126. The Growing Edge of Spiritual Life - Brian Russell
How do we not only get through painful trauma in our life, such as unexpected divorce after 20 years, but use it to transform into a greater version of ourselves? Brian Russell did just that, and he is eager to share the wisdom he has received on the other side of the downward spiral.
Brian is an author, professor of Biblical Studies, coach for entrepreneurs and spiritually minded leaders. His latest book is called Centering Prayer: Sitting Quietly In God's Presence Can Change Your Life, which comes out Sept 14, 2021.
In this episode we explore many topics, including:
- How a relational crisis in the form of an unexpected divorce after 20 years sent him into unknown depths which his years of biblical studies couldn’t help him emerge, and the turning point when God spoke to him on a simple walk through nature.
- How is centering prayer different from spoken prayer, and how is it done?
- Brian shares some of the benefits - and surprises! - that he has received since developing a practice of meditation, silence, and solitude.
- The rhythm of life, and how meditation and centering prayer is about the “long game” rather than a quick fix.
Preorder Centering Prayer: Sitting Quietly In God's Presence Can Change Your Life
[00:00:25.850] - Kara
Hello and welcome to the Meditation Conversation. I'm your host, Kara Goodwin. And today I am so excited to have Brian Russell joining on the show. Brian is an author, the professor of biblical studies. He's a coach for entrepreneurs and spiritually minded leaders. And he has a book coming out, and it's called Centering Prayer. Sitting quietly in God's presence Can Change Your Life, which comes out in September 2021. Is that right? Is it still September?
[00:01:00.340] - Brian
Yes, September 14, 2021.
[00:01:02.980] - Kara
So welcome, Brian. What a joy to have you here.
[00:01:07.410] - Brian
Thank you, Karen. It's so great to meet you. So privileged to be here to have this conversation. So thank you very much.
[00:01:13.440] - Kara
Yes, I'm so glad you're here. And I wanted to start by talking a bit about your journey. One of the things that I love so much about your book and we were talking about this before we got started was there is so much you in this book. It's a round Centering Prayer, but it's really a story of your journey. And in fact, one of the things that I love that you wrote in it was that you had gotten to the growing edge of your spiritual life, which I found very poignant because that is so true. I think a lot of people can relate to that where you get as far as you get, and then you kind of get to that edge where you're like, okay, I need something that's going to take me through this new thing. So can you please take us through a little bit of your journey?
[00:02:08.790] - Brian
Yeah. Thank you for the question, too. Yeah. I've been a professor, so even when I was a little kid, I've always loved reading. So I've been like I was like the best student. And most of the classes are getting not bragging. That was just me. I was really good at school all the way through College. And then I felt like I had calling to Ministry, too. So I pursued ordination. I've been a pastor of a couple of different churches. And then I went all the way through and got a PhD in Bible, mostly because I've always been super curious in a lot of people. I was never able to get the answers to the really hard questions that I would ask. And so I just kind of like, well, I guess I'm going to have to figure this out. And so I just kept going. And so I essentially made my livelihood with my brain just studying, reading, writing, academic pieces. Todd, I've been a professor now for 23 years, is actually a professor. And then actually, I've taught at least one class in graduate school for the last 27 years. So it's basically been my entire adult life since I was 25.
[00:03:19.410] - Brian
I was doing that. And then the moment that you're talking about. And so it's like I've always basically lived up inside my head. I always say in my book that I live by the I think, therefore, I am piece. And it served me really well. It got me up that ladder. I thought I was going to climb. I had tenure. But what happened to me is basically 20 years into my first marriage. Looking back, I should have probably seen this stuff coming. And there was always some issues, but I'm not going to make this about that. But I basically had a complete relational crisis where 20 years into a marriage, my former wife just doesn't want to be married anymore. And we're just flat out done, like almost overnight. We have the 20 year celebration. And then like a month later, I find out that, wow, I'm going to be going down to this really dark hole. And it was utterly terrifying. I wasn't prepared for this because I felt like I gave my whole life to do what I thought was God's work. I'm a Professor, I trained pastors. And so it's all the stuff.
[00:04:22.490] - Brian
It's like, Am I going to survive this financially? Am I going to survive? Am I going to get to see my kids? Am I going to have a job? And so it's just complete meltdown at all kinds of levels. And my faith was just really shattered because I've always been kind of a thinker, but I literally didn't feel anything about connection with God. I was just in this numb state, which again, many people listening have gone through difficult times that you're in this grief spiral, basically. And as a person that had helped people because I've been a pastor, I've done dozens of funerals, and I'd been counseling. I kind of knew what was going to happen because I've seen it. And then I had to do it. I had to experience it myself, and it wasn't getting easier. So I was like, to the point in my own faith, I was like, Jeez, what am I going to do? I got to fake this the rest of my life if I'm going to teach about the Bible and religion because it was shut down. And then I'm on this walk, and I talk about this in the book.
