Category Archives: Practices with Christian elements

Exercise 29: A Prayer for…

Background:  This exercise is a challenging one…  And goes best with minimal introduction.

 

Spiritual Exercise

  1.  Find your center.  Take a deep breath.
  2.  Breathe slowly, in through the nose.  
  3. Breathe out through the mouth.  If you like, place your hand on your abdomen, and feel the breath coming in and out.
  4. When you are ready, consider the things you are wishing for right now; what are you asking, from God?  They might be very specific.  They might be very abstract.  Whatever they are, bring them to mind.
  5. Consider the people you struggle with.  Enemies and opponent, people you struggle with.
  6. Bring back to mind the things you are wishing for.  And pray that the people that you are struggling with receive these things you are hoping for yourself.

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Contemporary Traditions #2: More on Word-Based Prayer

In addition to using prompts meant to guide and deepen your word-based prayers, there are some ways to enhance the experience.  Consider the following:

  1. Bring an empty chair into your prayer space.  After centering yourself, envision that God is sitting there, across from you.  Speak the words that come into your heart to that empty chair. Speak them out loud if you can.
  2. There are good reasons for saying grace: a prayer before a meal.  There are many things connected to food: the systems which bring the food to you, the job which earns the money, the healthy body systems working to digest and excrete the food.  Grace is a time to thank God for these, and for the people who worked together to create and enjoy the food. So say grace before a meal today. Say it in your head, or better yet, out loud with people you love.
  3. Just as their are good reasons for the tradition of praying before a meal, there are also good reasons for praying before bed.  PErhaps you will go super old school and kneel by your bed if health permits. Look back over the day. Share the best and the worst of it, and everything in between.  Thank God for the people you enjoyed and for the people who you didn’t. Ask God for what you need. Look foreward to tomorrow in your prayers. Ask for sound sleep for you and yours.
  4. Early Christians followed their Jewish predeccors in comitting to a schedule of multiple prayers each day.   Praying the Hours is making a comittment to pray through out the day,  One modern pattern is to pray at dawn, 9 AM, noon, mid-afternoon, sundown, and bed time,  In our time, we have the advantafe of setting alarms on devices to help us keep track of this comittment.  As you decide how much to commit to this discipline, a related question is what will you pray? Perhaps you will merely check in with God.  Maybe you will make your way through the psalms. Perhaps you will say the same prayer each time.
  5. There is a tradition that adresses God in a formal way.  Sometimes we use archaic language, sometimes we dress in our very best for church,  Connecting with God in this way has both value and limitations. Some of us who might not observe these traditions might be hung up by God’s eternal wisdom and power.  It can be difficult to talk to God. Today, do your best to put thoughts of formality and eternity out of your mind, Talk to God as if you were speaking to a friend. Have a chat with him!  
  6. In the bible, Paul tells us to pray constantly.  Let that be your goal today. Don’t set aside a few minutes to talk with God seperately.  Rather, do your best to mantain an all-day dialogue with God. As you get ready, consider some ways that you can help yourself be focused on this.  It might mean asking for somebody to check in with you, setting up alarms, etc.
  7. We all have scripts; negative self talk that gets in our way.  Words, perhaps internalized from people around us in our childhood that can be destructive.  It can be a life’s work, to detect the scripts which constantly play within our own minds. However, a regular spiritual practice of contemplation can start to untangle this.  Making a conscious effort can help even more. Today, begin by centering and calming yourself. Then spend some time listening for the constant, negative statements that weigh you down.  Write down the words which you think you hear at the end of the contemplation time. We will use them over the next couple days. Try and be open all day to destructive thought patterns. Be ready to add to your list if need be.
  8. Get the list of negative statements you created yesterday.  After spending some time calming yourself, read them, one at a time.  Speak to God about these destructive statements. Talk to him about where they came from.  Hear God’s words about the impact they have. Ask God to take them up from you. But hold onto the list.  We are going to work with these one more day.
  9. Today is your last day with that terrible list of scripts we play in our head.  Your job today is to create a positive affirmation that negates each of these on a seperate sheet of paper.  For example, if you wrote down “I am not enough.” The negation is “I am enough.” If you wrote down “No one loves me.”  The negation is “I am loved” or “God loves me.” After you have written these down, stay with them. Give yourself at least a single breath of saying these words.  Maybe there are some that you should choose to affirm for the next several days or weeks. When you are done, you might wish to think about ritualistically releasing the list with the negatives; bury it or burn it or throw it away.  You might wish to take your affirmations and place them somewhere visible as a reminder.
  10. And let today be your day of confession.  None of us are perfect. All of us fall short.  To admit these short comings is a powerful thing.  Fully own your mistakes and the troubles that they have caused.  Ask God for forgiveness and assistance in not walking down that road again.
  11. The Jewish scriptures have a precedent for collective sin as well as individual ones.  Today, confess the sins of the groups that you belong to. Perhaps they are the result of privilige.  Consider your family, ethnic background, personal life, and work groups. Think about the groups you belong to today, and the groups you have belonged to in the past.  Ask God for guidance in how to be a more responsible member of this community.

Exercise 28: The Jesus Prayer

Background: The Eastern (Orthodox) churches have a long history of supporting the repetition of this phrase.  It is traditionally suggested that this be said from the “heart” and not the “head.”  The instructions are generally to say it with out ceasing, preferably out loud.  The goal is to reach a place of ceaseless prayer, where these words are constantly being thought and experienced.

The Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
  3. Say the following words out loud.  Try to feel their meaning.  “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  4. Repeat that phrase for the duration of your spiritual practice.

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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 27: The Examen

Background: St. Ignatius is closely tied to the Catholic Tradition.  His work still guides many spiritual retreats.

One of his practices is an exploration of those things which bring us closer to God– consolations, and those things which bring us further from God– desolations.

It should be noted that The Examen might be written or practiced by thinking and saying the words.

Spiritual Exercise:

  1.  Find your center by placing your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Breathe and relax, as best you can.
  3. When you are ready, bring the last 24 hours to your mind.  Continue to breathe slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Begin by reliving where you were 24 hours ago.  Gradually, bring yourself through the last day of your life.
  4. Consider your desolations:
    1. What are you least thankful for?
    2. Where can’t you see God?
    3. What seems to be moving you away from God?
  5. Release your desolations by breathing slowly and calmly.
  6. Consider your consolations.
    1. What are you most thankful for?
    2. Where can you see God?
    3. What seems to be moving you toward God?
  7. Release your consolations by breathing slowly and carefully.
  8. As you consider the last 24 hours in their fullness, are there any things you would like to consider: was God, perhaps moving in things you initially labelled ‘desolations?’  Is it possible that God was not present in things you initially labelled ‘Consolations’?
  9. Release the word-based part of the practice.  Enjoy a moment with God.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

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 24: Meeting with Jesus

Background:  Often, when we visualize an event, there is a desire to place it in an either/or category.

Harry Potter captures this well.  Near the climax of the entire series, events occur in another world, away from the action.  The things that occur there do not seem possible.  The title character asks, “Was this real?  Or is it happening in my head?”

The sage-like Albus Dumbledore answers “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

This is a helpful way to enter into visualizations.  Perhaps they are the place where our minds intersect with something bigger than us.  But even if it is only us…   This too, is real.

The more the senses are engaged in visualizations, the more powerful they tend to be.  When they leave the setting open to your own history, it can be wonderful to return to a setting that you have fond memories of, perhaps a place that you can not easily go back to.

In today’s exercise, you will be invited to meet with Jesus.  Perhaps you will substitute this appearance with someone else.  Maybe you don’t have a name for Spirit as Spirit shows up.

Lots can be reaped out of this experience if we resist the temptation to turn this into a historical quest.  Getting caught up on the details we don’t know can sour this experience.

Spiritual Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe.
  2. Choose a setting you know well.  Preferably an outside environment.
  3. After you have recalled what this place looks like, furnish the sounds.  Feel the temperature of the air.  Consider the smells.
  4. See yourself walking along a path in this special place.
  5. Feel yourself approached by a figure.  This is Jesus.  Jesus will be walking with you, today.
  6. It might be a while before Jesus speaks.  Perhaps there won’t be any words at all.
  7. Continue the walk for as long as you would like.  Enjoy your time with him.

 

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 continue to deliver this conetent to a world in need: become a Patron.
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Spiritual Exercise 22: Slowly Honing in Via Lectio

Background: Lectio Divina is a practice which invites us to hear the divine as we read a sacred text.  Ordinarily we pre-select a passage and read the whole thing several times, looking for a phrase that connects with us.

Sometimes this process of searching for that sacred phrase is the most difficult part.  Sometimes, that difficulty might be a good thing.  Today’s practice side-steps that difficulty, though.

The idea is to read a passage several times, but each time to re-read a progressively smaller portion, honing in something by cutting out aspect of the reading that are not speaking to you.

Spiritual Exercise

  1. Choose a passage to focus your reading on.  The total reading might be around 3 pages.  
  2. Sit with your back straight, and relax.  Breathe.
  3. When you are ready pick up your selection.  Read it, be aware of the feelings the reading stirs within you.  Be on the look out for the portion (approximately half) of the reading that connects most intimately with you.
  4. If you get to the end and are unclear about what portion you want to return to, then re-read the whole thing.
  5. When you have chosen a section of the reading (About half of the original) to re-read, take a few cleansing breaths.  Then re-read this chosen selection from your original reading.  Again, be on the look out for a section, of your reading that speaks most directly to you.  The selection you choose now might be somewhere between 1 page and 1/2 page.
  6. Be on the look out for the paragraph, within this selection, that speaks the most to you.  Choose that paragraph.
  7. Breathe, again.
  8. Now, find a sentence in that paragraph.
  9. If the sentence is too long to hold easily in your mind, consider shortening it.
  10. Transition away from your reading material, now.  Say the sacred phrase with each breath.  Consider assigning a portion to the exhale and a portion to the inhale.
  11. Continue this meditation on the single phrase for a while.
  12. When you are ready, release the phrase.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  13. If you like, enjoy a conversation with God about your new understanding.

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 continue to deliver this conetent to a world in need: become a Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.

Exercise #21: Listening to God Listen to Me

Background: Have you known — or even been –. So utterly in love that you would like to be on the phone with a person even if you had nothing to say?  There is something immature about that kind of giddiness, perhaps. But there is something wonderful, too. Consider it, just knowing that there is a line open between you and your love, even if you are not saying anything to them: sometimes this is enough.

I am not sure that Mother Theresa’s gravitas, saintliness, and devoted life often engenders comparisons to infatuated teenagers.  But I believe here, the comparison is valid.

Mother Theresa was once asked about her prayer life.  She explained that often, she listens to God. When asked what God is saying, she responded that God often said nothing: that she simply listens to God listening to her.

The Exercise

  1.  Speak to God for a while.  You might wish to use one of the prayer/spiritual journaling prompts.
  2. When you are done speaking, be still.  Listen for what God says in return.
  3. When God is done speaking (if God begins) be still.
  4. Experience yourself listening to God listen to you.  Allow yourself to grow closer.