A Hand Across the Ocean

I’m grieving the death of my brilliant young friend Rachel, a Quaker climate specialist and university teacher who has died suddenly.

I met Rachel almost twenty years ago when she was the young Friend sent by Britain Yearly Meeting (Quakers) for a ten-week term at Pendle Hill study and retreat center. She participated in the course I taught, “Discerning Our Calls,” which included learning related to clearness committees. Rachel often stayed after class to talk, and we became friends. As the ten weeks flowed toward their conclusion, Rachel’s fellow students were eager to have her stay another term. She wondered if it would be right to stay longer, so a group was convened to hold a clearness committee, to help her discover what inner guidance she was receiving about this possibility.

Though it happened almost two decades ago, I remember that clearness committee well. Both Rachel and her friends wanted her to stay a while longer. But as we asked her questions and listened to her responses, I also heard her give compelling reasons why going home to England might be the right thing to do now. When she was invited to stay more about this, Rachel became more radiant, describing a sense of calling and purpose that was connected to being at home. Soon it was clear that however much she had enjoyed her time at Pendle Hill and loved her fellow students, something in her heart was calling Rachel home. When a clearness committee reaches the place where the focus person is clearly articulating the truth in their heart, we enter Holy Ground.

Rachel went home at the end of the term. It took her a few more years before the shape of her calling became clear. In the meantime, before the age of thirty, she wrote a wonderful memoir about being a young person finding her way. Raised Catholic, she had been much influenced by spending time living in a Catholic Worker House which provided hospitality to immigrants seeking asylum. She wrote about that experience and also about seeking a theology and spirituality that seemed truthful to her experience. For her, faith was meant to lead to action.

For many years of her life, even after entering an academic career, she volunteered at a homeless shelter in London during the Christmas holidays. She became a Quaker, but took an annual time of retreat in a Catholic convent.

Motivated in part by her desire to protect those who are most vulnerable–the poor of the world, who will bear the hardest brunt of it–she became clear that she was called to help society mitigate the effects of climate change. She studied to earn a Ph.D. and become what she called an “interdisciplinary social scientist with a focus on social behaviors related to climate change.” She took an academic position first at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, then at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was Programme Director of their interdisciplinary MA in Sustainable Development. Her research interests included: lower-carbon lifestyles; pro-environmental behavior change; energy-related social practices and policies, social movements and education for sustainability; and communication about climate change. Especially interested in education, she was a well-loved faculty member in her department, drawing large classes. Recently she had done research on teaching styles that encourage students to become active in relationship to the fields they are studying, not just passive learners.

Marcelle and Rachel at Friends House in London in 2006.

As Rachel became aware of how significantly air travel contributes to carbon emissions and exacerbates climate change, and that flying is a luxury used most often by the wealthiest people in the world, she became increasingly uneasy when she took a plane. In 2003, shortly after returning home from Pendle Hill, Rachel decided she would never fly again. In part because of Rachel’s vow not to fly, I saw her only one more time, when I flew to England in 2006 and attended Britain Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions, held in London.

Rachel never had a long-term partner or children. Instead, she directed a lot of love and attention to the many members of her large family and to her friends, students, and members of the communities to which she belonged, including Quakers. She sent out regular newsy email reports to a list of Friends, of which I was one. Through this means I kept in touch with her over the years. She told us about her research and teaching; about speaking on government panels related to climate change; about leading or participating in singing programs for Quakers and others; about family events, including the births and milestones of nieces and nephews; about her annual walking vacations along the coasts of England, Scotland and Wales; about the people she met in the homeless shelter, and so much more. She sent photos and links to videos, and sometimes jokes or cartoons. She wrote back whenever I responded to one of her reports. She regularly read my blog and was one of the few who often left a comment. (For example, hers is the first in response to my blog about the Climate Strike event I attended in Philadelphia—she wrote about her experience at the Climate Strike event in Edinburgh. She also commented first on my review of the amazing novel The Overstory.)

Although our friendship was almost entirely long distance, there were two key moments when we were able to reach a hand of friendship across the ocean at times of need. In November 2016, I watched the U.S. election results at home with my husband. We were both unpleasantly surprised when the early results were different from what we expected. Sleepy, my husband went to bed around 11 pm, still hopeful that the candidate for whom we had campaigned door-to-door would win. I was left alone on the sofa with television news commentators to keep me company as the news got worse and worse. In terms of much-needed environmental protections and a wise response to the growing climate crisis—to name one crucial issue, but not the only one–I felt that the election of the candidate I did not favor would be a disaster for the world. Waiting for the results, I felt alone in those wee morning hours. I opened a laptop to see what my Friends on social media were saying as we waited. Eventually, my social media news feed became quiet, too.

And then an email came from the other side of the ocean: Rachel had woken up for the day and learned the uncertain news about the U.S. presidential election. She emailed me to ask what was going on, and we communicated back and forth, both while I waited for the final results of the election, and in the days that followed as we both contemplated what this would mean for the world. Rachel’s companionship and friendship then was very sustaining.

In August this year, she reached across the ocean to me in the middle of her night. For several weeks she had been experiencing physical pains. Medication prescribed by her doctor had failed to soothe the problem, so tests had been ordered. After reading the results of one of the tests, her GP told Rachel to go to the Emergency Room immediately. Rachel looked healthy, and hours after arriving, she still hadn’t been seen by a doctor. A nurse had scolded her for coming to the ER. Finally, more tests were done. It was 1:30 am on her side of the ocean, and Rachel was feeling lonely. She didn’t want to wake her friends by calling in the middle of the night, so she sent a text to me. We texted back and forth. I held her in the Light, as she had asked.

As the medical news in the coming days got worse and worse, Rachel emailed me as she tried to discern the best way to share the bad news with her family and friends of the cancer growing inside her. She felt that I had more distance than those who were closer to her, and was therefore better able to be a sounding board as she first absorbed the news that she did not have much longer to live. It was a privilege to reach a hand across the ocean to her when she needed it.

After that, Rachel sent two more emails to her list of friends. At the end of the first, she wrote to her readers, “I hope you’re OK.” Then family members came to visit her, and she celebrated her birthday. In her last email she reported that it had become clear that no benefits could be expected from chemo; she would therefore be moving into a hospice. At the end, she thanked everybody for the good times they had shared with her.

Two days later we received an email from her father reporting that she had died, peacefully at the end, with both her parents present. It’s not surprising that she asked for a green burial, in a cardboard coffin, environmentally the kindest way to dispose of her body. In reporting the funeral arrangements, her father said that the many cards and notes that had been mailed to Rachel in her last weeks would be placed beside her body when she was buried.

I am so sad to lose my wonderful friend. I am sad for the world, too, because we have lost someone with a powerful commitment to help change society to mitigate climate change.

But I also know that Rachel’s soul still shines brightly, and I expect she will continue to reach out a hand, now across spiritual realms rather than an ocean, to help humanity face the crisis that is here and coming.

A Hand Extended Across the Ocean: © 2022 Marcelle Martin

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Rachel was author or co-author of 29 publications. One that she co-authored, “People and Planet: Values, Motivations and Formative Influences of Individuals Acting to Mitigate Climate Change,” is available HERE.

Sonya Peres, an intern at The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership (EAUC-Scotland), interviewed Rachel in March 2020 for a blog post entitled Academics Who Travel Better: Dr. Rachel Howell, in which she explored the reasons for Rachel’s decision never to fly again. When governments were bailing out the faltering airlines at the beginning of the pandemic, Rachel argued that they should instead let the airlines fail. Funds should be used to re-train those in the airline industry to work in more sustainable fields.

Here is a video recording of a March 2021 online interview in which Rachel speaks about Personal and Political Action on Climate Change.

Wednesday 3 March 2021 with Dr Rachel Howell, University of Edinburgh.

Carbon Cutter or Climate Marcher? Personal and Political Action on Climate Change.

