Tag Archives: meditation

Exercise 48: More Breathing Toward Oneness

Background: You might find this to be most effective after exercise 47.  In some ways, it is a follow-up to that exercise.

Our every day assumption is that our consciousness (ego, mind) is in control of things like our breathing.  The main evidence for this assumption is rooted in the idea that when I think “I am going to breathe slowly now.”  I do, in fact, start to breathe slowly.

However, it is worth noticing a few things about this assumption.  The first is that (thankfully) when we stop thinking about our breathing, we continue to breathe.  The second is that if we asked for an account of how we do things like change our breath or move an arm, we couldn’t give much more of an explanation than “well, I think about it, then it happens.”

There are some aspects of neuroscience that are beginning to endorse the idea that our consciousness tells a story about what is going on and our body, rather than causing those changes to take place.  In other words, there are good reasons to suppose that when we begin to breathe slowly, we think “I am going to breathe slowly now.” and assume our thought caused the action, when in fact, the opposite is true.

The Exercise

  1.  Find a relaxed position.  Generally speaking, this will be a seated position with feet flat on the floor and spine as straight as is comfortable.
  2. Notice your breath.  Allow yourself to be aware of it with out seeking to change it.
  3. Feel the inhale: notice where the breath comes in on the nostrils or mouth.  Observe the flow of air down the throat and into the belly.
  4. Feel the exhale.  Notice the difference in the temperature and moisture of the air as it leaves the body.
  5. Continue this for at least three more breaths.  Continue longer if that feels right.
  6. As you continue to observe this process, recall that a story goes that God reached down and breathed into a handfull of Earth.  After that breath, there was Adam.
  7. Observe the exhale.
  8. Continue this for two more breaths: God-in-the-universe is breathing you.
  9. Open your heart and mind to the awareness that other people and animals in your area (perhaps your family in other bedrooms, or the other occupants of the building you are in) are breathing, too; God-in-the-universe is breathing them.
  10. As you complete a second and third breathe with this awareness, continue to observe this breath being breathed in you.
  11. Open your mind and heart to the plants and even microscopic organisms all around you.  Some living things inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.  Others do the reverse.  See the world breathing in all these creatures.
  12. Sit in this flow and connection for as long as you would like.  
  13. Can you widen this network of connections?  Can you make it geographically larger?  Can you expand the nature of the interconnections.
  14. When you are ready, return to your every day world.  Hold on to the connections between the rest of the world that were deepened here.

 

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Solstice & Advent, Day 4

Below is the audio track you can use for today’s exercise:

In the comment section below, I hope you will leave some thoughts and observations about these first four days of this campaign.

 

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.

 

 

Day 11: A Visualization

Visualizations often work best as as an audio file.  My reccomendation is that you listen to the following:

If you prefer to read, you can view the transcript of the audio below.  One way to approach this is to read a paragraph at a time, and then envision what is described.

The aim of today’s visualization is to explore all the gifts that have been given to you.  We will build a sense of gratitude by exploring the many amazing things we have recieved and given to and  from others.

 

Imagine you are sitting in a warm room.  There is a window behind you. It is frosted with cold and snow is falling gently onto a white landscape.  You have nowhere to go. On an end table next to you is a mug of something warm and sweet. Imagine your favorite drink in there.  Pick it up. Take a sip. It warms, on the way down.

Now, turn your attention to your surroundings.  On your lap is a stereotypical Christmas stocking.  It is filled with small, wrapped boxes. There is a stack of gifts on thje floor next to you.  These are also nicely wrapped in bright colors. they are decked out with ribbons and gift tags, too.     

Begin, as you should, with the stocking.   Notice how garishly your name is written down it’s length. The stocking is filled with some of your favorite things.  The mere fact that these favorites exist, is of course, a gift. Opening these little packages will be the first step in becoming aware of how much we have to be thankful for.

The first little box you pull out of the stocking is about the size of a lip balm container.  When you tear through the paper and open the box, this scent gently wafts out of it. This gift is your favorite smell.  It fills the room, just strong enough to bolster you up. Take a slow and deep breath, and breathe in your favorite smell.

