Author Archives: Jeff

About Jeff

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

Sample #2 from ‘God-Breathed: How to Root a Meditative Practice in God’s Breath and Name.’

To order ‘God Breathed.’ Click here. For more information on the book and opportunities to engage the practices live, click here.

Chapter 5

I am a teacher.  One of my favorite things to teach is the respiration  process of animals and plants.  It is something beautiful, the efficiency and interdependence.  As we shall see, it’s possible to infer implications of startling complexity.  Yet, at its root, it is quite simple: we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite.

  We each need the other.  The world would quickly run out of available oxygen without our green friends.  The world would soon run out of available carbon dioxide without us animals.  

It’s such a beautiful system.   We’ve got no use for CO2.  Plants have no use for O2.  We each depend on this thing that the other no longer needs.  On a theological level, there is something very interesting going on here.  Let’s begin with the mere observation that the whole system is so exquisitely coordinated.  Evolution has designed an object lesson in interdependence.  

But from there, move on to the idea that our breathing is a way of saying God’s name.  Is it possible that the plant’s breathing is, too?  If we assign to our breath-parts the sounds “Yah” as we inhale oxygen and “weh.” as we exhale carbon dioxide, then  plants are saying that name in reverse: “Weh” as they inhale carbon dioxide,  “Yah.” as they exhale oxygen.

In a profound and important manner, as I say one half of God’s name, and the plant says the other half of God’s name, the plant and I are saying God’s name together.  As I say “Yah” the plant says “Weh.”  As the plant says “Yah” I say “weh.”  This strange bond, this connection, has an element, or two, which remove it even further from the sorts of names that are normally said.  This strange name is said simultaneously, both syllables at once.

It ought to be acknowledged that  there are some ways in which these observations  oversimplify.  For one thing, unlike animals, plants don’t “breathe” constantly.  They “create” oxygen while photosynthesizing, and not at other times.  Secondly, though we will sometimes focus on a single plant, bush, shurb, etc. and  for simplicity and convenience, we’ll visualize the balance between ourselves and that single  plant.  It’s unlikely, in reality, that our oxygen needs will be exactly met by that plant; it’s similarly unlikely that the plant’s carbon dioxide needs will be exactly met by the carbon dioxide we produce.  It’s still a helpful image, though.  It’s a stand-in for the numerous plants we depend on, for the numerous animals the plant needs.  

it’s worth  simplifying in our minds.  The basic principle that we are in a reciprocal relationship with plants still holds up.  Visualizations follow the logic of dreams.  It’s a logic that is difficult to express in words, but a logic nonetheless.

Today’s practice is an opportunity to connect with our photosynthesizing siblings.  It would work by simply picturing plants in general, by objectively knowing that there are living creatures who breathe opposite us.  But a first, wise step is to imagine a specific plant.  Perhaps a favorite tree.  If you can do this meditation in the presence of a houseplant or sitting at the trunk of an actual tree, that is so much better.

Practice #5) Breathing with a Plant
  1.  Release your responsibilities for this time and find your center.
  2. Take three deep, cleansing breaths.
  3. Now, bring your plant friend to mind.  Study it either with your physical eyes or in your mind’s eye.  Love this plant if you can.
  4. As you inhale, breathe in the oxygen which was breathed out by your plant.
  5. As you exhale, realize that this exhalation, which would be poisonous to you, is exactly what this plant needs.
  6.  Repeat steps 4 and 5 for two more breaths.  
  7. Sit in relation to your plant, recognizing your interdependence as you breathe together.
  8. Seek to be fully present to each of your breaths in the moment, as you breathe with your plant for the next three breaths.
  9. Consider with this next inhalation that you and the plant are saying God’s name together, two almost-syllables said simultaneously.  The oxygen from the plant and to you, God’s two-part name said all at once.
  10. With that exhalation see that you and the plant are once again saying God’s name together, this time switching which part of God’s name each of you is responsible for.  
  11. For the remainder of the time you have left for this practice, breathe with the plant in whatever manner feels best: focusing on the interdependence, this breath, or saying God’s name together.
  12. When you are nearly done, release this practice and sit in a time of wordless union.
Fifth Reading Practice

Isaiah 55 says that the hills will break out into singing.  The tendency is to receive verses like this as being merely symbolic.  But notice how much power you are ceding to others, when you allow them to dictate the terms of what should be taken literally and what should be taken metaphorically.  There’s a way in which debates about the meaning of the bible are quite fascinating to watch.  It seems to me that there is a certain group of people who act as though their badge of honor is the ability to take every story in the bible in a literal, naive, face value sort of way.   When a closer look is taken, though, it becomes clear that this group, (who wanted to take the seven days of creation or the story of Noah quite literally) are quite willing to take other statements much more symbolically.  My experience is that those who are most ready to see the bible’s narratives as always literal will resist taking literally  phrases like ‘God is love.’

