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?
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.
Sabbath: the seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians; often observed on Sunday among Christians as a day of rest and worship; a time of rest; abstaining from work
There is simply something about summer that leaves me yearning for quiet, slow, sunny mornings and extra time under the stars late at night. Somehow, exploring Sabbath rest comes more easily in the summer. The days get longer and time seems to slow down, even though my task list, chores, and never ending ideas continue no matter the season. Yet, summer days help me embrace the concept of Sabbath a bit more freely than other times of the year.
I don’t know about you, but my Sabbath time is not often scheduled on one set day of the week as the definition suggests. Since my retreat and workshop work often continues throughout the weekend, it’s challenging to always find Sabbath on Sundays. Many of us work varied hours, and those of us who are caregivers or parents know this type of work cannot be unscheduled on certain days. Those who work in the church or other ministry settings often share with me that Sunday is far from a day in which they abstain from work. Can we, too, discover Sabbath rest and might it be easier than expected in the summer?
Amidst the ongoing duties of life, new rules seem to take effect in the summer for our family. Or, maybe it’s less rules? A teen who calls to stay over and spend the night at his grandmother’s house rather than come home (he knows his room looks like a tornado hit and avoids this duty at all costs), yet I agree. A newsletter that has a deadline, but instead, a yoga mat, some homemade kombucha, and a lovely back porch (from where I cannot escape the loud construction of a new home next door) call more loudly and I easily unplug. And a day that should have involved household cleaning - instead I find myself loading my Kindle with tons of library books. Free fiction and summer - that’s my Sabbath.
Today I sat in silence and wondered - rest and worship come easy for me. Yet why is it sometimes hard to abstain from work? Is it because there are so many great ideas brewing in my creative heart? There are not enough hours, even on a long summer day to tackle everything God has planted inside me (and the stuff I avoid too, like laundry). How do I step away from "work" and lean in to my own soul care? Here are five soul care tips for exploring Summer Sabbath:
This summer I am definitely not tossing my ideas or creative spirit - these are not work. I am exploring Sabbath rest and discovering time apart from work (like my computer screen) more freely. I desire to embrace soaking up the sun, sleeping plenty, keeping safe boundaries for my social media time, savoring my senses, and discovering plenty of silly fun! Will you join me in this and keep me accountable as well?
What does your summer Sabbath look like? How do you make space away from your work? Is that easy or difficult in this season of summer?
By the way, I was inspired to write this post as one of my fellow Upper Room authors, J. Dana Trent, is releasing a book on the topic of Sabbath this fall. I’m excited to dive in (I might just get a sneak preview, one of the perks of “working” alongside her). Yet reading her words will not be work for me. Sabbath, this summer I’m ready to embrace you! Stay tuned for the release of For Sabbath’s Sake!
I have a confession to make. Lately, I may have been stalking you. No, not really...I'm not outside your bedroom window and there is no reason to call the local authorities. My stalking has been perfectly legal, it's actually a pretty well-worn path. I did not give up social media for lent. I gave up chocolate-covered almonds.
And I've been stalking you simply by scrolling - with not one single chocolate almond nearby (although there was that one bag of chocolate covered mangos that jumped into my grocery cart, realizing this may have been a slip of judgement). I've not shared and interacted a whole lot on social media lately but I have been reading your posts, even amidst my longing to purposefully slow down and experience God's joy and delight since releasing my devotional book in January.
When I clearly heard God ask me to step back from some commitments recently, I was not sure what was to come. And, I'm still not. God has offered a ton of grace for what this season looks like. Yet I have filled it with more than my share of...scrolling.
My lenten disciplines and a renewed commitment to honoring my body have kept me away from reaching for those chocolate covered almonds. So lately, I've realized my unintentional avoidance of some things [anything, really...the laundry, the writing time, the bills, the yoga practice, the dishes, meditation] has led to me hopping online to see what you're doing. And, I love seeing what you're doing. You're doing some good things! You, my friends, are: writing amazing books, fighting for social justice, empowering others to love their bodies, sharing the word of God for all to hear, raising families, caring for the elderly and the sick, facing things that scare you, chasing slow moments, and living life fully. You are doing good, deep things on this journey.
