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A Quaker meditation


A brief explanation of Experiment with Light      

Helen Meads

Experiment with Light is the name of a meditative practice developed in the early 1990s on the basis of British Quaker Rex Ambler’s studies of seventeenth century Friends (Quakers).  It is partly a rediscovery of the earliest Quaker practice, and partly a development of it to suit the needs and understandings of modern Quakers. 

Early Friends called themselves Friends in the Truth, Children of God and Children of Light and ‘Light’ was then generally understood to mean the Light of Christ within the individual.  In the present day, Quakers use ‘Light’ to refer to the Divine: the usage no longer necessarily signifies a Christian understanding. It is not usually understood as physical light, although some Friends do experience physical light as part of their practice. (1)


The meditation does not focus on the repetition of one sound or series of words, nor on a breathing technique, but rather a gathering of stillness, following a six step meditation guide (there are several versions of the meditation), which is available on tape, CD or online:  It is based on four core steps: mind the Light; open your heart to the Truth; wait in the Light; and submit to what is shown in the Light. The Experiment takes the form of sitting in stillness listening to spoken prompts (with long silences in between) which relate to those steps; the meditation itself takes about 40 minutes.  You can see the texts of the different versions on the Experiment with Light website and, to give you a flavour, the retreat version’s first prompt is: 

Your teacher is within you, look not forth, and 
Mind that which is pure in you to guide you.
Mind the light, that all may be refreshed one in another and all in One.
Keep within.     For the measure is within, 
                       and the light is within, 
                       and the pearl is within you.  

Experiment with Light is practised both in Light groups and individually.  It enables Friends to experience Light on the issues of their lives, both individually and together.  In Light groups, the process of understanding is further enhanced by individuals sharing their experience in the meditation with other members of the group.  Over time Friends gain the confidence to turn inward as and when they need to gain insight and a sense of direction.  But anyone can follow the process; you don’t have to be a Quaker.

In my experience of nearly twenty years’ practice and over ten years of introducing the practice and leading retreats with it, Friends’ experience varies widely. Some get a very dramatic experience, some initially feel very little has happened (but one person said to me: “even when nothing’s happened, something’s happened”), most experience something in between those two extremes. The meaning of experience in the meditation develops over time, in the silence after the meditation, in sharing aloud with others (this is done in a particular Quaker way, without comment nor lapsing into discussion and absolute confidentiality is maintained within each Light group) and over the following days, weeks, months and (once, in my own case) even years.  If you’d like to read more about what to expect, not only are there (or will be) more articles on this website, but also many in the Journal on the Experiment with Light website.

My brother teaches Transcendental Meditation and I was his first pupil (before I was a Quaker).

Recently he asked me what the difference is between TM and the Experiment.  I said that in TM the focus is the mantra and the concerns of one’s life are allowed (or, more accurately, encouraged) to drift off, but in the Experiment one focuses on what appears in the meditation in order to face it, get beyond it and reach resolution with it.

My own experience is that, if I have an issue to consider, generally the resolution comes from discovering and coming to terms with what underlies it.  But the Experiment is not particularly for problem solving – that’s incidental to finding the truth of one’s life and then living it – it is the Light which does the work, if we are open to it; it is the nature of the Experiment to see ourselves in the Light and face the full reality of our lives.  As one of the seventeenth century Friends said: “The Light is that by which ye come to see.”  I firmly believe, because I have seen and experienced it, that if we trust the Light, it will do whatever is needed.


(1) Quaker meaning of Light




The Experiment with Light website has a lot of information and resources about the Experiment. Here's a link:

Experiment with Light


Also on facebook:

facebook Experiment with Light


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The sculpture is from Jaume Plensa at Yorkshire

Sculpture Park 09.04.11 - 22.01.12 See Jaume Plensa exhibitions