Of  course, most of us agree that the phrase ‘the mountains and hills will burst into  song’ does not mean that a set of lips will appear in the dirt and that these lips will suddenly begin to make musical noises.  However, there are many sorts of things this phrase can mean.  If the most literal are not easy to take seriously, this does not mean that we ought to instantly default to the most symbolic.  Many of these highly symbolically ways of receiving these words diminish the potency.

  It seems to me, the question is rarely, ‘Who is taking scripture literally and who is not?’  More often, the real question is, ‘What portions of the bible is this group taking literally?  What portions of the bible is that group taking literally?’

Today, we will focus on a holy imagining approach to this chapter.  Sometimes, this sort of practice is better for more narrative selections from the bible.  In this particular case, the practice works well, though.  This is because even though Isaiah 55 doesn’t tell a story, it is filled with sensory imagery.  Our procedures will be to read the entire passage through once.  Then, we will reread a handful of verses at a time, pausing at each step to engage our imagination and experience these descriptions through our senses.  

As you find your center for this practice, take a few deep breaths.  Read through the passage once in its entirety.  Now, after taking a few breaths, bring to mind times you have been thirsty.  Don’t just think about being thirsty.  Feel what it was like on your tongue and throat.  Consider how it took over your attention.  Think about the moments right before you got that refreshing ice water, popsicle, or blender drink.  Then, think about what it’s like to be hungry.  If it’s not too painful, think about a time you haven’t been able to get to food even though it was around.  Now, let your thirst and hunger be satisfied in your memory.  Bring to mind the feelings in your body when you get the things you were so desperately craving.  Don’t rush through this.  Let yourself dwell on it.  Live inside of it.  Recall multiple examples if you’d like.  

Now, read verses 1-7.  Take a few deep breaths.

Bring to mind the night sky.  See the swirling of the milky way, as if you are watching from somewhere far from city lights.  A crisp wind brings in clouds, and rain begins to fall.  Feel it dampen your clothes.  It is cold, bracing, and slowly, the dropping temperature turns the rain to snow.   Find yourself dressed appropriately for this weather; you are ready for it.   See it fall; feel it land on your cheek.  Take your time imagining this.  Sit with the image.  Relish it.  Enjoy it.  

Now, see the rain falling again and landing to nourish a field of grain.  In your mind’s eye, see the grain harvested and pounded into flour.  Now the flour is mixed with other ingredients to make bread; it’s being cooked.  See this being eaten, warm.  Imagine the feel of the texture of the bread on the tongue.  Let this be a true occurrence of holy imagining.  Don’t rush through this critical step of truly imagining.  Feel it in your body.

Read verses 8-11.

Read it again if you need to.  Let it connect to that last sequence of images.  Do it slowly.

See the mountains and hills.  See the trees and the bushes.  If you’ve been somewhere like this recently, imagine this specific place.  See the breeze gently moving the plant life.  Breathe a deep breath in the forest in your mind.  And listen.  Really listen.  Deeply listen.  There is a song.  Where does it come from?  What does it sound like?

Read the remainder of the chapter.

Replay some of these images in your mind.  Breathe deeply, and carefully progress through all of them: The thirst and the quenching of that thirst.  The rain, the snow, the fields, the bread.  The mountains and trees and most of all the song, the beautiful song.  Don’t let the brevity of this summary imply that your mental replay ought to be short.  Take the time that you ought to take.  

If you’d like, read through the chapter one more time.  Luxuriate in the sensory images in it.  

Some Reflections on How This Practice Went For Me

One of the things that came to me intensely was the importance of self care.  I spent many years of my life trying to get by on the bare minimum.  We didn’t have many resources, then, and scrimping and saving within limits is a good thing.  In my case, though, what began as a healthy attempt to be productive and reasonable ended with a constant desire in my own self to try and get by on less and less.  I operated in a world that was dominated by need and want, back then.  I saw the universe as a stingy place.

I found the opening lines to be an invitation to enjoy myself, to take my pleasure as something important.  The line about ‘labor.’ Also stuck with me quite a lot.  I know that some people in the world have to work soul-crushing jobs just to survive.  But others choose soul-crushing in order to make a few dollars more.  It doesn’t seem like God wants that.

