“As Way Opens” is a reference to the old Quaker saying that we should “proceed as way opens” after patient, prayerful waiting for Spirit to move in the world, and open or reveal the way forward.”
This saying popped up yesterday in my ‘getting into the zone’ research, and I decided to dive more deeply into not just the spirit of it, but the Way of it.
I remember reading Parker Palmer’s lovely and insightful little book, Let Your Life Speak (another Quaker wisdom saying), and his story about consulting an older and wiser Quaker elder woman about what to do when the Way doesn’t seem to open and you find yourself in a frustrating limbo-jimbo zone — something I imagine that many of us have experienced here and there on the Via Feminina and in these times of often-intense transformation.
Even still, I’ll guess that ‘Proceed as the Way Opens’ is a pretty wise approach, even if it’s one that’s excruciating for the resident control freak in our Land o’ Ego.
It requires not just that we center and listen deeply, but also that we’re present enough to watch for the nudges, signs, and omens that make up ‘the answer’ to whatever it is we’re inviting guidance and direction about, so that we take the next step, and then the next.
And then there’s the issue of patience, or rather impatience, when ‘right timing’ is out of sync with our arms-crossed-and-foot-stompin preferences for instant gratification. That brings up the whole Trust Thing, or faith if that’s the word you prefer (to me they’re pretty related).
That’s why it’s called the Narrow Path, I’m guessing.
Alfred Adler said that it’s easier to talk about one’s principles than it is to live them, and this is surely true and well-tested on the spiritual path (as on other paths of dedication, too, I’d think).
I mean, it’s easy to slap a “WWJD” (or fill-in-the-blank) bumper sticker on the back of a car — or wear the trendy little rubber WWJD Etc. bracelet — but actually living that, well, that’s a whole different kind of experiment and adventure.
It’s a ‘practicing into’ or ‘living into’ — asking the question (WWJD?) and living into the answer, as Rilke suggested — not another version of our cultural (including spiritual) perfectionism.
The same with Proceed as the Way Opens. There’s a grace to that, a kind of intimate conversation and cocreative experiment with Life, where — as one of my spiritual mentors counseled me — we go within with our question or reflection, and then watch what arises within and around us to guide us in the next step or action.
If I look back, I have to admit that the smoothest and more graceful unfoldings in my own life seem to have always been when synchronicity or intuition arose and Way Opened rather than when Door Was Kicked Down.
To me, though it has indeed taken lots of practice to break free from my previous “make it happen” conditioning, it’s more like flowing with the water current rather than trying to sweep it up a hill or reverse the tide before its time. One of those is definitely more relaxed, and the other?
Here’s to a clear and open way.
* The Quaker saying quote at the start of this musing was one of my favorite definitions of the saying, and comes from the As Way Open Birthing Services web site.
July 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm
“Do you have the patience to wait till the mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises of itself?” Lao Tsu.
“And if he closes before you all the ways and passes, He will show you a hidden way which nobody knows.” Rumi
Two quotes that i feel are helpful for a clear and open way.
July 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm
Ahhhhh, two wonderful reflections. When I read those, I can feel the energy and wisdom of them. The ‘settled waters’ metaphor is a favorite, though I’d not seen the Rumi quote before and really appreciate it. Both are perfect for this Way Open or Way Closed exploration, aren’t they? Thanks so much for sharing them, Elspeth! Blessings, Jamie