Diving deep with God involves risk. And one of those risks includes the thrills and the dangers of discovering a less traveled path on this spiritual formation journey. For me, that means a healthier relationship with this helpful and useful tool known as the Internet. Enter, my friend Esther and her new book, What Falls from the Sky.
I was instantly intrigued by her book because I know how she lives her life - as a homesteader. What I didn't know were the details of what led her and her family to where they are now (and don't worry, you don't have to live in a yurt after you read the book - although I'm seriously considering this for the future myself - I love yurts!). Esther went a year without the Internet. A YEAR. That's a path less-traveled. When I go my entire Sunday Sabbath without "accidentally" logging in, I am so proud of myself. Anyone else?
Just to be clear - Esther went a year without her cell phone, texting, surfing, clicking. Her story arrived in my mailbox recently, and now my sleep patterns are off because I've been reading beyond my bedtime. Guess what? She sent me a book to share with you! So, not that I want to mess with your sleep, but I'm fairly certain your scrolling will be interrupted because #whatfallsfromthesky is a phenomenal story of one woman's willingness to dive deep with God.
Holy Week is such an appropriate time to finish Esther's memoir and share it with you too - it seems a perfect time to admit my weakness, my struggles, my doubts, my joys, and celebrate the good things the promise of Easter offers each of us.
What are your struggles? Do those get in your way of living fully? Could you go a year without digital conveniences? Would you be willing to give it a try? What does the less-traveled path look like, and is it accessible to you?
Contemplate and share your thoughts below if you'd like. I would love to hear from you. You don't have to comment for your "chance" to get this book in your hands, but be sure to complete the form with your email address because I would love to send this gift from Esther to you!
Esther Emery was a successful playwright and theater director, wife and mother, and loving it all - until, suddenly, she wasn’t. When a personal and professional crisis of spectacular extent leaves her reeling, Esther is left empty, alone in her marriage, and grasping for identity that does not define itself by busyness and a breakneck pace of life. Something had to be done.
What Falls from the Sky is Esther’s fiercely honest, piercingly poetic account of a year without Internet - 365 days away from the good, the bad, and the ugly of our digital lives - in one woman’s desperate attempt at a reset. Esther faces her addiction to electronica, her illusion of self-importance, and her longing to return to simpler days, but then the unexpected happens. Her experiment in analog is hijacked by a spiritual awakening, and Esther finds herself suddenly, inexplicably drawn to the faith she had rejected for so long.
Ultimately, Esther’s unplugged pilgrimage brings her to a place where she finally finds the peace - and the God who created it - she has been searching for all along.
What Falls from the Sky offers a path for you to do the same. For all the ways the Internet makes you feel enriched and depleted, genuinely connected and wildly insufficient, What Falls from the Sky reveals a new way to look up from your screens and live with palms wide open in a world brimming with the good gifts of God.
Sometimes you have to zoom out before you can refocus the camera, my friend texted me. Yes, that's what these days before Easter have been about for me. Zooming out so I can see again. Discovering focus. Discovering refuge with God.
2017 has been zoomed in so far - packed with opportunities to share and celebrate the release of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. And a time to soak up being in my community offering local events and workshops. April so far has been for zooming out and refocusing (and washing all the laundry!). And I'm so grateful; the timing couldn't be better.
Holy Week is nearly here! There is much to mourn, there is much to celebrate. There is much to experience, to taste, and to see! Psalm 34:8 in the Common English Bible (my current favorite version) says, "Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!" In zooming out, I find refuge in God. In zooming out, I find courage to journey off the beaten path. In zooming out, I can taste and see the good things.
Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path has been my Audible read during my morning walk/run lately And wow, has it come at just the right time! Many good things are happening with the ministry of Exploring Peace and amidst this my mom asked me recently, "So, are you practicing what you preach?"
Ping. I'm thankful a mother's love can survive asking such a question. Time for a bit of self-reflection.
So, you could say that read came at a good time. Erin spoke to my heart. And her book wasn't all about building boundaries and saying no to life or stuff (well, maybe some of it). Erin's message invites us to journey the path just for us. Erin invites us to taste and see what God offers us! Erin reminded me to discover joy and delight and not to rush past it.
Yes, I share and teach and offer soul care resources for others. I LOVE my job - zoomed in or zoomed out. They say we are drawn to what we long for most. I long for soul care on this journey. I think we all do. And, you know one thing that is really good for my soul? JOY! My spiritual director and I spent an entire year exploring the concept of finding joy and delight (my homework one month was to blow bubbles - a practice I often invite my retreatants to experience). Delight! And, I think I'm finally getting brave enough to pause and lavish in it. Sound ridiculous? Maybe it's time for more bubbles.
Brené Brown reminded me recently (in one of her talks, not over a cup of tea, wouldn't that be fun!?) that as a culture, we don't know how to experience joy. We rush right past it rather than embrace it. We expect the worst. We move on to the next thing. We rush past a lot, don't we? Okay, book release is complete. Oh, well. That was good...done. What's next?
Nope, I'm choosing to pause right here and give thanks for the joy of this season, for the privilege of publishing my first devotional book, for good health that allowed me a ton more travel than I'm comfortable with in a couple of months time, and now for the chance to take long walks while I learn to chase slow. If I'm being honest, finding joy in chasing slow is harder than it seems.
How are you journeying off the beaten path? How are you chasing slow?
In chasing my own slow and finding my joy, I helped set up a prayer room for my son's youth group this week. And, I couldn't find a reflection mandala that fit our theme of Psalm 34. So, I created one! This brought me joy and the only thing that brings more joy is sharing it with you. Download it here if you'd like. And if praying with mandalas is new to you, check out my friend (and fellow Upper Room author) Sharon's new book, Praying with Mandalas. It's a delightful introduction to using mandalas for prayer and reflection.
Blessings on your Holy Week. May you taste and see, may you discover joy and delight in the good around you as you find refuge in our God this Easter season.
For the past year, I have been writing. Actually, let me preface that - I have been writing since I learned to write! Recently, I found my first book which was bound by yarn, created in the shape of a panda bear's head (I collected stuffed panda bears as a kid and this book was ALL about pandas). I also uncovered boxes and boxes of journals in that purge, filled with pages and pages of thoughts, words, and even some poems. So, you could say writing has been part of my life for a very long time. It is one way I connect with God. And writing a published book that draws others closer to God has been a dream for many of those years (hint, hint!).
To the point of this post! For the past year, I have been writing a 40-day devotional for body and spirit. The seeds for this book idea were planted during my 500-Hour yoga teacher training with Holy Yoga Ministries. The idea kept growing to the point that I wrote the entire book before I ever shared it (although if you've been in any of my yoga classes in the past year, you've probably gotten a sneak peek without realizing it as I've shared some of the themes, scripture passages, yoga postures, and reflection questions with you!).
Then last summer while attending a writer's workshop at SoulFeast (a spiritual retreat hosted by Upper Room), I was nudged to submit a proposal for this project. Since summer is nearly here again, you can guess that this book has been many many months in the making. For the last couple of months, I have known we were moving forward yet certain details had to be in place in order to finalize and share. In that timeframe, I also submitted devotionals for the Disciplines 2017 publication. And finally, I can share with you that my 40-day devotional (title and details coming soon) will be published in 2017 by Upper Room Books!
Honestly, my heart beats fast as I share this news with you. One reason for this is that when I submitted the proposal for the devotional, the publisher specifically asked me to include more about me - my stroke and brain surgery story and how that led me toward work fostering care of both body and spirit. It's vulnerable to tell your story. But I believe it is important. I will tell parts of (because all those journals would never fit in one book!) my own story to escort you on the journey of body and spirit and to encourage you to embrace your story, after all.......these are God's stories!
Another reason my heart beats fast is because our son has been sick for weeks with sinus problems - which usually seems simple to heal - yet he has had many allergic reactions to medicines and it has simply been a very slow journey toward wellness. His body is tired and worn out. My body is tired as his caregiver (my awesome Fitbit helps me see how well I've rested and when I've moved, lately both have been lacking) and yet it proves I am ecstatic and full of energy at the same time (elevated heart rate!).
Recently, my grandmother (who is almost 95 and slightly frustrated with her body - as she broke a shoulder and hip last month) told me she always wanted to be a writer and that she could not imagine anything more important to write about than the spiritual life with God. My heart beats fast as I honor my grandmother and lean in to writing a book that I hope will help you draw closer to God with the gift of your own body!
My heart beats fast because God uses the gift of our bodies to help us listen and embrace our journeys (no matter your stage of life).
If you've made it this far in the post, surely you have questions because this is a unique approach to a devotional and emphasizes holy listening with your body. It will include yoga postures, breath prayers, aromatherapy, scripture passages for lectio divina, and of course journaling questions (tools we often use in spiritual direction and yoga)! I truly look forward to sharing more details with you soon! In the meantime, I'll be putting finishing touches on the book, finalizing lots of tiny details that most do not realize take place in publishing (I surely didn't), and gaining hands on experience caring for our son - in body and spirit.
Thanks for allowing my heart to beat fast as I share the news that #IAmWriting with you today! If you want to stay in the loop on details of the book (and I hope you will - there will be freebies along the way), sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter below. The Upper Room has been a formational part of my faith journey, I'm ecstatic to be part of the Upper Room family of writers and look forward to what is to come. Hope you'll join me on the journey.
"The most powerful weapon on earth, is the human soul on fire.”
The world we live in challenges us now more than ever to discover and embrace Soul Care. After my own crisis and burnout, I quickly discovered that while my life had been quite full, my soul was actually quite empty. I knew God but I had a new longing to be with God. That longing for a life with God took over and I began training as a spiritual director and later as a Holy Yoga Instructor. Like Spiritual Direction, Holy Yoga offers individuals an opportunity to practice being in the presence of God - literally. Holy Yoga instructors have the privilege of helping others not simply know God, but to be with God as they care for both their body and their soul.
Unfortunately, we can easily be so busy planning or "doing" ministry that the needs of our own soul become distant and lost. This is true for most individuals in ministry, whatever the ministry may look like. Without a real concentrated effort on care of the soul, we can easily lose sight of our calling and face discouragement and burnout. As a spiritual director, I meet with overworked pastors, stay-at-home parents, and exhausted care givers. There is one common trait for each, God longs for us to spend time with him and to care for the person he created us to be, no matter the demands of our daily life.
Quite often I hear that soul care seems selfish or overrated and is the first to fall away when the demands of everyone else top our lists. But, put simply soul care is a mandatory part of being a servant of God. When your soul is on fire, you can not help but live a life with God. So, how do we kindle the fire in our soul?
Dallas Willard says, "the secret for caring for our souls is Practicing the Presence” of God. So how do we not only teach practicing presence but fully live into it? How do we ignite this fire within us and keep it burning? How do we not let the stressors and realities of every day life extinguish the flame?
Soul Care does not mean we cease from activity. It means we care for the very part of us that God created so that we can continue to be his hands and feet in this world. It means that we find greater joy in the tasks of ministry. It means we know God even more intimately and ourselves more deeply. It means we find both our passion and our rest in God. It means we truly are servants of God and our souls are on fire.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries,
unless otherwise indicated.
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