As I look at these verses, I realize I tend to experience God as very… dour.  And faintly disapproving.  Especially when God starts in on the ways he has reached out to his people.  I tend to get this feeling of, ‘The grown up is talking now.  My enjoyment is not a very important thing.’ But I found it so refreshing in this verse.  The way I received God’s words were that God’s location in history, the ways he spoke to the ancient Israelites, this is not more or less important than my own experiences of joy.  God isn’t just calling out people like Moses (or me) to do things we don’t want to do.  God’s way isn’t just a list of fun things I am not allowed to do.  God, in fact, endowed me with splendor.  I don’t know exactly what those words mean but they sound like an invitation to more joy and fun than I would usually credit God for.  

There’s some pretty famous verses in the middle of this chapter.  They are about the ways that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts.  I continued to see them as partially meaning the sorts of things I always had.  One thing they are saying is that my little brain can’t comprehend the fullness of God.  And I’m good with that.  But reading it in context, and trying to experience this all deeply, I got more than just this out of those words.

Given the invitation early in the chapter to come, buy, and eat, and given the explanation that comes next, about how even the rain falling from the sky nourishes before the water returns to the clouds, I received a real message that the parts of God I don’t understand are not things to be afraid of.

Generally, when people quote those words about God’s ways not being my ways, I have a thought.  I think it’s generally intended.  That thought is ‘Watch out!  Be careful.  If God is beyond your understanding, there’s no telling what you might accidentally do that won’t end well!’

But it’s so clear, here, that God is trying to make the point that while the universe is more complex than we can imagine, this complexity is for us.  We benefit.  God figured out a way to make the water cycle nourish and care for us.  Random drops falling down the sky bring life to us.  If there can be such wonderful, luxuriant, efficiency that increases our pleasure even in something as simple as rain falling from the  sky, surely God has hard wired the universe in other ways for us.

Sample #1 from ‘God Breathed.’

To order ‘God Breathed’ Click here. To find out about order, preordering, and get an excluisve offer for participating in a zoom-based exploration of the practices from the book, click here.

Chapter 6

I was given a small, almost silly gift.  It was a small magenta and orange porcelain possum with an opening in his back for a tiny plant.  Though I love nature I had never been responsible for a plant before.

For those first couple days the plant felt like any other little trinket that might clutter my desk.  But then I  noticed that its little leaves were a little browner, a little more brittle than they had been when I received the plant.  For a moment, my ambivalence turned to annoyance.  I would have to water it.  I didn’t have to water my stapler, or the mug which held my pencils.  This wasn’t just any little dust collector; this was going to take some work.  

Then I got worried.  I  found myself wondering just how much water I was supposed to give it.  And how often.  And what would happen if I got it wrong.  I am usually a pretty relaxed human being.  Suddenly I was tense.  People who were supposed to know about these things were frustratingly vague.  I followed their vague instructions as precisely as I could.  Have you ever tried to be precise about vagueness?  It doesn’t really work.

But it seemed like things went ok.  I don’t think I was imagining it when it seemed so much greener the next day.  That was around the time I name my plant.  Frank, it turns out, is the plant’s name.  Yes, I know that is silly.  No, I am not kidding though.  My plant’s name is Frank.

People talk a lot about the idea that you should never name something you’d like to be rid of.  That’s worth noting here.  It’s part of the testament of the power of a name.  If God’s name is the inhale and the exhale then in the act of identifying this is so, we grow closer to God.  Just like you don’t want to name that stray if you wish to not be heart broken if he leaves, so too we grow bonded to God as we realize that we have been saying God’s name all along.  So too, did I grow bonded to Frank once I realized that was the plant’s name.

Previously, we explored the idea that God identified Godself to Noah with some words that are sometimes rendered as ‘I am.’   The strangeness of the answer implies an almost-rebuke; God, it seems, is not the sort of being who has a normal name.  Later in the bible one of the interesting dynamics to follow, as Jesus faces off with demons is the importance of names.  Jesus often asks demons their names.  They sometimes seem to think the fact that Jesus doesn’t know those names means he has no power over them.  They sometimes mock and taunt Jesus with the fact that they know Jesus’ name.  

Names are important things.  Perhaps there is something about particularity in all this.  A related Buddhist concept is sometimes translated as thisness and thusness.  If I think of it as ‘plant.’  It is just the same as thousands of other plants sitting in a tacky little planter.  When I give it the specific name ‘Frank.’ now I notice the ways that Frank is different from all those other plants; he has four leaves clumped together here; she has a tendril circling around a portion of the ceramic there.  There is a yellow-ish spot at that place.

