People think that because I often appear calm or peaceful, that is my natural inclination. But that is not true (ask my family)! Finding peace takes a lot of practice.
I began exploring Christian Meditation after my health crisis in my early 30s (17 years ago). My meditation practice today does not typically look like sitting on a pillow in the corner of a candle-lit room (although that is fun too). I often meditate in my bed, in my car (see my Instagram post this week), on my couch, on my yoga mat, or outside under a tree.
A lot of people find meditation to be an intimidating practice. For Christians, it can even be scary. But it does not need to be intimidating or scary. If prayer is talking to God then meditation is simply quieting our minds and listening to God. And, I long to listen to God whenever possible!
The practice of listening to God through meditation helps us find inner stillness. We are not striving for anything at all, we are simply sitting in God's presence and giving ourselves a break from thinking. Meditation quiets our minds, even if getting there feels loud and noisy.
Meditation is beneficial at any time of day but I find a morning meditation sets the tone for my entire day. Before the "doing" of the day begins, I simply get to "be" with God. It's a great way to cultivate peace of mind, better relationships, self-esteem, clarity, and presence in all that is ahead. There are so many scientifically proven benefits to meditation, I cannot list them all in this post.
Let's just say the benefits of meditation are worth the 10-20 minutes it costs me in the morning. The world moves at a fast pace, and most of us face stress and pressure daily. While we cannot avoid life's circumstances, we can face them with the best version of ourselves - with calm minds and peace in our hearts. Meditation helps cultivate these.
Ready to get started or re-started? Here are 7 tips for finding inner stillness through meditation:
I hope these tips help you find inner stillness. And if you're seeking further companionship in meditation, remember the Exploring Peace Meditations podcast is a great tool when you're feeling stuck or need some companionship.
What's your favorite place to meditate?
Rest is one way we can love ourselves better. How do you find rest? Rest does not come accidentally to me and my personality. I do have to "find" it and make time to simply "be" with God. One reason I am so passionate about bolstering others in their own soul care is because I have had to work so hard at caring for my own soul over the years. It's not a natural inclination and yet God invites us to rest. Rest should not feel like work, it should feel like rest. Need some ideas to get started?
Here's a list of ways you may choose to explore rest this summer:
To find rest right now, try practicing one of my favorite ways to rest, Yoga Nidra. Listen below!
Oh, I love this image. LOVE & KINDNESS ARE NEVER WASTED!
They bless the one who receives them...
and they bless you, the GIVER.
They always make a difference.
Have you practiced Loving Kindness Meditation?
I enjoy practicing this meditation, most of the time. It's true, I want to offer loving kindness to myself, my loved ones, and the world. But when you get to that part about offering it to someone you're struggling with, that's really hard. Yes, really hard.
But God calls us to love and pray for our enemies, even forgive them. Right? And I find this type of meditation to be helpful when I'm struggling with a loved one (or stranger).
If you'd like a little support on your meditation journey with loving kindness (and love books as your guide) pick up my friend Dana's book, One Breath at a Time. Using five approaches (including loving-kindness meditation it's a practical, 40-day guide to beginning and sustaining a Christian meditation practice in our often chaotic world.
To be guided through an audio version of loving kindness meditation (where we specifically pray for our families), listen below.
Silence: A Poem
by Whitney R. Simpson
She is my companion
yet I avoid her gaze
She is my teacher
yet I push back at her instruction
She is my guide
yet I veer from her course
She is my friend
yet I wonder why she comes near
She is my gift
and I long to savor her more fully
She is inviting me to a oneness with God,
listen...do you hear her?
I avoid her gaze
because at first she looks lonely
I push back at her instruction
because of my own agenda
I veer from her course
because I am easily distracted
I wonder why she comes near
because there is always another choice
Yet I long to savor her
like never before
And once I say yes to her
I receive an awareness I never knew
she could introduce to me
She is my companion,
She is God's gift
Spiritual disciplines are opportunities to grow closer to God. I'm passionate that we see these practices as opportunities rather than things to check off our list, they should never feel or be viewed as legalistic opportunities. The spiritual disciplines we engage in are practices we choose to grow closer to God, on purpose.
Oftentimes there is not a lightning bolt moment of nearness to God in my practices of prayer, or meditation, or journaling, or scripture reading. Sometimes there is (and that's glorious) but mostly (at least for me) there isn't. Is this true for you? And if so, what's the point?
When we discover discipline in meeting God, we can continue to find God in every detail of our life, not just the obvious ones. We can walk with God in the unknown. We can sit with God in the grief. We can know God is near to us we feel lonely. As Oswald Chamber writes, "We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail."
Think about it, it is easy to recognize God in the mountain top moments! Those times of connection with with our Creator give us obvious encouragement, hope, refreshment, and more. And yet it's in every single detail of life that we have an opportunity to meet God.
The consistency of finding discipline in our spiritual lives, offers us the gift of drawing near, even when we feel far, that's the point.
Need some companionship for walking into the unknown right now?
Listen to the guided meditation from the podcast below.
You may not know why the Exploring Peace Meditations podcast even began. But, it's because of you.
After Yoga & Silence retreats and Yoga & Meditation classes, you would often ask me to send you the meditation I'd read or even record it for a future listen. That was nearly impossible since those the majority of those prayers and meditations often began with only a word or a theme. From there, each meditation and prayer was a creative collaboration between God and the gift of my imagination. There wasn't a written script to send or a way to record the spontaneity of the moment.
At first I thought, surely you aren't serious. I would reply with gratitude and offer a, "please come back to retreat or class anytime." But, you wanted a new way to consistently interact with God that felt embodied amidst your daily life, not just while on retreat or in class.
And so, just weeks before we entered a pandemic and the opportunity to be together in the same ways came to a halt. I uploaded Episode 1, without any idea of what would happen or how much our souls would need this resource in 2020.
And here we are in 2021, as Season 3 begins (on January 29th). I want to thank you for inviting me into your meditation space, your bedroom, your closet, your yoga mat, or wherever you practice and pray. Because of you, the podcast now has over 13,000 downloads of it's 44 episodes. And out of this, has come a community of seekers.
If your soul has benefited from listening to the podcast meditations, I hope you'll consider joining our community this year as a Founding Member. The opportunity is more than simply committing to your own soul care in 2021. You're giving back too. The doors are open right now and for $4.99/month or $57/year, your presence as a Peace Seeker in our community isn't simply for you. For less than a fancy cup of coffee each month, your support not only enriches the spiritual journey of other Peace Seekers, it also supports the Exploring Peace Ministries podcast and the vision of a private retreat spot for seekers near a peaceful creek in rural Tennessee. This podcast has birthed a lot of connection in a time of disconnection. I'm honored to host this space and thank you for being here.
Tell me! What's your soul longing to hear in 2021? And if you want to check out our growing community first, there is a 7 day free trial, click here to find out more.
The live music ceased.
The hugs disappeared.
The worship paused.
The businesses wavered.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The table is empty.
The shoulders are tight.
The friend is struggling.
The account is dwindling.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The mask helps.
The Zoom introduces.
The commute is less.
The family is present.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The quarantine teaches.
The neighbor offers.
The alone time is reflective.
The pause is not so bad.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The divide is real, not imagined.
The conflict continues within.
The work God is doing is evident.
The choice to embrace it is mine.
Give Thanks Anyway.
Last year I purchased this adorable Christmas craft from Cozy Blue. And sadly, I've spent all of about 30 minutes working on it. I'm not sure why I was more excited about the idea of this piece than actually sitting down with my hands and being present while stitching. I was ecstatic with my purchase and have since looked at it and pondered, why have I paused in picking it up?
Maybe it's because I'm a recovering perfectionist and am afraid my final piece won't measure up to the Instagram worthy photos I've seen of the finished kit? Maybe I am simply distracted by life's responsibilities amidst a pandemic year? Maybe it's that silly puppy's fault I don't have space for thread and needles? Maybe I long for presence but don't always prioritize it? Maybe I have spent my time in other valuable ways besides crafting with my hands? There are a lot of maybes in life, aren't there?
If you haven't noticed, we are entering in to a season of giving! But here's what I'm reminded of... if we don't slow down long enough to receive, we won't have space to give. My hands can remind me to be open to and grateful for the way God allows me to both give and receive. Maybe I can practice that while crafting this season?
This Advent, I'm choosing to set aside all those "maybes" and enter in with open hands. I'm choosing presence over perfection. I'm choosing to slow down and prioritize the gift of this season. I'm choosing to ready myself for God's gift of Jesus. That may mean I end up with a finished craft and it may not. We'll see. Will you join me?
If you'd like to practice giving and receiving with your own hands today in prayer, savor this body scan meditation and a moment of gratitude for the ways you are giving and receiving in your life with God.
Since our puppy, Penny, joined our family this Spring, I've taken a lot of walks. A lot. Oftentimes I use our morning walk to listen to audiobooks that grow or stretch my faith. My recently played books include titles by Rob Bell, Glennon Doyle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Austin Channing Brown, Eckhart Tolle, and Jen Hatmaker. Through these recent (and yes, varied) listens I've been inspired to practice kindness with my neighbors, smile more often (I don't mean to always look so serious), slow it down, face my fears, realize everything really is spiritual, and truly strive to practice presence.
And while books and knowledge fuel, me, I don't always read and walk. Sometimes I pray when I walk, sometimes I listen to a favorite playlist, and sometimes I simply have to stay focused on training (AKA wrangling) our new puppy.
Walking has become a habit for me - twice a day, every day. I'm not quite ready for the Tennessee winters but I don't think Penny will let me break this habit. She loves walking, it's an automatic response to the start of her day. It took some practice for me to get on her plan but quickly it became a habit. I then realized our habit was becoming routine and at moments I dreaded it. Maybe like me, you often walk on auto-pilot. Do you ever wonder... How did I get to the other side of the house? Why is my face always in my phone? Or... What was I doing on my way to the mailbox?
Our minds wander and so having a focused purpose helps me stay present in my walks and break the cycle of worry (which I've carried my fair share of lately). Presence keeps us present! But we don't always need a book or music in our ears to practice presence. We can use our own bodies and breath to practice awareness with a purposeful walking meditation.
The first time I practiced walking meditation was on a retreat with a group of teens. It wasn't easy but it stretched us all and we learned a lot about ourselves. To start, I suggest practicing in your back yard or even at home if you can't get outside. It's nice to have some privacy to allow yourself full presence so you're not worried about being distracted or even stepping out in front of a car. Yep, that happens. Practicing alone gives you more confidence to start, then you can practice walking reverently throughout your day. Walking meditation isn't about exercising yourself or your pet but it is about healing, it is about being fully and completely present in your body.
In walking meditation you feel your feet hit the ground, each and every step. You notice how mindfulness in your body can bring you into the moment. You go slow on purpose. You walk and breathe in sync and allow your body the space to be fully present. While being present in this way is not easy, it is indeed transformational.
Ready to try it? Need some help in discovering presence with a short mindful walk? Listen to the Walking Meditation podcast below. Then use some of what you learn to begin incorporating presence and breath in all of your walking - about the house, to the car, or around the block.
Walking has become a natural way for me to destress and unplug. I have a long way to grow my mindfulness while walking (especially with a puppy in tow) but I'm glad to keep practicing.
How do you practice mindful presence while walking?
Will you take a walk with me?
Advent is a time of waiting, a time of preparation for Christmas. Let's be honest, waiting is tough right now but this kind of waiting is expectant and exciting. This kind of waiting is pondering the arrival of the one who came as a gift for YOU and the one who gifted you with your body and breath. There is always much to prepare for Christmas - food, decorations, packages. But what if the gift God longs to prepare most is YOU?
This year is different in so many ways. And Christmas can be different for you too, in the best way. What if this Christmas you prepared yourself? What if you made space for your body and your spirit? What if instead of being last on the list, you heard God's nudge and placed yourself at the top of the list? After all, if you care for yourself well you're better able to care for others well too. And, in this season, loving others and ourselves needs to make the top of the list!
How do you prepare for Christmas? What are your favorite ways to get ready? Don't worry, I'll still be decking the halls but I'll also be practicing lectio divina, centering prayer and yoga nidra too! Curious? Want to join me in community? Click here to register or learn more about this online advent retreat experience (nope, you don't have to be on social media to participate, one less distraction, yay!).
Are you ready for Christmas?
Whitney R. Simpson
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Content @ 2010-2022
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC