Category Archives: Spiritual Exercises

Exercise 36: A Welcoming Prayer

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.

Proponents of this prayer state that the focus should be on our feelings about life circumstances, rather than the exercise itself.

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.

36 B

  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. Breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. 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 would rather engage the welcoming prayer as an audiofile, consider this:

 

Exercise 35 Loving-Kindness

Background:  There is a Buddhist tradition of a loving-kindness meditation.  The exercises below are two versions recently practiced in The Faith-ing Project’s Thanksgiving Campaign.  The first more closely aligns with the Buddhist tradition.  The second reworks some of the Buddhist Concepts with a Christian, Gallic framework.

Exercise 35A: Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be free from suffering.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be healthy.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you be happy.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you find peace and joy.’
14. Exhale.
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May you be free from suffering.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you find peace and joy.
17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May I be free from suffering.
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May I be healthy.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May I be happy.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May I find peace and joy.

Exercise 35B: A Gallic-Christian Practice.
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the road rise up to meat you.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the wind be always at your back.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the sun shine warm on your face.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the rains fall softly on your fields’
14. Exhale.
15.  With the next inhale, think ‘May God hold you in the palm of his hand.’
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May the roads rise up to meet me..
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May the winds always be at my back.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May the sun shine warm upon my face.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May the rains fall soft upon my fields.
25.  Exhale.
26 Inhale, think, ‘May God hold me in the palm of his hand.’

Exercise 34: The Examen with multiple questions

Background:  St Ignatius pioneered The Examen in the 1500’s.  This is a method of reflecting on the day, and considering where we find our consolations (places it easy to see God’s work) and desolations (places where it is more difficult to see God at work.)

One of my favorite things about this practice is the ways that it helps me to put my life in perspective.  Sometimes, I am feeling quite stressed out.  My sense is that there are many things that are weighing me down.  What I discover is that I have many more consolations than desolations; I have much more to be thankful about than I do to worry about.  Sometimes, this process even helps me to recognize that the things I initially thought were desolations are actually consolations:  When my initial instinct is to think God isn’t there at all, I actually find God waiting there for me to catch up and find he was waiting there all along!

Today’s Exercise:
1. Take a dew deep breaths: in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Try and fill the lungs thoroughly on the inhale.  Try and empty them completely on the exhale.
2.  When you have released your ordinary concerns, turn your mind back toward the last 24 hours.  Think first about what came most recently.  Relive these experiences.  Try and engage your sense memory, and think about the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.  Bring your memory further back.  Don’t rush through considering all the details, until you find yourself wherever you were at this time, 24 hours ago.
3.  Consider your desolations by exploring these questions about this time period you just brought back to your mind.  Take your time as you explore each of them:

  • When were you least able to give and receive love?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
  • Relive the feelings without trying to change or fix it in any way.
  • Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.

4.  Now, consider your consolations by considering these questions:

  • If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
  • When were you most able to give and receive love today?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
  • Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.

5.  At the bare minimum, try and hold your gratitude for the consolation.  Consider, if you can, the desolation.  Is there any way that made the positive part better?  Is there any sort of gratitude you can find for even the difficult events…  perhaps for the growth they make possible in you?  Perhaps that you had the resources to withstand this difficult time?  If this feeling is not there, don’t force it or shame yourself; as a human being, this is simply where we are sometimes.

Exercise 33: Working Through a Verse, One Word at a Time.

Background:  Like many sacred reading practices, this one can be used with material from many different sources.  The most common, of course, would be from a sacred text.  But it would also work with a poem, prose, letter.  The value of this practice is in the way it deeply reinforces and repeats words that are important to internalize.  Choose, therefore, words that you need to remind yourself of.  In today’s exercise, I have chosen the opening to psalm 40.

