagement with mysticism. I felt enlivened to convey and encourage other young people to share their spiritual stories and how beneficial doing so can open opportunities for growth and inquiry. I loved learning how Quakerism has a rich history of mysticism and felt that those who gathered were part of this heritage, though some of us came from various spiritual backgrounds.  I graciously thank the Youth Program Committee for sponsoring me, along with a few others, to be able to attend this gathering. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and experience; I know it will be one that I cherish, reflect on, and continue to impact my spiritual journey.  Attached you will also find an epistle written by another attender on behalf of all those gathered to share with the larger Friend community about the conference.

In Peace and Light ~Miriam Fiorentino

Western Mystics Gathering

Epistle, Western Mystics Gathering

by Mystics Gathered in Berkeley CA

Berkeley, California,

February 4-7, 2016

We mystics, twenty of us in all, write to you from the beautifully remodeled Berkeley Friends Meetinghouse in Berkeley, CA. We came together from Alaska, Washington, and Northern California for a What Canst Thou Say gathering guided by Elaine Emily of Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting. Our group was eldered by Sally Kingsland and Judith Schumacher-Jennings also of Strawberry Creek, who created a container for this journey toward a deepened mysticism among Western Quakers. We began by honoring the Chocenyo, the native stewards of this land who are still here.

We worshiped for four days, at times in silence and also while eating, sleeping, playing, walking. Tears came. We were gentle with ourselves and tender with each other. We paid attention to our waking and sleeping dreams and made space for Spirit. We did not discuss theology. Rather, we shared our experiential faith with one another and we felt Love move among us.

We were thoughtfully placed in triads to share our stories as mystics. Some spoke this story for the first time; others have shared this story for decades. Elaine reminded us that the stories can be told again and again. Probably no two tellings will be the same, growing as the storyteller grows, changing as life changes. They need to be told. They bear what is essential for our life together, calling us to our source, our center, our core. In trying to find words to describe the ineffable, we join a long lineage of people trying to tell the story of God’s mystery. We are humbled and strengthened by the task.

Through journal writing and partner sharing, we answered these three queries:

  • What does it mean to live your life as a mystic? How has the mystical become (or not) habitual?
  • What hinders or blocks you from living fully into such communion?
  • What encourages or draws you into a fuller communion with Source/The One/ Teacher/ Core/Spirit?

Led by our pied piper with a clay flute and watched over by the sculpture “Ascension,” we celebrated the fruits of our journey in song, memoir, art, poetry, and video. In this trusted space we learned of each other’s experience with birth, death, heartache, being pushed by Jesus, growing deeply in unexpected ways.

Upon closing on the second day we entered a Great Silence that we brought home with us and carried it through worship the next morning. Some found this easeful and others were challenged to face what is there when outward sound ceases. We were taught that the brighter the light, the clearer the shadow. In shining the brilliant light we create together, we expose the shadow side, which can frighten and threaten to break us. But as we see what comes out, we turn it to the light over and over. In this turning we are healed. We are released.

We ended our time together on the third night by offering blessings and commissions to each other, with word, with touch, with energy. We sat across from each other, partnered with each member of the group in turn to experience what it is to give this gift and what it is to receive. Our final morning was spent in extended Meeting for Worship with Berkeley Friends Meeting. We settled in with their nine o’clock worship and stayed deep through the hour break and continued into eleven o’clock worship. The sun shone through the yellow glass, pouring over our gathered worship. Spirit covered us, allowing us to be both fragile and strong.

We will return from here to the tribes from which we came, those families and spiritual homes that make up our communities. But we, this particular group of mystics, have become a clan. We are each other’s people now. Across geographical separations we are connected by our stories and by the Spirit, which flows through all we do and all we are. We will continue to sit with the challenge of navigating the liminal space we inhabit while existing in a physical, seemingly rational world. We will continue to live into our bodies, listening for the wisdom found in our lived, visceral experience. We will pray and we will be faithful to the leadings of the Spirit, trusting the still small voice to guide our actions, big and small. We will be human and we will be Divine.

Deeply in Love,

Mystics Gathering