Category Archives: Exercise Progressions & Email Campaigns

Day 4: Building a Spiritual Practice Through Transitions

We begin this exploration by considering the three words that characterize our focus.  Our first email focused on transition.  Our second was about deconstruction.  Today’s topic is liminal space.
Liminal space is perhaps the most obscure of those three terms.  One source defines the term: “A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.”
Rites of passage are traditional ceremonies which mark a person’s entry into a new phase such as adulthood.  In a rite of passage, the participant is identified as being in a liminal space during the ritual itself.  While the rite goes on, the person is no longer a child but not yet an adult.
It’s such a shame that modern western cultures don’t name and identify their rites of passage much.  It is such a powerful thing to notice that a key part of transitioning is the failure to now who we are and how we fit into the world.
One of the gifts of transitions, though, is that they teach us that our identity runs deeper than our context.  Who we are is more fundamental than the things we do.  Sometimes, the only way we can truly experience this is to lose or change the things we do.
Today’s practice is a threshold practice, just as liminal space is a threshold space.  Here, we begin to turn a corner.  We began with practices which importantly identified the dififcult reality we find ourselves in.  With today’s practice, we go deeper than the difficulty.  We look for what the deeper ‘something’ is.
Background:  Before this time of transition, you may have felt like you had much more in the way of answers.   One of the reasons that transitions are necessary is because with out them we accumulate so much of what is simply not necessary.  Just as moving homes requires a difficult process of weeding through our belongings and getting rid of those physical things which we do not need, more spiritual transitions require us to release the things which we do not spiritually need.
We learn, at these times, what is essential.  Sometimes, all we have is the knowledge that we are right here, and that God is right here, and that we are together.
(It is, of course, entirely possible that a person might not even be ready to say that much.  If your transition leaves you in a place where you do not even feel that you can speak of God, this is common and understandable.  It might be necessary to drop those two phrases from this practice, and simply repeat with the inbreath, “Here I am.”)

The Practice:
1.  Take three deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
2.  With the next in breath, say or think, “Here I am, God.”
3.  Exhale.
4.  With the next in breath, say or think, “Here you are God.”
5.  Exhale.
6.  With the next in breath, say or think, “Here we are together.”
7.  Inhale.
8.  Exhale.
9.  Repeat steps 2-8 for most of the time you were planning on devoting to this practice.
10.  When you are ready, release these words.  Sit in a time of wordless union.

Building a Spiritual Practice Through a Time of Transition Email 3

Today, we look at the 2nd descriptor of this email exploration: Deconstruction.
‘Deconstruction’ was originally coined by post-modern philosophy.  Given where it comes from, it’s not surprising that this is a complicated term, especially out of context.
Roughly speaking, ‘deconstruction’ means getting at the real essence of a thing.  Part of the process is to get past what we told ourselves ‘X’ meant, and what needs we thought it was fulfilling.   Therefore, a chef might ‘deconstruct’ a dish by considering what is non-negotiable about it.  She might then ditch all the other traditional parts of this dish which are not part of that essence.  They can then serve up something which is simultaneously new and familiar.
This term is attractive to many who are in a spiritual transition.  It implies an interesting in finding the true essence of the faith, and uncovering what hidden needs and wants were being satisfied by practicing the faith in a certain way.  In my own life, for example, I once believed that the hard work I did for a certain church was for God’s glory.  As I have deconstructed these beliefs, I become increasingly clear on the idea that much of this hard work was really for the attention and acclaim of other people.
Transitions in general and deconstruction in particular leave us in a space of wondering who we are and who God is.  Today’s practice owns these questions head-on.
Background: It is said that St. Francis past an entire night asking 2 simple questions: “Who am I, God?”  and “Who are you, God?”  It is not known what his method was; the correlation of the two questions to the two parts of breath is purely speculation on my part.

The Exercise

  1. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can.  Release your worries and obligations for the duration of your spiritual exercises today.
  2. As you inhale, ask the question, “Who are you God?”
  3. With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I God?”
  4. Continue this pattern.  When other thoughts or concerns arise, release them by returning to these questions and your breath.
  5. When your time is nearing completion, dismiss the questions.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  6. When you are ready, explore your feelings about the questions and consider whether or not you have anything that looks like answers to these two important questions.
Today’s practice can be considered a breath prayer.  A breath prayer, as I am using the term, is a spiritual practice which puts a special focus on the breath, particular with the intent of connecting specific phrases or words with the inhale, the exhale, or both.  If you are interested in more breath prayers at The Faith-ing Project Website, click here. 
There are several small guides available from The Faith-ing Proejct focused on various aspects of spiritual practice.  One of them is a book devoted to breath prayers like this one.  It is available as an e-book or paperback. For more information, click here.
The Faith-ing Project Main Page
The Faith-ing Project Main Page

Building a Spiritual Practice Through Transitions Email #2

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.

  • Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  • Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • 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.  
  • Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  • Breathe once.
  • Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  • Breathe again.
  • Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  • Breathe again.
  • Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  • Breathe.
  • Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  • If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.
We have recently made our entire audio file library available to everyone.  There are numerous exercises on this page, including an audio file of the welcoming prayer we have been practicing these last couple days.  You can find The Welcoming Prayer and other audio files here.
One of the figures who has been pivotal on my spiritual journey is father Richard Rohr. He has written many amazing books.   The organization he began is The Center for Action and Contemplation.  They feature a powerful daily email, classes, podcasts, and more.  Check out the CAC here.

Building a Spiritual Practice Through Transition, Email #1

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 otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.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.

36 A

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.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. 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 _____________’
  6. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

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 practiceaudio files of many spiritual practices, links to influential and thought provoking sites, and more!

Palm Sunday Email for the Apophatic-Cataphatic Exploration

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 otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

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.

The Exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable space.  Inhale.  Exhale.
    2.   Read Mathew 21: 1-11.  The NIV translation is below.  If you prefer a different translation, by all means use that one.  As you read this first account, simply read for an over-arching understanding.

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.”

  1. Take another deep breath.  Read the second account: Mark 11: 1-11.  This time, try and furnish the details of what it might have looked like.  Take a moment to create this image in your mind and really see the colors and surroundings. 

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,

“Hosanna![a]”

“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:

38

“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.

  1. Take a deep breath in and out.    As you read the following account (which comes from John 12:12-19) place yourself somewhere within the scene.   Furnish sensations of smell, touch and taste:  Imagine the temperature, the texture of your clothes on your skin.  Consider the scents that might be in the air or the residue of flavors left on your tongue in such a scene.
    The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna![d]”

“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:

15

“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!”

  1. Breathe again, deeply.
    7.  Ask God if there is anything you should be noticing from these accounts.
    8.  Re-read one or more of them.  Spend some time with God on what you might be meant to learn, here.
    9.  Take another breath.
    10.  Now, see a second layer to this whole passage.  View the donkey as a symbol of the disciplines and practices you use to get closer to God.  (Disciplines and practices can be formal, like this exercise.  Or informal, like the act of loving the people around you.)  See the city of Jerusalem as a symbol of your heart: this is also a place Jesus makes a triumphant entry into.  All those laying down their cloaks and palm fronds, and cheering are the people who have had a role in shaping who you are and where you are today.  Re-envision this, either in your imagaination or by re-reading this account.  But replace the faces of the crowd with the people who have loved and supported you; see that donkey as all the things you do to get closer to God; see the city of Jerusalem as a stand-in for you.  Replay this scene in your imagination, with the senses fully engaged.  Or re-read one of the accounts.
    11.  After Jesus’ entry into the city, spend some time in quiet communion.
     

     

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8th Email Exploration

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.
2.  Inhale.
3.  Exhale.
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.

Day 7 of the Lenten Exploration

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.

Background: At the bottom of this page are a few reminders on ways to modify this practice.

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 not-not father.”
7.    With your next exhale, Think or say “God is mother”
8.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is not mother.”
9.  With your next exhale, Think or say, “God is not-not mother.”
10.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is love.”
11.  With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not love”
12.  With your next inhale, think or say “God is not-not love.”
13.  With your next exhale, Think or say “God is a warrior”
14.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is not a warrior.”
15,  With your next exhale, think or say, “God is not-not a warrior.”
16.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is just..”
17.  With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not just.”
18.  With your next inhale, think or say, “God is not-not just.”
19.  With your next exhale, Think or say “God is in me.”
20.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is not in me.”
21.  With your next exhale, think or say, “God is not-not in me.”
22.  With your next inhale, Think or say “God is outside of me.”
23.  With your next exhale, Think or say “God is not outside of me”
24.  With your next inhale, think or say, “God is not-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,

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.”

One of the surprises for me as I have explored these practices is the realization that there don’t seem to be any purely apophatic practices.  Some do not rely on words but skirt around the idea darkness.  Others (like today’s practice) rely heavily on words but use those words to bring us to the edges of these words’ meanings.  Our next practice is another one which uses words to transcend words.  After that, we will begin a journey back to the cataphatic.