Tag Archives: Lent

3rd Email in the Lent Apophatic/Cataphatic Exploration

If you would like to receive these Lenten explorations into the apophatic and cataphatic, please email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com  You will receive each email going forward.  You can find the past ones here.

I imagine there are 3 types of people participating in this email exploration:
The first is someone just interested in exploring a wide range of contemplative practices.
The second knew something about the cataphatic (light, joyous, explicable, word-dependent) and apophatic (dark, word-transcendent) and was interested in exploring this distinction further.
The third might have wanted to pursue this distinction through the lens of Jesus, Lent, and Easter.
Whoever you are and whatever your motives, I am glad to have you along.  I hope you will leave a comment on the website and share some more about why you are with us and what you are hoping to accomplish on these 40-ish days.
Today’s practice is the first real dipping of our toe into apophatic waters.  It is apophatic because it does not rely on words.  However, it is neutral on the question of how much we can know and on the values of the darkness.  For this reason, it is just a first step.
Several practices — including this one– are ones that we will return to: when we come back at them there will be subtle tweaks which alter where they fall on the apophatic/cataphatic spectrum.

Background: The novel ‘Illusions: Adventures of the Reluctant Messiah’ has a pretty amazing scene.  The protagonist is told to use the power of his mind to eliminate a group of clouds on the horizon.  He spends the afternoon turning the whole of his will to the task.  And he is thoroughly unsuccessful.

The man’s mentor explains that the main character is entirely to emotionally wrapped up in the task to have ever been able to eliminate him.  He would have done far better to withdraw his energies from the clouds than to invest himself.

This is a useful story.  Sometimes, as we try to overcome our thoughts and feelings we develop such an intensity that we will never be free from them.  Imagining that we are at a riverside, and seeing them all float by is a useful way to release these, to overcome our attachment to these distractions.

Spiritual Exercise

1.  Breathe.  

2.  Imagine that you are sitting by the side of a river.  Picture the temperature and the sounds and the smells.  Smell the air.  Furnish a picture in your mind of what it looks like.  

3.  As best you can, clear your mind.  Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

4.  Thoughts, feelings, and memories will arise.  When they do, place them gently on the river.  Perhaps on a leaf that is floating by.   Allow them to be carried away by the current.

5.  Return to your breath.

Sometimes, I engage in my spiritual practices and I leave a window with social media open.  Or I have my phone on vibrate so I know if a text comes in.  I tell myself I do this accidentally.  I partially believe myself.
I am increasingly convinced that this is not real meditation.  This is just finding a way to pass the time while I am waiting for somebody to respond to my latest facebook status update.  I am working really hard at holding myself accountable around really creating a sacred space for myself, set apart from the rest of my life.  I encourage you to do the same.

Due to an oversight by me, there was no way to make any comments even if you followed the link provided.  I hope that this won’t squash your desire to connect with the other folks receiving these emails.  I think we really can spur each other on toward real growth.  Just knowing that there are other real, live human beings with some of the same struggles and victories is a really important thing.  Right here is a link to the overview page for this email exploration.  Though you can’t comment on this page, there are links to each days.  Each day other than the first does have a comment section.  After you engage in this practice, I really want to encourage you to head over, click on the link for the 3rd email, and introduce yourself.  Tell us how these practices are going.  And …. introduce yourself by sharing a guilty pleasure.  I will go first.  So if you head over there now, you will find out something mildly juicy about me.

Second email in the Lenten Apophatic/ Cataphatic Exploration

Every 3 days or so, we are exploring the distance between the apophatic and cataphatic through the lens of Lent via email.  If you would like to sign up for the rest of the series, email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com or use the contact form at the top of this page.

Here is the second email in the series:

Lent is a remembrance of Jesus time in the desert.  Though he will eventually fast for 40 days and face of with the personification of evil, when it began he was fresh out of his baptism.  They had heard the voice of God and seen a dove-like spirit descend.  It was a time of light and optimism, a time where words could easily express the things that were going on.
In recognition of this, we are beginning this Email Exploration focused on the Cataphatic: the light-filled, the joyous, that which can be expressed in words.
Today’s practice comes out of Buddhist Traditions.  It is practiced in that context as a walking meditation; a time to notice and affirm all that is around.  Here, it is expressed as a sitting contemplation.  Though I encourage you to try it in other contexts.

Place your feet flat on the floor.  

2.  Breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

3.  When you are ready to begin, with the inhale, think “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.”  With the exhale, think, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  Devote most of your practice today to this step.

4.  Spend some time thinking about what you have in your life to say “Thank you for.”  Consider the things you might be saying “Yes.” To.

5.  When you are ready, release all these words.  Spend some time in wordless union.

There is a lot to be gained by deciding, in advance, how long you will devote to your spiritual practice each day.  Committing to a set time– even if it is just 5 or 10 minutes a day, is a powerful investment in yourself.  Timers on phones– or even ovens– are a great place to start.  Apps such as the insight meditation timer are even better.  They can be set to periodically chime so that we know how long we have been at it.
One of the most significant (and surprising) benefits of sticking with your practice for a set time is that lots of important soul “work” happens when things begin to get difficult.  If I have not made the plan to keep going, I am likely to quit just as things get hard.  To continue through these difficult patches is where the real growth occurs

In some ways, today’s practice is the most Cataphatic of all the practices we will engage in over this Email Exploration.  Through out the season of Lent, you can look forward to a new email about every 2 or 3 days. It is highly recommended that you engage these practices each day.  However, if a given practice is not resonating with you, you might try repeating a practice from earlier in this Email Exploration.
The next email will be on its way Monday Morning.  Though the next practice is also very light and word-dependent, it will begin to lay some groundwork for more apaphatic practices.