Technology for learning. Technology for worship?

I’m looking forward to volunteering next month with Bike First, the Portland affiliate of Lose the Training Wheels.  We help people with disabilities learn to ride two wheeled bicycles.

The teaching I do there is quite different from my usual work in the school year.  The teaching system at these bike camps was founded on the insights of a mechanical engineer.  It relies on some very cleverly designed machines A roller biketo do the teaching.  Had it been designed by teachers, it would be focused on the interaction between cyclist and teacher, rather than the interaction between cyclist and bicycle.

Bike camp is a unique experience for me.  There’s nowhere else I practice my teaching craft that my own personal style is so clearly secondary to another element in the learning relationships of students, skills and objects.

Because of  the reliance on the innovative machines, limiting the curriculum to just one skill set, and limiting the students to those who can walk, keep feet on pedals and want to learn this skill, we succeed at a high rate.

I reflected on this on Sunday morning.   Is there a technology to teach the insights and skills of silent worship?  Quakerism is not something I believe so much as something I practiceThe teaching techniques shouldn’t rely on some set of words, or books to read.  It’s more likely that we’ll get the hang of opening ourselves to the Light by a set of practical exercises.

The advantages of the bikes used at camp revolve around their design to give return information about balance (Most people call it ‘feedback,’ but I dislike the term.) to the rider without dumping her off the bike.  It would be nice to know how effective my worship practice was as I went along during a meeting.  So often I find that the salutary effects of spiritual practice are subtle and slowly observed.

Maybe that’s why I do a time of daily prayer that can include reflection on the previous day’s walk with God and people.  Even so, I sometimes struggle through months of dry, rote, ineffective prayerRainbow Trainer Bikes.

What’s also clever about Rainbow Trainer bicycles is how they progressively lead a student toward the successful use of a regular two-wheeler, with which the full experience of pedaling is available to the rider without adaptations.

I think about some technologies various Friends, and others use to make worship more accessible:

  • zen practice,
  • a program of singing, prayer, scripture reading and a lesson from a wise member of the community, or even
  • mind bending drugs

There are some drawbacks to these.  Often they put too much focus on a personality or a material artifact and the seeker becomes dependent on that person or drug for their spirituality.  One of the best aspects of Quakerism is the promise–and reality–it affords of an unmediated relationship with God.

If you know some good ways to learn silent worship, please clue me in.

2 thoughts on “Technology for learning. Technology for worship?

  1. There is the “Light to Live By” process designed by Friend Rex Ambler. Its based on George Fox’s teachings and Eugene Gendlin’s “Focusing” technique, which in turn was apparently inspired by Gendlin’s exposure to early Quaker thought. For example, he uses the term “feeling sense” which echoes Isaac Penington.

    Focusing is interesting stuff, but I would recommend that the best way to approach worship is simply to keep doing it, and to do it more than one hour a week, as did early Friends. My wife gave some vocal ministry a few weeks ago concerning how we don’t teach a technique, we simply trust the spirit to guide us as in whatever manner we need to be guided at the time, and I have found that to be true.

    I would suggest this, however. If you are feeling that worship seems inaccessible to you, just stay with that feeling for as long as it lasts. Don’t be too anxious to get away from it. That very sense of inaccessibility may itself be the key to entry.

  2. While I can think of several possible technologies for facilitating worship… the amply-demonstrated potential for misuse inclines me to leave listing some as an exercise for someone else to carry out.

    What works for me… that traditional focus on the breathing… neither stopping it nor making it go, neither striving to deepen nor inhibiting that effort when it wants to happen. Counting breaths, breathing exercises– all these things are distractions from my distressingly automatic thinking, also potentially helpful ways to play with the breath and learn how many different things it can do–but after all that, from the recurring experience of seeing how much I need God’s ongoing help, last night I had to go back to just sitting, letting thoughts & breaths do as they would.

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