I am excited to share my interview with Jeff Campbell who runs the The Faith-ing Project web site. Pulled directly from his site, “The goal of The Faith-ing Project is to enrich your spiritual life. Our hope is that this might be a gymnasium for the soul; a library for the spirit; and a toy store for the psyche.”
Now on to the interview.
How do you pray?
It seems like this question could mean two different things…. It might mean “what is your spiritual practice like?” It also might mean “what is it like when you simply talk to God?” I think both are great questions. I will try and address each.
On a workday I spend at least 30 minutes engaged in some sort of spiritual practices. On weekends I shoot for at least two 30 minutes sits.
About 75% of this is spent on consistent practices from one day to the next. These include experiencing God breathing into me just as God breathed into Adam, and feeling the universe breathing in me rather than regarding it as my breath. The other 50% will be variable. For example, when I am having trouble with dualistic thinking I love apophatic meditation. If I am struggling with feeling at home in my body I might try a mindfulness body scan.
As for the other aspect of this question… It is interesting. I have recently become aware that sometimes I can get so hung up on this practice or that practice that I forget to check in with God. These last several months I have been working on speaking to God through out my day amd right after doing my spiritual practices.
How do you define contemplative prayer?
Like many people, my first exposure to prayer was not contemplative. The act of praying was a lot like the act of talking. The thing is, talking is not very interesting all by itself. I am much more interested in a conversation, the give-and-take than I am in simply talking.
My best understanding of contemplative prayer is that this is the listening part of conversation with God. It compliments nicely the typically taught methods of prayer and deepens the relationship by helping the communication become two-way.
It’s not so much that contemplative prayer is all about the listening to God. Sometimes it just quiets the noise in my own head so that I can hear a little better. Other times it supports becoming clear about where my emotions are so I can more carefully discern what is actually God and what is my hopes, fear, and rationalization.
What can you tell us about your website?
Well, I am going to answer that question with a story.
This stage of my journey really began with a spiritual deconstruction out of a fairly traditional mainstream American evangelical church. Some really challenging life events were outside of my own experience, and that community I was a part of wasn’t well equipped to support me through these challenges either. I began to experience a pretty serious depression and struggle with anxiety.
As I worked my way through this time, there were lots of smart people on my radar who were pitching contemplative practices. Though lots of them spoke about the value of meditation, contemplation, and spiritual practice, very few of them gave much direction about what that looked like. And of the few who did, they tended to be rather terriotorial about it. I had just gotten myself out ot a fundamentalist system where only one was the right way. I was hesitant to get involved with another.
Even when I could find a source that was willing to explain how to do it, even if I could get past those who seemed sure they had the one way to do it right, I had trouble accessing what little seemed to be out there. My struggles had taken on a financial toll, and as a Special Education Teacher, I had never been rolling in money to start with.
As I worked my way through this time it felt important to do what I could to offer a resource that was availlable to anyone, that did it’s best to offer a wide variety of spiritual practices, and wasn’t off-limits to someone who had no money. It is far from perfect. But it is a start that I am quite proud of.
It features over 50 different spiritual exercises, information on building a spiritual practice, audio files and links to outside resources that I have found helpful and can be found at The Faith-ing Project.
If someone asks asks you what contemplative practice is best for them, how would you assist them?
There is a certain time in a person’s life that playing the field is fun and appropriate. At that stage, it makes sense to give just a little bit of a person’s time and even a little bit of their heart to lots of different people. Eventually, for most of us, it is wise to settle into a long term relationship. At first, these relationships are all sunshine and wonder. But the real growth happens when things get real. Eventually we begin to see the other person as they really are. And they see us as we are. This day-to-day part of a relationship is less fun. But for many people, it is so important.
If a person wanted to develop a contemplative practice, I would encourage them to go through a season of exploring lots of different possibilities. I would encourage them to be discerning; most likely the practices that come the easiest are the ones that are needed the least. But after a certain period of time, it is likely appropriate to settle in and commit. I would predict that the early stages of commitment might be fun. Eventually, the shine begins to wear off. It might be tempting to jump to something new. Just as with a relationship with a significant other, it’s worth reflecting carefully on the wisdom of moving on.
As somebody considers this, I would encourage them to really consider this: The real growth happens after the shine has worn off!
Let me cut through the metaphors here. If somebody asked me which contemplative practice would be best, I would say this:
Why don’t you spend a few weeks– or even months– exploring a bunch. Try out everything that you come across. Give each at least a few days. Keep careful track about how they work out for you. At the end of that time, settle in on no more than 3. These 1, 2, or 3 practices are the backbone of your practice. Well over half of your time ought to go to them.
When you have chosen these favorites, experiment with different arrangements: should you devote your whole time to just one type of practice a day? Should you split your time between two or three? Should you alternate weeks, devoting a whole week to the same practice and then moving on to the next on the next week? Try out lots of different arrangements. Through the whole process of choosing practices to devote yourself to, and the whole process of setting up your schedule, try to go a little deeper than just which is the most pleasant or enjoyable. Try and choose the ones that feel like they are bringing you closer to God or facilitating the deepest growth.
I see you have a few books on Amazon. Tell us a little bit about them.
The success of the books was a wonderful surprise. There are four Faith-ing Project Guides right now. Each is dedicated to a different type of practice. There is The Book of Breath Prayers, The Book of Apophatic Meditation, The Book of Sacred Reading Practices, and the Book of Union.
They are small and oriented toward being hands-on guides rather than ponderous treatises. Each is available as an ebook or a paperback. Although they are priced between $3.75 and $5.00, the proceeds from them have paid for the incidental costs related to sharing spiritual practices on the website. As a result, I have been able to make all the content at The Faith-ing Project website free.
I also have a 5th book available at Amazon. This one is a collection of poetry that explores my encounters with the ineffable. In many cases, these are the best descriptions I can come up with around what it’s like to connect with God through spiritual practices.
My books are available at my Amazon page.
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Who are some of your favorites authors and why?
In terms of modern authors, I have such a deep respect for Father Richard Rohr. The Universal Christ, The Divine Dance, and Falling Upward were particularly impactful for me. Phileena Heuertz’ Mindful Silence helped me figure out what to do with Rohr’s profound ideas.
In terms of Ancients, I love the poetry of Haffiis. He has such a delightful, mishevious relationship with the divine. And St. John of the Cross is profound as well.
Do you want to share any upcoming projects?
I think that there will be at least two more Faith-ing Project Guides. I am in the early stages on a book of practices focusing on grattitude. After that, I will be working on a guide that supports the over-all building of a spiritual practice rather than focusing on specific practices.
About every month or month and a half I facilitate an email exploration. After identifying a specific topic, I send out an email every-day for a few weeks. Each email pitches a specific practice relating to a specific theme. For example, right now I am in the midst of an email exploration focused on building a spiritual practice during times of transition, deconstruction, and liminal space. Email Explorations are free of charge and can be joined by filling out a contact form at The Faith-ing Project website.
Thanks Jeff for this interview and for the great work you do with The Faith-ing Project!
*Enjoy my recent interview on the Methods podcast: Rich Lewis on Centering Prayer.
Lectio Divina Heart to Heart – Listening and Living with God by Contemplative Outreach: The ancient practice of praying the Scriptures is being rediscovered and renewed in our time. Known as Lectio Divina (Divine Reading), it is one of the great treasures of the Christian tradition of prayer.
Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Life by Margaret Silf: This e-course invites you into a journey of exploration into this practical, real-world approach to Christian spirituality. Discover something of the real Ignatius. Let him guide you into the creative power of your own desires and offer you tools for making wiser choices. Try out some of the methods of prayer and reflection that he suggests, and engage with the power of scriptural meditation. Learn to notice what is moving in your heart, and discern which movements are coming from the deepest core of your being, where God is indwelling.
Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate – Three leading voices in the contemplative Christian tradition explore the mystic’s path: Richard Rohr, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault. Experience a very special weekend conference with teachings that guide us through the long mystical tradition from early Christianity to our own time. This view into our mystical heritage opens our hearts to the Divine Mystery in which we live and are surrounded. The mystical union to which we are all invited strengthens us to live our lives with compassion and gratitude.
Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine – Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer.
*Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:
- help you understand yourself better – and therefore divine God’s purpose in your life
- facilitate healing of spiritual wounds
- minister to others more effectively
- share your testimonies of how God has worked in your life
*Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.
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