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Day 4: Examen 1

My hope, through these two weeks that we are spending together is two-fold.  The first is that we might build up our sense of thanksgiving.  The second is that we might explore some spiritual practices which can be useful in all kind of circumstances, through the holiday season and beyond.
We began with breath-prayers.  Breath prayers occur in every religious tradition.  It’s a rather arbitrary designation on my part.  The thing these practices have in common is mostly a focus on the breath.
As we move in to day 4, we are switching gears.  Over these next few we will take a look at practices which give us reason to reflect over our day.  Inevitably, these practices result in remind us of the things it would be easy to take for granted.
For the most part, during this phase, we will be focused on a practice called The Examen.  This practice was popularized by Ignatius in the 1400s.  We will approach The Examen from a few different directions, building on complexity as we go.
The Examen asks us to see our day in terms of consolations and desolations.  Consalations, for him, places it is easy to see God at work.  Desolations are places where it is more difficult to.  I think this is a relevant exercise for people uncomfortable with the idea of God.  One way to sidestep the question of God, in the midst of all this, is to consider Consolations the things it is easy to be thankful for.  Desolations are the things it is difficult to feel thankful for.
In todays Examen, we will break the last 24 hours into 4 distinct ‘chunks.’

Today’s Exercise:
1.  Create your quiet and safe space.  You might wish to light a candle or eat a peace of chocolate.
2.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe slowly and calmly.
3.  Spend a moment thinking about the last 6 hours.  Do the mental subtraction to determine just when this chunk of time started.  In your mind, review the things that happened during this time.
4.  Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time for a moment.
5.  Consider your desolations during this time.  What was the most difficult part of these 6 hours.  Why?  Sit with your feelings of this time.
6.  Where were your consolations during this time?  Allow yourself to re-experience these good memories.
7.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this time.  It is probably obvious why you might be thankful for your consolations.  Is there anything you can find in your desolations to be thankful for?
8.  Take a deep, cleansing breath.
9.  Consider the 6 hours prior to this time.  This chunk of time ends 12 hours before now.  In your mind, go over the events of this chunk of time.
10.  Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time.
11.  Explore your desolations.  Don’t run away from the difficulties.  Feel it in your body and mind.
12.  Move on to your consolations from this time.
13.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this part of your day.
14.  Take a single, cleansing breath.
15.  Consider the chunk of time between 12 and 18 hours ago.  Review, in your mind what occurred then.  Do not rush through it.  Go back to that time.  Rediscover the tastes and the smells.  Even if you were sleeping for most of it, think back to that sleep.
16.  Name your desolations from this time.  Be firm but kind with yourself.  Work at not ignoring the difficult partys.
17.  Consider your consolations.  Relive these.
18.  Spend a moment in gratitude for this time.
19.  Breathe.
20.  Go back in your mind, and review the time 18-24 hours ago.  Try and relive as much as you can.  Think about the clothes you were wearing, the people you interacted with.
21.  Hold your desolations from this time in open hands.  Go over them carefully.
22.  Consider your consaltions from this time.  Be equally carefully to work through these.
23.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this chunk of time.
24.  Bring all the consolations to mind from these last 24 hours.
25.  Spend a moment offering up a final prayer or thought of thankfulness.
26.  Consider the last 24 hours.  Explore whether you still feel the way about it you did when you began.
27.  Return to the world when you are ready.

Day 3: Loving-Kindness

If you would like to recieve these spiritual exercises as a daily email, please email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com.

Todays exercise follows; please comment below on how this experience went for you.

This exercise is expressed in 2 different formats: The first is a traiditonal Budhist approach.  The second is an Irish (Gallic) Christian formulation.

Exercise 1: 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 2: 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.’

 

 

Thankfulness: Day 2

Below, please find the text from today’s email.

I hope that you will take this opportunity to share what your experience was like of this practice.

