Interviewing QFAS members

Angela Howard interviewed Rhonda Riachi (QFAS web manager) about spiritual matters, and the full text is below.

If you would like to be interviewed for this column, please contact the web manager.

Have you had any spiritual/psychic experiences?

My first hints of psychic experience were of sensing an atmosphere in a place. I have had many precognitive dreams, the most dramatic were the two “tidal wave” dreams I had, first one week and then one day before the tsunami of 26 December 2004. In the second dream I had climbed with another person onto high ground above a west-facing beach (much like the beach on the Indian Ocean where I spent part of my childhood), looked on the flood waters around me and wondered how we would get back down again. To the best of my knowledge I do not know anyone who was caught up in the tsunami of 2004.

A strong spiritual memory from my childhood was when my sisters and I were given a blessing in a church service. We all said that we felt different afterwards, although we could not say what the difference actually was.

At what age did you become interested in this subject?

Probably about 16 years old. I first got interested in astrology and later read books or saw films about “paranormal” phenomena. My interest in NDEs was sparked by the Horizon programme The Day I Died (2002). I have since read many books on NDEs, the afterlife, reincarnation and healing, and still have about a dozen yet to read on my bookshelves.

What do you understand by synchronicity? Have you had any experiences of synchronicity in your own life?

I understand synchronicity to mean a meeting of two or more paths, a crossing point or point of connection between people. I have had many and I try to write them down when they feel particularly significant. One example is when I was queuing to attend a carol service in Oxford and got talking with the couple behind us. When we said goodbye later I gave them my business card. The woman emailed me on Twelfth Night and it turned out that I already knew her, a friend of my mother’s, from 38 years before! As I was about ten years old at the time I first met her, it was not surprising that we did not recognise each other in the queue.  They had never attended the carol service before and did not live in Oxford either.

Are you aware of any people in your present life whom you may have known in a previous life?

Possibly – I had an experience of déjà vu when I was shown a photo of someone who had joined our family by marriage. I have never had quite that feeling before.

Are you attracted by the idea of group souls?

Yes, the concept of group souls is a comfort to me, as I’m quite gregarious. I can imagine that to be reunited with our soul group feels like coming home, as great reunions feel on this plane, especially after many years.

Are you aware of guidance? Do you know of any specific spiritual being/s who may be guiding you?

From an early age I sometimes had a feeling of someone being with me when I was on my own, particularly when I felt afraid. I have no image or name for this presence but am very grateful for it. I would welcome more guidance at times…

Have there been moments of crisis in your life when guidance has become apparent?

Mostly in the form of reassuring images in my dreams, which tell me that things will be better in time.

Are you aware of (a) particular pathway/s in your life which you feel guided to follow?

Yes, but only properly within the last seven years. Whilst undertaking a career review exercise in 2008 I drew a picture which showed me working with older people. Having completed a dissertation in 2014 on dementia care, I am now working on education projects in the care of older people. This feels so much more like what I should be doing than my previous jobs, even though I often enjoyed my work and was successful.

Have you been influenced by any people, books, talks or other events?

Rikky (my husband) has been a great influence on my spiritual thinking and reading, quietly adding to my collection of books over the years, and discussing spiritual matters with me that we can rarely raise in other circles. In addition to the 2002 documentary above, I have been grateful for the events and publications of the Alister Hardy Society, the Scientific and Medical Network, and QFAS.

In my dementia research I read Tom Kitwood’s Dementia Reconsidered (1997), which had a profound influence on my perspective, and I recognised a kindred spirit in his writing (he had been a Methodist minister before entering academia, and mentions the Quaker use of “Thou” on p11 of that book). He died suddenly in 1999 before I knew of his work, so I never heard him speak.

How do you link your spiritual/psychic life with your Quaker life?

My experience of Quaker perspectives tends to complement and feed my spiritual life, especially some of the older passages in Quaker Faith and Practice. I publicise the QFAS and the Alister Hardy Society events in my Meeting, and take opportunities to speak about spirituality, healing and the afterlife with other Quakers. They do not always welcome it, but sometimes I am rewarded with wonderful stories of profound experiences, such as healing, NDEs and synchronicities.

Looking back at your life do you see a pathway emerging?

Yes, even in the painful experiences I can begin to see a pattern and a meaning, or a lesson to be learned. I’m also more aware of the choices that I have made and continue to make every day, and how all experiences can be put to use in time.

How do you see your future pathway?

I have begun to use creative visualisation more, by which I mean that I imagine how I want things to be in (say) 5 years’ time. I think it helps to write a vision down, share it with others, and/or draw a picture, as I did in 2008.

From an early age I have often tried to imagine how individual events might play out in my life. Frequently when I find that I cannot picture the event clearly, it either does not happen at all or it happens completely differently to what I would have expected.

Are there particular objectives or interests you wish to pursue in the future?

I’d like to expand healthcare to encompass the spiritual needs of all people, including the carers. Dementia offers us the opportunity to focus on the liminal space between this life and the next, the how and why of moving on and letting go. We have much to learn from the spiritual experience of people with dementia and what dementia is telling us about how we live now (and therefore how we can prevent dementia in future).

What hopes do you have for the future of QFAS?

That it may grow and flourish, and attract more young members!

And for The Society of Friends?

That all Friends can deepen their appreciation of God and connect with the loving source of Quaker faith, and thus attract and keep more Friends who need to feel affinity with the Divine. More emphasis on our immortal nature would help all Quakers and attenders, and help to ground our activities in the wider world.