It might seem like this doesn’t quite apply to God.  After all, most of us don’t believe that there is a whole bunch of Gods to choose from.  It doesn’t seem like giving God the name ‘Yahweh’ separates God from a bunch of others.

However, it’s a little more complicated than that.  

I have lots of ideas of Gods in my head.  I’m not like an ancient Greek, really.  It’s not the case that I think a bunch of Gods exist, and this one is in charge of this thing, and that God is in charge of that thing.  But…. there is still a pantheon in my mind.

There is the idea of an angry bearded fellow in my brain.  He has been smiting folks left and right.  There is the idea of a primal force at the start of the universe who watches impassively.  He is wearing a white robe.  There is nebulous shadow figure, beyond all my words and descriptions, transcendent of everything.

The one I name YWVH has some things in common with each of those.  But not everything.  This God is as close as my breath; moreover, this God’s name is my breath itself.  The very nature of the action tells me some things about this God; this God is necessary for my life.  This God is mysterious but intimate with me.  This God’s name is unsayable, and yet it is always said.

Have you ever breathed with somebody?  Really breathed with them?

Sometimes, when I am having trouble sleeping, I tune into the rhythm of my wife’s breath.  I will try and time it just so, matching her inhales and her exhales.  When I do this, sometimes I can drift right off to sleep.  

Have you ever had someone talk you through a meditation?  When someone says ‘inhale…. Exhale’ it is hard for  to resist.  And so frustrating when their guidance isn’t at a pace that we find natural.  There is something so soothing about coordinating the timing of our breaths with others.

This next practice invites the practitioner to first breathe with those around us.  We then find ourselves breathing in relation to plants.  Gradually, the practitioner widens the scope of their mind’s eye, picturing the self in a larger and larger web of interactions.

I find that something happens to me as I picture scenes like this.  There’s a sort of parallel with watching a certain type of shot in the film.  It’s almost a visual cliche; usually the last shot in the movie.  It might start as a close-up shot, but then it pulls back, further and further, and with distance  we lose the details on the things that were just a moment ago so clear.  We lose the specifics of the individuals and see the whole neighborhood, pull up through the clouds, see the outlines of the  continent, and eventually even pan back and away from the planet itself.  

Because we are finite and limited, as we see the full outlines of the big picture, we lose the particular details we were able to entertain.  When we see the curves of planet Earth, we no longer witness the particular details of the tableau where we began.  We can’t see the specific people or scene where the shot began.  

We can take a wider view of nearly anything.  It doesn’t even have to be visual.  I can start by focusing on the work day of a particular person.  While I’m focused on this, I might want to  know about this person’s schedule, job description, and performance.  But I could take a wider look.  I could focus on how this person’s job interfaces with the organization he works for.  I could wonder about how the organization fits into the wider community where it is head quartered.  I could wonder about how the community functions within the wider society, and how the various societies interact with each other.

It’s easy to see the individual as the most relevant level of organization.  I can understand why most of the shots in a movie or designed to follow along specific people.    I suspect that this is because where we naturally identify with our consciousness, and therefore our sense of control.  I am composed of cells, and the cells make up tissues, and the tissues make up organs, and the organs make up organ systems.  The organ systems make up my individual self.  And my self is a part of a family.  And my family is part of a community.  And my community is part of a nation.  And the nation is part of a planet, and the planet is part of a solar system.

This description could continue onward, in either direction.  But I suppose you are taking my point.  The individual is just one level of description.  Because my consciousness is more or less in control of my own individual self it’s easy to see this as the natural level of importance.

A camera, or a visualization which lands somewhere else is an important reminder that there are elements which make up the individual that I identify with.  They are important reminders that this individual is a constituent of wider systems.  This is an important thing to focus on, a reminder.  In our practice below, we reinforce our experience of our connections with all the living things.

In the description below, I have tried to take on particular scenario of where a person might be, in relation to others.  It so happens that I live on the second floor of a 3-floor apartment building.  If you live in a substantially different area, it might make sense to alter the ways in which you are widening your awareness.  The main thing is that we begin by picturing ourselves and gradually widen our perspective to include an increasing number of people.  

Before the prior practice, we explored the idea that even if the visualization is not literally specifically true, there is still value to it.  As we explored our interconnections with the plant, we overlooked the fact that plant’s don’t literally exhale constantly.

For today’s practice we’ll engage in a similar act of symbolic visualization.  Of course, at any given time a person might be inhaling or exhaling.  At this exact moment, probably half the people you know are doing one.  Perhaps half the people you know are doing the other.  As stated previously, sometimes a person might coordinate the timing of their breaths with someone they are with. 

In the practice today, we’ll imagine that we are exhaling and inhaling with other people.  Literally, of course, this is probably not true.  But on a symbolic level, it helps us to remember.

Practice 6) Breathing With Other People
  1.  Release your concerns and worries for this time.  
  2. Take three deep breaths.
  3. Take a moment to consider where the nearest person to you is.
  4. Imagine that single person, breathing.
  5. With your next inhale, imagine that the two of you are inhaling together.
  6. With your next exhale, imagine that the two of you are exhaling together.  
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for as long as you would like.  Try to experience this breath that you are breathing together; don’t settle for the abstraction of breathing together in general.  Dwell inside this breath, right now, with them.  It is a unique thing.  
  8. In your mind’s eye, widen your perspective.  Come to picture the entire floor that you are occupying  Consider first all the other people animals present.  Breathe at least three full breaths with them.
  9. Now, think about the plant life within this area.  Imagine the ways that the plants breathe opposite the animals, each supplying the other with what they need.  Breathe at least three full breaths.
  10. Widen the picture in your mind, again.  Perhaps now, you will consider the living things within the building you occupy.  Breathe three breaths with all the animals and plants.
  11. Imagine the block you are living on: All the people and animals and plants in the buildings, all the people and animals and plants in between the buildings.
  12. Widen the range of your imagination this one last time.  Take in as a wide a vantage as you can, holding in your mind all the living things in this part of your town or city.  Love this interconnected web of beings as best as you can.
  13. Now, quickly!  Bring your mind back to just your own self, your body sitting in meditation.  See yourself.  But still connected.  Still part of that web.

To read a second passage from this book, click here.

God Breathed: How to Root a Meditative Practice in God’s Breath

Purchase ‘God Breathed’ in print now here. It will be available as a Kindle ebook on June 27. There are 3 ways to preview this new book, in addition to the information here and at Amazon:

  • Participate in the Facebook Live kick off on Sunday June 27 at 10 AM, Eastern Time. (EDT.) That will happen at the Faith-ing Project Facebook Page.
  • Join either (or both!) of our zoom-based introductory meditation sessions. The content of both will be the same but it would be great to see you at both if you enjoy the first one. These are done at quite opposing times and days to accomodate multiple time zones and schedules. The first is Friday, June 2nd, at 7:00 PM EDT; the second is Sunday, July 11 7 AM EDT. For an invitation with a zoom link, free of charge, please fill out a contact form at the top of this page or email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com.

God reached down and breathed into the dirt and the first human was created. God gave a name that we sometimes translate as ‘Yahweh.’ but which might better be translated as the act of breathing itself. Jesus breathed over his disciples. These are not abstract theological principles. They are experiences you can live.
In this introductory guide, you’ll be invited on a journey to deepen your experience of God’s presence by breathing with God and naming God with each breath. You’ll be invited to breathe in harmony with people, other animals, and plants and build your connections with each group.
To order the book click here. To recieve a zoom link fill out the contact form at the top of the page. To preview some of the practices available in the book, click here.

Audio files from ‘Discovering the Essence: How to Build a Spirtual Practice When Your Religion is Cracking Apart’

Each of the audio files below features a spiritual practice and a related reading from ‘Discovering the Essence.’

Recording #1 From ‘Dsicovering the Essence’ Just Sitting

For free readings from ‘Discoring the Essence’ Click here.

Practice number 2: Following the breath
Practice number 3: A Breath Prayer
Practice number 4: Centering Prayer
Practice number 5: A Welcoming Prayer
Practice 5: Here I am, Here you are
Practice 6: Loving Kindness Meditation

For information on ordering the book, click here. When you do read the book, I’d love an honest Amazon review to help others determine if the book is right for them.

Summer 2021 will see our first cohort of ‘Discussing the Essence.’ If you’d like information about joining this pay-what-you-can, zoom-based exploration of deconstruction click the contact link or email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com. It is not necesarry to purchase or read the book to join us for this time. For more information, click ‘here.

Exercise 74: Welcoming Whatever is Next With a Bow

Silhouette of a businessman bowinghttp://www.twodozendesign.info/i/1.png

There’s an excellent discussion of the spiritual power of bowing here. Two of the main take-aways from that excellent podcast are:

#1) Bowing is a supple, flexible, living reaction. This posture conveys an heir of willingness to respond to whatever comes next.

#2) There is an element of release and surrender in a bow; an heir of recognition that we stand before something that we may not fully comprehend.

As I listened to that podcast and pondered the end of 2020, it struck me as a rather timely response to this place we find ourselves in: we are saying good-bye to the strangest year in recent memory; we made it through the darkest time of the year. Residents (like myself) of the USA are in wondering if this next president will steer us away from the dangers we had been barelling toward.

The temptation can be to simply imagine a motion like bowing. The body is the doorway to so much that is good. Including it in rituals and practices is incredibly powerful. It is good to physically bow from whereever you are. It would be even better to stand solemnly and bow from a standing, respectful position.

I’ve presented a few different combinations of a bow with versions of the welcoming prayer in the space below. The first (74A) is one keyed to life changes. It might, for example, be used on New Year’s Eve. The second and third practices (74B and 74C) are practices which incorporate a bow into traditional approaches to the welcoming prayer. These are most often used to make peace with uncomfortable emotional realities.

As always, I hope you will play and explore with these practices as you construct something which will work best for you.

74A: Bowing and Welcoming the New Year (or other new transitions)

  1. Find yourself in this moment suddenly, with the finality of a snap of the fingers.
  2. Review in your mind the realities that you had been living in. As best you can, experience this past in your body and through your senses. Take your time to fully relive this.
  3. Bow to this reality that you have lived through.
  4. Welcome your feelings, thoughts, and emotions about this reality that is passing. Name and welcome them, out loud if possible. “Welcome, sadness.” “Welcome, regret.” “Welcome joy.” Etc. Bow to each of the feelings you have about this time and place.
  5. Inhale.
  6. Exhale.
  7. Bring to mind the new reality that is coming. Consider the things you know and the things you hope. Be open to the aspects you know about and the mysteries that you do not. Just as before, experience this in your body, through your senses as much as possible.
  8. Bow to this new reality.
  9. Identify and name your feelings about this new thing that is coming. Welcome each of these with words, “Welcome, excitement.” “Welcome, anxiety.” Bow to each of these feelings.
  10. Inhale.
  11. Exhale.
  12. Check in with your heart, body, and mind. What are you feeling? How are you carrying it. Bow, too, to your bodies reactions to this practice and the feelings you are carrying now.
  13. If you’d like, as best as you can, exhale these feelings and sit in a time of wordlessness.

Exercise 74B: One approach to Bowing and Welcoming Emotions

The Exercise:

  1.  Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Bow to this thought or emotion.
  5. Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  6. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’  or ‘I let go of my ___________’  or ‘God, I give you my _____________’
  7. You might wish to bow again, this time to whoever or whatever is taking up this emotion.
  8. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  9. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

Exercise 74C: A Second Approach to Welcoming Emotions with a Bow

  1. Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Breathe once.
  6. Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  7. Bow and breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Bow and breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. Bow and breathe.
  12. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  13. If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.

If you’d like to participate in ‘Discussing the Essence’ fill out a contact form at the top of this page or email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

Discussing the Essence

Fill out a contact form above, or email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to recieve the link. ‘Discussing the Essence’ will meet on alternate weeks. Here is the general routine:

5-10 minute icebreaker (yes, introverts. It will be optional.)

5-10 minute reading from ‘Discovering the Essence

5-10 minute reflection from guests (There might be some weeks without a guest.)

15-20 minute guided spiritual practice

20-30 minute general discussion

We’ll use ‘Discovering the Essence‘ as a sort-of blue print, borrowing the topics from the chapters in order. This means that the first week will cover the introduction’s theme of ‘You will be ok’ and ‘Why Spiritual Practice?’ The next session, meeting January 28 will explore the question ‘What do I believe now?’ February 11’s topic will be ‘Who is left in my life now?’ and Feb 25 will cover the question ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (This is an exploration of the sense of estrangement and isolation from God.)

I believe firmly that there are millions of us who might benefit from an opporutnity to process and discuss our spiritual transition. However, some might require more intensive support than this program can offer. Religious trauma is a real and often destructive force. I wish to be clear that I am a deconstructed, Christ-centered mystic with good intentions. I am not a trained therapist. While it’ll be nice to see lots of friendly faces on zoom, it’s much more important that people take care of themselves. If you would benefit from professional mental health support I strongly encourage you to seek this out.

Exercise 73: Whole Body Mystical Awakening

Background: Today marks something new for the Faith-ing Project. This the first spiritual practice on the site which I am merely reposting. None of this description came from me. My hope for 2021 is that this becomes an increasingly frequent practice here. A first step for a contemplative is to take a brisk jog through the sorts of practices that are out there. But I hope that you have the oppurtunity to take a deeper dive into traditions, practices, and communities. I am beginning with this practice because I have deeply benefited from Intergral Christian Newtork‘s WeSpace Groups, Sunday Services, and free standing meditations. I think you will too.

