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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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.

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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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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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.

 

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.

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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.
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Exercise 26: Nature Adoration

Background: There is such a long history of nature mysticism.  One of the dynamics at play is the idea that we can discover the extent to which God lives and breathes in the creation.

The Exercise

  1.  Find a calm place with lots of nature present.
  2. Begin a slow, meandering walk.  Be present and aware of your surroundings.  Keeping an air of calm, do your best to discover something new in this place.
  3. Be on the look out for a particular object that speaks to you.  Perhaps it is a cloud, or a rock, or the way the shadows of a leave lands on the grass.  It needn’t be big or beeutiful in any classic kind of sense.  You might know this thing right away when you see it.  You might walk past, consider it for a while, and return.
  4. When you have chosen the thing you will adore, open yourself to it.
  5. Study it with love.  As if you had to memorize it.  Describe it’s appearance.
  6. Apply your other senses to it; listen to it, smell it and touch it, if possible.
  7. To the extent that God is in anything, God is in everything.  Experience this object as unfolding of God.
  8. When you are done with your time of adoration, let this object go.  Consider whether you have a new understanding of the nature of God.  Ask yourself whether you could put this understanding into words.
  9. If you wish, keep this object in your mind as an icon of God’s presence in the world.

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.