The Faith-ing Project

One of the things I have learned over the last couple years is that spiritual practices like meditation can be life-changing.  This lead to the creation of  The Contemplace.

The latest evolution in my spiritual journey and my online musings is the Faith-ing Project.  My vision is a place that can offer readers a new spiritual practice every day for a year.  I have been writing, organizing, and compiling for months.  I am just about ready to go!

The Faith-ing Project does not yet have a home or website.  But it does have a need.  And that need might just be you.  Are you:

  • Interested in spiritual practices?
  • Able to give these practices about 15 minutes a day?
  • Willing to offer feedback, criticism, and push back?

If this sound like you, please email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com   ask me your questions, or just let me know you are interested.

I am putting together a team of testers who will receive an email with each days practice.  In exchange for trying the practices out and sharing your experiences,  I will give testers free access to content that will eventually become paid on the site, and I will post thank yous, and links to content you might wish to direct others to.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff

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God’s first encounter with Moses is like a case study in what he was like; both us and beyond-us, both near and distant, both alien and human.  According to the book of Exodus, God said,

“And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I

have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.

 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh

to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and

bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

It seems to me that God was trying to help Moses see the close and human side.  He told the man that  he stands in solidarity with his people.  It seem like this wasn’t enough for Moses; he resists.  And he resists in a way I find particularly interesting.  He says, “Who am I?”

This is interesting because, up to a certain point, we have established that God knows who this is.  The whole thing begins with the burning bush saying Moses’ name.  What happens next, it seems to me, indicates that a related question Moses needed to ask was, “Who are you?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the

sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you

have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will

worship God on this mountain.”

 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites

and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’

and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

I have been there.  Maybe you have to.  Dealing with somebody intimidating, powerful, somebody it is hard to speak your mind to.  So we take this approach where we just say, “Hey, I am good with the whole thing.  But just in case somebody else isn’t, what are we supposed to say?”

 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say

to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God

of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God

of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

People so much smarter than me have said so many interesting things about the meaning and nature of the name that God gives here.  Richard Rohr talks about how the insights of a rabbi lead him to understand that the name, which we take to mean something like “I am who I am” sounds and feels like a breath.

Breath, which is where life begins.  Breath, that center piece of meditation.  Breath, that process that begins with birth and ends with death.  Just as God is both with us and beyond us, just as he as empathic and an alien, burning-not burning bush, God has a name which is much like our names, and also so very different than our names.

There is a tradition of declaring God’s name unsayable.  And yet, to the extent that God’s name is a breath itself, we say it more than we say any name at all.  Declaring His name unsayable is a way to point at God’s transcendence.  It is a declaration that we can not limit, contain, and fully understand God.  And yet, that act of breathing, is an act of waging peace, an act of taking control of ourselves.

 

The Great Naming

A hand reached into the fertile Earth.  Scooped it up, and lifted it into the heavens.

When it reached those divine lips it became something more.  

There was that first kiss then.  That breath. A whispering of your name.

But I didn’t have ears to hear it yet.  They had not been formed.

And so I will live this whole life, and I will never say who it is that you really are, God.

And yet, I will breathe your name.  Again and again. For this whole life that I live.

 

And someday.  I will stand fully in your presence.

There will be a new name for me on a white rock.

And you can say your name to me again.

I will open my mouth.  I will kiss you again.

And I will say the name that has always been yours.

 

From Five Psalms by Mark Jarman

First forgive the silence
       That answers prayer,
Then forgive the prayer
       That stains the silence.
Excuse the absence
       That feels like presence,
Then excuse the feeling
       That insists on presence.
Pardon the delay
       Of revelation,
Then ask pardon for revealing
       Your impatience.
Forgive God
       For being only a word,
Then ask God to forgive
       The betrayal of language.
-Mark Jarman

I Just Want One More Hug

When my kids were younger,  all 3 of them went through a stage that was equal parts endearing and frustrating.   It was a time of not wanting to go to bed.   A period of inventing countless,  increasingly absurd excuses.

“I need a drink.   I have to go to the bathroom.   I forgot my stuffed animal.”  Children are deeply manipulative creatures.   Eventually they would happen upon reasons that were hard to resist.   “I need a hug.  I need a kiss.   Can I have a back rub?”

I broach this topic here because I am learning that there are parts of me that are like my children.   They don’t want to let go.   They don’t want to release their hold.

People call it the false self.   And the monkey mind.  It is the reason that meditation needs to be learned; because there is a part of us that resists.

It takes the form of needing to move,  wiggle and itch.   Or the thoughts and feelings that just won’t be released,  that keep coming back,  as annoying as the single fly that threatens to ruin the picnic.   Or the desire to shave a few minutes off the end of a meditation session to respond to a facebook notification.

My false self,  my monkey mind, it is no less clever than young kids.   I am a thinker.   And when I’m letting go,  my mind offers me these tantalizing rabbit trails,  fragments of thoughts,  compelling metaphors.   Much like kids,  my mind closes in on my weakness.

I totally understand the value of an approach I associate with  Zen Buddhism:  Ignore every itch.   Sit for the entire time.   Do not compromise anywhere.

I get it just as much as I get parents who draw a line in the sand.  No you may not have another drink,  a stuffed animal,  or even a hug.    Bed time is bed time.   End of story.

I could just never make that work.   Treating my kids that way just created this tornado of ugly emotions and suddenly everybody is wide awake  and feeling unloved. (or maybe that was just me.)

In the same way, when I take that militaristic stance to an intrusive thought,  I get pulled into dualistic experiencing of the world.   When I refuse to scratch an itch,  I grow to hate that itch…   In the words of eminent sage  and theologian Pauly Shore,  I harsh my mellow.

Perhaps my wonderful kids were a bit spoiled.   Maybe my meditation practice suffers.   I can live with those possibilities.

 

Chronus Widdershins

As the seconds on my meditation timer count down…

I live a whole uneventful life.

I grow old and die.

 

It is the periodic gongs which remind me…

Punctuating minutes that last months,

And seconds that last years.

Those bronze vibrations pierce the vale.

 

I go looking within.

After a journey– a trek

A battle– with myself

My shadow-doppleganger-nemesis

I die.

Walk away and let go.

 

And then there is a field.

The clouds cast shadows on the curving ground.

I see it from far away at first.

I wonder on the scarecrow?

No.  A man.  Standing.

 

Arms like tiny toothpicks reaching up.

I am speeding toward him now

He is Jesus.

He is me.

And this is a destination.

 

Homunculus Jesus.  

Me.

In the eye of the storm

Of my thoughts, and emotions and memories.

Further away.

They are a trinity feeding on each other.

Swirling about.

Tearing up the place.

 

But here is silence.

Here is the very deeps of me.

And the end.

 

Time breaks down in a black hole.

And Martin Buber told me

That prayer doesn’t exist in time.

Time exists in prayer.

 

I know that when you turn Chronus widdershins…

Each moment can stretch upwards now.

And second that ticks away…

Is pregnant with an etetnity of its very own!

 

And so there is a director’s cut.

And the director is God.

That extends itself inward.

Right when i approach Him

Me

At the moment i put my hand on his heart…

My own heart.

 

And i am already in my own heart

In a moment turned already sideways.

When things go terrifyingly well

When i am neck deep in nothingness

There is a sweet moment

That happens almost never

And it happens

Every

Single

Time.

 

Already in that heart space and time,

I journey to a place deeper still.

Into the heart of the me/not me

Who stands in my heart already.

 

Call it the heart of the heart.

The secret’s secret.

 

It is an open field.

Of course

A man stands there.

 

I am so small now.

I have have gone so deep within.

I am afraid that of where i must go now.

 

This deeper place still.

Strangeness abounds here.

How can this Great Witness

Continue this endless descent.

 

What if the troika

Never ended?

 

Once i fell into the depths of me.

It happens evety time.

I am

      Falling.

I am

       Still falling.

 

If there might be an eternity in every moment

That how long is 3 days spent dead and in hell?

 

That is what i scream

     As i fall.

 

I made smaller

And smaller still.

Each time i enter into

The heart within the heart within the heart withinthe heart!

 

And then…  i am nothing

I

Am nothing

 

I am

Nothing

 

I am!

 

I am a star

A consellation

A nebula.

 

I am the night sky.

Behold my vastness.

 

The smalkest doorway was a threshold to this

Grandeur!

I AM

I am.
Nothing.
But God’s love.

And God’s love
Crucifies.

I am.
Gasping. Panting.
Filled to overflow.

I am
lifted up by my collar bones gently.
Floating nowhere
And also everywhere.

I am
Mostly,
or atleast a little bit
Sitting In my meditation chair.
With outstretched arms embracing just everything.

I am nothing.
And yet this deliciousness
It is almost too much.

Going on, as it has,
In this timeless kairos

I am nothing.
And then The bell!

A ringing bigger than the world.
And me,

I am
The vibrations.
Working their way up
and down The bronze.

You

You are already lovely.

You began as you are and as you will always be.

 

Those doings of yours,

They are perhaps good.  Or not.

But those doings of yours are only and ever just that.

 

They will rise and fall like waves and empires.

 

But you.

You.

You are the ocean beneath the waves,

The ground beneath the buildings.

 

Hoping to Hear From You

We are looking to hear from you, today, and considering transitions in our faith.   When did you know it was time to leave? How did you know it was time to leave? What are some things that surprised you? What are the positives or the negatives? The answers to this question will help shape a post on this blog. If you have pithy comments that you would care to share with others, post them in the comments below. If you would rather a level of anonymity, or would like to run longer, send an email to  thecontemplace@gmail.com

Joy!

I discovered this book written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  It is about joy.  I am quite daunted by the idea that these two men, after all their life experiences, can find so much to be joyful about.  When I think about the persecution and exile, the cancers, murders, fear that these spiritual giants have faced, it puts my struggles into perspective.

According to this book, Buddhists view joy as the natural state of being.  With practice, they believe that we can return to this state.  At this point, I decided to put the book down.  Because I was struck, suddenly, by the idea that this could– maybe should– be a Christian view, too.

I have given lots of space in my head to what it might have been like in the Garden of Eden.  But I am not sure I have ever considered the joy of that place.  I suspect that joy is the natural state of being from a Christian perspective, too.

I am going to go meditate on this possibility now.  I will let you know how it goes for me.  If you have some thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear how them below.