[00:05:22.200] - Brian
A friend of mine told me it's not like I was going crazy because I talked pretty fast anyway. So I was really cruising back on this day, whatever. And so I go for this walk, and I didn't wear headphones, and I didn't do my usual professor slouch walk or I'm just looking down, but I'm just thinking I probably was for a while. But at some point, like, I heard this bird chirping, and I just remember looking up, and then all of a sudden everything just froze. This sounds kind of funny, but I actually saw leaves on trees, saw flowers. I saw the bird that was singing. And I just had this really powerful spiritual moment. And I sensed that God. And this is one of the few times that I sensed anything there for a while was that what God was basically saying, there's enough, which I took is like, okay, you're going to make it through all this. But I had this incredible experience which was beyond words, really. It was beyond my prior understanding of religion or even God. And I just felt super loved, which was different. Like this transformational. I'm just loved for who I am, not for my past.
[00:06:34.750] - Brian
And I wasn't not being loved because of what was happening. It was like, wow, I'm just loved by God. And so that sent me on a journey then because it's like, wow, that was incredible. This darkest moment in my life. In some ways, I've experienced love in a way that I've never experienced it. That was over ten years ago now that experience. And so at that point, I'm like, okay, I'm going to make a comeback on this whole thing. That's what I was thinking. I'm going to be a better man, not a bitter man. I don't know what the future is going to hold, but I'm just going to let go of this because I know that I'm completely loved. And that got me then. I still did kind of traditional Christian things, reading scripture and praying and such, but I started experimenting with a whole part of the faith that I never knew about, which is contemplative spirituality. And that's what led me into this silent meditation practice that I wrote the book about. And I also did a lot of really extensive journaling to just kind of let go of my own pain, my guilt, my shame, my fear.
[00:07:46.150] - Brian
And then in the book that you had a chance to read recently and gratefully took the time to look at it was basically the story of me looking back on how I actually ended up kind of moving into this 2.0 or 3.0 version of myself through these deeper silence and solitude practices. I don't know if that helped. That answered your question.
[00:08:09.780] - Kara
It did. It's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that, because there's such vulnerability in your story and your sharing. And it's so important because particularly in the west and not everybody, but this has been my struggle as well with my spiritual unfoldment is my prime real estate was my intellect for so long. That was what I valued, and that was how I made decisions. And that was the be all and end all. And I have a business background, and I've always had spirituality kind of as a background and been interested in it and in periods of my life have gone to Church as an Episcopalian, but that was really as a teenager, more my early family life, but always kind of anything that sort of whispered about spirit would get my attention. Especially Mysterious Things I Loved. There's a magazine that my mom gets called His Mysterious Ways, and I just devour those stories. I just love anything to show these things like what you're talking about that was a mystical experience, in my opinion, where your eyes, like a veil, gets lifted and you're like, oh, my gosh, this is like God talking to me.
[00:09:56.180] - Kara
And it's hard to explain how as we sit here and we try to use English to describe something that's ineffable. But I can completely feel how that felt. And you do a beautiful job. Also, in the book of talking about that, like your eyes just being opened, and it's not anything. Again, it's not like, oh, this angel came down and he was riding on a cloud. And it's really obvious for the listener to be like, oh, yeah, that's definitely a sign, right? But it's subtle. I mean, it sounds subtle, but it's powerful in the actual experience and in the way that you weren't just an average person going through a crisis, a personal crisis, but you were a studied scripture. You had all of the intellectual tools that you needed, but it could only get you so far. And one of the things that you said before we started recording was that this book is your heart. It is a product of your heart. And so the fact that you have opened to something so much deeper, and then how much stronger, the backing that it gives to all of the information that you have to share is just vital.
[00:11:35.220] - Kara
I mean, it's this big engine that's powering it all.
[00:11:39.940] - Brian
Yeah, thank you so much. That's almost what puts to your mind just say, yeah. Because back ten years ago, I had no idea. I was just mostly really scared. But somehow deep down inside, I was like, okay, I know I'm going to get through this, but the question is going to be, who am I going to be when I get through this, right? And you named it so well because it's interesting. And I've had to process this. And just as a theological person, I can't process it still with just ideas and thoughts. I needed silence, which is so interesting, actually, I'll just be on that. I didn't need ideas. I didn't need more thoughts, because none of that stuff was doing me any good at the time. I just don't remember. I was like, everything I've been teaching all these years, nothing's working for me. I'm just completely seared on the inside. But what I needed was what really everybody needs is love. It's as simple as that. The love broke through again. Pain and just again. I wanted to be thoroughly. I mean, one of the things I wanted to be thoroughly transformed is what I decided.