Take the next small box out.    Unwrap the bright paper. See that inside is a bite of your favorite food.  Impossibly, it is just the temperature it should be, even though it has been sitting there in the stocking.  Take a bite, now. Relish how the thing tastes. Feel the texture between your tongue and teeth. Put this box aside: it is magical.  If you would like, you could return to it in a few minutes. You will find that the box has replenished itself. Another bite will be here, waiting for you.

The next small box brings you about half way into the stocking.  It is a disk-shaped box. When you open it, your favorite sound comes out of it.  Perhaps it is a song you forgot you loved. Maybe it is a type of music or a just a few perfect notes, platyed softly.  Perhaps it is the laughter of someone you love very much. Whenever you close the box, the sound goes away. Put the box off to the side.  Put the cover on, if you wish. You can fill the room with this sound, at just the right volume, whenever you wanting it.

In the toe of the stocking is an envelope.  Pull it out. See that it has been sealed with wax.  You can break that seal, if you want. This is a letter inside from someone you love very much.  Perhaps you have not seen them in some time. Maybe it has some words that you would really like to hear from them.  In a moment, it will be time to dig into the larger gifts. But now, you can spend a moment with the things you pulled out of the stocking.  Will you read the letter? Unleash the sound again? Perhaps take another bite of your favorite food? Spend a few minutes now with these wonderful gifts.

If you want some more time with those gifts, pause this recording.

There is a stirring in the house now.  And there are some chairs, in front of you:   There might be 3. I am not really sure. In a few minutes you will have some company.  But for now, it is time to take a look at the first gift.

This rectangle is wrapped in a forest green.  As you peel away the paper you see it is the kind of  box sized for a folded shirt. When you take the top off the box you see that this gift is the gift of the friends and coworkers who have stood beside you.   Let the memories wash over you, of the people in your life now, and from years past. Consider the ways that they have helped you grow, the things they have taught you, the good times you have had.  As you recieve this gift you might bring to mind a friend from the past, and a colleauge from the present.

The next box is bright red.  It is a cube. Wrapped in tissue paper.  Untie the giant bow, and rip into the paper.  Open the top of the box, and know that inside are your gifts and talents.  The things you are good at are in here. The natural talent you were born with.  The discipline you harnessed to leverage this into something bigger. As you recieve this gift, name a thing that you are good at.

There is laughter coming with footsteps down the stairs.  There are people who are coming for presents in a few minutes.  But right now is still your time.

The next gift is wrapped in Newspaper.  It is, I think, the comic strips from a Sunday paper, filled with bright colors.  Rip away the newspaper and get into the box beneath. This is the gifts of those that have looked up to you.  Children, nephews, nieces, students of every sort. People who looked up to you. People who learned from you.  There are people who knew you for years, and there are people who watched you for just a few minutes. Being their  inspiration brought you gifts. As you recieve this gift, think about someone who has learned from you.

Your visitors are just outside the door.  It sounds like about 3 people. You are starting to develop a feeling about who it is.

 

The last of the gifts on the left of your chair is wrapped in irridiscent paper.  The shine dances on the present.. It seems a shame to rip this paper; you open it gently along the seems where it was taped.

The rectangle box might have once held shoes.  Ease the lid off the box. And find, inside, the gift of those who you learned from.  Parent-figures and literal parents, models of who to be and how to be;grandparents, uncles, aunts, mentors,  people who taught you to think, and to feel, people who taught you practical things, people who taught you theoretical things.  This box bears the gift of the people who poured their lives into you. Spend a moment, now, and drink this in.

 

The dear friends smile as they walk into the room.  It is perhaps 3 people. Their is a comofrtable seat for each of them.  These are the most important people in your life.

Perhaps they were there all along.  Maybe they just appeared. Whatever it is, their is now a stack of gifts to the right of your chair.  These are not gifts for you.

Bring the first gift to your first friend.  See them in your mind’s eye. Hand them the gift.  Enjoy them enjoying this present, which is all the things this friend has recieved from you.  

When you are ready, turn your attention to your next friend.  See the clothes they would be wearing on a day like this. Grab the next present from the stack.  Hug them, if you would like. As they open up this present, appreciate all the things you have been able to share with them.

Though the recording is going to stop here, you can continue this for as long as you wish.  Deliver these gifts to all of the people who arrived. Then Feel free to extend this visualization, enjoying the night with these friends.

Exercise 18: Who am I? Who are you?

Background: It is said that St. Francis past an entire night asking 2 simple questions: “Who am I, God?”  and “Who are you, God?”  It is not known what his method was; the correlation of the two questions to the two parts of breath is purely speculation on my part.

The Exercise

  1. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can.  Release your worries and obligations for the duration of your spiritual exercises today.
  2. As you inhale, ask the question, “Who are you God?”
  3. With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I God?”
  4. Continue this pattern.  When other thoughts or concerns arise, release them by returning to these questions and your breath.
  5. When your time is nearing completion, dismiss the questions.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  6. When you are ready, explore your feelings about the questions and consider whether or not you have anything that looks like answers to these two important questions.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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 12: Constant Repetition

Background: Any word, repeated enough, begins to sound like nonsense.

It seems to me that when we use a word only once or twice, we have an easy time mistaking the letter-sounds for the thing those letters stand for.  But as we repeat the word, we come face-to-face with the fact that the sounds are arbitrary.  For example, when we say the word ‘cat’ once, we get a picture in our mind.  But when we say the word repeatedly, we are reminded there is nothing inherent to those letters that actually connects them to the animal.  It is merely an agreement that more-or-less randomly assigned these particularly sounds.

Saying a word over and over, creates a sort-of white noise, for me.  It begins with the meaning of the word.  But slowly even this fades into the background, leaving me in a state beyond words.

Exercise

  1. Place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Choose your sacred word.
  3. Say the word.  Out loud, if possible.  Say it with out ceasing.  Say it a calm, measured rate; say it as many times as you can with each exhale.  Think it, or mouth it as many times as you can with each inhale.
  4. If you find yourself distracted by thoughts or feelings, return your attention to the saying of that single word.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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, 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 6A and 6B: 3 Part Phrases

Background: A certain phrase paired with an exhale has a slightly different feel than that same phrase paired with an inhale.  When we have a 3 phrase cycle, one approach is to simply rotate through all 3 sentences.  The result of this is that each phrase gets connected to both inhales and exhales.  We can experience, therefore, what those phrases are like.

In the exercises that follow, I have chosen two of my favorite 3-sentence cycles.  They are rather Christo-centric.  You can, of course, replace them with something more to your liking.

Exercise 6A:

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Breathe a cleansing breath.
  3. With your next inhale, say “Christ was born”
  4. With your next exhale, “Christ has died.”
  5. With your next inhale, “Christ will come again.”
  6. Continue this pattern, working your way through the entire cycle: Christ was born/ Christ has died/ Christ will come again.
  7.   When you are ready, release the phrases.  
  8. Wordlessly, enjoy some time with God.

Spend some time, when your practice is done, considering the omnipresence of God.  God is here and not here; present and not-yet.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Background: Breath does not have to be a 2-part process.  We can create a 3-count in our breath by pausing for a moment; holding the breath as we consider a phrase.

Holding the breath is an interesting thing.  It creates, in me, a distant and  deeply submerged sort-of terror.  Simultaneously, it is also like a micro-fast.  Breathing, like eating, is a requirement.  To abstain for a time from either one is to confront our physical limitations and our animal nature.

I suspect that some of this emotional intensity rubs itself off on to the feelings associated with the phrases.

Exercise:

  1. Find a bit of calm.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe slowly.
  2. With your next inhale, think “Here I am, God.”
  3. As you exhale, think, “Here you are God.”
  4. Holding your breath, think, “Here we are, together.”
  5.  Repeat the process: With the inhale, “Here I am God.”  With the exhale: “Here you are God.”  Holding the Breath, “Here we are, together.”
  6. Give most of the time in your practice today to these 3 steps.
  7.   When you are ready, release these words.  Resume a normal 2-part breathing pattern with out holding the breath.

Through out your day, know that you are here, and God is here, and you are here, together.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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, 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.