A large majority of people in Scotland (79%) think climate change is an “immediate and urgent problem” (Ipsos MORI survey, October 2020). Why doesn’t that concern translate into more action? If we want to take action, what’s going to make the biggest difference? Is it best to focus on political change, or personal behaviour change? Can an individual have any effect? And what about the current situation: has coronavirus actually been good news for the environment/climate change?  These are some of the questions Rachel Howell considered, and which are discussed by the panel which includes John Dale, and Richard Frazer with moderation by Michael Fuller.

A Hand Extended Across the Ocean: © 2022 Marcelle Martin

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, environmental activism, Facing Life with Faith, Following a Leading, Quaker Faith Today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Earth Day S.O.S.

On a lovely spring day, Earth Day, we drove forty minutes from our home in Chester, one of the poorest cities in Pennsylvania, to the headquarters of Vanguard, a company that manages more than $7 trillion in financial assets. In the lovely blooming semi-rural areas we passed through on our way to Vanguard’s headquarters, the idea of catastrophic climate change seemed remote. Yet Chester, one of the poorest cities in Pennsylvania, is the location of one of the two largest incinerators in the U.S. Run by Covanta and financed by Vanguard investments, this massive incinerator, the dirtiest in the country, burns trash trucked in from numerous cities and states up and down the East Coast. In the past, Covanta has found it easier to pay fines for violating the law rather than to install all the legally required filters. They pump toxins such as lead, mercury, and arsenic into air over the city, where rates of asthma, heart disease and cancer are high, diseases with a known connection to breathing toxic particulate matter.

My husband and I are concerned not only about this dangerous pollution where we live, but also about the environmental racism involved in locating such an incinerator in a poor city that is 70% black. And more than that, we are seeking and praying to find our role in facing the challenges that threaten all life on Earth. How does God want us to live and act in this time of climate crisis? How can we help transform a culture that is headed toward disaster?

So we traveled to the Vanguard headquarters in lovely Malvern, PA, a place of multi-million-dollar homes, and joined 150 other people for an inter-faith demonstration to plead with the company to use its enormous financial power to help turn around the climate disaster being fueled by their support of the fossil fuel industry and other dangerous investments. The event was organized by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT). Many in attendance were Quakers, but there were also significant contingents from other faith-based groups, including POWER, a grassroots coalition of over 50 congregations committed to racial and economic justice on a livable planet, and Dayenu, a movement of American Jews “confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action.” Many of those who gathered at the entrance to Vanguard’s headquarters had participated in a five-day walk that began on Monday at the Covanta incinerator in Chester. On Wednesday afternoon there had been an interfaith Passover “street Seder” in front of a local Chase bank branch, demanding a sustainable and thriving future for all of creation. Chase Bank is one of the world’s largest funders of fossil fuels, and Vanguard is Chase’s largest investor. The street Seder, focused on confronting the “Carbon Pharaohs” who fund climate change, was coordinated by a coalition including Exodus Alliance, Dayenu, Jewish Youth Climate Movement, and Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. The Earth and Justice Freedom-Seder text they used was written by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of The Shalom Center, who participated in the event. A total of 300 people took part in the walk or in one of the demonstrations during the week.

On Friday morning the crowd who gathered in front of Vanguard’s headquarters ranged from toddlers to elders, including parents with small children, all of us united in our concern for the future of this planet. The government of our country is not adequately admitting or addressing the extent of the climate crisis that’s unraveling Eco-systems on which all life on this planet depends. The interfaith groups that joined in this week-long walk of witness and protest are hoping to mobilize people of faith to address the biggest challenge of our time and transform the powerful financial investors who are currently propping up the fossil fuel industry, an industry which for decades has not only been spreading misinformation about the causes of the climate change in which they are playing a calamitous role but also blocking the necessary shift to sustainable forms of energy that could create a hopeful future for all.

Because this demonstration was based in faith, it recognized that the CEO and employees of Vanguard are people with children and grandchildren, people who also have a desire for a livable planet. The demonstration included not curses, but prayers and blessings for the wise management of the huge financial power that Vanguard wields.

My husband and I were very moved by the speech of a 19-year old Philadelphia college student, who told us that when she won an award in high school, she invested the money in Vanguard, for her retirement. With a microphone in hand, she asked Vanguard, what kind of world will we have when it’s time for her to retire? She pointed out that the investment giant should be protecting her future retirement and investing only in companies and projects that lead to a sustainable future, rather than investing in the continued destruction of systems of life. She has helped start a chapter of Dayenu on her campus to engage other students in faith-based climate action.

A similar demonstration was held the same day at the European headquarters of Vanguard, in London. And on the day before, a coalition of groups around the world had united in a campaign called “Vanguard S.O.S.” Vanguard’s founder, John Bogle, named the company after the HMS Vanguard, a 74-gun ship of the eighteenth century that was involved in a decisive battle against the French in 1798. Until very recently, an image of the ship was used as a logo for Vanguard. The new climate campaign “Vanguard S.O.S.” is an appeal to the financial giant to Save Our Ship, in this case the life systems of planet Earth, which are sinking in the rising waters of climate change.

On April 20th, Reclaim Finance, an international group that highlights the link between finance and climate change, issued its annual scorecard of companies that manage investments. Out of 30 major asset managers, Vanguard received the lowest score on their climate commitments and was at the bottom of the list. Lara Cuvellier, at Reclaim Finance, says that “Vanguard is one of the top two investors in companies developing new coal projects and holds $130 billion in the 12 biggest oil and gas expansionists, and there is not a single policy in sight from Vanguard to restrict investments in fossil fuel expansion or even use its shareholder voting power to hold the world’s biggest polluters accountable.”

Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org and Third Act, says that, “Vanguard is the quintessential example of an institution that could be doing so much good for the world, and is instead sticking to a business-as-usual mode that is ending in tragedy for the planet and its people. … Imagine how blinkered you’d have to be to be earth’s second-biggest asset manager and not using that power to help ward off the greatest emergency humans have ever faced. It’s tragic, but it’s also maddening — and that anger will propel action as people demand accountability.”

In response to the pressure and publicity targeting Vanguard, the day before Earth Day the company had issued a statement expressing its concern about climate change. Speakers at the demonstration in Malvern applauded Vanguard’s tiny initial step of recognizing the problem, but noted that making announcements or creating a special fund for sensitive investors has no impact at all if the overall funding actions of the company do not change. What is needed is for Vanguard and other giant investment companies, as well as the banks they fund, to set environmental standards for the companies in which they invest and refuse to fund projects that are environmentally destructive and contribute to further climate change. Choosing a life-affirming course may, in the short term, cause their profits to decrease. In the long term, however, none of their investors will have a good return on their investments if Vanguard does not turn around their ship and steer in the direction of keeping the planet livable.

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) worked hard and long to organize this week of walks, talks, actions, and demonstrations. They were led by a team now seasoned by years of strategic and creative non-violent direct action campaigns against large companies invested in extreme extraction methods and dirty energy. The current campaign director of EQAT, Eileen Flanagan, is the author of Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope, which describes EQAT’s successful non-violent direct-action campaign to get PNC Bank to stop investing in blowing up mountain tops to extract coal. Whether we are living on the front lines of air pollution, students concerned about our future, or Vanguard customers concerned about the wisdom of these investments, we all have a stake in correcting Vanguard’s destructive course,” Flanagan says.

Many people who participated in the demonstration at Vanguard headquarters in Malvern, PA have investments with Vanguard. EQAT encourages those who have such investments to hold onto them and to use their leverage as shareholders to help change Vanguard’s policies. There are a variety of ways to support EQAT’s work and the ongoing Vanguard S.O.S. campaign. Flanagan teaches in her writing and online courses that there are many roles that people need to play to collectively transform consciousness and culture, and to work for a livable planet. In this time of peril and change, each of us is called to listen to the inward guide and find the roles and actions to which we are called in working with the Spirit for a hopeful future.

Earth Day S.O.S.: How is the Spirit calling, leading, or nudging you to help change consciousness and culture, or to live, serve, or witness for a sustainable life on Earth?