This meditation was written by Paul Smith. You can find his excellent ‘Intergral Chistianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve’ on Amazon.

This practice can take from a few minutes to an hour or more. You can do one part or several, or all of it. I (Paul) often take about twenty minutes to do it all.

Set your intention to open to the four goals of Whole-Body Mystical Awakening:

(1) expanded heart consciousness,
(2) mystical oneness,
(3) the spiritual beings present with you,
(4)  windows of spiritual knowing.

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1.      Start with your Heart

Move your awareness from your head to your heart. This is not being aware of your heart but being aware from your heart. To help, you can tap on your head, then tap on down your temple, jaw, neck, and chest. Continue tapping on your chest until you sense you have moved to your heart space. You can also place your hands on your heart which can increase the energy there. Your heart space includes your chest, back, arms, and hands. You may also think of someone you love to help activate the love flowing from your heart.

Deep in your heart center is an inexhaustible flow of love which is always there, ready to radiate outward. You may feel warmth flowing from your heart and bliss flooding your being.

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2.     Treat your Feet

Move your attention to your feet, making sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor. You may want to stamp your feet or wiggle your toes to help your consciousness move there. Think of roots growing from your feet deep into the earth, anchoring you in your body and your body to the earth, even the whole material cosmos itself.  Draw up energy from this grounding and centering that comes these spiritual roots which connect you with the transcendent oneness of all divine material reality.

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3.     Chummy with your Tummy.

Draw that grounding energy on up to your gut, your spiritual womb. Residing here is our intuitive self, with the ability to understand or know something without conscious reasoning.

This is the home of your core self, your divine identity, which is accessed not by conceptualizing or thinking, but by intuition and sensation. Rest in your spiritual womb by simply being. Be aware of anything that emerges from this area of deep spiritual knowing.

Jesus said from here flows living water or the awakened consciousness of our divine identity (John 7:37-38). The gut deepens into transcendence as we experience not only our own divine identity, but that this identity is the one divine identity of all.

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4.     Spread to your Head

On the way up to your head, pause in your heart space to soak in your heart’s radiating love. Then move up into your head space. You may notice your mind is unusually calm as your carrying the grounding energy of your feet and womb and the radiant love of your heart with you into you head space. Rest in the cleared stillness there are long as you wish. If you wish, you can move up out of your head space, spreading into the vast, spaciousness there. This is the transcendence of pure consciousness that is the mystical realm of the infinite divine.

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5.      Impart your Heart

Move back down into your heart space, this time becoming aware of the spiritual presences that are with you. This can be the motherly-fatherly presence of God, the Living Jesus, and other spiritual companions such as Mary or other saintly presences who are there to comfort, encourage, and strengthen you. Let them hold you and touch your heart. You can sense their presence, converse with them, and receive from them.

Then let your heart flow out to others that come to your mind, sending the energy field of love out to them as healing, light, and blessing. Finally, let your heart expand to transcendent awareness as it enlarges and moves to hold all sentient beings in its blissful, loving embrace

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6.     Devotion in Motion

Finish with devotion in motion by reaching down to your feet with both hands and feel the energy move up through your body like a flowing geyser until your hands are raised high in the air. You are a geyser of love and healing shooting up through and from you. It flows out to the world and universe becoming a part of the Kosmic groove you and others are cutting in fabric of the cosmos, co-creating with God new pathways to the continuing evolution of creation.

AND RIVERS OF LIVING WATER SHALL FLOW FROM THEIR INNER SELF.   — JESUS


Body Centers of Spiritual Knowing

Whole Body Awakening
Whole Body Awakening

The deep feelings of the HEART are retrieved through our awareness moving into the heart center with the chest, arms, and hands in contact with one another.

Our body energy field is accessed with our awareness sinking down to our legs and FEET, grounding and drawing energy up from the earth.

Our intuition and core identity are accessed with our awareness resting in our gut and contact with our hands on our lower abdomen or SPIRITUAL WOMB.

The impressions, images, and words that come to the MIND are accessed through contact with the head and forehead.

These physical areas are entryways into the depths of being present and their associated ways of spiritual knowing.

For ICN’s audio file recording of this practice, click here.

Practice 72: Oneness on a Winter Night

Background: Today’s practice is a visualization which builds on some on oneness practices. For examples of more oneness practices, click here and here.

It will be helpful, before practicing to bring to have choosen a small group of people whom you feel very safe and comfortable around.

The Practice:

  1. Find a relaxing pose. If you can comfortably manage it, feet flat on the floot and spine upright are ideal.
  2. Release your worries, stresses and concerns with your next exhales.
  3. Inhale all the way down into your hips.
  4. Exhale feeling your belly draw closer to your spine.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. See yourself– and your friends– in a clearing on a cold winter’s night. Your breath comes out in clouds and a light dusting of snow covers the ground. You are dressed warmly, comfortably. There is a single towering pine tree in the center of the clearing. The outskirts of the clearing is defined by smaller trees and shrubbery. It is a ways beyond you. The moon is so bright! It illuminates the clouds which a gentle wind keeps slowly creeping across the sky.
  7. Form a circle around that central tree. Take your friends hands. Someone squeezes, and that squeeze comes around the circuit like a pulse. See yourselves and your friends. Their are smiles here.
  8. As you breathe, breathe with your friends. Feel the way you are inhaling together. Feel the cold, invigorating you in the quiet. Feel the way you are exhaling together. This is a connection.
  9. Connect for a while, just this. Feeling the closeness on the winter night. Seeing your breath.
  10. Now, connect to the great tree in the middle. Your exhales are the trees inhales. Perhaps the cloud from someone’s breath even lands on a pine needle. there is a symmetry here. Breathing with your friends.
  11. Give most of the time you have remaining to this connection. When you are ready, gently squeeze the hands on your left and your right.

Discovering the Essence: How to Build a Spiritual Practice is coming in November. Click the link for a free preview and more information.

Exercise 71: Find your hope

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Background: Today’s practice is deeply inspired by Resmaa Menakem’sMy Grandmother’s Hands.‘  I am including it here because  this important book is something that everyone should be reading right now.  It is explores questions of race, white supremacy, and trauma by exploring where these things live in our bodies.  It is not easy work for an old white guy like me; but it is important work.  Contemplatives and those who love spiritual practice might find this approach to be a powerful one.  Each chapter features practices like this one.

To be honest, I am a little hesitant about sharing this practice here.  I think that this practice could have lots of positives not related to exploring racial trauma and white body supremacy.  And this is my concern: I would not want to co-opt and distract from this important work.  I am also aware and sensetive to the issues around white people stealing the work of black people without approprite credit and attibution.  The best I know how to do in this regard it to state again, emphatically, that regardless of your background or history Resmaa Menakem’s excellent ‘My Grandmother’s Hands’ should be on your reading list.

The Practice

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Wiggle your toes.
  2. Become aware of your skin.  Note where it is sitting under cloth and where it is exposed to the air.  Feel the textures and the temperatures, the moisture and movement of air.
  3. Note where you are sitting.  Feel the pull of gravity pulling you down and the support of your chair, cushion, or floor supporting you upward.  Note the softness or hardness of the places where you are back, butt, and legs touch whatever you are sitting on.
  4. Can you sense hope in your body?  Where is that hope living right now, at this moment?  Does it move or change with your breath?  Is there excitement living with your hope?  Anxiety?
  5. What specific desires come with finding this hope in your body: what is it that you are hoping for?  Healing?   Success?  Do you have hopes around racial trauma and moving past the hurts you have recieved or the hurt your actions have caused?
  6. Can you find any fear in your body?  Where is it?  Does it move or spread?  Does it feel growing and alive or dead and cut off?  Sit with your fear, for a moment.
  7. Explore the specifics of this fear to the extent that it is safe, wise, and kind to yourself to do so.  What is it that you are afraid of?  Does this fear imply anything about your relationship to future events?
  8.   Hold the hope and the fear.  Experience them both fully in your body.  Take your time with this step.  This is a microcosm for the experience of what it is to be human.
  9. Return to checking in with your body.  Notice the way your breath feels.  If you would like to continue but need a moment, take that moment, and then take another.  You can return to a focus on your body by checking in with your sensory experiences that are happening now: listen, for example, for three sounds in your environment.  Look around and name for things.  Take a deep breath and smell the air.  Inquire into your taste buds and see if there is a taste in your mouth.
  10. If you would like to continue, you can hold search for and hold other dualities.  Begin by choosing one item from the pairings listed below; (or, of course choose something not listed.)  Some pairings you might try: love/apathy; acceptance/anxiety; like/ dislike; joy/sorrow; admiration/disdain.
  11. To the extent you can, find where that first element lives in your body.
  12. Explore how it feels and moves within.
  13.  Identify some of the  specific ways that this might pop up in your life.
  14. Find the opposite in your body.
  15. Explore how the opposite feels and moves within.
  16.  Identify some of the specific ways that this might pop up in your life.
  17. Spend a moment just holding the both of these oppposites together.
  18.  If you wish, hold this pair as you return to an earlier pair, such as hope and fear.