In the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where the waters of Lake Junaluska reflect the beauty of the land, I recently hosted a group ona Yoga & Silence retreat. As we began, we chose to honor the spirit of this special place, a sacred ground named after Chief Junaluska, a revered figure of the Cherokee tribe.
As we gathered on this hallowed ground, we acknowledged the deep history and significance of Lake Junaluska. Since the first Methodist assembly gathered there in 1913, this place has been a sanctuary for rejuvenating mind, soul, and body for many. It is a privilege to hold space for others in this way and to continue tradition for soul restoration at Lake Junaluska.
Her is Our Blessing:
We honor the ancient wisdom of the Cherokee people, the original inhabitants of this land. Chief Junaluska, a Cherokee leader who played a pivotal and vital role in history, lends his name to this lake. We acknowledge the deep reverence the Cherokee people had for the land, we thank them, and we seek their blessings for our time here.
Lake Junaluska's roots in the Methodist tradition run deep. The first assembly in 1913 was a gathering of Methodist leaders and faithful followers seeking spiritual renewal. This connection remains strong, and we honor the Methodist heritage among our ecumanical group and give thanks for for all who have and will come here, United Methodist and beyond. May the spirit of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, continue to inspire all who come here to seek a deeper connection with their faith and a commitment to making the world a better place.
We acknowledge the importance of family and tradition as generations of families have made Lake Junaluska their place of retreat. May the bonds of faith and fellowship grow stronger with each passing year, and may this place continue to be a source of spiritual growth and inspiration.
In this sacred moment, we offer our gratitude to the land, the water, and the spirits of both the Cherokee people and the Methodist tradition. May their combined blessings infuse our hearts and minds, guiding us on our journey of inner and outer exploration, no matter our roots.
May the energy and serenity of Lake Junaluska, steeped in the history of the Cherokee people, be a beacon of light and hope for all who come here, ourselves included. Let this land continue to be a source of inspiration, healing, and transformation for our time and for generations to come.
Blessed be the Cherokee people and the land of Lake Junaluska, a place where history, spirituality, and tradition converge, and may it forever be a sanctuary of peace, worship, and renewal for our body, minds, and spirits, with all thanks to our Creator.
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
My spiritual director mentioned Martin Laird's book, Into The Silent Land, multiple times before I took the hint to read it for myself. I devour books, they are nourishment for my soul. So why did this one get put off for so long? Oh, I think we all know. This book was not a book to use as a "get away" as many of my historical fiction reads, this book was to take me inward and do some deep soul work. I was faced with the reality once again, I struggle with and often purposely avoid silence.
Silence is hard. And I'm not simply talking about being quiet. We can cease to speak and our minds still be quite noisy! Can you relate? When I finally read this gem of a book, Laird gave me encouragement in the first few pages. I realized, he understood. Laird explains the focus of the book is on the struggles we face when we enter silence and "the inner chaos going on in our heads, like some wild cocktail party of which we find ourselves the embarrassed host...we are not even aware of how utterly dominating this inner noise is until we try to enter through the doorway of silence."
Oh, wow. Yes, I indeed find myself not at all present but listening loudly to all the inner noise. That's why we practice silence. It doesn't happen on accident.
Why does the inner noise get so much attention? For one, I often think we don't realize we have the power to calm that noise. For another, the world has become so noisy that we allow ourselves to follow the crowd. So why not give into the noise?
Silence is fruitful. St. Isaac the Syrian wrote, "Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you and you will see the things that are in heaven."
Why wouldn't we choose to enter the treasure house within? If we believe God created us and is within, why wouldn't we choose to draw nearer in the quiet?
Silence can feel lonely. Silence is not the same as being alone. And yet, it's true that when we enter into the quiet, calming those often loud inner voices, we may realize that there is less distraction to keep us company. So at first, silence can indeed feel lonely. But, my oh my, are the treasures worth it. The connection with our Creator is cultivated in the silence, that's not lonely.
God is here, you aren't actually alone in the silence. So, why do we resist? Sometimes we simply need support. I find a regular contemplative prayer practice with quiet in the morning, time on my yoga mat, being in community with other seekers, and spending time with my spiritual director and soul friends to be the greatest support. These people and practices help me find the strength and courage to quiet the inner chaos and draw closer to God.
How are you embracing silence in your life in this season?
This month in our Peace Seekers online community and in my yoga classes, we're exploring what it looks like to enter the quiet. If you struggle with the inner chaos, I invite you to join us. I also currently have limited openings for private spiritual direction both in person at Bloom Yoga Studio and online.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC