This email exploration is focused on three interconnected ideas: Transitions, Deconstruction, and Liminal Space. These three ideas grow increasingly specific and increasingly complex. Over these next three emails we will consider each of them.
Transitions happen every day, of course. Compared to deconstruction or liminal space, they are fairly straight foreward. Nonetheless, they are not easy. The transitions that we are hoping for in life are not the ones we notice much. Generally speaking, the transitions which cause us stress bring with them a host of unwanted emotions.
This is why we are beginning with 2 different forms of The Welcoming Prayer. There are many forces which conspire to “teach” us to live in denial of the feelings we carry. We hope that ignoring these feelings makes them go away. The reality is that the opposite is true: Naming and owning them can go a long way toward evaporating many of our most intense and unwanted feelings.
Thanks for joining The Faith-ing Project’s September Email Exploration. You probably know that this time around, the focus is on building a spiritual practice through times of transition, deconstruction and liminal spaces. These emails will launch every other day at 5 PM US Eastern Standard Time.
They will consist of 3 parts. This introductory section will introduce ideas relevant to building a spiritual practice of related to the topics of transition, deconstruction and liminal space.
The middle section will consist of the day’s suggested spiritual practice.
The bottom section will feature announcement and updates about other exciting events, generally those related to The Faith-ing Project.
Many of the positive outcomes connected to a spiritual practice will come up when they are practiced at least once a day. On the “off days” when no email arrives, it is highly recommended that you give a second try to the most recent spiritual practice.
It’s exciting to have you on this journey! Thanks for taking it with us. There are lots of ways to connect with me and I love hearing from participants. If you would like to share observations, please reply to this email, click the links at the bottom of this page, or send a message to email@example.com
Background: This prayer become popular in the centering prayer movement. It was originally written by Mary Mrozowski. It is a method of recognizing, then releasing difficult emotions.
This is an important place to begin during times of transition. It is inevitable that lots of feelings, many difficult to manage, pop up in the midst of change. For this reason, our next exercise will be a similiar practice, designed to identify and welcome the feelings that pop up for us.
It is always advisable to read through the practice before beginning them. Notice that on step 5 today you will have a choice to make about the specific words that you use. Choosing which one you are going to use in advance will be helpful.
The exercise to be introduced Wednesday is an alternative Welcoming Prayer. It is exercise 36-B. If you would like to try it in advance of that email you can find it here.
Did you know that the Faith-ing Project is more than just a web page describing spiritual practices? In addition to four books, a facebook page, and regular email explorations, on the webstie, you can find tips for building your spiritual practice, audio files of many spiritual practices, links to influential and thought provoking sites, and more!
This is from the Palm Sunday Email on the Lenten email exploration of the Cataphatic-Apophatic. If you would like to receive the last couple emails in this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Palm Sunday is celebrated one week before Easter. It is a commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Today’s spiritual exercise combines elements of Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) and visualization. This is a very cataphatic practice, dependent, as it is, on the words.
This practice begins with a reading of the entry in each of the four gospels. It is rather lengthy and cumulative in nature. I invite you to go as far and deep as you desire. Particularly if you are going to return to this practice daily (the next email will arrive Wednesday) you might wish to stop at some point along the way each day, and go a bit further each day you return to it.
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.
4. As you read the following passage from Luke, 19: 28-44 do your best to hear the sounds. Imagine the tone, volume, and timbre of the voices as they say these things. Place other sounds in the scene. Try and add this to the picture you formed from the last reading. It is not important that your imagining is historically accurate.
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”[f]
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign,went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
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The story goes that Saint Francis would pass through entire nights asking, “Who am I, God?” and “Who are you, God?”
There is no record of precisely how he did this. Today’s exercise is just one possible way to go about it, and the notes below the practice give a few suggestions of alterations that are worth considering.
Today’s practice is entirely word-based. In that sense it is more on the cataphatic side of the spectrum. Just as centering prayer sometimes employs words to release our thoughts, this practice uses words to help bring us face-to-face with how little we know. In this sense, this practice is quite apophatic. In some ways, this is the most apopathic of all the practices we will engage; the next email will be slightly more embracing of the light and trusting of our ability to speak and comprehend the divine.
1. Sit in a posture which balances being comfortable and alert.
4. With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I, God?”
5. With your next exhale, ask the question, “Who are you, God?”
6. Continue this pattern for the bulk of the time you had set aside for this practice today.
7. When you are ready, release the questions. Continue your deep breaths.
8. If you wish, explore what new answers you might have to those two important questions. Consider whether the questions mean something new. Ask yourself in what ways you come to feel that those two questions’ answers might be related.
There are many ways to alter these exercises. Some of these alterations can revolve around the breath. For example, you might ask the question, “Who are you, God?” on the inhale. You might ask the question, “Who am I, God?” on the exhale. You could also hold the breath for a moment, and consider the first question after the inhale, and consider the second question after the exhale.
It also brings a different air to this practice to separate the questions. Ask, “Who am I, God?” With each breath for the first half of your practice and “Who are you, God?” for the second half of your practice.
We began with the first two steps of apophatic meditation in our last exercise. These can be a little easier than the 3rd and final step.
As you might recall, the first step is an affirmation. For example, “God is a warrior.”
The second step is a negation, “God is not a warrior.”
Today’s step– the hard part– is to negate the negation. For example, “God is not-not a warrior.”
My experience is that like many paradoxes, trying to understand this from a bunch of different angles can be valuable:
One way to think about this is to consider the idea that we might say “I am doing well.” We might then say, “I am not doing well.” In many ways, this would be similar to saying, “I am unwell.” Therefore, if we said, “I am not-not doing well.” it would have some parallels to saying “I am not unwell.”
In logical systems, this sort of double negation is seen as the same thing as the original positive statement. The two negatives cancel each other out. However, it’s worth noticing that there is a subtle, hard to describe difference when we are talking. Saying “I am not unwell.” is a little different than saying “I am doing well.”
Finally, this exercise is one which faces us with the limits of all language. Especially when relating to the divine. If the words of the affirmation are never completely true, than the words of the negation are never completely true either.
|Remember that you can alter two different aspects of these sentences. If the subject– God– does not connect with you, you might substitute in some other word. For example, “Spirit is a warrior.” “Jesus is a warrior” etc. You can also alter the objects, for example, “God is omnipotent” “God is not omnipotent” “God is not not omnipotent.”