Hello.
Yesterday we laid the ground work.  Today we enter into practices of Thanksgiving.  Today’s practice is a very general one, proclaiming positivity and thankfulness.  It comes from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  He originally shared this practice as a walking meditation.  It is described here as a sitting one but engaging this while taking a stroll comes highly recommended.
Today’s practice is a stark contrast to yesterday’s: it is deceptively simple.  Just a few steps.
I would like to encourage you to decide, in advance, just how long you are going to engage your practice.  I am learning that when I sit until I am ready to get up, inevitably I end my practice before any real growth happens.  When I have committed to myself a length of time (perhaps between 10 and 30 minutes) I work my way through  my discomfort.  This, I think, is where the real growth happens.
Tomorrow’s email will feature the last of our breath prayers.  After that, we will continue to explore grattitude and thankfulness through different contemplative lenses.
Wishing you peace & joy,
Jeff

Spiritual Exercise:
1.  Breathe calmly, in through the nose and out from the mouth.
2.  After a few cleansing breaths– and when you are ready– with the next inhale, think, “Yes!  Yes!   Yes!”
3.  With the next exhale, think, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!”
4.  Continue this pattern through the time you alotted for your spiritual practice today: “Yes, yes, yes” with the inhale and “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!”
5.  As your time near is it’s end, release the words and enjoy a time of wordless relaxation.  You might experience this as union with God; you might use it as a time of reflections on the things you might be thankful for.

Periodically, through out your day, you might re-enter this practice for a breath or two.

Thankfulness: Day 1

Here is the audio file from Day 1 of the Thankfulness Email Campaign:

If you would like to receive a daily email, featuring exercises intended to build gratitude and thankfulness, email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

If you prefer a written description to the audio file:

Hi.  And Welcome to the faith-ing project.  This is the first of our exercise of grattitude-building email campaign.  Most of of the exercises over the next couple weeks will be simply written down.  Today is special for a couple of reasons.

The first is that there is a lot of material to contend with.  It can feel a little clunky to handle this much information written down.

The second is that today is really intended to lay the ground work.  The idea is that today gets us to the doorway of grattitude. Tomorrow, we can go inside.

A little prep work is necessary because some times there are some things we have to work through.  If you are anything like me, it might be that you are tempted to wait, before you feel ready to be greatful  . The struggles and stresses of life can sometimes steal all of our attention. But the truth is, those stresses will always be there.  It is simply not realistic to expect that we are going to get past these things. I suspect that the best we can do is to recognize the world is a multi-faceted place, filled with lots of different experiences.  If there is a better recognition of the different kinds of things that life is full of than Eccliastes 3, I don’t know where that is.

Today’s exercises is, in short, an attempt to really grapple with a part of this chapter of the bible… So,

 

With no further ado, let’s begin.

Find a calm space.  Dim the lights, turn off your phone, and try and make sure you wont be disturbed for the duration of the time you have set aside for this spiritual practice.

 

Place your feet flat on the floor.

 

Release your stresses and obligations.

Breathe deeply.  In through the nose….

Out through your mouth.

 

And, again.  Filling up your lungs beginning at the bottom, filling them, all the way up.

Exhaling them, thoroughly, and with the next breath, on the inhale, focusing on the words:

 

There is a time for everything,

As you exhale, considering this:

   There is  a season for every activity under the heavens:

As you inhale, consider that there is a

2     a time to be born

As you exhale, realize that there is a time to die,

 

With your next inhale, hold the words There is

   a time to plant

With your exhale: there is a time to uproot,

 

Inhale: There is     a time to kill

Exhale: There is a time to heal,

 

Inhale: There is a time to tear down

Exhale: There is a time to build,

 

Inhale: There is a time to weep

Exhale: There is  a time to laugh,

 

Inhale: There is a time to mourn

Exhale: there is a time to dance,

 

Inhale: There is a time to scatter stones

Exhale: There is a time to gather them,

 

Inhale: There is a time to embrace

Exhale: There is a time to refrain from embracing

   

Inhale: There is    a time to search

Exhale: There is a time to give up,

 

Inhale: There is a time to keep

Exhale: There is a time to throw away

   

Inhale: There is a time to tear

Exhale: There is a time to mend

 

Inhale: There is a time to be silent

Exhale: There is a time to speak

 

Inhale: There is a time to love

Exhale: There is a time to hate

 

Inhale: There is a time for war

Exhale: There is a time for peace

Now, continue these slow, peaceful breaths.  And spend a moment consider that there is a time to be thankful, even as we continue to struggle with whatever we struggle with.

 

And as this audio file comes to an end, move into a time of thankfulness for all the rich and varied experiences available to us.  

This is Jeff from the Faith-ing Project.  Thanks for joining us today!

If you are participating in the campaign, via email or just by reading daily on the website, please leave a comment below!  I would love to hear about how the experience was for you.

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

  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.

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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.

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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.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.

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.