[00:12:52.750] - Brian
I just remember one of the affirmations I used early on, too, was I willingly open myself up to God's loving light so that he can peer into all the dark places in my life and heal me. So I started off with that kind of an opening, too, which was kind of scary. And at the same time, I felt so terrible on the inside that didn't seem scary at the time to say that everything that I thought I had was gone. So it's like I might as well just go all the way in there and just do a thorough clean out. Yeah, clean out. Exactly. Obviously, that's put me in some interesting positions because I can't explain I don't even try to explain everything that happens, but I know that over time again, one of my favorite words is abundance. That's a word that emerged over the last ten years over again, just thinking everything is scarce. There's only a limited amount. I just have this unlimited vision of what God's love is actually like. And I can imagine essentially all eternity just exploring the full depth of what love really is. Obviously, eternity. It's forever, and there's always going to be more, which that's pretty exciting to me.
[00:14:06.940] - Kara
Right. And going back to that the growing edge of your spiritual life, I mean, that's what that takes me to where it's like, yeah, you've got eternity and you get to the edge, and then it just keeps expanding because we only know what we know until we learn more. And that goes beyond that goes through eternity. It does just keep expanding, and it's beautiful and glorious, and it's really interesting. And I love that we can offer your story at a time like this. This happened to you ten years ago, and so many people are in the thick of it right now, and they have been for a year and a half or longer. It varies from story to story, but there are so many stories of loss and of wounding and tragedy and trauma. And it's amazing to see the gifts that you have received through this trauma that has happened for you, the treasure we've just met today. But I do feel like I know you because I read the book and because you're so open in it. But it's hard to know how you could have had the growth and transformation that you've experienced in the last ten years without the catalyst.
[00:15:44.710] - Kara
It's hard to know if there would have been an innate something that would have driven you to explore yourself in this way and to come into this new definition of love without it. And maybe, yeah.
[00:16:01.390] - Brian
I don't know if you've ever read Richard Rohan. Yes, I do, too. And obviously, I quoted him quite a bit in the book, and he's not the only person that says stuff, but basically, you can either be transformed by pain or you can be transformed by love. It's just like Roar always says. Most people have to wait for the pain to come. Honestly say, I think I was so far into my head, and at some level, one of the other ways that was important for my healing is, again, my former wife just left me and my daughter's, basically, but I never blamed her. I basically said, okay, I'm going to take 100% responsibility again. Was it 100% mine? No, it wasn't 100% hers either. But I'm like, I'm taking 100% responsibility because this is never going to happen again. And this has to actually mean something long term. So I'm going to say I needed. So again, I don't recommend divorce to anybody because it's really hard. It's super hard. It's been hard on my daughters especially. They've done better. I didn't feel bad about putting this book out because my girls are in a good spot.
[00:17:08.410] - Brian
But that was hard for a while. It's obviously really painful. But I am grateful for even what my ex wife did and even the way that she left now, because it literally was just like I was getting like a satirized wound with a laser or something, like the arm got whacked off, but it didn't bleed out, but it was just gone. And so then what do I do? I had to respond to that. And so I'm not sure if I actually would have had this breakthrough, if I would have stayed married because I'd retreat into my head and it was going to take something to get me out of there. So I'm actually, again, don't recommend it. But I can look back and say that was at least so far. That was probably one of the big catalytic moments, if not the biggest catalyst that I've ever had in my life for real growth. And so, I mean, I wouldn't be here talking to you today, at least, if that wouldn't happen. So I can say I'm grateful and I needed it, because sometimes people can be apprehended by pure love. And I wish everybody listening.
[00:18:10.630] - Brian
I hope that's the catalyst for everybody's change. But a lot of us, we have to go through hit a wall, and I hit a big wall there.
[00:18:19.450] - Kara
Right. And so it's helpful when you are going through it, to hear stories of people who it's like, oh, my gosh, this can be it's so hard to feel that when you're in it. It can be so hard to recognize it when you're in the trenches. But it is helpful to hear from people who are like, okay, this was actually, in the end, a huge blessing for me in terms of my transformation, because we are I mean, it's my belief that we are here. This is an opportunity for us. These lives are opportunities, and they're opportunities for us to keep reaching that growing edge of our spiritual life and discover who we are and bring in more of that light and more of who we really are. So often, just as you said, it can take that something hard to be able to force us into it.
[00:19:25.420] - Brian
[00:19:26.750] - Kara
That wake up call that we often need. Well, thank you again for sharing that. So your book is around centering prayer. This is the tool that you use to help you get more in your heart and get more into the experience rather than just the learning of the Scripture. So can you talk about the difference between centering prayer versus other types of prayer? If we can start with that?
