Art Is Praying with My Whole Body – Friends Journal

I started making self-portraits in nature to create visual stories related to these connections and bring together gender diversity, spirituality, mythology, and storytelling. The process of creating each image was rooted in Quaker worship and physical spiritual embodiment. As I went out into nature to find places to create these images, an internal sense of direction began to develop, like a divine compass that I could feel physically in my chest. The needle led me around the forest or dunes, turning one way and then another, sometimes in circles, until I found the place where creating a photo felt right. I wouldn’t have found many of these places without heeding the internal nudges. I remained in a state of worship and prayer, following with my whole body rather than allowing messages to come only through words. The photos became collaborations between Spirit, nature, and me, each of us manifestations of a divine oneness. I realized later that this was practice for listening to God in daily decisions as well: having little emotional stake in what direction I turned in the forest prepared me for trusting what direction I was led to turn in life.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the exercise of listening to the Spirit where less was at stake helped me fine-tune my sense of divine guidance in more complex decisions. As a result, I became more Spirit-led in daily life. Learning from various Quakers about how they experience listening to Spirit and testing my own experiences with others aided this growth and became interwoven with my discernment around art and gender.

I am not suggesting a grab bag of a hundred spiritual techniques, but how might trying some communal, embodied spiritual practices help nourish our collective growth? Who might feel better able to bring their full selves to our Quaker communities? I would, and many Quakers I know would, too, especially Friends who are young adults, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC. We don’t desire to try these things out of disrespect or ignorance of the meaning of worship; many of us have been raised as Quakers or have been around for a while in this religion that invites us to follow where Spirit is leading, and many of us feel Spirit leading us to worship in more ways than one. For some of us, these aren’t just individual experiments anymore but a regular part of our collective spiritual practice, as well as ministry that Spirit is leading us to take into the world.

Art Is Praying with My Whole Body – Friends Journal