© 2022 Marcelle Martin

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Marcelle Martin, the author of Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey, and A Guide to Faithfulness Groups, is a core teacher of the upcoming 9-month in-person and online faith and leadership program, Nurturing Faithfulness. Co-sponsored by New England Yearly Meeting (Quakers), the program starts Sept. 2022 at Woolman Hill retreat center. Information can be found here or through the New England Yearly Meeting website. Here’s a video in which the core teachers, Marcelle Martin and Hilary Burgin, speak about the upcoming 2022-2023 program. In this video prior participants speak about their experience.

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, environmental activism, Facing Life with Faith, Quaker Faith Today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Quaker Wisdom for the Spiritual Journey

When I took a 9-day solitary retreat this winter, I brought three slim books with me to provide spiritual guidance and companionship, for those moments when I needed some help to turn again to the wisdom that comes from the Light within. The distilled wisdom offered by the wise contemporary Friends David Johnson, Marty Grundy, and Brian Drayton served me well. Each book contains potent descriptions of the Quaker way; usually one short section provided enough spiritual sustenance to chew on for a while.

In Surrendering Into Silence: Quaker Prayer Circles, David Johnson offers an overview of the inner cycles of transformation that occur when someone becoming serious about their spiritual life takes up regular spiritual practices. He explains that these cycles are universal, but describes them primarily with reference to the writing of Quakers through the centuries, with support from the teachings of other contemplatives. He beautifully describes these rhythms in simple, clear language. At the end, he emphasizes the important role of a committed faith community in enabling people to really enter fully into spiritual transformation.

Marty Grundy’s book A Call to Friends: Faithful Living in Desperate Times begins with an overview of why she characterizes these days in which we are living as a time of desperation. She describes the Quaker path as rooted in inner spiritual experience and manifesting in culture-changing action. In talking about the depth of spiritual life to which Friends are called, she quotes Thomas Kelly:

What is urged here are inward practices of the mind at deepest levels, letting it swing like the needle, to the polestar of the soul. And like the needle, the Inward Light becomes the truest guide of life, showing us new and unsuspected defects in ourselves and our fellows, showing us new and unsuspected possibilities in the power and life of good will among [humans].

Grundy insists that Friends are called to a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit, and then into transformed social relationships, following the guidance of the Inner Light. Only when we give ourselves to be transformed by love in the crucible of relationships, especially in our Quaker meetings, can we offer the gifts we are called to give the world now. She writes in conclusion:

It has come to me over and over that Friends have the answer to what this hurting world needs so desperately. Or rather, I believe that our fundamental tradition is the antidote to today’s ills. This is nothing less than a radical invitation to live in the Kingdom of Heaven of which Jesus of Nazareth spoke. Right here and now, breaking into the corrupt, confused, frightened, sick United States Empire, we are invited to live in a new paradigm.

Like the other two authors, Brian Drayton is a faithful Quaker respected for the gift of ministry who has traveled broadly among Quakers. His book, Messages to Meetings, is a collection of letters, blog posts, and notes he sent to Meetings and other Quaker bodies after visiting them. They contain gentle guidance and reminders that are useful not only for the original recipients, but to the readers of this book. I was touched by a letter in which he explained how important it is to look for and affirm the presence of God at work in one another. When we see and affirm that the life of God is active in our fellow Quakers, we foster the work that the Spirit is doing among us. In another letter, he offered a beautiful description of the inner workshop in which we are gradually liberated and transformed by the Light.

A wordless, steady regard, in a time when one is quiet in reverence, is a powerful way of working–or rather of allowing oneself to be worked upon.  When we are truly centered, even for a short space of time, we are tender, that is, vulnerable and teachable.  …  One of the results of this kind of contemplation is heightened awareness.  In that receptive place where we are most able to hear (or see or feel) the truth, we are often given fresh understanding. …  as we feel safe or grounded, we may be given to see barriers that need to come down if growth is to occur, or new things that must be learned, or rifts that must be mended.  A deep fruit of this kind of work is an increase in inward spaciousness and freedom, a peace that is the peace of the ripening or opening seed, and a gift of thankfulness.  It is quiet, but it is also the workshop of turbulent, organic creativity, as in the stillness and tenderness all the materials of ourselves, our works, and our world can be in fluid contact.

All of these books emphasize the collective nature of the way God works with people on the Quaker path. Each of the authors is rooted in Christian faith and practice, yet each invites everybody in, even those who think of faith in different terms and use names for what is divine other than God and Christ, including the Inward Light, Spirit, and Creative Energy. Although each book is short enough to be read in one or just a few sittings, they are rich enough to merit slow reading of short sections over a period of time. They helped me to listen more deeply.

Companions for the Quaker Spiritual Journey © 2022 Marcelle Martin

Links to Book Reviews/ways to order the books mentioned above:

All of these books can be ordered from the publisher, Inner Light Books. Below are links to read reviews of these books published in Friends Journal.

Below are books written by Marcelle Martin:

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.) The Friends Journal book review is linked below.

For information about other upcoming courses and workshops with Marcelle, go to Teaching and Upcoming Workshops.

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in Contemplative spirituality, Learning from Early Friends, Mysticism, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One With God And Each Other

In preparation for an online conversation and exploration of how we can be more receptive to the gathered meeting, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on that’s been written about the amazing experience of entering what can be described as Heaven on Earth. This past week, during the several online meetings for worship in which I’ve participated (one of them lasting three hours), I’ve been paying close attention to how the experience develops, in me and the group—trying to notice the gentle movement as a meeting becomes settled or centered, and how that moves into a gathered meeting. I have long been convinced that being gathered by the Spirit in meeting for worship is one of the greatest gifts of the Quaker way. Now, after deeper consideration of my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, I realize more clearly that this experience is a doorway into another state, a state of profound unity and an openness to the movement of the Spirit. It provides a blessed opportunity for the Spirit to give us the wisdom and strength needed to do God’s work in the world.

During the gathered meeting, most (or all) of the participants in a meeting for worship are drawn into a subtle or strong awareness of the underlying reality at the deepest levels of our being, where we are part of a loving oneness with one another and with (or in) God. This awareness quiets minds and opens hearts. In Listening Spirituality, Vol. II, Patricia Loring writes that during these special times Friends feel that they know, “both God and their fellows more fully and dearly in some indefinable, immediate, non-cognitive way. The sense of oneness, knowledge and tenderness that is planted and tended in the times of gathering has been the ground of Quaker community, organization, and conduct of life together.” Although participants may experience revelations of divine truth during a gathered meeting, and are collectively taught by the Spirit both in the silence and through the vocal ministry, Loring believes that the “true fruit and sacrament of the gathered meeting is love…” By this she means the kind of love that motivates people to action: “The people who have experienced themselves united with God’s will are drawn to manifest it as love in the world.”

Around 1940, Thomas Kelly wrote a beautiful essay, “The Gathered Meeting,” in which he describes the experience as follows: “In the Quaker practice of group worship on the basis of silence come special times when an electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshipers. A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, and a quickening Presence pervades us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual lives and bonding our spirits within a super-individual Life and Power—an objective, dynamic Presence which enfolds us all, nourishes our souls, speaks glad, unutterable comfort within us, and quickens in us depths that had before been slumbering. The Burning Bush has been kindled in our midst, and we stand together on holy ground.” Gathered meetings come in all degrees of intensity or depth, from subtle to very palpable. Here Kelly is describing the more intense form of the gathered meeting, sometimes called a “covered meeting.”

The term “gathered meeting” probably only came into common use as a consequence of Kelly’s essay. But the experience of being gathered by the Spirit in worship was described by the first Quakers in the middle of the seventeenth century. Francis Howgill, for example, spoke of powerful meetings in which, “The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us and catch us all, as in a net….”

Edward Burrough was Howgill’s partner in traveling to share with crowds of people the Quaker message of the Light of Christ within. Some of the curious people who came to listen were scornful of radical new ideas; others were hungry for a deeper intimacy with God. Those who were sincere seekers were invited to attend meetings for worship that lasted for hours. Again and again, participants in some of those meetings were gathered by the Spirit. Burrough describes this as a return to the experience of the first Christians at Pentecost: “And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God’s holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad….

The effect of being gathered by the Spirit is transforming. Francis Howgill described how their hearts were bonded with one another and God in a powerful way, and they were set aflame with the desire to give everything to do God’s work in the world: “And from that day forward, our hearts were knit unto the Lord and one unto another in true and fervent love, in the covenant of Life with God…. And holy resolutions were kindled in our hearts as a fire which the Life kindled in us to serve the Lord while we had a being.”

Being gathered in the Spirit during meeting for worship is entirely different from reading remarkable accounts of such experiences, whether those of the first Quakers or contemporary Friends. It’s a bit like the difference between reading about the taste of a ripe peach and actually eating one, or hearing about the view from the top of a mountain and actually standing on a summit facing a clear panorama. Reading or hearing accounts of the experience of others cannot convey the experience itself, but it can help us glimpse the potential of surrendering to the Spirit together in a silent meeting for worship, and give us clues about how to open to the experience ourselves.

Whether or not you have experienced the gathered meeting, I invite you to explore further. I have creating an online page of resources with videos, readings and quotes. HERE is the link: https://awholeheart.com/gathered-meeting/.

One With God and Each Other: Have you ever experienced being gathered by the Spirit into a oneness with God and with others? If so, what was that like?

© 2022 Marcelle Martin

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Nurturing Faithfulness 2022-2023

a 9-month faith and leadership program

September 10, 2022 – May 22, 2023

Nurturing Faithfulness is a multi-generational faith and leadership program designed to help Friends explore ways to meet God more deeply, hone methods of discernment, reach for fuller faithfulness, and ultimately bring these gifts and strengthened abilities home to their local meetings and beyond. The program is structured to set in place support, encouragement, and accountability. It includes two long weekend residencies at Woolman Hill Retreat Center, as well as a mid-course residency and monthly webinars to be held online. Marcelle Martin and Hilary Burgin are the core teachers of the program, which also includes the participation of several elders and guest teachers.

For more information: https://neym.org/nurturingfaithfulness22-23

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A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in Contemplative spirituality, Learning from Early Friends, Mysticism, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey

Earlier this month I was fortunate to be able to spend nine days in a hermitage on the edge of some woods. I went for many reasons: rest; renewal; reconnecting (with God, nature, and my soul); deep inward listening; discernment; and preparation for upcoming teaching and ministry. My retreat was not very structured, but nonetheless was blessed with all of these kinds of gifts.

Day by day, as I let go of plans, expectations, and demands on myself, I felt tension and stress falling away. I began to be more present in each moment, savoring sights, sounds, feelings, textures, tastes, and awareness itself. In spite of cold weather, I surprised myself by how much time I spent walking in the woods, exploring unfamiliar terrain, becoming acquainted with particular trees, boulders, ridges, and the sparkling creek. I carried on my usual spiritual practices and added spontaneous times of prayer.

For decades I have felt called to the ongoing work, in myself, of understanding and living on the radical edge of the Quaker call to spiritual transformation. In the first days at the hermitage, I had been puzzled about why I had brought copies of an 18th century Quaker document by Job Scott, “Essays on Salvation by Christ.” Only in the deeply quiet middle days of my retreat did I remember that I have long felt drawn to wrestle with and understand Scott’s statement about the full transformation to which we all are called.

Job Scott was a highly respected Quaker traveling minister from New England. On a trip to Europe in 1793, during his long passage by ship, he wrote a draft of an essay that he had been attempting to write for many years. Then, in Ireland, he contracted smallpox and died. In a letter written on his deathbed, he asked Friends to edit the essay and asserted his belief that there has never “been any other possible way of salvation but that of a real conception and birth of the divinity in man.” In the Preface to the essay, he clarifies, “[I]n all ages, it has been a real birth of God in the soul, a substantial union of the human and divine nature; the son of God, and the son of man, which is the true Immanuel state, God and man in an ever blessed oneness and harmonious agreement….”

Official Quaker committees examined the manuscript and concluded that while it was true to Scriptures and to Quaker doctrine, publication at that time would be controversial, because of theological divisions among Friends at that time that would be heightened by it. Other Friends, however, copied Scott’s essay by hand because they found it such a valuable guide to the spiritual life. It was finally published thirty-five years after Scott’s death, without official committee sanction. I have hesitated to write a similarly clear statement. My book Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey, speaks of these same truths, connected to Scripture and to early Quaker testimony, but the language, though contemporary, is not as bold as Scott’s.

Our desperate times call for the clearest statement of truth possible. I hope to do this as simply and clearly as I can in writing, joining others who have done the same. I also attempted to put this into words in an online webinar on The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey. (January 30, 2022). A link to the recording is below.

I’m so grateful to those who have prayed for me and held me in the Light for faithfulness, simplicity, and clarity of expression.

The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey © 2022 Marcelle Martin

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The link to the recording of the The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey webinar held January 30th, 2022 is available below.

The first Quakers discovered that a radical spiritual transformation resulted from learning to pay attention to the inward guidance of God. Their collective experience of surrendering together to this direct relationship enabled great spiritual power to work through them, which set in motion many liberating changes in society.

To watch the recording from The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey, go HERE. https://youtu.be/Wqrma7NBE_w

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For Information About Other Upcoming Online Webinars with Marcelle Martin, click HERE. https://awholeheart.com/teaching/

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

To order multiple copies of either book, postage free, contact us.

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in Contemplative spirituality, Learning from Early Friends, Mysticism, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deep and Going Deeper

In the final lines of his book Deep, journalist James Nestor ponders the mystery of the human being and asks, “What are we?” It is a question, he says, that he asks with every breath, the question that drove his intensive research. His book explores not only the secrets about marine life and evolution that can be glimpsed in the depths of the ocean, but some extraordinary and little-known abilities of the human body in deep water.

The year it was published, Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and a Scientific American Recommended Read. I devoured the book with great fascination because, I too, am seeking answers to the question “What are we?” or perhaps, “Who are we?” My experience has taught me that human beings today–even those with advanced academic degrees–have a dangerously inadequate understanding of the answer to those questions. Like the freedivers and “renegade scientists” that Nestor gets to know in his research, I, too, have experienced human capabilities that have been, for centuries at a time, forgotten secrets known only to a few. I, too, have a sense of urgency about our need, in this moment in history, to learn some of those crucial secrets—truths about human nature and the nature of reality.


Nestor’s journey into the depths began when he was sent to Greece to report on the annual world freediving competition. What he saw both fascinated and horrified him. Until then, he’d had no idea that human beings were capable of diving as many as three hundred feet deep and staying underwater for three minutes, wearing only wetsuits and filling their lungs with a single deep breath. He was repelled, however, by how many competitors threatened their own lives in the effort to achieve new records. After two competitions, he refused to attend any more. However, along the way he met some freedivers who use their skills not for competition but to explore the depths of the ocean. At the same time, they are discovering more about some extraordinary abilities of the human body.

The human embryo goes through stages similar to the evolution of the species, from a marine creature to a human being. For example, at about four weeks, the human embryo, like all vertebrates, forms pharyngeal gill slits in their throat region. In fish, similar slits develop into gills, but human embryos develop lungs instead. What Nestor learns, and then explains in Deep, is that the human body exhibits unexpected capacities deep underwater, capacities that may remain from earlier stages in evolution.

Underwater, it is possible to hold one’s breath longer than above water. Under strong water pressure, human lungs contract in size. The body withdraws blood from the extremities and then later releases a fresh boost of oxygen to the vital organs after minutes underwater, an event that freedivers refer to as “Flipping the Master Switch.” Until thirty feet, natural buoyancy lifts the human body to the surface of a body of water. There is, however, a point at which the body is no longer able to simply float to the surface. At around thirty feet deep, there is a “no-gravity” zone, where a human body neither rises nor falls. And then, around 35 to 40 feet deep, gravity begins to pull the human body into the depths of the ocean. This is what freedivers call “the doorway to the deep.” At this point, they no longer need to work to go deeper; they simply allow themselves to be drawn into the depths. They count on flipping the “Master Switch” to give them the oxygen they need to fight gravity for their return to the surface.

