Category Archives: Aphatic Exercises

Exercise 57: In God’s Womb

Background:  Much of my spiritual growth over these last few years has been around opening my mind to the reality of the divine feminine.  I suppose it was one of those, “When-the-student-is ready,-the-teacher-appears” things, that Phileena Heuertz’s Mindful Silence was so impactful to me.  In particular, she talks about a period in her life that she found it helpful to see herself as within God’s womb.

If you had asked me about being in God’s womb even a year before that, I would have found some made up reason to be uncomfortable with it.  The reality is that I had not truly made peace with the fact that both men and women are made in God’s image.

The exercise below was inspired by Ms. Heuertz’s experiences as portrayed in that book.  If you are going to read only one book about the contemplative path, it should be that one.  If you are going to read more than one book about the contemplative path, you ought to think about picking up one of mine.  🙂

On the subject, this exercise will appear in the soon-to-be-released Contemplating Lent.  Stay tuned for more details.

The Exercise

  1. Close your eyes.  Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths.  Try to fully empty your lungs with the exhales and fully inflate your lungs with the inhales.
  3. Imagine yourself dwelling in the womb of God.  It is a place that is safe, comfortable, and warm.
  4. Feel all your needs for food and oxygen being met through a cord that reaches into your body through your navel.  Know that you are protected in this place.
  5. Continue those deep breaths.  Luxuriate in the way you are being nourished and prepared for what is next.
  6. Take all the time that you need.
  7. God is within you.  Know that this is true.  Take a deep breath.
  8. Live in the paradox that even as you are in God, God is in you.
  9. God may be small, now.  But a divine spark is within.  See this spark as a child in a womb.
  10. Know that you are nourishing this God-spark.  It is growing strong and healthy in the dark mystery within you.
  11. As you continue to breathe deeply, and hold to the image that you are in God’s womb, cultivate this idea that God is also in your womb.
  12. Sit in this comfortable paradox, this warm, nourishing safe reality for as long as you need, today.

Contemplating Lent (1)

 

Exercise 46: Back at the Apophatic

Background: Many people find apophatic meditation difficult but rewarding.

Once the basics are under control, it is worth coordinating the breath with this practice.  With the affirmation (‘God is Love’) we might inhale as a way to embrace this truth.  With the negation, we might exhale (‘God is not love’) as a form of rejecting the limitedness of the affirmation.

When we negate the negation (‘God is not not love)  we can try to coordinate this so it equally positioned with the inhale and the exhale of the next breath.  A goal (one not worth fussing much over) is to have the first ‘not’ concluded with the inhale.

The subject (God) and the objects (Love, etc.)  are here mostly as place holders.  If there is a subject or object that resonates more deeply with you, by all means, run with these.   It is highly reccomended that whatever objects you are using, you decide these in advance.

The Exercise

  1.  Create a position which is both comfortable and alert.
  2. Release your responsibilities and expectations.
  3. Breathe deeply.
  4. With your next inhale, think “God is Love.”
  5. With your next exhale, think “God is not Love.”
  6. Part way through your next inhale, begin with “God is not”
  7. Moving into the exhale, complete the thought “not love.”
  8. With your next inhale, think “God is in control.”
  9. With your next exhale, think “God is not in control.”
  10. Part way through your next inhale, begin with “God is not”
  11. Moving into the exhale, complete the thought “not in control.”
  12. With your next inhale, think “God is Jesus.”
  13. With your next exhale, think “God is not Jesus.”
  14. Part way through your next inhale, begin with “God is not”
  15. Moving into the exhale, complete the thought “not Jesus.”
  16. When you are ready, release this practice and sit in wordless union.

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Exercise 45: The Eye through which I see God…

Background: Mystic Meister Eckhart said, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one love.”  This sentence is, to me, nearly as amazing as it is confusing.  This exercise is an attempt to grapple with this strange, wonderful idea.

The Exercise

  1.  Breathe deeply.
  2. Turn your inner eye to God.  See God watching you.
  3. Think about who God is, see God as best you can through your mind’s eye.
  4. When you are ready, consider the idea that God is watching all things.  God is watching you watch God.
  5. As best you can, consider the idea that God sees you fully.  God sees you with infared and ultraviolet vision; God sees all the things you have ever done.  God sees you down to the smallest subatomic particle.  God sees all the things you have ever been.  God sees your body, mind, and soul.  God sees the original divine spark which made human kind.
  6. Know that As God sees you, in every possible way, God sees your potential.  God knows the depths of your passion and love.  God sees and pronounces you as so good.
  7. Sit with God’s loving view on you for a bit.  
  8. Take three deep breaths.
  9. Combine the views, as best you can.  God looking down on you is you looking up at God.  Your eyes are God’s eyes.  God’s eyes are yours.  You are God.  God is you.

Day 9 of the Solstice and Advent Campaign

Here is the audio track for today’s practice:

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project share spiritual practices with a world in desperate need.  Become a  Patron.
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Exercise 37: An Apaphatic Prayer Around the Trinity

Background: Apaphatic prayer is a way to work on the nondualistic mind.  It is done by first affirming a statement about God…  For example, “God is love.”  Next we negate this statement: “God is not love.”  Then we negate the negation: “God is not not-love.”

The trinity is a particularly powerful idea for Christians to apahatically meditate over.  This is because the portions of the trinity is true…  And also contradictory.  This first version of a trinity-focused apaphatic meditation will be repetitive and simple.

37A: Simple Trinity-Based Apaphatic Prayer

  1.  Find your center.
  2. Take a cleansing breath.
  3. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  4. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  5. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  6. Take a cleansing breath.
  7. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  8. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  9. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  10. Take a cleansing breath. 
  11. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  12. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  13. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is not not-spirit.”
  14. Take a cleansing breath.
  15. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  16. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  17. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  18. Take a cleansing breath.
  19. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  20. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  21. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  22. Take a cleansing breath. 
  23. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  24. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  25. Take a cleansing breath.
  26. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  27. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  28. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  29. Take a cleansing breath.
  30. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  31. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  32. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  33. Take a cleansing breath. 
  34. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  35. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”

 

Background: The following exercise, begins, like 37A, with considering the 3 person of the trinity, but then moves on to consider the other contradictory implications of the doctrine.

Exercise 37B

  1.  Find your center.
  2. Take a cleansing breath.
  3. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  4. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  5. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  6. Take a cleansing breath.
  7. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  8. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  9. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  10. Take a cleansing breath. 
  11. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  12. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  13. Take a cleansing breath.
  14. Inhale.  Say or think “God is one.”
  15. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not one.”
  16. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-one.”
  17. Take a cleansing breath.
  18. Inhale.  Say or think “God is father.”
  19. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not father.”
  20. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not father.”
  21. Take a cleansing breath.
  22. Inhale.  Say or think “God is three.”
  23. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not three.”
  24. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-three.”
  25. Take a cleansing breath.
  26. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  27. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  28. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  29. Take a cleansing breath.
  30. Inhale.  Say or think “God is three-in-one.”
  31. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not three-in-one.”
  32. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-three-in-one.”
  33. Take a cleansing breath.
  34. Inhale.  Say or think “God is spirit.”
  35. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  36. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not spirit.”

 

Exercise 16: Apaphatic Prayer with Variable Attributes

Background: The apaphatic tradition is rooted in the idea that there are ways that God is simply not knowable.  All the things that God is, these go beyond the words we use and the thoughts we can think.

More specifically, apaphatic meditation is a 3-step process: we begin with a statement, then we negate, then we negate the negation.  For example, we might think/ say “God is love.”  (statement)  Then “God is not Love.”  (negation)  then “God is not not-love.”

In a past meditation, we applied these steps to a series of pre-designed statement.  In today’s exercise, you will furnish your own sentences to apply this 3-step process to.

As with all of these spiritual exercises, it might be that there is a name for God that resonates more deeply with you than “God.”  Please feel free to substitute the word that makes you feel closest to the divine.

The Exercise

  1. Find something to write with.  (A phone, tablet, or laptop computer is just as useful as old fashioned paper-and-pencil.)
  2. Release, as best you can, your stresses and responsibilities.
  3. Complete the following phrase and write it down.  “God is ______.”
  4.  Continue that 4-6 more times.
  5. Read your list.
  6. Begin the apaphatic meditation by saying the top sentence on your list with your next exhale. (God is….)
  7.  Negate that sentence .  (God is not….)
  8.  Negate the negation (God is not not-…)
  9. Release, as best you can, all your thoughts for the next breath.
  10. With your next exhale, consider sentence number 2 on your list.  Then negate sentence number 2.  Then negate the negation.
  11. Work your way through the whole of your list.
  12. If you have time and inclination, go back through the list again, or at least the phrases which struck you the most deeply.
  13. When you are ready to be done, take three breaths to release this activity.
  14. Enjoy a time of wordless union with God.
  15. Think about the phrases and portions of this activity which struck you the most deeply.  Consider what new understandings of God you have.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
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Exercise 13: Apophatic Prayer with Pre-assigned Attributes

Here is a related, but not identical audio presentation of this exercise:

Background: Apophatic Prayer can be a challenging– and transcendent– technique.

It is rooted in a tradition which focuses on defining God by stating that which he is not.  Proponents of this tradition say that when we say “God is infinite.”  We don’t actually have a way of truly imagining what this means.  The most we can say is “God is not finite.”

Apophatic Prayer is rooted in a 3 step process:

  1. We begin with a statement, for example, “God is love.”
  2. We negate that statement, for example, “God is not Love.”  This negation is our admission that our limited, human concepts of “love” do not apply to God.
  3. We negate the negation.  “God is not not-love.”

The 3rd step is where the challenge is for most people.  This is an act of humility.  It is a recognition that we still can not fully know the ultimate, even by claiming God is both X and not X.

Exercise

  1. Place your feet flat on the floor.  As best you can, release your concerns and responsibilities.
  2. Breathe a few breaths.  Relax.
  3. With your next inhale, think (or say) God is love.
  4. With your next exhale, think (or say) God is not love.
  5. With your next inhale, think (or say) God is not not-love.
  6. For the next exhale and inhale, as best you can, clear your mind.
  7. With your next exhale, think (or say) God is father.
  8.  With your next inhale, think (or say) God is not father.
  9. With your next exhale, think (or say) God is not not-father.
  10. For the next inhale and exhale, as best you can, clear your mind.
  11. With your next inhale, think (or say) God is mother.
  12. With your next exhale, think (or say) God is not mother.
  13. With your next inhale, think (or say) God is not not-mother.
  14. For the next inhale and exhale, as best you can, clear your mind.
  15.  Consider continuing this pattern for any of the following: God is peace, God is wisdom, God is power, God is here, God is creator.
  16. Give a few minutes thought to which statements, negations, and negations of the negations were the most difficult for you.   Have a conversation with God about these feelings.
  17. When you are ready, release your words and thoughts.  Spend some time with God, enjoying wordless communion and new understandings of the divine.

 

Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. -Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1)