Need a mindset shift? Believe it or not, you don't have to be amidst the perfect place to recenter and refocus. Interested in an exercise to practice presence in just a minute or two, anywhere? You just have to notice.
Recently, I've had quite a few opportunities to share mindfulness tools with others. One of my favorite tools for sharing is an exercise some call 5 Senses. I like to think of it as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
This exercise, whatever you call it, is an opportunity to use your five senses to practice mindfulness quickly and in most any situation! From kids to adults, it really is an easy way to for all of us to practice presence.
Notice five things you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see around you. Try to notice the less obvious things or 5 things in detail (i.e. the green couch cushion rather than the couch).
Notice four things you can feel.
With your own touch, notice things you can feel. It may be your hair, your shirt or pants, the wind, your own skin, the chair you're seated in, or anything else you can feel.
Notice three things you can hear.
Quiet yourself and listen then notice three things you can hear. You may notice your own breath, the chirping of a bird, the sounds of an appliance, or cars passing by.
Notice two things you can smell.
Breathe in and notice what you smell - pleasant or unpleasant. This may be your own scent or a scent nearby.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Is there a taste in your mouth right now? If so, notice it. If not, consider savoring a taste, just one taste.
To recap, notice....
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
This mindfulness exercise is quick and a fairly easy way to shift your presence and state of mind. Then notice what you feel, sense, experience after this exercise. What do you think? Have you tried this one? Will you notice? What might it offer you to take just a moment and notice right now?
If you've followed my journey at all you may know these things to be true:
I am passionate about healing and wholeness.
I believe in safe space for all.
I have immense compassion for human trafficking victims.
I understand we each hold trauma in our bodies.
I am certain the gift of the breath grounds us amidst crisis.
With those things in mind, I invite you to join me in gifting the survivors I work with a tool that (I believe) will truly enhance their healing journey. The two organizations I currently partner with to offer trauma-sensitive yoga in this season are Rest Stop Ministries and End Slavery Tennessee. Graciously, yoga mats and blocks are in abundance for these survivors to use on site when we practice together. Some locations offer blankets to be shared. However, one of my favorite props/tools is largely missing. The yoga blanket.
Why are yoga blankets important and how do they help with a yoga & meditation practice? I am so glad you asked! Yoga blankets are the most versatile of props! A yoga blanket offers alignment to the pelvis and spine when in seated postures. It can be folded into a meditation cushion. It can serve as a pillow for stiff necks. It can be used to cover the body when cool. It can be folded into a bolster offering support in certain restorative postures. Heavy duty yoga blankets are not flimsy blankets, they offer firm support for the body.
From a safe space perspective, practicing yoga & meditation with an item that is "yours" is something which offers familiarity and comfort. Sharing yoga blankets that are stored and reused by others feels less personal. Yet gifting a survivor with a blanket of her own to be used beyond that weekly hour of practice is transformative! These women often have little of their own and this blanket may be the start of a new season of healing.
With your help, I would love to offer blankets for each survivor I connect with on this journey. Who knows...with your help...maybe even more survivors than these will receive this gift.
Will you journey with me?
There are two ways to help support this project right away:
1. Donate a gently used or brand new (heavy duty) yoga blanket to me in person or drop off at Bloom Yoga Studio (I will deliver on your behalf).
2. Purchase a new yoga blanket from my online shop (I will place a bulk order and deliver on your behalf). Click below to support these women on their journeys by gifting a blanket.
Blankets for Survivors
Trauma-sensitive yoga & meditation is an excellent tool for trafficking survivors and their healing journey. It invites survivors to re-connect with their body in healthy ways and feel grounded in a safe environment. In her teaching, Whitney has found that the comfort of a familiar object during practice and in transition is helpful on the healing journey.
With this purchase, you are gifting a survivor of human trafficking with her own heavy weight yoga blanket for her healing journey.
