Category Archives: Strategies

Strategy #4- Touch

There are several traditions which use some sort of tactile stimulation to help practioners be in the moment.  Most notably, Buddhists have their prayer beads, and Catholics have their rosaries.  As simple as these are, we can get some of the benefits of them with nothing more than hands.

There is research verifying the idea that tracking our progress by touching our thumbs to each of our finger tips is beneficial.  For example, we might start with the left hand.  The first time we complete a breath prayer, touch left thumb to left pointer finger.  With the second completion, touch left thumb to middle finger.  Then touch left thumb to ring finger, and then, with the fourth completion of the breath prayer, touch the thumb to the pinky.  We can then, obviously, switch over to the right hand.

It’s such a little thing.  But I notice a difference.  I suppose it is partially the sensory stimulation making the thoughts more meaningful.  I think it also prevents my mind from wandering and helps to track progress through the spiritual exercise.

Why don’t you give it a try today?

 

Big Picture Consideration #5

I have spent some time wrestling with how best to share the stuff I am writing about today.

In true contemplative fashion, I am doing my best to hold two equally important (and in some ways contradictory) realities.

The first reality is that The Faith-ing Project is a labor of love for me.  I am passionate about sharing these practices with anybody and everybody, regardless of their ability to financially support this endeavor.

The second reality is that there are a handful of direct expenses involved with this.  They include the expenses of keeping this website ad-free and able to host things like audio files.  I also have a hope of upgrading some of the equipment being used here.  And the time I am investing is no small thing.  It would be nice to be free of the temptation of taking up a side hustle or second job.  Having to do that would not be good for the development of materials here.

Since The Faith-ing Project began, I have utilized Patreon to give people an opportunity to make a small monthly contribution.  In exchange for $3.00 a month, patrons receive access to a growing library of audio files which present the spiritual exercises.

If you would rather make a 1-time contribution through paypal, I can be reached at otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

If you are in a position to support this important work with a small monthly gift or a 1-time payment, I am deeply thankful to you.  If The Faith-ing Project’s resources and email campaigns have been helpful to you, or if you share my conviction that these practices are desperately needed by the world, this financial assistance is one way to express your solidarity with me.

If you are not equipped financially to support what we are doing at this time, I would not want you to hold on to any kind of guilt about this.  I (generally) believe in the power of prayer and would ask for your prayers regardless of your financial situation.  Offering feedback and concrete suggestions on what you see here is another way to support this project.  (I feel particularly out of my element in the visual and technological side of all this)

Regardless of whether you can support The Faith-ing Project in any specific way, I am thankful for your presence here and wish you peace on the journey.

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.

 

Big Picture Consideration #5: Inclusion, not Appropriation

A phrase that has landed on lots of our radars over the past couple years is “Cultural Appropriation.”

My understanding of why this is a bad thing is evolving.  It took me a while to see how it is a problem at all.  As time has gone by, I still need somebody to go slow and help me with some of the details.

The problem of cultural appropriation plays out in a few specific ways for me here, at the Faith-ing Project.  The most obvious one is my use of practices from traditions that I do not consider my own.  It is inevitable that I am going to oversimplify, misrepresent, and gloss over important aspects of all the practices that I present here, especially the ones that don’t come from the tradition I identify as my own.

I have considered whether I should be sharing them at all.  After lengthy consideration, I have decided that it is worth it, despite the risk.  There are a few reasons for deciding I should include Buddhist, Jewish, and (soon) Islamic practices here.

#1) Part of the mystic’s journey is to recognize the thing that all the major world religion’s have in common.  This is not saying they are all identical, or that they all take us to the same “place.”  But it is important to recognize their commonality.  And for me, that begins with the spiritual practices.

#2) My hope is that your time here is the launch pad for your spiritual practice, not the end-game for it.  As you dive deeper into a practice or belief system, I am hopeful that any errors you picked up here will get corrected.

#3) The real power of the internet is the possibility for interactions.  I truly, deeply, and sincerely hope that if I have misrepresented something that you will help me out.   There is a fine line here, of course.  There are certain things which are simple disagreements and can’t be authoritatively decided in this lifetime.  I don’t mind you sharing these sorts of things if you would like.  But what I am more passionate about is the places where I am demonstrably, objectively wrong about what a certain group practices or believes.    Please hear this invitation: if I got something wrong, please feel free to use the comment section of the posts, the contact button up top, or to email me at otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

 

Big Picture Consideration #4: Beyond Words

One of the most important people in my life regularly undergoes a procedure that has the unfortunate side effect of really messing up certain parts of her brain chemistry.    One of the main areas impacted is the language part of the brain.

For a good week or two, she is very limited both in understanding and speaking.  Loving and supporting her has been a learning experience for me.  (To be clear: I have the easy part of the deal.)

I am a very word-oriented person.  It is one of my main ways of relating and of spending time with someone.  Recently, I was thinking about this learning process.  And realizing it mirrors the changes in my relationship with God.

A bunch of years ago, my main connection with God was through talking.  And sometimes listening.  So many of my practices now wordless.  I have developed this whole new list of ways to spend time with God.  It’s not different than the re-learning I have had to do with this special person: finding new ways to be together.

One of the best things I am learning is that words only get us so far.  In some ways, the spiritual activities were a little more chosen.  But the reality is that the new things I am learning to do, those not reliant on words, are some of my favorite things to do.

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.

 

 

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.

Consideration 3: What’s in a Name?

Names are important and powerful things.

Even in our everyday life, there is a weird thing that we bump into, when describing a person who is known by a different name or title to lots of different people.  For example, at a family gathering, a single person might be known simply by her first name to half the people present; she might be called ‘Auntie’ to some, and ‘mom’ to others.

When we tell a story about this person, we are faced with a number of equally unsatisfying choices.  We can choose one, and assume that everbody knows who we are talking about.  We can try to link them all together and create an awkward, hyphenated name-title that sounds only a bit familiar to everybody.  Or we can allude to her with vague words, pronouns mostly, that makes the whole thing seem vague, as if we don’t know who we specifically are referring to.

In contexts like The Faith-ing Project, there is a similiar problem.  There are many names for the object of our spiritual practices.  It might turn out that there are more fundamental differences between these various names than there are between the single person who is known as sister, aunt, or cousin.  Despite the idea that there might be more fundamental differences, there is some use in this metaphor, too.  Because the young children who call a person “Auntie” probably see a different side of the person than the adults who refer to her by her first name.  Similarly, all the people who refer to the divine by the name “God” are probably having a similiar experience.

Most of the time, I am using the term ‘God’ in these spiritual practices here.  This is the name most deeply to me.  I am not interested in convincing you that you should use that term.  If there is a name or title that connects with you, I hope that you will simply replace the word, each time you see it.  I believe that most of these exercises are relevant to most people, regardless of what word they chose to describe the highest power; I believe that there is a rich and wonderful diversity of beliefs out in the world, and I don’t think it is a viable end game to reduce all of these beautiful traditions into a single super-religion.  When it comes to spiritual exercises, though, I think there is a lot of valuable potential that most of us are disconnected from.   So my hope for you is that you will explore something a little outside your tradition, and consider whether it might inform and strengthen the tradition you are a part of.