[00:20:00.100] - Brian
Yeah. And the basic difference is centering prayer is also known as the prayer of silence. And I know your shows a lot about meditation, so you could also just call it silent meditative prayer. And so in a regular prayer, you said you grew up Episcopalian, so obviously you had the Book of Common prayer. And so a lot of times people pray just by reading prayers, whether they're in the Bible or written prayers, and say like the Book of Common prayer, book of worship. Or we can do just people can just pray to God with words out loud or to yourself. Centering prayer is basically saying what I'm going to do is I'm going to commit to sitting in God's presence, and I'm going to attempt to connect with God. My intention is to sit there and engage God apart from words, thoughts, images. And in fact, the whole practice is essentially and this is where it's similar to say, like mindfulness meditation, where you're essentially just trying to recognize when you're lost in a thought stream. And then the centering prayer technique, instead of just focusing on your breathing, like maybe what like you do when you learn how to do mindfulness during prayer is similar.
[00:21:17.760] - Brian
But instead of using the breath to break up thoughts, you're assuming you're sitting in God's presence. So you just use like a prayer word, which can be God or love or Jesus. I use Jesus. And so when I realize I'm at a thought, I just kind of mentally like Jesus, and that breaks the thought up just for a little space. And then it's the whole process. I'm going to surrender my thoughts and sort of float above them. And I was thinking that there's an old book from the medieval period called The Cloud of Unknowing, and it's a book on prayer. And the idea was to get to God, you have to get above they call it a cloud of forgetfulness. You have to get on the other side of your thoughts. And if you could just float above your thoughts every once in a while out of this vast emptiness of what you run into, which is pure silence, God's love can break through, but not through words. It's more kind of a soul to soul thing. And so that's what sinnering prayer is. It's a really powerful way to just sit with God with the goal just being that to surrender my thoughts and being God's presence.
[00:22:28.860] - Brian
And then from time to time you can have some really profound experiences. But that's not the goal. The goal is just to surrender your thoughts to the vine.
[00:22:38.730] - Kara
Right. And one of the things that you go into in the book, too is the experience. You were saying that to the experience versus the thought and the intellect. And I was just at a funeral last week and back in an Episcopal Church and going through these familiar prayers as part of the service. And it was so much harder for me to connect with these written words that were going so fast. They were beautiful words, but it was a rope. Like, we were just this is what we say now, and this is what we say now. And now we say this. And it was like I was trying to get deeper into the word so that I could really kind of feel them and feel that connection. And what prompted the author to write this? What had just happened or what had been experienced? And what are they wanting to convey? What am I supposed to remember here? Where is that eternal remembrance? And it was just too fast because it was just in the mind. I'm reading it and I'm following and I'm trying to keep up. And for me, as you're talking about that, that's what it goes back to, because when I'm in meditation, I have that time to really soak in that wherever I feel that I want to whatever qualities I want to be absorbed in, if that's peace, if that's love, if that's wisdom, whatever I want to invoke, if I want to do that, then I can really get to it's.
[00:24:29.290] - Kara
For me, the experience piece, it's a feeling. It's really coming into a feeling, like a presence and feeling that connection with God, feeling things open up. You talk about that rising above thought. And for me, oftentimes, it's like this. I can totally relate to that. And sometimes it's like this the cloud sort of even parts so that God can come down in higher self or however we want to say it. But so that there is this connection, like almost like a portal opens up and it's like, oh, yes, okay, here we are. We're clicked in, we're connected. But for me, it takes a little bit of time. It takes some silence, it takes some intention. It takes really getting into that feeling. Yeah. When I consider what you're talking about, that's what it opens up for me. Yeah.
[00:25:36.700] - Brian
I love how you describe that, too, because I talked a lot of folks about it. I always try to get somebody like, what have you experienced? And it's so hard to put in words, but I think you just made it really simple. You just get these moments where, like you said, kind of the clouds part or the Red Sea parts or whatever, and then you encounter like, oh, wow. And then it's gone. Sometimes it's just a fleeting moment. But those are those moments that it's like those are the healing moments, essentially. And they're so powerful.
[00:26:04.680] - Kara
Yeah, absolutely. And so imperative, I think. And you're not going to get it every time. I mean, especially not just starting off.
[00:26:16.410] - Brian
[00:26:17.340] - Kara
But if you stick to it, you get into a rhythm. Can you talk a little bit about the benefits that you've received? We've talked a lot about how it's opened you up more in the heart and beyond the intellect. Is there anything else you want to share about the benefits?
[00:26:34.830] - Brian
Yeah, because this was a surprising piece for me because again, after I went to a divorce, I was literally, like, throwing things up a wall to see if I could just get any kind of relief at all from stuff. So I was experimenting with different pieces. And the centering prayer, the piece that surprised me because people like, oh, you should meditate. I'm like, okay. But nobody warned me that kind of odd things were going to happen when I started to meditate. And I thought it was something was wrong with me, really, because I would meditate. I put this in the book, but it was fun. And I used to do it. I still do sometimes. I used to do it outside to be on the back patio. I would do yoga. I'd go for a walk, and I'd end with a center and prayer session or whatever. I would sit out there, and I just remember this one day, all I could remember was how mad I was at people. And so all this anger was just bubbling up, and that would alternate with me thinking about sex. And I was thinking, like, what is wrong with me?
[00:27:39.850] - Brian
It's like I'm supposed to be sitting here with God. And then I had this transformational moment doing that to it. I was thinking like, okay, I got all these kind of thoughts going through my head that are kind of embarrassing. And I'm like, I'm still here. God hasn't incinerated me or something. And instead I actually feel connected with God. And then I was like, that's really strange. And then I did some research, and I found out that at least within the Christian religion, that when persons first withdrew into the deserts, and these are like the hermits, these people became the monks and nuns. And such early Christian writers who were out with these folks noticed they called them demons that showed up. And this is where the whole tradition, some of the listeners may have heard of the seven deadly sins. A lot of times they get kind of cliche and they get turned into horror movies and stuff. But originally that was all observing, fully committed people that had left everything to go out and just be in silence with God. And what did they run into? They ran into greed, lust, pride, a sloth.
[00:28:49.180] - Brian
I can roll through the whole seven, but all that stuff showed up and see. I didn't know that. The thing that one of the benefits of centering prayer is it lets you see on the inside what's really going on. And then the beautiful thing about is you can accept what's on the inside, what's in your thoughts, and you're consciously through this whole process, you're releasing those to God. And so one of the things that God really did in my heart was especially anger stuff. I just realized how angry I was just seething on the inside. And that had to have been coming out during my daily life. So I've literally, since I've been doing this, my blood pressure is, like, down. I'm still pretty wound up person, but I used to be borderline high blood pressure. So I'm like, talking like, just give it real some numbers. I'd go to the doctor, and I would be like, at 141. 45 over 90, which is right borderline for being. And I go to the doctor the other day for my physical. I'm now at 115 over 70. And it's not just age, it's literally like, calm.
[00:29:54.960] - Brian
And that's because I let go of the stuff that was bothering me. Another benefit is this has been really profound, and it's super helpful for 2000 and 22,021 with all the divisions and stuff that you were talking about is like, I realized how complex I was on the inside. Just mixed motives. Like, I'm saying I'm doing it for God, but maybe I'm just doing it for the money. And I just saw all the stuff without judgment. So I could just see the mixed motives. And then the takeaway for me over long term has been, again, I'm not perfect at this either. But in terms of interacting with my children, with friends, or especially with people that maybe are kind of being adversarial toward me at different moments in my life, I've realized that, wow, when I'm engaging somebody, I need to be super curious, because the person I'm talking to is just as complicated, just as divided as I am. Therefore, I need to give this person a colossal amount of Grace and a break, especially if they're not showing up as their best version of themselves. And so that's been a huge change for me, too.
[00:31:06.270] - Brian
And that's helped me well, again, I don't think I would be here talking to you. That's helped me in my coaching work. I'm a better teacher, better mentor. Again, do I still get wound up? Sure. Do I get upset? Yes. But I have that kind of impulse control. I have the ability now to see another person as a person loved by God, too, that has needs, that has divisions. And that's been a huge benefit. And then I guess the last thing is just the fact that I know sitting with God, that while the worst parts of myself showed up and I still felt that God loved me, and I know that God loves me. So it's like, okay, I don't have to be ashamed of myself. And that's where I think the transparency that came out of the book. When I speak, I can share in class. I have more impact on people having gone through this hard time and basically done this inner work. It's allowed me to hold space for people without judgment. Again, not perfect. I'm not going to pretend like I never judge, because of course I do, but I'm able to hold space, listen, and I think authentically love the person that I'm talking to, and that's still the work in progress.
[00:32:22.080] - Brian
But that's what this practice over almost ten years has done for me.
[00:32:28.280] - Kara
That is so beautiful. And one of the things that I would love to just reiterate that you brought up kind of humorously at the beginning of that was the things that come to the surface that you weren't prepared for. And that's such an important point because we were talking earlier about really you're bringing light in. And there is actually there are teachers who talk about that. When you open yourself up in this way, there really is a light that's coming in, but it shines into your shadows and then it surfaces them. So you gave beautiful examples of how this light brought the shadows more of the things that you don't want to see about yourself that we all can experience. And that is a part of us. But we may so often we reject it and we don't want to see it and we don't want to acknowledge that it's part of us. We're very willing to point it out in other people often. But often what triggers us so much in others is what we are most afraid to look at within us. And so when we take this time and the opportunity to really bring that light in in silence and in contemplation and just willingly surrendering, it will bring those shadows up, but it allows them to rise.
