A decade ago, in 2011, I crafted my first rule of life in a spiritual formation course while pursuing my certification. When I look back now on that first "rule" I realize now how I've grown spiritually over these past ten years, where I've been stuck (pandemic, anyone?!) and how God has met me in each stage of my spiritual journey.
A Rule of Life is an opportunity to discover your own routine with God and seek wisdom for how you long to order your days. My personality is one that swings between the rule obedience (I tried to follow) In childhood and the longing never to embrace rules others place on me as an adult. Anyone else feel like a rule rebel? But when I find the rhythm of my own rules today and embrace them, I thrive. I think this is true for most of us. If we can honor ourselves with what works for us, we can embrace discipline that helps us grow. Yet that discipline isn't the same for everyone. Afterwall, we don't have "one size fits all" bodies nor do we have "one size fits all" souls.
In the Christian community, Saint Benedict is known for inviting the monks of his order to establish the rules that shaped their lives, giving structure to what we know today in spiritual formation as a Rule of Life. While those of you reading this likely are not monks, I'm guessing you could benefit from the simple structure of a rhythm for your own life.
Living in a pandemic has invited me to revisit my rule and discover new rhythms for connecting with God. The shifting of worship, small groups, personal connection, routine, work, and everything else that had given my life structure dissolved in 2020. I was left with a shapeless routine and someone in most every room of the house logging on to a device to go about their day. I soon realized a new routine was in order if I was to connect with God.
So I began updating that Rule of Life that's undergone quite a few revisions in the past decade. And this time, it looks completely different. My Rule of Life is less structured and more inviting than ever before in regards to my daily routine. It includes good books, hot tea and time in nature. It also includes reminders of my dreams and goals and how God made me. And here's a bit of irony, there are no rules for how you create your rule.
Need some companionship in discovering your own rhythm? I'll be sharing my Rule of Life in our Peace Seekers community next week on Friday, January 29, 2021. You're invited to join our community if you'd like to be part of that conversation. This year in our private online space, we'll focus on a theme each month for ways to meet God. And in doing so, we'll be working on our own Rules for the entire year of 2021. It's not an overnight project to discover the ways you best connect with your Creator. Rather, it's a journey. You can find details to join our community by clicking here.
Have you explored a Rule of Life? What has it offered you?
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.
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.
Whitney R. Simpson
yoga & meditation teacher
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC