Spiritual Experiments: Week 1
Instructions: Please answer all questions and prompts in a notebook (not on a digital device), using a writing utensil such as pen or pencil. No need to turn them in, but do bring them to the next Monday session.
#1. Pray on your knees every morning.
If you're not sure what to say, try this: "Thank you for connecting me with 16 women who've experienced abortion."
#2. Meditate for at least one minute per day using the techniques we discussed.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page for written instructions. Also check out this week's guided meditation and feel free to use it to guide your morning meditation.
#3. OPEN UP YOUR GOD BAGGAGE
A Course in Miracles tells us it doesn't work to bring light to the darkness -- we must bring the darkness to the light. We have lots of experience with bringing light to the darkness. Some of us have changed our divine terminology to escape a God concept we didn't like. Sometimes we sought refuge in our intellect. We explored new religions and spiritualities, trying to find a roundabout way back to the source. But what we've all discovered, somewhere along the line, is that we keep meeting back up with this old God, like a bad ex-boyfriend with whom we never found closure.
So now we must bring the darkness of old Gods to the light.
Our job is to stop hiding our fearful thoughts about God (whether we technically "believe in" that God or not) and instead to present those fearful thoughts so they can be dissolved. This is how we begin to remove the blocks to the awareness of love's presence.
These exercises are no place for intellect. They are no place to regurgitate concepts you've learned that made you feel better about God and life and abortion. This is the place for pure authenticity. Let's remember our little girl selves -- scared and cowering with thoughts of a God who might reject her -- and let's tell the truth about those thoughts so that she can belong again. Old God concepts can't hurt us; only our denial can.
It's time to get triggered on purpose! I will intentionally use the word God in order to trigger you since this word usually carries baggage. If the word "God" isn't triggering enough, might I suggest "Heavenly Father"?
If you are thinking this work doesn't apply to you, I encourage you to do it anyway.
Here are your questions:
What are you not allowed to do, because part of you believes God wouldn't be cool with it?
Who are you not allowed to be, because part of you believes God wouldn't be cool with it?
Is there anything you could do that part of you fears God would punish you for?
What is the punishment you fear God would give you?
Where did you first learn that God would punish or disapprove of you in any way?
How has this impacted your life?
When you had an abortion, were you worried about what God would think or do?
If so, what kinds of things did you worry God would think or do?
If so, where did this worry come from?
Is there any way in which part of you believes God is punishing you for your abortion?
If so, how?
What have you done in your life to avoid having to deal with this Bad-God concept?
*** Note: If you are quick to say that you had no worries at all, please take this opportunity to dig deeper and be as honest as you possibly can. Yes, part of you might "know better," but is there a part of your concept of the Universe that has been influenced by culture, by family, by billboards? Bring the darkness to the light. ***
A Course in Miracles says, "I am upset because I see something that is not there."
How does the above quote apply to your experience with God and your abortion?
How does the above quote apply to your thoughts about "Bad-God Representatives"?
#4. GUSSY UP YOUR GOD CONCEPT
Pray for this new design to be guided.
Describe your dream God.
What does your dream God look like to you? Is it a he, she, they, or a million expressions of gender? Is your God a person at all? Does your dream God have an appearance?
If God is not a person to you, is there a person on earth who seems to emanate qualities of the divine? Who, and what qualities do they emanate?
What does your dream God feel like to you?
Where is God?
What does this dream God think of you?
What does this dream God want for you?
What will this dream God do for you as you explore your experience with abortion?
#5. DIG DEEPER
When do you feel most connected to God?
When do you feel least connected to God?
What can you make of the times when you feel most and least connected to God? What's the difference between them?
Does God appear to you in/as other people? How so? How do you know it's God?
A Course in Miracles tells us that God's will for us is perfect happiness. If that's true, what's happening when you pray, but then something difficult happens? Or when your prayer appears not to be answered? How can you make sense of that?
What types of things do you pray for?
Are your prayers always/ever answered?
How is your style of prayer working for you?
Looking back, where was your Dream God present in your experience(s) with abortion?
What does your Dream God want for you around your abortion?
What evidence do you have that Dream God might be present in your life right now?
#6. CONVERSATION CHALLENGE: Choose one person whom you see as the BGR ("Bad-God Representative") in your life. Call them on the phone or meet them in person and read the following script:
I made up a story that God (or a version of God) _____________________________.
Carrying that belief with me, I have felt ___________________________.
I am giving up that story and seeing God in a new light.
My God ______________________________________________. (Articulate new description.)
Example of the full conversation in action:
Aunt Gertrude, can I share something with you? This might sound kind of weird, but I'm taking a class on spirituality and I need to tell someone this -- I think you'll understand. I made up a story that God is out to punish me and thinks everything I do is wrong. Carrying that belief with me, I have felt isolated, scared, and abandoned. I am giving up that story and seeing God in a new light. My new God is crazy about me. God has never left me, wants me to be happy and free, roots for me to be myself, and would not dream of punishing me. Thanks for listening, Aunt Gertrude.
[Allow Aunt Gertrude to chime in with her own experience.]
Yes, this conversation is BALLS TO THE WALL. It might feel a little weird, but it is the beginning of reclaiming God for your life and deepening relationships with the people around you. You can do it!
NOTE: You don't need to tell your "Aunt Gertrude" or any BGRs about your abortion(s).
#7. Please list any fears associated with your abortion experience. For example, "I'll be punished; my grandfather finding out; when I have sex God is punishing me with pain; being happy; letting go; moving on; forgetting what happened; I lost my chance"... and so on.
HOW TO MEDITATE
A step-by-step guide.
1. GET ALONE. Separate yourself from any objects or sentient beings that might distract you or divide your attention. Examples of distractions include your phone (airplane mode is your friend), your sweet dog, cat, child, and other distractions. Bathrooms and closets make superb meditation spaces.
2. SIT. You can sit in a chair or on the floor or on a couple of pillows. You can sit on the edge of the bathtub or on a pile of clothes in the closet. You can grab a big couch cushion, set it on the ground, and sit on top of it. I like to face a wall with a neutral color of paint, such as white (cleanliness and purity), blue (calmness), or green (concentration). Avoid staring at a red, yellow, or orange wall, all of which stimulate brain activity. This meditation practice is about training the mind. Stimulating the brain will give you more work.
3. MAINTAIN GOOD POSTURE, back straight, like a string is pulling your head toward the ceiling, just like they taught you in beauty school.
4. REST YOUR HANDS ON YOUR THIGHS. Don’t overthink this. Just place your hands comfortably on your thighs.
5. FOCUS ON A POINT IN FRONT OF YOU. Find a spot on the wall, like a scuff mark or a dent, just below eye level. You could also tap an ink pen, making a tiny dot. Or you could put a flower or a flame in front of you. Now you have your point of focus.
6. SET A TIMER. Use a kitchen timer or the timer built into your cell phone. I love the app called Insight Timer. Start at 1 minute. 60 seconds. Go.
7. BREATHE naturally and focus on your breath. No need to breathe loudly or in any particular style. Focus on the air filling your lungs and belly. Repeat this for the duration of the meditation.
8. RETURN TO THE BREATH. Whenever your mind wanders -- to your plans for the rest of the day, a revenge fantasy, your breakfast menu. No need to judge yourself for getting distracted. Sakyong Mipham, head the the Shambhala Buddhist community, compares training the mind to riding a horse. When the horse veers off track, you tug gently at the reigns to put it back on course. When your mind veers off track, tug gently to bring the mind back to your mantra.
9. DON’T MOVE. Be completely still. (Yes, you can blink!) When your nose itches, resist the urge to scratch it. When a car full of kids screams by your window, resist the urge to turn your head and look out. Fix your eyes on one spot and keep them there for 60 seconds. If your nose itches so badly that you can’t possibly last a minute, make a conscious decision to slowly lift your hand to your nose and scratch it. But what you scratch will only itch again. Not scratching a torturous itch is a great practice for life: when a family member or friend or colleague provokes an argument, you'll be less likely to retaliate, mentally or verbally.
10. REPEAT. It takes 90 days to form a habit. Meditate at least one minute daily for ninety days -- or at least past the “fight through” stage -- bumping up your practice by a minute or so each week. Don’t wait until you feel “ready” to increase your meditation time. Just go for it! If it were easy, everyone would meditate.
SO IMPORTANT: You’re not allowed to get down on yourself. If you miss a day of meditation, begin again. If you miss a week of meditation, begin again. If you miss a year of meditation, begin again. If you miss a decade of meditation, begin again. Whenever you begin again, I’ll be over here, rooting you on.