To become a freediver, James Nestor had to learn many skills. For instance, how to fill his lungs to maximum capacity; how to hold his breath at least four minutes submerged in water; how to equalize the air pressure in his head and ears without taking in more air; and how to reach the doorway to the deep and allow himself to be effortlessly pulled deeper. Overcoming his fear of deep water was a crucial skill, as well. He learned these skills in order to accompany the freedivers and “renegade scientists” who have made it their work to learn more about large marine animals, including dolphins, whales, and sharks. They meet these creatures in the depths of the ocean, where they are at home, recording and videotaping their interactions and communications to discover how they communicate, gain information, and find direction across long distances.

Scientists who are supported by research institutions and large grants generally restrict their study of whale interactions to recording and photographing them from the decks of boats. The freediving scientists, however, meet them in the water. Their research requires great patience and a certain amount of vulnerability. They travel by boat to places where they are likely to encounter the marine animals they want to study, but once in the water, freedivers don’t chase whales, dolphins, or sharks. Instead, they go deep and wait until the marine animals choose to approach them. Some of them are motivated by a love of these creatures, some of which have been hated and decimated by human populations over time. They study these animals, in part, because they want to explain them well enough to prevent their extinction.

Photo by Emma Li on Pexels.com

Nestor describes what they have learned about how whales identify other creatures through echolocation in the water, using loud clicks like a form of underwater radar and x-ray, and then receiving from the echoes an image of the bones and organs of those they are encountering. Sperm whales, he learns, do not chew their prey. They use their teeth as “antenna” in the process of echolocation. Instead, they stun their prey, which are often faster than they are, and then swallow them whole.

For me, the most wonderful description in the book is the moment when James Nestor’s efforts to become a deep diver finally succeed, and, for the first time, he glides through the doorway to the deep without fear or unnecessary struggle. The most exciting moments are when he encounters whales at close range. The first time, a mother whale as big as a bus and her large cub swim by and then turn around. It’s rare for a sperm whale to choose to approach a human; mothers, however, sometimes indulge the curiosity of their cubs. This mother and cub come as close at thirty feet, blasting Nestor and his companion with echolocation “clicks” that feel like “jackhammers on pavement.” Once their curiosity about the human divers is satisfied, the whales depart with a few “coda clicks,” clicks that are thought to be the way that whales identify themselves and communicate with each other.

Photo by Elianne Dipp on Pexels.com

The second time Nestor encounters a whale, while freediving with a researcher, a young bull bombards him with fierce echolocation clicks. The bull then flips over to better receive the echoes, and then decides to swim away. The scientists he is with explain to Nestor that it’s likely the bull initially targeted him as prey, but, after learning that Nestor has a big brain and lungs, chose to leave him alone. Did the whale decide that he didn’t want to eat a creature with capacities similar to his own? Was the whale more “humane” than human whale hunters?

During his research, Nestor found accounts from earlier centuries when human beings used their freediving skills to plunge deeper than 100 feet to collect sponges or red coral from the sea floor. For centuries, in numerous locations around the planet, pearl divers made use of the human ability to dive deep and stay underwater for extended periods of time. In the 14th century, for example, Marco Polo wrote about witnessing divers plunging more than a hundred and twenty feet and staying underwater three or four minutes on a single breath, to harvest pearls. Nestor writes that by the twentieth century, when new technologies had made freediving economically unnecessary, the “human body’s amazing diving abilities and human knowledge of freediving had begun to disappear.” Today modern competitive freedivers are rediscovering these abilities.

Possibly the largest group of human freedivers in human history was the ama of Japan, generations of women who for centuries—possibly as far back as 500 BC—daily dived hundreds of feet to collect sea creatures for food. For his book, Nestor flew to Japan to see if he could find any remaining ama in Japan. After a great deal of persistence and a lot of luck, Nestor found four women in Sawada. Their daughters had decided not to carry on the tradition of their mothers, choosing instead more ordinary and easier professions. These older women, however, the last to carry on a tradition twenty-five hundred years old, are different from the other women of their culture, “bawdy, brazen, and gruff.” They made fun of Nestor’s expensive newfangled wetsuit and fins. Diving since their teens, the women are now over 60; the oldest is 82. Nestor watched them dive for hours and then sell their catch to a sushi restaurant. Then he tried to get them to tell him their secrets.

“You just dive,” one of them told him. “You just get in the water.” This is more or less what most of the freedivers he has interviewed have told him. “The secret to going deep, they all seemed to be saying, was within each of us. We’re born with it,” he writes. Then adds, “But unlocking that secret was trickier than I ever imagined.”

Photo by 7inchs on Pexels.com

In the course of the book, Nestor describes how the warming of the oceans, caused by rises in greenhouse gases and global warming, is killing the phytoplankton that provides 50% or more of the oxygen in the air. At the end, he again writes of the forces that are changing the ocean, “oil spills, trash, sound pollution, nuclear waste” and more. Large marine animals, he warns, “may be gone before we even have a chance to fully understand them.” What we learn about them has much to teach us about ourselves. The exploration described in Deep leads Nestor to the conviction that human beings don’t yet know what we are. It’s a truth, he says, that “is constantly ringing in my ears.”

This book drew me in not only because Nestor is an excellent writer telling a fascinating story, but because his question is my own. The story of the amas speaks to me of wisdom that has been known through the ages by small groups of people, passed from generation to generation, breaking into the wider culture in flashes of wisdom and then being repressed by the dominant culture. There is essential wisdom that needs to emerge in our time, truths about who we are and the good we are capable of, that can still, at this late date, turn around the destruction that we have been unleashing on the planet in so many ways. The depths we need to explore are not just the mysteries of the ocean and the unexpected capacities of the human body, but inner terrain, and the deeper realms of consciousness.

Deep and Deeper: What deep truths have you learned about hidden human capacities from your own experience?

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

Upcoming Online Webinar with Marcelle Martin: The Radical Quaker Spiritual JourneyJanuary 30th, 7 to 9 pm EST on Zoom

The first Quakers discovered that a radical spiritual transformation resulted from learning to pay attention to the inward guidance of God. Their collective experience of surrendering together to this direct relationship enabled great spiritual power to work through them, which set in motion many liberating changes in society.

In this free 2-hr webinar, Quaker author Marcelle Martin will tell what she learned from studying the experiences of both the first Quakers and contemporary Friends, describing ten elements of the Quaker spiritual journey that were important both then and now. The transformative process she describes enables people to face the challenges of our time with radical faithfulness and God-given strength. Jennifer Hogue and Benjamin Warnke will co-facilitate. Participants will have a brief opportunity for sharing with others what you are seeking in your spiritual life.

To register for The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey, go HERE. https://neym.org/events-calendar/2022/01/radical-quaker-spiritual-journey

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

For information about other upcoming courses and workshops with Marcelle, go to Teaching and Upcoming Workshops.

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, environmental activism, Stories that Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Prayer of the World: A Rainbow Psalm

Friends Maia and Ken Tapp have created an awesome, prophetic work of art called The Prayer of the World.   Maia is a gifted poet and writer, the author of several books.  Many years ago, as she awakened more fully to her connection with God, she experienced inner leadings to visit particular places on Earth, places of wonder, places where wild creatures live.  She felt called to listen to the divine Spirit that created the world and which is always communicating with humanity through nature. In these places, she has heard a loving voice urging human beings to join in the ongoing prayer of the world.  It spoke to her in poetry, inviting us to recognize the sacred web of life and find our real place within this web.  

I am not hidden
I am splashing my color
all over the earth
       and I call to you     see me     open your eyes
       I ask you to call back the rainbow–
       the colors     the sounds     the presences
                 all form a web of life…

Maia’s words have been combined with amazing nature photographs by her husband, Ken Tapp, (and others), images that reveal the incredible beauty and variety of nature, its rhythms, its sacred dance of life, both in large landscapes and in minute details.


