Below is the text from the 6th email in our 2019 Lenten exploration. If you would like to see these in an email form, please use the contact form at the top of this page.
There are many reasons to explore the journey into darkness and wordlessness– the apophatic– at this time:
* Western spiritual traditions tend to be missing this aspect of spirituality, so it’s always a good area to revisit.
* It is the Winter. In many ways this is the most apophatic of the seasons. It is the time of cold and darkness.
* We are approaching the Friday when Jesus was crucified. This is the most apophatic event in all of Christianity.
* Traditionally, Lent commemorates Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. If we take a day-by-day approach to remembering this, if the beginning of lent marked Jesus’ first day in the desert, we would be nearing the middle of his fast. There is not a record of the day by day events of this time, so anything we can say is speculative. However, it would seem plausible that as Jesus got near the middle of this time, his mind set and experience grew increasingly cataphatic. By engaging these practices, we experience the cataphatic with him.
Today’s practice is called Apophatic Meditation. Apaphatic Meditation is a challenging practice that some find challenging and others find deeply rewarding. It is a three-step process. Today we will try only the first two steps. Our next email, which will go out Thursday or Friday will outline the final step.
This practice can be used in many different ways. If statements like the ones I chose do not resonate with you, please check the section at the bottom of this email. There, I have given some ways to modify it. As always, I recommend you decide in advance how long you will commit to this practice and I encourage you to read through all of it before you begin.
|Background: The first two steps (which are the only ones we are exploring today) are to make a statement about God and to then negate that statement.
For example, we might say “God is father.” This is worth sayiing because In a certain way, it is true. When we then say “God is not father.” We are recognizing that there are also ways that this statement is not true.
I have stuck with the “name” God in this meditation. And I have chosen some common phrases to apply to this word. If either of these do not connect with you, I have offered a few words at the bottom of this page to help with modifying the language of this exercise.The Practice:
1. Sit comfortably.
2. Inhale, deeply. Feel your belly expand.
3. Exhale, deeply. Feel your belly pull in toward your spine.
4. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is father.”
5. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not father.”
6. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is mother”
7. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not mother.”
8. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is love.”
9. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not love”
10. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is a warrior”
11. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not a warrior.”
12. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is just..”
13. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not just.”
14. With your next inhale, Think or say “God is in me.”
15. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not in me.”
16 With your next inhale, Think or say “God is outside of me.”
17. With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not outside of me”
18. You may wish to add your own. Or repeat some, or all of these statements. When you are ready, sit in worldess communion,
|There are lots of reasons why the word “God” might not connect with you. Some of these reasons are worth pushing through. Others are not. If you decide that you do not wish to use the word ‘God’ in this (or other) exercises, simply replace it.
Some times we reach a point where we do not have a word at all for what we mean. There is a long history in several traditions around thinking of the truest name for God as a breath. If this appeals to you, instead of thinking or saying ‘God’ you might breathe, knowing it is a name for God, and use words for the rest: (breathe) is love/ (breathe) is not love, etc.
There are so many words which might come at the end of the phrases in this practice. I chose ones that I often use. These might not be good words for you to use. If you choose different words to say that God is/ is not I would encourage you to think about them in advance, and to write them down. It helps to use the same phrases a few times. Especially as we move toward the final step of this exercise with the next email. So it would be smart to put this list somewhere you can find when we do this exercise again.
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