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Light to Live By – Rex Ambler

I borrowed “Light to Live By” by Rex Ambler from our local meeting library. It was an interesting read, it’s been on my Amazon wish list for ages. Although, I will be happy to return this to the library as I don’t feel I will refer to it very often.

In the book he describes a specific way of sitting quietly and thinking so you can tune in to your “inner light”.  It was well explained and he outlined why he chose to do this, as a way of helping himself deal with two difficult relationships in his own life.

The technique he describes is likened to that of an American Psychologist Eugene Gendlin called focusing.


“this was not a belief but a practice”

I like this quote, is Quakerism a belief?  It is not enough to say you are a Quaker, you need to act out those beliefs in everyday life, which, to my mind, makes it a practice.  You can believe what you like, but what you actually do on a day to day basis speaks volumes.

In my mind, this idea of practice ties in with the thought “you always find time for the things that are important to you”.  So, if tidying your house is important to you then, somehow, you will find the time and the energy to keep it that way.  If buying fairtrade produce is important to you then you will sacrifice some other luxury to be able to afford to buy it etc etc.

So how am I practicing my Quaker faith in my own life?  I certainly spend money and buy stuff. Hardly living simply. I don’t make as many ethical choices with my shopping as I could.  Do I just make the changes that are easy?  Could I do more?

Pg 22
“Submitting to God could well mean, as it does for some Christians, giving up responsibility and intellectual and integrity and accepting the dictates of the heavenly Father. Submitting to the light implies none of that you take responsibility for your situation. But once you have done that …you have to give up the stories you have been telling yourself”

I like this passage, I like the idea that religion shouldn’t be an excuse to give up your own intellect and “blame everything on God”. If God gave me the intellect in the first place, I should make sure it’s put to the best possible use. Few other forms of Christianity encourage this questioning and use of your brain, so every time I see a quote in Quaker writing that relates to questioning your faith and not being afraid to do this, it makes me happy. Probably because this is what I feel deep down, everyone wants to think their own views are important, don’t they?  Maybe this quote just acknowledges that I’m not the only one in the world that questions their faith and that this, in itself isn’t inherently wrong.

“along this path to God we do not uave to surrender our intellect, our feeling for life, our morality, our integrity our sense of truth. On the contrary, they make up the path.”

Good stuff, that’s what I like to hear, for all the reasons I gave above (speaks truth to my own experience, values questioning etc).

Pg 29
“Focusing is the process of listening to your body in a gentle, accepting was and hearing the messages that your inner self is sending you.”

A gentle reminder that this is not another form of self-criticism or self-flagellation.

Pg 29-30
“In contrast to traditional ways of living, modernity relies on what we can consciously thing about and talk about, what we can demonstrate or exhibit in the public arena. We moderns need to be in control. That is our strength. But it is also our weakness, because we dare not trust those aspects of our life that elude our control, our rational understanding.”
“I can only think that our modern minds are so full of words and images, imported mostly from outside, not least from TV and the media, that there is no room left for silence and emptiness. We have so developed the skill of manipulating words and images that we have lost the skill of simply paying attention.”

Interesting idea, a modern life, thinking, reading, surfing, watching TV, listening to music means our heads are always busy and we find it hard to listen to our inner selfs.  I certainly find it hard to make 10 minutes of my day when I am not “doing” something, it is nice to know I’m not the only one and that there may be other reasons for this than my own weak will!

Pg 39
“In every place I visited I found some who resisted what I was saying, and I thought it was important to try and understand them”

What a novel way of going about things!  Imagine having someone criticise you and instead of feeling hurt and maligned or blaming them for “not understanding” you consider why people might disagree with you, without taking it personally.  I wish I could do this in my every day life. What a lot you could learn.

Pg 42
“That, as I understand it, is the Quaker way”

This quote sums up what I think of the book, while I enjoyed it and found some aspects useful, I didn’t feel I was reading anything new. The process he described was, to me, the essence of a Quaker meeting. It wasn’t really new information, although it was accessible and well written. For me, it seems, “A Light to Live By” was a description of the Quaker way.

You can read more about the meditations on Charlie Blackfields webpage “Experiments with the Light.” You can read the actual meditations here.

Categories: Quaker
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