Photo by Ken Tapp

The Prayer of the World has been presented live in several different settings.  I experienced it in the Barn at Pendle Hill and at the 2016 summer Friends General Conference Gathering, where a showing was sponsored by the Earthcare Working Group.  Maia read out loud the words of the Prayer of the World and Ken Tapp’s images of the awesome splendor and the beautiful intricacy of the natural world were projected on a large screen.  Ken Jacobsen, with his guitar and voice, provided music.  More recently, it has been offered online.

Each time I’ve experienced the Prayer of the World, I’ve felt shaken out of a certain dull, habituated way of seeing this world to recognize God’s awesome handiwork.  Each time it has been breathtaking to appreciate more clearly the wisdom and healing power present in Creation.  The world is alive and calling to us in so many ways to wake up to the sacredness of our own nature and to our interconnection with Spirit and with all created things.  In the words of the Rainbow Psalm,

All is connected
in a living breathing web
      and I am the web
      the living pulse of energy
      that flows through all creation;

              each pulse a prayer…

The message of the Prayer of the World for humanity is an urgent one, calling us to consciously find our rightful and healing place in the sacred web of life.  

Prayer of the World: A Rainbow Psalm has now been published in book form.  A December 2, 2021 online celebration of the publication of Prayer of the World: A Rainbow Psalm was recorded. (See below)  It included a multi-media presentation and we heard Maia tell her story of how she heard the voice of the divine speaking through the world and how she and Ken traveled to the places where she experienced these sacred revelations.  

The online website for Prayer of the World is here: https://www.prayeroftheworld.org/ 

Friends’ Journal review of Prayer of the World (April 2022)https://www.friendsjournal.org/book/prayer-of-the-world-a-rainbow-psalm

To order a copy of the book, go here: https://smile.amazon.com/Prayer-World-Kathleen-Maia-Tapp/dp/1662905645/ 

For more information about Maia and Ken Tapp, go here: https://www.prayeroftheworld.org/about-us   

Prayer of the World: Have you experienced moments when God communicated with you through your encounter with the natural world?  Have you glimpsed the sacred nature of all things?  How are you called to join the prayer of the world?

© 2016 and 2021 by Marcelle Martin    (This blog post is an update of an earlier one posted in 2016.)

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Contemplative spirituality, environmental activism, prayer, Stories that Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Brightening of Terry Patten

Author and spiritual teacher Terry Patten died early Saturday morning, Oct 30th. His passing is mourned by many who benefited from his comprehensive, integral vision of life and by those who were touched by the heart with which he gave himself to help humanity become more aware of the reality of our situation and the choices we can make to create a hopeful future. I became aware of him over a decade ago, when I signed up for one of my first online classes. It was a course he taught on Integral Spiritual Practice, in which he invited many perspectives on spirituality and offered practices to integrate body, mind, emotions, energy, and spirit. At that time the online part of the course was a website on which to share written reflections. We were emailed links to some videos in which he demonstrated his morning spiritual practice. The rest of the course was held via telephone conference calls, which were recorded. I found the integral framework he offered helpful. Since then I have read his blog posts and listened to recordings of some of his interviews with leaders in various fields and spiritual teachers from numerous traditions. I particularly valued his 2014 conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault. I appreciated his bright intelligence and his capacity to understand a wide range of theology and spiritual practice and ask insightful questions.

In the intervening years, Terry has put out many short videos, some to accompany other online offerings. I was touched by what, to me, was his evident effort to put his heart into whatever he shared, and not just his intellect. He seemed to be a person earnestly working to overcome the conditioning that prioritized intellect over other, more “feminine” or intuitive ways of knowing and relating. I recognized that struggle and earnest effort in myself.

Seven months ago Terry received a diagnosis of a rare, inoperable cancer. In those seven months he has shared openly with family, friends, students, and community members about his process of facing his dying and death. As a distant witness, I have been deeply moved by the process of inward transformation I have seen in him and the increase of a loving radiance and spiritual surrender.

From his various websites, as well as from talks he has given, I have gleaned the following information about his biography. Terry Patten grew up in an intentional community founded by members of The Church of the Brethren, a community that invited people “of all races and religions to live together with us as a witness for peace and brotherhood.” After college, he became a student of a radical and controversial American spiritual teacher, Adi Da, living in community with this teacher and other devotees, and playing a significant role in their publishing ventures. After fifteen years, he left that community, and in 1988 founded Tools for Exploration, a company which gathered cutting-edge technologies for expanding awareness. He helped create and produce biofeedback tools, “subtle energy” tools, and wrote books and articles on stress reduction, peak performance, and neurodevelopment. He helped to develop a heart-rate variability monitor for HeartMath Institute. He sold his company for a large profit in 1998. Then, drawing on his activist upbringing, he co-directed two grassroots environmental organizations. One of them, Old Growth Again, worked with investors to purchase degraded Redwood forests, restore them, and develop sustainable harvesting methods.

In 2004 he became a teacher and senior associate of Integral Institute, working with Ken Wilber and others to distill ancient and modern body, spirit, and mind practices into a contemporary transformational lifestyle called Integral Life Practice. He later co-wrote a book on the subject and served as a senior ILP trainer and coach. He earned a Masters degree in Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University. In his thesis, he analyzed how higher levels of awareness can be fostered by Integral coaching.

In 2007 he took his integral framework into international diplomacy, traveling to Iran as part of a U.S.-based civilian diplomacy delegation. He wrote about the experience, hoping to catalyze a more Integral dialogue oriented toward mutual understanding.

That same year, Terry began interviewing many of the world’s leading thinkers and teachers, to engage “our critical evolutionary moment, exploring the perspectives and practices that can cultivate a life of greater awareness, growth, freedom, vitality, service, and ultimately, love.” He made available his recordings of these conversations and wrote about the insights he gained. From 2009-2011, he was part of the faculty of the Integral Executive Leadership program at Notre Dame, and also taught at Columbia University, San Francisco State, and John F. Kennedy University. He traveled widely, speaking at conferences and connecting leaders and institutions. He defined his work as, “helping conscious individuals and organizations navigate the transitions, transformations, and revolutions of this accelerating time on Planet Earth.”

His interest in multiple fields—from the economy and business to sustainability and the climate crisis, from spirituality and interpersonal relationships to national politics and international relations—and his deeply penetrating conversations with experts in all of these fields led him to a growing awareness of the multiple and interconnected dilemmas of our times and the catastrophic consequences to which they can lead. This led him into some “dark nights” of despair and deep self-examination. Out of this came his 2018 book A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries—A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change. His book was an attempt, first of all, to wake readers up—and society at large—from the “consensus trance” of our culture and from our denial of the fact that we are facing an immense existential threat to all life on earth. Outlining our dilemma was only the opening of the book. Then he wrote of how the pressures of our time are creating an evolutionary opportunity—and necessity—for humanity and of the need for “whole systems change.” This requires both inner and outer transformation, which are interdependent and equally essential to address the causes, complexity, and consequences of the problems we face.

After publishing the book, he created an online community also called A New Republic of the Heart. Creating a community was a response to his understanding that individual spiritual practices are not sufficient to help us face the demands of our times; communal practices are essential. It began as a year-long teaching experiment. Partnering with Integral coach Siobhan McClory in creating the program and community, Terry Patten served as the core teacher, encouraging and drawing out the co-leadership of participants. In a recent description of Terry, Siobhan said that he modeled “Turning to face what’s hardest to face in this world.” On his website for the course/community was their invitation:

“It’s Game Time on planet Earth. Our evolutionary crisis is forging a new kind of 21st-century hero—one who looks just like you. Who will you be in this time of great transition? Let’s answer evolution’s call. … We invite you to join us in building a global movement for whole-systems change through a revolution of love.”

Over many years, I have felt an affinity with Terry Patten’s work, in part because it reflected my own leadings to understand our global predicament while going deeply into exploring and teaching individual and communal spiritual practices, drawing upon and integrating the wisdom from many spiritual traditions. I was also drawn by the fact that he seemed to be speaking frankly and with nuanced understanding about our global predicament in a way that few public figures, including few spiritual teachers, have been doing. He was asking the questions that have been on my heart for decades, except he was engaging a wide scope and consulting with many thinkers, teachers, authors, and leaders to connect diverse perspectives and insights. He was comfortable both with integral spiritual practice and with prayer. He spoke not only of non-dual awareness, but also of God and the soul.