[00:34:03.600] - Kara
And like you said, you can offer them to God. You can offer them to the divine, back to the light to say, okay, thank you, I see it. Thank you for the service that you've given me and the protection that you thought you were doing, or whatever the case may be, if you can try to bring gratitude in it, that's beautiful. But recognizing and owning it, being responsible for it, and then recognizing that it's not going to serve where you're going anymore. So releasing it. I'm just so glad that you brought that up, because it can be something that happens. And people can approach meditation and centering prayer thinking, I'm going to feel amazing all the time. It's always going to make me feel better. And it's such an important and powerful tool, but it does give you the opportunity to work through some things that you may not be wanting to look at that actually, ultimately with them rising to the surface, that you can release them and let them go. So it's for your highest good, but you have to go through the witnessing of it before you can get to that point of clarity.
[00:35:24.150] - Brian
Thomas Keating, he was a Catholic priest and he was a Monk. So when the center of Prayer movement started, I mean, he goes all the way back into the earliest Church. But starting like the centering prayer word itself came up in like 1970 because you may have heard Thomas Merton. He was probably one of the most famous Catholic monks. They already had these meditation techniques, but they were seeing a lot of Roman Catholics were going and embracing like it was in 1960. So they were embracing like transcendental meditation, which is a different form. It comes out of like really Hinduism in some ways. And like they're going, hey, you don't have to become a Hindu to meditate. You can be a Christian. Let us show you how to do this. But Keating actually called what happens divine therapy, which I love that because it is like we all can't afford psychotherapy and literally go like two or three times a week for months and months and months. But in a sense, the way you just described it is it's God's doing psychotherapy on us. I have a quote that I really like. I put it in the book, but it's from Nietzsche, the philosopher.
[00:36:31.470] - Brian
He was not a religious person. He's kind of reacting to Christianity, but he has this great quote about silence that I just love. He says when we're alone and quiet, we're afraid that something will be whispered in our ear. And so we hate the silence and drug ourselves with social life. And I love that because that's exactly what happens. Stuff does get whispered in your ear and nobody told me. I'm glad that this is coming up in this conversation because meditation, everybody said that's awesome. And it actually is. But there's a growth process. It's hard to learn how to do it because you have to learn how to deal with your own thoughts. But then the thoughts that come up, a lot of them are just bizarre stuff. Like, did I set my watch? Is this ever going to end or whatever? But when you get those disturbing, embarrassing thoughts, that's what we're always not always prepared to deal with. I've seen people in groups just burst into tears doing centering prayer because something spoke to them so deeply, they're just literally crying afterwards. Again, that doesn't happen all the time either. But you just have to be aware that stuff will pop up out of your insider.
[00:37:40.930] - Brian
Like you said, I love that you have image of light coming in and you'll see stuff that you may not be completely ready to see.
[00:37:48.500] - Kara
Yeah. And it's so important and trusting that if it's coming up, you're not going to get more than you can handle. So if it's coming up, there is this higher guidance that is it's like you're giving this opportunity for higher guidance to come in and work with you and work on you and so trusting that, oh, I don't want to see this, but it must be time and surrendering and recognizing that it's helpful, in my opinion, in my experience, it has been very helpful to open myself and surrender and allow for this stuff to come in, this stuff to clear out so well. Thank you for that.
[00:38:35.970] - Brian
No, you're welcome. What clears out is fear, guilt, and shame. One of my favorite little prayers. I heard this from one of my mentors, but then I've realized now that you got this from a woman named Mccarna veter Care. And the prayer is really simple and you can use it probably before you do the centering prayer if you want to. It's Lord, help me believe the truth about myself. No matter how wonderful it is or how beautiful it is, I'm going to surrender and just show me everything and let's use this to grow into the person that I was created to be.
[00:39:08.680] - Kara
Yeah, I do love that. That's beautiful. So something else that you wrote that I loved was let me just quote this here. I again want to caution you against reading. What follows is a blow by blow account of what you will encounter. I cannot promise Five Steps to the Abundant Life or 30 Days to Personal Renewal. Centering prayer is not a quick fix, nor should we approach it as a trendy spiritual practice. And this is so important. And I want us to emphasize that spiritual practices and paths are unique by design. They take intentionality and discrimination, patience and practice. And you can find that you reached a point on your path where things begin to accelerate. But you have to build that foundation and allow it to really soak into your being until you're not just practicing it, but you're being it. And so I loved that you've been doing this for ten years and you've reached some really beautiful fruits of your labor. But I don't know if you have anything more to say about that, but this being an embodiment.
[00:40:29.840] - Brian
Yeah. Well, I love the words that you just said, too. I have to say that things are unique. The phrase that I like to use with folks. And I'll make this short, but it's like you got to play we're playing an infinite game basically in life. And too many of us think it's a finite game. And so meditation is to play infinite game because it looks like, well, I'm going to block out 20 minutes. And some people do it twice a day. Some people even do it more. And you're like, wow, I'm going to lose that much time. It's like, no, you're actually opening yourself up to Infinity. So you're actually making your life bigger by doing it. But it's a long game practice that you're doing. And I love the way you're describing, too, because what I like to talk about is we need to find rhythms for life that fuel us. And they just essentially, it's the word our life fits into them. They don't fit into our life. So we're not like trying to make control. We're setting ourselves up. So that we can open ourselves up to as much of God's Grace and love as possible so that can flow into all the other parts of our lives.
[00:41:39.190] - Brian
And so when you play a long game, you do these rhythms, I'd call them rhythms, or you can call sometimes people say rule of life, like rhythm, like it's a rhythm of life that I can order my days by. That allows me to essentially one of my mentors getting Bob Tuttle. He always said the key to life is show up, pay attention, and know that God has more invested in this than you do. And a long game meditation practice, you experience that for yourself, and then you can go about your daily life. I mean, I have a job. I'm a professor. I do coaching, I write. But I'm able to take what happens in those meditation sessions and my other spiritual practices. And that isn't something I add to my day. It's the thing that fuels my whole day. So when I'm my best self, I'm free to be me. I love myself enough that I can love everybody that I encounter each day, and then I can love God even more deeply. And like I like to say, I want to be an ambassador of God's abundance to every single person I meet each day.
[00:42:46.820] - Brian
And just playing long game, not quick fix that's made meant everything to me. So again, I'm just curious just to kind of keep looking like if we talk in ten years, it will be really interesting to see where both of us are. If we would stay on this journey, it would just be really interesting. It'd be fun to go back and listen ten years from now an interview even to see what was going on, right?
[00:43:09.710] - Kara
Absolutely. I love that growth and expansion that you're talking about and the infusing. It's kind of like I love how you talk about it fueling your day. And ultimately, the more we can bring the centering prayer and the meditation into our everyday activities so that we're kind of starting from that platform. And I'm sure that you have gotten to that when you are around people in a social setting or something. I can feel it now that you're exuding this presence, this peaceful presence. And that, I think, is something with a regular practice that happens too, that people start talking about how they feel calmer around you and that it changes the energy of the room or whatever language the people use. But it's like people feel calmer around you. And what a beautiful byproduct that is to be of service. Just even when people don't know why they don't know you, they don't know why that is, that they feel better, but they do. And that's an incredible blessing to be able to bring into this life and other lives, other people's lives.
[00:44:43.570] - Brian
No, that's not so good. Again, I do want to exude. We all have energy right? And so how can we exude the most love and talk about it in the book? It was still so funny. I was in this really high conflict business meeting one time, and I was doing the consulting stuff. I came in, the President goes, come up and sit by me. And so I sitting up by the President, which made me a little bit nervous. And then we're there, and all the whole cabinet and key leaders were all there. So I made my presentation, and one of the persons, it was kind of a bully in the group, just unloaded on everything. And we've been in enough meetings. So it was almost like this person was just playing tapes in their head. They always kind of said the same stuff, but it's still pretty harsh. And then it's done. And then it was funny. I could feel all the eyes looking on me. Like, what's Brian going to say now? What was funny is that while he was just unloading, I started doing center and prayer while the person was talking, I was just holding the space and not judging and not feeling shame or attacked personally.
[00:45:48.270] - Brian
And so I just sat there, and I knew everybody was looking at me. And then the funniest thing was the President ends up basically just shutting the person down and like, oh, this is really good. And then after the meeting, the funniest thing was these other leaders came up and they go, Brian, what were you smoking? How did you do that? No one's ever handled that person. Like, you just did not. And I literally didn't do anything. I was just sitting there holding space, but it was completely spiritual energy that just kind of left the calm down. And it wasn't a high conflict because the President wasn't like they started yelling each other, but it was just really interesting. And so that's a powerful byproduct. And again, that's what it means to be, am I perfect? I know. But when I think I want to be an ambassador of abundance, I want to bring a loving presence into whether it's a boardroom, a classroom, bedroom in my marriage, in the dining room, eating dinner with folks. That's what I want to bring into my life. And this has been a tool that's opened me up to be able to do that.