The Exercise

  1.  Release your worries and responsibilities, for the duration of your spiritual practice today.
  2. Breathe.
  3. Read the following passage to yourself, just as it is written: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  4. Inhale, and exhale again, as you consider what those words mean.
  5. Now, say the phrase again to yourself.  But this time, emphasize the first word: I waited patiently for the Lordhe turned to me and heard my cry.
  6. With your next breath, consider what this sentence now means.  What different shades of meaning are invoked by this emphasis?
  7. Repeat the phrase, but emphasizing the second word: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  8. Again, during your cleansing breath, consider the new meanings.
  9. Now, focus on the third word:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  10. During the inhale and exhale, explore what this phrase means.
  11. Progress to the fourth word:  I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  12. With that next breath, lean into just who it is you are waiting for.
  13. The fifth word:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  14. Consider, perhaps the idea that their are many things which might want to be Lord of your life, but there is only one entity who actually is.
  15. Say to yourself the sentence emphasizing the sixth word:  I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard me cry.
  16. Consider the meaning of the sentence with that emphasis.
  17. Focus, now on that next word:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  18. With your breath, experience this reality.
  19. Shifting to the next word in the sentence, the emphasis becomes:  I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  20. As you inhale and exhale, consider the meaning of this sentence.
  21. Now, say to yourself : I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  22. With that next breath, consider this new sentence.
  23. The next sentence is:  I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  24.  Live this reality with your next breath.  Rejoice in the reality that he turned to you.
  25. Now: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  26. Can you find anything new as you meditate, with your next breath, on this emphasis?
  27. Consider the sentence:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  28. Think about this with your next in-breath and out-breath.
  29. You will say this verse two more times in this exercise.  Emphasize it this way this time:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
  30. Consider this carefully.
  31. One final time, emphasizing that last word:   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

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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Exercise 32: 7-11 Breathing

Background: One of the values of mindfulness practice is that it simply brings a focus to the breath.   On one level, the specifics of the breathing count is not the most important thing.  The most important thing is to note the reaction that different lengths of inhales and exhales take.

However, there has been significant research done.  It seems that breathing in for a count of 7 and breathing out for a count of 11 is the best timing to maintain an alert awareness.  First responders, are in fact, taught 7-11 breathing as a way to be calm in the fact of panic.

The Exercise:

  1.  Find your center by placing your feet flat on the floor.
  2. As you breathe in, keep a steady internal count of 7.
  3. As you breathe out, keep a steep internal count of 11.
  4. As your mind wanders, return to the breath.

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.
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Exercise 31: Adoration

Background:  This exercise works best in an outside environment.  While it is good to simply explore, sometimes, don’t be unwise about this situation.  Pay attention to your surroundings enough to know where you are and how to safely get yourself back to where you began, please.

The Exercise:

  1. Explore your surroundings; meander, and hike around.  Do your best to see things with new eyes, even if you are familiar with the area.  
  2. Find your breath and do your best to stay there, breathing calmly for the duration of this exercise.
  3. As you continue your walk, be open for little nudgings from The Spirit of an object to give special attention to.  It might be a rock, a leaf, a tree, a plant; perhaps even an anthill or smudge of paint.
  4. When you find this object– what ever it is– approach it with loving reverence.  
  5. Carefully consider the setting of the object.  Where is it?  What is around it?
  6. Look at it from as many angles as possible.
  7. Touch and smell it, if you can.
  8. Sit with this object, whatever it is.  Love it, as best you can.
  9. This object is a manifestation of God.  The whole of God can be inferred from this one single thing.  Sit with this image for a long time.  Get to know it intimately.
  10. If thoughts, feelings, or memories seek to intrude on this time, release them by returning to this item, whatever it is.

Throughout your day, know that you can bring this object to mind as a way to find calm.

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 30A & 30B: The Five Senses

Background: Experts, today, debate the precise number of senses that we actually have.  Most agree that it is, in fact, more than 5.

However, the traditionally identified 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste) are a good place to begin.

Like many mindfulness activities, this one is at its best when we try to discover something new though our sensations.  Work at not phoning it in; be present to what is actually around you!

Spiritual Exercise 30A

  1.  Breathe in slowly through the nose, and out through the mouth.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Begin by noticing what you can see by being aware of what you are looking at now.  Tune in, as fully as you can, to your vision.  When you are ready, look around.  Try to discover something new.  
  3. Now, pay attention to the things you can hear.  Listen for sounds you were unaware of.  If their are sounds you often hear, listen deeply to them.  Make an attempt to find something new in the characteristics of these common sounds.
  4. Now, pay attention to your sense of touch.  Note how your body connects to wherever you are sitting.  Tune into the feeling of the clothes as they hang on your body.  Notice the temperature your neck is registering.  Explore the textures of where your hands are with your finger tips.
  5. Breathe deeply in.  Try and find scents in the air.
  6. Now, pay attention to the taste in your mouth.  
  7. If you like, cycle through each of your senses again.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Background: The exercise that follows is a variation on the one above.  This is a great thing to bring with you into the world.  When seeking calm from invasions like panic attacks, this can be a very calming thing.

Spiritual Exercise 30B

  1.  Notice 5 things you can see.  Name each one.
  2. Notice 4 things you can hear.  Wait for them to happen if there are not 4 things right away.  Name each.
  1. Notice 3 sensations you can feel.  Identify each one.
  2. Notice 2 smells in the air.
  3. Find one taste on your tongue.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.