In January 2020, just a few months before the shutdown caused by the pandemic, I joined the online New Republic of the Heart community. I engaged in the practices and conversations, including weekly Zoom meetings with a partner and, for a couple months, bi-weekly practices with a small group (pod). When the pandemic was declared and countries around the world entered lock down and social isolation, I was glad to be part of a global online community in which we could engage in deep conversation about what was happening around the world and how it related to the other growing crises of our time. Later that year, horrific wildfires burned in the Pacific Northwest, including Northern California, where Terry lived. He was honest with the New Republic of the Heart community about how shaken he was by these wildfires, a clear sign of the progressing catastrophe of climate change. For days—or was it weeks?–he, like others in the Pacific Northwest—had to stay indoors because the smoke from the wildfires made the air outside dangerous to breathe. In a 2020 podcast conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault, they spoke with each other about facing their mortality. (His State of Emergence podcast recordings, in-depth conversations with leading thinkers, can be found at https://newrepublicoftheheart.org/podcast/)

At the end of 2020, I left the community with appreciation for the practices in which I had engaged and for the integration of heart and mind, passion and intellect that I saw Terry bringing to his teaching and public presence. The dyad (pair) practices in which I had engaged were so fruitful that my partner and I have continued to work with each other weekly—on Zoom, from opposite sides of the continent–for a year and a half now.

In spring of 2021, the usually athletic Terry Patten noticed struggles with his breathing when he went on a hike. In March, on his 70th birthday, he received the diagnosis of lung cancer. It was a rare form, about which little was known, but he was told it was inoperable and incurable. Although it probably started somewhere else in his body, its origin was untraceable. Deeply shaken, he hoped that he would have several more years to do the work he felt was still his to do. Yet he also chose not to deny his predicament, but to meet each moment as fully as he could, with as much grace as possible. He drew on more than fifty years of spiritual practice to be as awake as possible to all the dimensions of his situation and to the feelings, challenges, pain, and fear that he experienced. Facing his personal terminal diagnosis seemed to have parallels to the ways that he had been seeking to fully face the immense and catastrophic changes in motion on earth now. As he reminded us, we all must face our personal mortality, at the same time that we must also face the possible extinction of our species.

You wouldn’t think that doing so could ever be joyful, but Terry found that surrendering to the possibility of his life ending soon freed him to be more fully present and more loving. At the same time, he also pursued all the options that medical science offered him. When the first options failed, he tried experimental medical therapies, and when all of those failed, he found alternative treatments that were, at least, healing on a soul level.

Via a blog and recorded interviews, with the help of his ex-wife, Deborah Boyer, who was his companion in his medical journey, he shared his experience as fully as possible, not only with his loved ones and many friends, but with the larger community with which he was engaged. He even created a four-session online course, entitled “Brightening Every Darkness,” in which three fellow spiritual teachers, from different traditions, interviewed him to draw out the learning from his unfolding experience. At the end of the third session, Craig Hamilton led the gathered group into prayer for Terry. The fourth part, on October 23, was a Q&A session. The night before, an infection had sent Terry to the hospital, and so, with an oxygen tube helping him to breathe, he spoke from his hospital bed. Lucidly and lovingly, he responded for more than an hour to the questions posed by participants.

Terry was soon released from the hospital. However, his health condition took a sudden turn for the worse, and it became clear that he was in the final days of his life. Deborah wrote in a blog post that on Wednesday, with help, Terry got out of his bed and led his companions in a brief and joyful dance. He died on Saturday at 1:30 am, less than a week after the concluding Q&A session from his final online course.

He gave an inspiring example of the grace that can pour forth when we confront the reality of our situation and put ourselves entirely in the hands of God. In sharing his experience so fully, he helped others face the larger challenge of our time and encouraged us to surrender to the grace that can come through if we whole-heartedly face this together. He demonstrated a path of surrender to both reality and grace that can help all of us become more loving and luminous.

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

Books by Marcelle Martin:

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

To order multiple copies of either book, postage free, contact us.

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, Living in a Time of Pandemic, spiritual practices, Stories that Heal | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Opening to Our Direct Connection with the Divine

When I was in my mid-twenties, my graduate school program was not meeting my great longing to understand the nature of reality. I began to seek inwardly. Yearning to know what life was about, I paid attention to my inner experience in a new way. I would not have said I was seeking God with all my heart, but increasingly the most important thing to me was the inward search. I spent hours alone, writing in my journal and walking the hilly streets of Amherst, MA, heading toward the edges of town where I had a good view of open fields during the day, and a wide, starry sky at night.

I was at that time feeling ripped apart by unsatisfactory romantic relationships, one that had ended because I could not share the fullness of myself with the man who cared for me, and another which I had thought held the hope of greater connection, but ended in my being rejected repeatedly. Opening my heart, I let myself feel the pain of these two relationships, and the love and longing that was real in both, but thwarted. Attending to my feelings uncovered earlier experiences of pain. It also revealed that I had learned some very hurtful patterns of self-rejection in the face of what I interpreted to be rejection from another. This and other insights about my inner psychology shook up my self-image and increased my longing to understand the purpose and meaning of life.

As I allowed myself to feel my pain and sadness more intensely, I simultaneously opened myself to unexpected joy. During one of my daily walks, delighted by sunshine and fresh grass, I rolled down a hillside. In personal letters, I began to express myself more authentically, in the process discovering that I had a deeper and wiser voice than I had known.

Living with ultimate questions, opening my heart, letting go of previous certainties, and giving up the hope of finding spiritual answers from other people—all these things help open the way for direct spiritual experience. My daily walks were important, as well. They helped free my mind from circular patterns of thinking and allowed it to become more quiet. I sensed myself as part of the natural world, a small part of a much larger reality. I found peace in that.

After reading all the books I could find in the local library about spiritual and mystical experience, and still needing more understanding, I began to pay attention to my dreams. Slowly I learned the language of image, metaphor, symbols, stories, and emotion, the medium in which dreams communicate truths about ourselves, our lives, and the world we live in. Some dreams conveyed luminous messages.

I glimpsed a greater context to life and consciousness than I had known. My housemate and I began to practice various forms of meditation together, and we found a meditation teacher. During that time I would not have said that I was praying, but my heart was becoming focused by my longing to understand the nature of reality. I wanted to know if my consciousness would continue after death; I needed to know if God was real. One night when I was walking home under the stars, my perception opened in an unexpected way, and suddenly I glimpsed the underlying, sacred wholeness of reality, and my place in it. I felt a divine light flowing through my body and knew more clearly than I had ever known anything that this power was great enough to heal any problem on Earth.

crop of Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

Over the decades since that time, I have gradually been learning how to open to the Light, how to let it flow through me in the things I do, and how to help others do the same. I discovered that regular spiritual practices are essential for this growth—individual daily practices, including prayer, meditation, and walking in nature; weekly practices such as meeting for worship with my community; and less frequent practices such as meetings for prayer and healing, faithfulness groups, and silent retreats.

Many of my close friends and acquaintances are activists, living their faith through public service, witness, and various sorts of community organizing. Some of them subtly suggest that spiritual practices are an indulgence in a time of crisis. While I believe that outward action is crucial, I am also certain that spiritual practices, both individual and collective, are essential. Our outward conflicts and crises are expressions of our conflicted, fearful, and fractured inner state. Only if we are also addressing the inward root causes of our problems can our outward actions and witness be effective in bringing about the healing transformation so sorely needed in our time.

I want to connect as fully as I can to the divine wholeness of which I and everyone are an inseparable part, and I feel called to help others do the same. In many different ways I’ve been trying to do this, including through writing this blog.

Opening to Our Direct Connection with the Divine: What helps you open to deeper spiritual experience? What have you learned from such experiences?