[00:46:50.590] - Brian
I don't know how what the percentages, but a lot more than I used to, let's put it that way.
[00:46:54.870] - Kara
Yeah, that's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that story. So you also beautifully write. Another way of thinking about growth in love is to view it as a journey. We don't ask, Are we there yet or will we ever make it? Instead, we ponder, how far can we get? Thus, perfection does not become a fixed point. Perfection becomes a living reality, attitude and openness to growth. And so I think this is a common theme throughout our conversation of this growing edge. But I just love this. One of the other things with your book and with the time that we've spent together here today is also your humility. Again, this is what I know right now. This is how far I've been able to take things. And I know that I'm open to continuing to keep letting that edge move out and keep getting to the edge of it so that I can learn and discover more. We talked about this a little bit in the beginning, too, with love and this discovery or like a rediscovery of really a new depth of love and a new kind of definition of what love is through the trauma that you experienced with your divorce.
[00:48:21.290] - Kara
And so this openness to be like, oh, my goodness, there was so much more and what is coming, what still lies in weight out there for me to explore. And I just wanted to share that because I thought that was so beautifully written. It's not something we're trying to arrive to. It's not like I'll use Centering Prayer to get me to this destination. It's expansive and it's infinite and it keeps going. What a gift that is.
[00:49:00.350] - Brian
Well, thank you. Because again, if you didn't know me, like 1012 years ago, you would probably be astounded I'd like to see a video of myself twelve years ago, honestly, now, before and after. But thank you for those super kind words. And in reality is when we talk about infinite growth, the thing that I learned the most is that just means I just need to show up and be present and just be my literally again, I teach at a seminary mentor, folks. And so like, I always just say I earned my living being myself. And so I have to 100% own that and I can't be fake because that's the other thing. It's like I have almost no toleration for pretend. It's like I want it to be real because I knew what it was like to basically lose my faith in the middle of that whole thing. And I decided if I was ever going to believe everything, anything ever again, it was going to have to be real. And so I really believe in. I don't ask anybody to do anything that I haven't tried myself. I love the principle of skin in the game and just being present, showing up and serving whoever's with me as powerfully as I can in the moment.
[00:50:12.770] - Brian
And that's what I really learned.
[00:50:14.560] - Kara
Yeah. That's beautiful. I can take lifetimes to get to that point. That's wonderful.
[00:50:22.330] - Brian
52 years so far.
[00:50:23.810] - Kara
Yeah. With a huge acceleration in those last ten or twelve, it sounds like. So your book comes out September 14, and again, it's called Centering Prayer. Sitting quietly in God's presence can change your life. And I assume that people can get that on Amazon or on your website.
[00:50:48.370] - Brian
Yeah, it's available right now for preorder on Amazon and my website, I have like, a landing email@example.com. That'd be the best place if people want to particularly interested in this and I'll ask for your email and then I'll send you some information on centering print. I'll give you updates.
[00:51:06.280] - Kara
But it's available on Amazon right now for pre order and then other ways that people can connect with you.
[00:51:15.490] - Brian
Yeah, I'm on Twitter and Instagram.
[00:51:19.630] - Kara
I guess I'll send you all the links and I'll be happy to put those in the show notes.
[00:51:23.910] - Brian
I'm on all those things and good, better, ugly. They all show different periods of my life Because I don't have one consistent branding across all those things. I will have a website that you can firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in the coaching stuff, But I would say centeringprayerbook.com or you can connect with me on social media and that would be the best places to find me right now.
[00:51:45.500] - Kara
Okay. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for being here. You've really shared some valuable wisdom and insight and I thank you for the work that you're doing. The work that you're doing on yourself in and of itself is huge for so many. I mean, it affects everybody even though it feels so personal, but also the ways that you're sharing and helping other people to grow is just really beautiful and such important work. So thank you so much. Thank you for being here.
[00:52:26.300] - Brian
You're welcome. This has been a wonderful conversation. I love the presence that you actually hold the space that you're able to hold as an interviewer too. So this has been a great conversation and I'm just really grateful for the chance to have met you and serve the audience here too.
[00:52:38.300] - Kara
Thank you so much. Well, what a delight to speak with Brian Russell. Be sure to check out his book Centering prayer. Sitting quietly in God's presence can change your life again. That's coming out in September of 2021 and look him up. I'll have all of his information on how to reach him in the show notes so thank you so much for listening and please share this episode. Brian is a beautiful soul who has a lot to share. So if this resonated with you and it brings somebody to mind who you think would enjoy his story and his teachings, his beautiful experience of his expanding love, please do that. Please share it and subscribe to the podcast and rate and review and I so appreciate your support in that way. So thank you again and I look forward to the next meditation conversation.
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