PLEASE NOTE: Select "local pickup" as there is no shipping for this item. A bulk order will be placed by me and your blanket(s) will be gifted directly to the survivor(s) on your behalf. In the box below, type your name as you would like it to be listed on your gift(s). Gifts may also be made anonymously on your behalf.
If you missed my blog post about how this little project came about, you can read more here: https://www.exploringpeace.com/blog/blankets-for-survivors
“One day you’ll write about your relationship with food,” my counselor said.
In that moment I knew what anxiety felt like (again).
My reply at the time was, “Oh, I am not sure about that or when I will be ready. This is a deep wound; I would not know where to begin.”
I heard her words clearly as she kindly gazed at me with a smile. “One day.”
Over a year has passed since that day, and I’m not ready yet. I am honestly still not sure where to begin. Yet this is “one day” on my journey.
Today, I sit at my keyboard with homemade kombucha in my cup, a tea I love brewing and enjoying. I ate an omelet for lunch. It consisted of real food from God’s earth. But I also added pepperoni (of the turkey variety) and some cheese (from a jar).
My friends and family fall into categories of “You ate something from a jar” and “Wow, I didn’t know they made turkey pepperoni.” Maybe, you see my struggle? Maybe, you do not notice anything odd about food from a jar. If not, you’re likely in the second category and are also now Googling, “What is Kombucha?”
You see, my healing journey has taken me on some strict paths of fasting from specific food groups…on purpose. I was horribly ill at the time and that fasting and guidance from my physician brought me much healing. It helped tremendously. Yet, I’m in a season of what feels like… rebellion. For me, it’s “living large” to open a package on occasion and not check the ingredients. After all, my body responds so clearly to what I eat, and I truly must acknowledge this or I become ill. Not checking ingredients can be risky. Yet living in a food bubble is risky as well, not as much for my body but for my mind and my heart.
When rebellion happens, it is also unhealthy. My self-care habits become lazy, and my body becomes sick. I have been in this rebellion place, and it is not healthy either—spiritually, emotionally, or physically.
What is a girl to do? I have finally discovered, this healing journey with food goes beyond ingredients. What is the fine balance of finding healing on the journey when you discover you have had an unhealthy relationship with food for nearly your entire life? How is it that admitting I have an unhealthy relationship with food and what I can now state as an eating disorder feels so shameful? Why does anxiety plague me with most meals and yet I cover it up so well—and have for so long? Few know of the struggle I face daily with ingredients and labels like GMOs, organic, MSG, gluten, raw, the list continues.
As a matter of fact, it feels raw to write these words. Yet, I sense today is the day. One day. My anxiety falls low on the ingredient list for the untrained eye, yet it is present.
Anxiety is no stranger to me, but it’s been over a decade since I experienced its effects. For years, I’ve covered it up with well-balanced and managed emotional health and good diet patterns. I first met anxiety after a health trauma in my life years ago, and anxiety made its home in my heart. It took years of practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and seeing a counselor to discover freedom from the effects my health crisis caused me at that time—and to break free from the anxiety. I thought I was free.
Fast forward a decade to a fresh new season of living into my purpose and call, all while writing and teaching mindfulness tools and sharing them with others! How dare anxiety return to greet me in this wonderful season?
Yet, it has returned, as unwelcome as it is through another health episode (although not as serious), in which I am reminded of the fragility of life. Anxiety appears all around me, but especially on my plate.
Here is what I have learned on my own healing journey. The closer we get to experiencing God’s healing touch, the deeper we realize what binds us and the rawer that feels. I now recognize it on my plate and the fear I have hidden behind over the years with healthy ingredients and secret rebellious snacking. I have been afraid I may hurt those I love by sharing my wounds because much of what I know (and fear) about food was not modeled in healthy ways by my family of origin.
When others eat for nutrients, my brain plays games over and over and over again. My deep wounds surface, looking like a perfectly balanced meal to some, yet to me, it brings a conflict of inner emotions and feelings I’ve looked to food to heal. Anxiety surfaces on my plate.
Yet, it isn’t about the food at all. I eat to celebrate. I eat to mourn. I control what I eat to celebrate. I control what I eat to mourn.
Is it possible to simply eat? I see my counselor’s smile, and I ponder my Creator’s gaze. Yes, I believe it is possible to simply eat. I believe anxiety will show me how, finally.
So, today is the first day I openly write about food, beyond the pages of my journal.
Chocolate nor wine.
Fasting nor supplements.
Keto nor Paleo.
Eating perfectly won’t heal my wounds. Eating imperfectly won’t heal my wounds. Counting points won’t heal my wounds. Binging on gluten-free cookies won’t heal my wounds. Fasting from everything non-organic won’t heal my wounds.
Until now, only my Creator knows of this struggle and has heard this admission. Well, and my counselor…and newest therapist who knows this work well … and now you. While it’s taken a long time to admit, the anxiety caused by food has been a reality I know far too well.
Today is the day, and the next, and the next, and the next. I am not healed overnight, but I am admitting my weakness, my imperfection, and my struggle. And that is the “one day” I’ve longed to embrace. A day that reminds each of us we are not alone in this life. A day that I can move from the shadow of shame and cling to God’s light and love. Today is that day!
In my weakness, God makes me stronger. Not perfect, but free. Oh, anxiety, I thought you were long gone. Yet, I find that as you appear boldly before me once again, you have much to show me about myself. You are ready to set me free!
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of The Redbud Post, featuring Anxiety. Since that time, my body has been adjusting to my new emotional break throughs and yet also struggling with the physical effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Our bodies are wise, my friends. More writing will come. For now, I'm breathing deep and practicing my mindfulness exercises. Thanks for supporting me on this journey with your kind words and encouragement.
Click here to read the most current edition of The Redbud Post.
My word this year is ENJOY. How is it mid-March and I'm only just now sharing this with you here at the blog? Oh, maybe that's because I haven't been at the blog! I've been creating soul care resources for you mostly in our new community (which I am truly ENJOYing!).
Anyway, back to the point, I think by mid-March many of us have forgotten the word that chose us (or sometimes that was chosen by us) for the current year. And trust me, this year has not been without bumps and challenges. ENJOY could easily have been forgotten. Yet ENJOY is getting closer rather than further away amidst those challenges.
This year, I've committed to ENJOY the opportunities God places before me as a choice. This does not mean everything happens with a smile on my face (if you live in my household, you know I master the "eye roll" on occasion). Yet when I choose to change my attitude and ENJOY something, it's amazing how much shifts in my body and in my soul. This invitation is a simple shift in attitude regarding so much for me - time management, laundry, finances, teaching, loving and living in my body....oh this is not an easy task.
Yes, God has called me to ENJOY what is before me yet that does not come without sacrifices and plenty of lessons learned. For starters, I am not good at letting go. Did you know it's impossible to ENJOY life and maintain control? You can only take delight and pleasure in life if you're willing to release the outcome (control). To take pleasure or satisfaction in something is to ENJOY, according to the dictionary.
This word invites a spiritual practice for me of being present in all that I do and invite God to be present with me as well. It invites me to let go in the highs and the lows. ENJOY is asking me to lighten up in some ways (nail polish anyone?!) and dive-in deep in others (let's End Slavery in our community). This word invites me to ENJOY the opportunities to use my voice, face challenges head-on, and savor joys and celebrations of this life with God.
For someone like me (a person who often struggles with performance/perfectionism/striving, what you think of me/my teachings/my choices/my call, or even how quickly I respond to your emails when you have a question or concern), ENJOY can be a hard word to embrace at times. It would be easy to let go of ENJOY by mid-March.
Yet this is a pilgrimage song! A song I will sing all year, even as it gets harder and the
Do you have a word for 2018? Are you learning much as you embrace it?
For the past year, I've been amazed by the number of emails and phone calls I've received from those who have retreated with me at a Yoga & Silence event, attended one of my classes/workshops, or read Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. They reach out to say they are "longing for more soul care on a daily basis, but not sure where to begin." I meet people in my community who ask about my work and upon my reply say "whoa - I need that but I don't even know where to start."
Maybe, you're one of those people?
Here is what I have learned from these encounters: individuals longing for soul care come in all shapes, sizes, ages, demographics, and faith backgrounds. We live all over the world and while retreating together in time set apart is wonderful, there is a desire to connect near and far, and not just on special occasions. We need soul care in our daily life.
To be honest, I've been a little overwhelmed with where to begin on offering resources of my own that support those who email me beyond offering individual private spiritual direction sessions. I've pointed you all over the internet, sent you to tons of links, and tried to offer tips in my writing on my blog.
You've asked for accountability with daily scripture readings, guided audio meditations, more Yoga & Meditation, a safe space to interact with others after a Yoga & Silence retreat. You say you long for all of this to be accessible, not distracting (like a Facebook group), meet your schedule, and be affordable. You long for safe space for your soul with others in community.
That, my friends, is a lot to ponder and quite a tall order!
That's why it has taken me a full year to launch this community. I understand that my call is to create soul care resources for exploring the gift of God's peace with breath, body, and spirit. And with the creation of a fantastic on-line resources for creators, I have discovered a way for us to do this in a safe and private space together as a community. It's called Patreon.
In 2018, I am using my creative talents to launch a soul care community for you on Patreon. This space is for those who long for soul care resources on an ongoing basis and for those who want to give back at the same time.
How does this online community work and what's the benefit for you?
Oh, I'm excited for you to click through and find out (it's a private space, less distractions, and there's an app for that too)! Starting at only $1, you gain access and receive audio downloads of weekly scripture passages (following the Revised Common Lectionary). There are plenty more community perks including guided meditations, live yoga and other teaching sessions, and more. PLUS, thanks to my amazing friends at Sacred Ordinary Days, there is a giveaway this week!
How does this community give back?
God placed a little dream inside of me to create a simple space someday where others can retreat (specifically, a rural place by the water). Our family loves retreating there now with only a pavilion and a fantastic little outhouse built by my amazing partner (who also sees this dream becoming a reality).
Rustic is the new Chic! Right?
We're working hard together as a family to make this an amazing outdoor space for personal (and hopefully small group) retreat (think Yurts or Treehouses, not the Ritz Carlton). We have invested with our time and resources (and even with broken bones for my poor husband this summer) in a pavilion to start. As a family, we have built tables, cut fields, and don't worry....we've played in the water plenty too!
Joining the Journey on Patreon begins at $1 and advances up to $20 per month. With your help, we can create spaces both on-line and in person for exploring the gift of God's peace. Every single dollar given on this platform as a member of this community will support creating an outdoor retreat space for personal retreat.
Will you join me?
Click here to find out more and Join the Journey.
What's Dressember and why am I involved?
In 2005, the founder Blythe Hill began hearing about the issue of sex trafficking. Despite her deep sense of urgency to help, she felt helpless. She didn't think she had much to offer to the fight. In 2009, she challenged herself to wear a dress every day of December (hence: Dressember). The next year, a few friends joined in. By the third year, her friends' friends began to participate, and it occurred to Blythe that there was more to this challenge than she originally thought. This movement has blossomed into something completely unexpected - an international campaign to aid the fight against sex trafficking.
December is a special month for me, one that celebrates my own survival - a different kind (I had a stroke 12 years ago this month, on my birthday, in 2005). My healing journey has been inspired this year by new friends - women rescued from sex trafficking. I have known this issue is real in other parts of our world, I now understand it's real everywhere. For me, Dressember is an opportunity to raise awareness that slavery is a real and much larger problem than many people realize - around the world AND in our own communities.
This December, I turn 43. My goal is to bring greater awareness to modern day slavery and celebrate survivors, reclaiming the dress as a symbol of FREEDOM & POWER.
Will you help me celebrate my birthday this December?
1. Give to a cause close to your heart that impacts or educates those affected by slavery/trafficking - locally or globally. 2. Make a donation toward my $100 goal for the Dressember fundraising campaign
3. Make an effort to purchase gifts this month that are ethically made (more suggestions to come on this topic).
4. Wear a dress this month - educating others in your community and reclaiming the dress as a symbol of FREEDOM & POWER.
5. Let me borrow a dress (this yogini currently owns about three dresses).
6. Donate a gift card as a stocking stuffer for local women who have been rescued from trafficking (I will be delivering these to Rest Stop Ministry this month, click here to find out more about this organization).
This challenge is way out of my comfort zone. And, I'm honored to participate. I'll be writing about my journey here at my blog, so stay tuned...
How will you join me this Dressember (1, 2 ,3 ,4 , 5, or 6)?
Edited to add:
THANK YOU! My financial goal was met and I delivered a bagful of gift cards to my friends at Rest Stop Ministries. This month truly shaped my journey. I learned that I could not have survived this challenge without leggings, that you really can do anything in a dress, that we have much work to do in regards to advocacy and equality both locally and globally, and that you and I TRULY have a voice!
At the conclusion of our group spiritual direction session today, I shared a song by Gungor. It's one of my favorites to ponder, pray, and move with on my yoga mat. "Late Have I Loved You" was released in February of 2010 so it has been around for a bit (although not nearly as long as the original). It's a beautiful interpretation of St. Augustine of Hippo's ancient poem/prayer that speaks of his religious conversion.
Interestingly enough, I discovered this poem the month before the song was released. I remember this only because I posted about it on my blog over 7 years ago.
You can read Gungor's interpretation of Augustine's prayer below. How does this poem/prayer/song speak to you on your spiritual journey?
"Late Have I Loved You"
Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient,
Late have I loved you
you were within me, but I was outside you
it was there that I searched for you
it was there that I searched for you
Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient, so new.
you were here with me
but I was not with You
it was there that you found me
it was there that you found me
You called and you shouted,
you broke through my deafness.
You flashed and you shone,
dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me
You breathed your fragrance on me
Late have I loved you
I drew in your breath
I keep on breathing
I've tasted I’ve seen
And now I want more
You breathed your fragrance on me
You breathed your fragrance on me
Late have I loved you
I've not written in a while. At least not at my blog. Or, anywhere really. I recently put my pen down (yes, I still write with pen and paper) and picked up markers instead. The markers were sort of a desperate attempt at sabbath - to reboot my soul after a challenging summer and a truly full season of my writing being released in three publications this year (one of which was my first published devotional book - for which I'm truly grateful).
My friend, Dana, also released a book this year. It turned out her book was released into the world 38 days after her mother passed away in the care of hospice. The book was dedicated to her mom (prior to Dana knowing her mother was terminally ill or that she would only be around long enough to hold an early release copy). And so, Dana was invited into releasing For Sabbath's Sake into the world at a time when she needed sabbath more than ever - to honor her mom and her own grief. Dana shares her wisdom not only in her words but also in her actions and I'm so honored to see her live into sabbath since her mother's passing. She inspires me to remember sabbath is not a far-off dream. Think about your practice of keeping sabbath. Do you regularly keep sabbath? Is it invited or forced? Is it a set day of the week you honor or keep? Is there any sabbath space in your life? Or, does it occasionaly slip away like mine accidentally did?
My recent sabbath experience extended beyond an anticipated Sunday afternoon nap. It was not expected and actually bumped into weeks of other plans. Yet it was necessary beyond measure. Since it was uninvited by me yet clearly mandated by my body, it even included some anxiety (what about this commitment or that duty?). The more I'm honest about the fact that anxiety took hold during my recent sabbath experience, the more I realize how many of us struggle with anxiety on a regular basis. And, when that emotion hit, I panicked.
The standard tools in my tool box for soul care (writing, meditation, yoga, labyrinth walks, and retreats) offer me sabbath rest and recharge. Yet they have also become my work and I realized they were not companioning me as they had in the past. This made me anxious. Thankfully, I had some new tricks up my sleeve and per a little rest and relaxation (and even a bit of Netflix), I pulled out a new pack of markers for my newly embraced sabbath plans. And, wow! Was I surprised. Inviting in a new spiritual practice allowed me to hit the reset button and truly discover a new rhythm of sabbath. I began with a beautiful wall art poster I found at Ten Thousand Villages as well as the Upper Room book, Praying with Mandalas.
At first, I was impressed with the markers themselves. Each stroke swiftly glided across the paper with vivid color as my mind relaxed and I let go of my task list. And an amazing thing happened as the colors filled the page, I began to find rest in God's presence. My mind had been overflowing for weeks (okay, months). I was not sleeping well and my body barely desired movement (something I regularly long for). Yet with each stroke of the marker, a new tool was added to my tool box. I began to relax and unwind as I savored this quiet time with God.
And, then...I started to dream.
I'm not talking about dreaming into the future (this is a norm for me, I am always dreaming up new ideas). I'm talking about dreaming in the present, in my sleeping hours. The kind of dreams you wake up from and wonder what they had to teach you or what they may be inviting you to in the new day. Once embraced, God allowed me to find true rest when my head hit the pillow during this time of sabbath. True rest, which had recently been just a dream was a reality of the present. My nights were filled with dreams, dreams, and more dreams. Not all the dreams made sense nor did I remember every detail. Yet the dreams surfaced and my body and my soul found rest.
Sabbath is not a dream. Sabbath invites dreams. Sabbath does not have to be forced or uninvited. Sabbath may be a day a week. Sabbath may be a season. Yet how could I forget? Sabbath does not have to be a far off dream. Maybe you need this reminder too? Pick up your markers (or some other new tool for your own unwinding) and embrace your sabbath dreams with God.
Three times I have started this post and three times I have erased my thoughts.
Why? It is difficult to capture the spirit of the Goose in a blog post.
Wild Goose = Spirit. Justice. Music. Art.
Actually, I do not believe it is possible to clearly capture this experience with a journalistic wrap-up blog post. The people I met and shared stories with have inspired my life with God. I feel free. I feel inspired. I feel encouraged. I feel called to action. Rather than words upon words. I'll simply say this, Namaste, y'all.
I see you.
Your light. God's light in you. All of you. Each and every one of you. God is here among us. I'm certain of it.
To share the spirit of the Wild Goose Festival 2017, scroll through some of the images below and let's chat about it. Ever been to the Wild Goose Festival? What do you experience there? Where else do you experience freedom and encouragement on your journey with God? And in the presence of God's Spirit?
My yoga mat goes with me everywhere! And that means...it gets dirty.
Sweat and grime tend to multiply in the summer. I'm expecting to encounter my fair share of each in these hot summer months (especially at The Wild Goose Festival this July)! I have been asked a lot recently about my favorite yoga mat spray. So, thought I would share an easy DIY (do-it-yourself) recipe for cleaning your yoga mat. A quick search of the internet pulls up many options for making your own cleaner. My favorite recipe is below and shares not only why this recipe is good for your body (germs on your mat, means germs on your body) but also good for your spirit!
Yoga Mat Cleaner (for Body and Spirit)
Combine your ingredients in your glass bottle (the glass is important for storage of the essential oils), shake, spray your mat, wipe down or air dry, and enjoy!
Benefits of Lavender:
antiseptic, analgesic, restorative, calmative, sedative, anti-infectious
Benefits of Tea Tree (also known as Melaleuca):
anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, disinfectant
Beyond cleaning your mat, these oils encourage* security, gentleness, compassion, vitality, clarity, comfort, and emotional balance for your body and your spirit.
*Aromatherapy for the Soul, Valerie Ann Worwood
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries,
unless otherwise indicated.
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