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Contemplative spirituality, Mysticism, prayer, Quaker Faith Today, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eating for the Planet

When I was a teenager, I was inspired by Frances Moore Lappe’s book Diet for a Small Planet. I read it as part of my research for the high school debate team; that year the nation-wide topic was how to globally manage scarce world resources. My debate partner and I chose food as the scarce resource on which we wanted to focus. During my research, I learned that people were dying of famine in other parts of the world not because there was insufficient food to feed everybody, but because it was not distributed equitably. I learned that some people consume vastly more of the world’s resources than others do. Lappe showed that eating certain foods high on the food chain–including beef–uses many times more resources than eating foods lower on the food chain, such as poultry, fish, grains, vegetables, seeds, or fruits. Her book argued that a vegetarian can get all the protein they need. She advocated a meat-free diet in order to make more food available to hungry people around the world. It would also be better for our health, she maintained. When I became aware of how our food choices are also moral and spiritual issues, I decided to become a vegetarian as soon as I left home for college. As a student, I often had to defend my choice in the Swarthmore College dining hall; not eating meat was considered strange and extreme behavior by most of my fellow students.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Many decades later, my diet is still mostly vegetarian—in fact, mostly vegan–but not entirely., and I continue to be concerned about the inequitable use of resources around the planet. Today, like most of us who take science seriously, I am also deeply concerned that our unwise use of the world’s resources has led our small planet into an extreme climate crisis. Unless we change our ways, climate change will continue to accelerate catastrophically. For decades I’ve been hearing how the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change. I’ve thought of this mostly in terms of fuel for cars, homes, and businesses. Only recently, however, have a number of books and films clarified for me that the ways we eat and do agriculture are also significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

I’d like to tell you about a charming and informative book by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007). In her novels, Kingsolver integrates strong characters and good storytelling with a lot of scientific knowledge. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, subtitled A Year of Food Life, is not a novel, however, but a true account of her family’s efforts to live off only locally-grown food for a full calendar year. This didn’t seem possible in Tucson, Arizona, where they were living, so she, her husband, and two daughters moved to a family farm in Virginia. There they grew a huge garden and raised chickens and turkeys. To supplement their home-grown food sources, they bought locally-grown meats, flour, produce, and more.

For years before making the decision, Kingsolver was increasingly aware of how unsustainable the American way of eating has become. In the first chapter, in a section labeled “Oily Food,” she writes that 17% of our nation’s energy is used for agriculture, including the fuel needed to operate farm machinery plus the petroleum products used to make the fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Once the food is grown and processed, enormous amounts of fuel are then used to transport it long distances. She explains: “Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. The amount of energy used to grow and then transport the food we eat is significantly greater than the energy we get from eating the food.” The book advocates strongly for small farmers and shows how they are disadvantaged by global industrial agriculture systems, which undercut prices, use insane amounts of fuel, and provide inferior and unsustainable food products.

Hard facts and ideas such as these are sprinkled throughout the book. These facts would make for difficult reading, except that the larger part of the book is full of family stories and rapturous descriptions of the food they prepared and the meals they created and ate together, as well as recipes for every month of the year, based on what foods are in season each month. I kept turning the pages because of the often-humorous accounts of the challenges, failures, and successes of growing and eating locally-grown food and raising poultry. Her third grade daughter, Lily, starts her own (eventually successful) business raising chickens for eggs and meat. Kingsolver takes on the more difficult task of raising turkeys. In our industrial food system, domestic turkeys don’t breed or brood–these tasks are done for them, mechanically–so their natural instincts have been diminished, and they imprint on humans rather than on a mother turkey. Accounts of Kingsolver trying to help her turkeys breed with each other are laugh-out-loud funny (especially when the first hen tries to seduce her husband). Once she gets the male and female turkeys to mate with each other, then she has to get the hens to brood on their fertilized eggs.

Kingsolver doesn’t insist that every family try the same experiment her family chooses; instead, she proposes that if “every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels.”

Perhaps the most sobering lines in the book, for me, are these, about the true cost of our current food system, including perishable food delicacies shipped from around the globe: [W]e get it at a price. Most of that is not measured in money, but in untallied debts that will be paid by our children in the currency of extinctions, economic unraveling, and global climate change. … Human manners are wildly inconsistent…but this one takes the cake: the manner in which we’re allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us…. The conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners.” (66-67)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me think harder about my own food consumption and purchasing practices. For years my husband and I have been doing a little gardening in our backyard and next to our driveway, slowly becoming better acquainted with the earth and its bountiful gifts. (See my blog post about the summer we let the butternut squash take over the yard.) But we only grow a few vegetables, and I depend upon store-bought purchases, including weekly containers of organic greens. Feeling uneasy about the plastic boxes they come in and wanting to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle, this summer we’ve been growing more greens in our yard.

We also joined a local CSA (community-supported agriculture). Each week we’ve been picking up our designated selection of locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables, then eating what’s in season. Usually the cost is a bit higher than buying the same items at the grocery store, and sometimes we get items we wouldn’t choose, such as fennel and nectarines. (Both turned out to be tasty.) But we know that most of our money goes to the farmers, whereas when we buy the same items at the store, most of the money goes to the middlemen and to transportation costs, and only a small percent to the people who actually grow the food. Buying at a weekly farmer’s market is an alternative way to get locally grown produce and support farmers directly.

Like most people, I find it hard to face the facts of climate change and to take in the magnitude of the problem. Part of this paralysis is due to a feeling of overwhelm. The problems seem so large and systematic; how can we possibly learn–collectively–how to live in a very different way? We are like the turkeys bred in such a way that they barely remember essential survival skills. But our bodies evolved to live in harmony with nature. Kingsolver’s book helps me see that returning to older, healthier, and more equitable ways of living can be joyful and connect us with gifts we had forgotten are available in life. Although individual action is not enough to change the ways of the world, nothing will change if individuals and families don’t find the courage to begin doing things differently.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Eating for the Planet: has concern about the health of your body or the planet caused you to change your diet or habits to a way of eating that’s better for the planet?

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

Consider joining me for a Fall 2021 online course starting Tuesday Sept. 7th,

Exploring Spiritual Practices

In this ten week online course led by Marcelle Martin, we’ll experiment with numerous approaches to meditation, prayer, and presence.  Through these experiments, we’ll seek to know more fully the nature of consciousness, our true self, and our connection to God.   We’ll explore how mindfulness, awareness, and communion with the Divine affects not only our inner and outer lives, but radiates beyond us into the world. We will learn which spiritual practices are most suited to each of us at this time.  We will also explore how to make spiritual practices a more integrated part of our daily lives.  Our online class time will include brief presentations by Marcelle, experiencing different spiritual practices, sharing in pairs and groups, and class discussion.  Most of all, it will involve experimenting with various forms of meditation, prayer, and presence. No particular beliefs in God or prayer are required, only a willingness to earnestly try different kinds of practices, notice what we experience, and listen respectfully to the experiences and beliefs shared by others.

Our basic text is Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality, Volume I: Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends (available from QuakerBooks). We will also discuss the Pendle Hill pamphlet Holding One Another in the Light, by Marcelle Martin.

The Exploring Spiritual Practices course fulfills a requirement to apply for the 2022-2023 Nurturing Faithfulness course, which will be offered at Woolman Hill Retreat Center and online starting in September 2022. There are other ways to fulfill that same requirement, including a weekend retreat, or other classes, programs of study, or equivalent experience of a variety of spiritual practices. For more information about the Nurturing Faithfulness program, go to: http://woolmanhill.org/upcomingprograms/nurturingfaithfulness/


10:30 am to 12:30 pm Eastern (EDT) Time (13:30 to 17:30 pm London (BST) Time)

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm Eastern (EDT) Time (4:00 to 6:00 pm Pacific (PDT) Time)

Intrigued? Go HERE to read details and register for Exploring Spiritual Practices. 

Curious but not ready to commit just yet? Watch this 3-minute introductory video.   Sign up here for a free introductory webinar where you can sample the course on September 7th.

This course is co-sponsored by New England Quakers in partnership with the Beacon Hill Friends House. It is open to people of diverse faiths.

Posted in Quaker Faith Today | 10 Comments