By Frank R, 11 June 2009
The central impetus behind silence at a Quaker meeting is that we are “worshipping” as a group and so are very sensitive to the needs of others present. We speak when we sense that our offering may be helpful to those present, or if we feel that others may be prompted to respond to a problem that we have shared.
Contemplation or meditation, on the other hand, although being very worthy and beneficial, are generally regarded as being solitary exercises in one’s own spiritual progression.
In reality, the difference between the two modes may not be that great. In the context of a Quaker meeting, the inward listening with an awareness of others’ needs is in itself very good for our own “spiritual progress”. By “spiritual progress”, I mean the ability to tune into the promptings of the Spirit of Truth and Love in whatever way we are inclined to think of this.
By the same token, in many non-Quaker meditation groups, people very much appreciate the opportunity to meditate as a group, sometimes finding this a powerful experience. In such groups, after a period of silent or guided meditation, there is often a time for discussion, during which much sharing and mutual support can occur.