Category Archives: Spiritual Exercises

Exercise 42: Another Approach to Lectio

Background:   Lectio Divina is clearly more than just a single practice.  In some ways, it is more like a philosophy, a general approach that seeks to invite God into our reading.

The Practice:  

  1.  Select a short passage to be read.
  2. As you read, be aware of the words and phrase that stand out.
  3. Read a second time.  When you are through, reflect on the things that impact you.  Consider expressing these reflections out loud or in writing.
  4.  Read it a third time.  This time say a prayer when your are through.  Focus this prayer on what this experience was like for you, and what it is challenging you to do in your life.
  5. Read it a fourth time.
  6. Sit in silence.

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Exercise 41: Mindful Walking

Background: Mindful practices are rooted in the idea that our senses live in the now.  They have no memory, anxiety, hopes, or fears.  So whenever we engage and tune into our senses, we are helping to locate ourselves right here and right now.

There are many ways to use this.  For example: listening to a familiar song, but identifying one particular instrument and only focusing on this for the whole song.  Or doing yoga or dancing, with a particular awareness to one particular body part or sensation.

In today’s practice, I will break this down for one way of approaching a mindful walk.  As with all practice, please engage in this safely.  Be aware of where you are going, how you will get home, and your physical limitations around how far you should walk.

 

The Practice

1.  Before you begin, have your shoes ready.

2.  Sit and center yourself.  Release yourself from other responsibilities.   Take 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

3.   Stretch, hydrate yourself, and consider your route as needed.

4.  Begin your walk.  Focus on a single sensation through out.   You might choose any one of these:

* The feeling of the air as it enters through your nose on the inhale.

* The feeling of your diaphragm expanding with each breath.

* The feeling on the sole of your foot as it makes contact with the ground each time.

* The feeling of any soreness or tightness.  (It’s a strange thing, drawing our awareness to physical hurts.  In my experience, doing it casually makes it feel worse.  But committing to mindfully inhabitting an ache or a pain is a way to befriend the pain, and realize that pain is only pain.)

* Looking for a particular shape or color everywhere it appears.

* Being on-the-look-out for all the different smells you can notice.

* Being on-the-look-out for all the difference temperature changes or air movements that come to your cheeks.

5.  To whatever extent it is safe to do so, do not consciously consider the route you are going to take.  Dwell inside the perception you chose and let your body decide where you are going to go.

6.  Whenever your brain begins to do its job of thinking, return to your breath or your chosen sensation.

7.  When your walk is completed, spend a few minutes sitting with your chosen sensation and breathing.

Throughout your day today, return to your sensation.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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Exercise 40: Mirroring

Background: God knows everything about you.  And God loves you, thoroughly, utterly and irrevocably.  For the duration of today’s practice, please release your feelings and fears about God being angry about who you are or what you have done.  While those feelings may be rooted in reality they will not serve you in this practice, because whatever else God feels toward you, God’s love is not deniable or negotiable.

Today’s practice is inspired by the work of Richard Rohr and others who would have us contemplate God’s loving gaze on every part of us.

In this practice, we will begin by experiencing God’s gaze on our physical body.  We will then experience God’s gaze on our minds, and then in our heart.

After a time of experiencing God gazing down on us, and experiencing ourselves, mirroring this gaze back up on God, we will close by breathing out this accumulated Love on the world around us.

The Practice

1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe deeply, filling and emptying the lungs as completely as possible.

2.  Inhale. With your breath, inhale the reality that God is love.

3.  With your next exhale, exhale the things you fear about what God might think or believe about you.

4.  For as many breaths as you need, feel God’s loving gaze falling on your body.  Perhaps it begins at your feet and works its way up.  Let God’s gaze stop in places you feel sore, tight, or hurt.

5.  For 3 more breaths, feel God’s loving gaze on the whole of your physical body.

6.  Now, experience God’s gaze on your mind.  Let it begin on your thoughts and beliefs.  Perhaps you will feel this as God’s view resting deeply within your head.

7.  God’s gaze also lands on your memories.  It is a loving and healing gaze.  As you continue to breathe deeply, feel God’s watching fix some of the brokenness of your past.

8.  God’s gaze will come down to your feelings.  Perhaps you will experience God’s gaze on your physical heart as God lovingly beholds the contents of your feelings.

9.  Continuing to breathe deeply, for 3 breaths, let God take in the whole of your brain and your heart.  Feel loved and healed.

10.  As you continue these deep inhales, see that God beholds you.  All of you.  In every moment.  As he is watching you, the whole of, watch God.  You have become a sort-of mirror, reflecting that loving gaze back up to God.

11.  Luxuriate in this.  Take as long as you would like.  Continue to be present to deep breaths.

12.  Just as a mirror turns back all of the light that is casting on it, you are turning back God’s gaze fully.  Yet, the mirror grows warm.  It keeps some of the heat where it is.  Let yourself grow warm with God’s love.

13.  As this heat increases, consider those you love the most.  And breathe out your love on them.

14.  Continuing to breathe deeply, widen the circle of those you are breathing out love on.  Include casual friends.

15.  Inhaling, and exhaling, reciving God’s love, you can know breathe your love on the whole of the human race.

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Day 9 of the Solstice and Advent Campaign

Here is the audio track for today’s practice:

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Exercise 38: The Countdown

This simple mindfulness exercise is a powerful way to reign in anxiety.  It might be used as a precursor to another spiritual exercise, or as a way of handling racing thoughts.

Exercise:

  1.  Breathe deeply.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Identify and name to yourself 5 things you can see.
  3. Take a cleansing breath.
  4. Identify and name 4 things you can hear.
  5. Take a cleansing breath.
  6. Identify and name 3 things you can feel.  (textures, pressures etc; not emotions.)
  7. Take a cleansing breath.
  8.  Identify and name 2 things you can smell.
  9. Take a cleansing breath.
  10. Identify and name 1 thing you taste.

As you go about your day, recall that your senses have no worries about the future and no concerns with the past.  Do this exercise, in whole or in part, whenever you are needing to be rooted in the now.

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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  1. afe, 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.

 

Contemplation and Pseudo-Contemplation

There are so many things competing for our attention.

The makers of our devices are engaged in a kind-of arms race.  Instead of creating weapons of destruction, instead of having a goal of militaristic conquest, they are creating weapons of distraction.  The goal is not conquest, it is mindlessness.  But it is still an arms race.

They are very good at what they do.  And the goods and services they provide are not bad things in moderation.

But make no mistake: endlessly scrolling through a facebook feed only feels like meditation.

(And please, feel no judgement or shame here!  I am writing as much to myself as I am to you, dear reader!  These struggles are real!)

Further, meditating but being willing to be distracted…  Engaging in a spiritual exercise while having my facebook page open, so that I can take a little break if I get that endorphin-producing ‘ping’….  that is not really meditation.  That is wasting time while I am hoping that something interesting is going to happen on my social media feeds.

Part of the growth promised by these spiritual exercises is in facing down boredom.  More than just filling my time, the important thing is that I stop running from my fears about myself and the world.  This is why it is so valuable to commit to a length of time each day.  So much good will result when I don’t offer myself easy retreats out of this sometimes difficult work.

Let’s make a deal with each other, and with outselves.  Let’s agree that we might choose to engage in distractions: music to fill up the air, games as candy for our eyes, social media as a venue for our monkey mind to do a little dance.  But let’s be honest about it.  If we are going to do it, let’s make the conscious decision to do these things.  They are o.k. in moderation.  But let’s not pretend that we are meditating while really we are just looking for an excuse to engage those activities.

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.

 

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 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: