This is a photo of me facing fear. I am smiling because fear didn't win this round.
My best friend, spouse of 23+ years, and the person I trust most with my life loves his motorcycle. I have had a genuine aversion to the idea of riding with him. He has been patient and never forced me to love what he loves. But I have been working on my fear for quite a while now. And the day finally came for me to face it. And guess what? It wasn't awful. It was great.
Note: Please don't give me a lecture on motorcycle safety. I was already overflowing with fear for not just me but also him, which tends to resurface with lectures. And whether or not I keep riding, I don't know yet. But I did it, and now I am no longer paralyzed by the fear of simply discussing it. End of note, thanks.
In my spiritual direction practice and my friendships, I have heard more and more sharing about fear these past few years. I don't think it's coincidental that we have been living with a heightened sense of fear surrounding our health of ourselves and our loved ones. Fear has been a driving force behind many decisions for a long, long time.
I don't think God wants us to live in fear. I am sure of that (see Isaiah 4:10, Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6). But I do believe fear can help us grow!
How do we move from a place of fear to a place of security, even when the stakes are high? How do we shift our hearts and minds (and whole bodies!) to be present and grounded, even when we are afraid?
I was afraid. But I invited my body to stop fighting with me to face my fear.
How do I face fears? First, I name them. I am grateful I have supported listeners through both counseling and spiritual direction. But if you don't have access to either, you can always name your fears with a trusted listener and get their wisdom with your next steps.
For me, there was a lot of work in advance but that day I tapped into some tools. I practiced breath work the entire ride. I got grounded in my body and envisioned a shield of protective energy from God around us as we rode. It may seem silly, but visualization and guided imagery are powerful ways to connect with God and to feel seen and cared for. I love how energy work helps my body feel grounded and balanced. I asked God what I needed to hear and let that be whispered to me the entire time we rode. I heard, "you're safe, I've got you, just be here."
Guess what? It worked. I didn't have expectations for how the ride would go, but instead, I leaned into the courage it gave me to face my fear. Want to try it?
5 Tips for Facing Your Fears
Fear can be a gift to us if we stop fighting it and embrace it wisely - in body and spirit. Fear can help us get out of our comfort zones and lean on something bigger than our own understanding. So, that's why I wanted to ride a motorcycle. Yep. What fear do you want to face?
A decade has passed since I stumbled into this space and told the world (maybe one person actually clicked through from my link to that first post) that God was inviting me on a journey of exploring the gift of peace on January 18, 2010.
What began as a blog post written at my kitchen table, with a 5 year old under my feet, is now ministry. And, I'm mom to a teenager with a first job and a driver's permit. A lot has happened in ten years.
Ten years later, I'm learning and teaching and sharing all that God has shown me along the way and I'm more passionate than ever about evolving as a peace seeker (one seeking God's peace) and as a peace maker (one leading others to also seek God's peace) on this journey.
Do I have it figured out and live a peace-filled existence all the time? Let's get this straight, my friends: absolutely not. I'm knee-deep living into my sandwich generation (caring for both offspring and parents), learning how to run a brick and mortar yoga studio with my business partner, pondering politics, the future of the church, and inequality in our world. I'm feeling guilty over the plastic I toss and the water I waste. I wonder if I'm doing too much or not enough and where the fine line is in the middle that I can actually walk.
And I have discovered there is a false understanding that those of us who prioritize our soul care are living perfectly peace-filled lives. We aren't. The truth is that prioritizing soul care gives us peace, even when we cannot shift or change the circumstances. We begin to notice and ask, "where is God in this?" and draw nearer to the one who longs for us to pay attention. We get better at practicing presence and grow in every situation but we are not masters of the life or void of troubles.
As I reflect on drawing nearer amidst the reality and struggles in this world, I celebrate what I have learned in this past ten years of exploring peace. I've learned about my fears, my hopes, and what drives me (thanks, Enneagram!), about the world around me and creation care, how to slow down and savor time with God, how to meditate (or not), and what my Rule of Life entails (thanks, St. Benedict). I've learned what brings me joy and what makes my heart break. I've learned about essential oils and crystals and real food (thank you, Hildegard of Bingen) and how connecting with elements God created give me life and bring me peace when I need it most. I have learned how challenging it is to write down some innermost parts of myself and share those in the form of a book (thank you, Upper Room Books). I have learned how to be brave and say yes and how to say no (even when I don't want to). I have learned to walk away from places God had me for both long and short seasons and walk into new ones (even when I don't understand). I have learned to be an advocate for others. I have learned what it means to meet God in consolation and desolation (thanks Prayer of Examen and St. Ignatius). I have learned about energy work and the amazing connection we have with our bodies and the way God made us. I have learned to read scripture in a formational way (thank Lectio Divina). I have learned to explore grief, sadness, and disappointment. I have learned to feel joy and pleasure. Each of these has helped me to live present and embodied. I have learned that experiencing all this for myself deepens my relationships to others and my purpose in this world. I have learned that mastery is not the goal and exploring the gift of God's peace will forever be an invitation, not a destination. What have you learned on your spiritual journey in the past decade?
You know those self help gurus who tell you they have it all figured out? The ones that say the answers are all inside their latest release or class or program? Don't believe them. Your answers are inside of you, not them. We cannot look to anyone beyond our Creator and ourselves to explore what God offers each of us. We are each on our own exploration with God.
Your journey with God is as unique as you are are a human. And while we are unique, we need each other! Because I long for companionship on my soul journey and suspect you do too, in the coming months, more resources are coming (I've been working on these for months and 2020 is the time to invite you to join me in each of these - I am so excited about what is coming and have been bursting to give you more details!). Keep reading for a little preview of what is to come!
This year, after ten years of purposeful exploration, three new things are on the horizon for this ministry space:
1. The Exploring Peace website will be getting a fresh new look and growing to include more resources for you (look below for a hint of what is to come).
2. We'll be launching online discernment groups (where we meet virtually to dive into some of these tools I've learned and explored over the past decade). Peace Seekers and Peace Makers will be equipped with resources each month and we will meet and learn together from our own experiences. If you stumbled here from your email in-box, you'll be the first to know when the groups are open for registration (later this year). If you've landed here from social media, be sure to click here and hop on my monthly email list (I promise, I don't email you all the time, that gets old quickly).
3. And finally, Exploring Peace Meditations will be launching soon as a podcast (no more clunky downloads from this site, I'll be right in your pocket as of early 2020). Yipppeeee!
I hope you will continue to follow along as we explore this gift of God's peace in our lives together. I'm grateful for your companionship and look forward to what the next decade offers us together. Oh! I have one BIG favor. If you read this entire update and you're still here, you're part of this growth and we need your voice here. Would you be willing to offer a few words about your own journey of exploring peace (how spiritual direction, yoga and meditation, retreats, my devotional book, or some other resource has impacted you)? These short testimonials will be offered to new peace seekers to encourage their spiritual formation journey.
Thank you for being here and entrusting me on your faith journey. May 2020 be a year of discovering God in deeper ways and learning about the one God created (YOU) along the way.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC