Are you feeling scattered, anxious, or overwhelmed in this season? It's understandable. In the Nashville community this week, the unthinkable happened at The Covenant School. While I do not have a direct connection to the victims, Nashville is indeed a tight community, and my heart has been overwhelmed with sadness. It takes practice at times like this to find peace amidst the overwhelm. One way I do this is through breathwork and meditation. Centering ourselves matters, especially when we're feeling anxious.
You likely know breathwork is a simple yet powerful technique that involves focusing on your breath and controlling it intentionally. This practice helps you calm your mind and body, reduce stress, and increase your overall well-being. Combining breathwork with meditation creates a potent tool for finding inner peace, connecting with your Creator, and simply slowing down that racing mind.
Meditation is a practice that has been used for centuries to connect with the divine and find inner peace. By quieting your mind and focusing on the present moment, you can tap into a sense of calm that goes beyond your immediate circumstances.
When you practice breathwork and meditation together, you can experience a deeper sense of connection to God and find peace in even the most difficult times.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
By incorporating breathwork and meditation into your daily routine, you can find a sense of peace that transcends the world's chaos. Whether you're dealing with anxiety, stress, or simply seeking a deeper connection to God, this practice can indeed help you find the peace you seek.
Still feel overwhelmed with these suggestions? Need companionship with breathwork and meditation? If you'd like to take a Christ-centered approach to this practice, see below for one of my Exploring Peace Meditation podcast recordings to practice presence with God through breathwork and meditation.
I get asked this often....
How do you practice hearing God's voice?
Well, the obvious answer is just that - I practice! The more I practice paying attention to God's activity in my life, the more familiar it becomes to notice when something is of God or is not of God. One of the regular tools I use to reflect on God's activity in my own life - and therefore hear God's voice - is the ancient Prayer of Examen.
St. Ignatius of Loyola led his followers in this prayer and invited them to practice it twice daily. While I typically practice in the evenings, it is a very helpful tool in my soul care tool box.
Ignation spirituality invites us into this ancient prayer practice of noticing God on our journey through gratitude, consolation, and desolation. We then bring our prayers before God. The Prayer of Examen is as powerful today as it was hundreds of years ago for the Jesuits. Why not try it for yourself? Use the prompts below and find a quiet place to listen to the guided version below. Make this prayer your own and discover what God invites you to hear today!
Here's my simple key for my daily reflection:
Up Arrow: When did I feel close to God today (a moment of consolation)?
Down Arrow: When did I feel far away from God today (a moment of desolation)?
Smiley Face: What moment am I most grateful for today?
Heart: What is the prayer of my heart, for what would I like to pray to God about from today? (Note: this may be something already named from the day, or something entirely different)
Last weekend I traveled free with points (thanks, Southwest) to Jacksonville, Florida and then drove to the most beautiful of places, St. Simons Island. I had visited there as a child but it was my first adult visit at Epworth by the Sea and I LOVED it. I rode a bike in the mornings, walked a lot, and sat at the pier before the Southern Lights Conference began. Pro tip: if you're traveling solo (especially to an island) and have the space, always arrive early or leave late to offer yourself a little extra soul care and/or processing time.
As a writer, anytime I get to hang out with or meet the people whose books I've read and who impacted my journey, it's a treat. I did not ask for selfies, but I did soak up their every word. Then to meet new-to-me authors and Speakers as I did this past weekend - wow, wow, wow. I'm so glad I made time for this conference. And I took book money to spend - hooray!
Idilia Delio absolutely blew my mind (I realize 'absolutely' is an unnecessary word in this sentence but trust me, it is not). Literally, I think my brain is still processing what I heard, and will be for a long time. She is a Franciscan Sister and American theologian writing and teaching about science, religion, evolution, physics, and neuroscience. You would think she was boring - NOPE. Instead, she was an absolute delight and has tickled my brain in ways I didn't know possible. I cannot wait to read my first of her now 24 books!
The brilliant and healing poetry of Pádraig Ó Tuama, read by Pádraig, made poems come alive for me again, or maybe for the first time. His poetry readings invited us to think without telling us what to think. So I'll be listening to more poems this year and anchor my life with poetry.
I met the very kind and wise Christian ethicist Reggie Williams, and fantastic authors Diana Butler Bass and Brian McLaren (superb people). I heard from some brilliant podcasting theologians Tripp Fuller and Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Unfortunately, there's not enough space here to share all I learned from their sharing. Oh and I connected with delightful attendees, there were a LOT of Methodists at Epworth by the Sea, so I likely would have found some church cousins if I looked long enough.
It was noted to me more than once that I was one of the youngest attendees (even at 48). It hit me during communion as we closed, I was so grateful to be surrounded by older adults. Then an 83-year old retired pastor tapped me on the arm as I waited in that line and said, "God bless you, Whitney." Honestly, I was right at home. I need all these wiser, older people in my life. If you're not flocking to those with at least a couple of decades on you, do it. I'm counting on the exceptional longevity of my grandmothers to trickle into my genes, so I can be one of them one day. There is so much life yet to live!
Nudged by an older wiser mentor, I came to this conference after a full season, on purpose. Stewarding a devotional into the world may not seem like much, but it is. I was nearly empty. As a creator sharing your creation, putting it in front of others can be overwhelming. I knew I was tired and doubted myself as I was packing to leave. But I am thankful I found a way to fill back up. We even meditated as a group, I indeed found my people.
I left that beautiful island with a LOT more knowledge than when I entered it and plenty of soul care too. But I realized a few (okay, four) things in particular that feel important to share:
Thanks to Pádraig, I found this poem, and I've been sitting with it since I left the island. It's not really about leaving an island. Whyte wrote these words about his own poem (below), "There are certain vivid days that live on in the memory, carrying not only the extraordinary images of what occurred but a still growing revelation that is an equally growing introduction to our own future. Such was the day last year on Inishbofin when the silence and the beauty of the place, the singing of good Irish friends in a ruined chapel and a perfect company of people brought a sense of perfection, privilege and forgiveness. I left the island half a shade braver than when I arrived, which is, after all is said and done, all that we need."
"Leaving the Island" by David Whyte
It must have been
the slant of the light,
the sheer cross-grain of rain
against the summer sun,
the way the island appeared
gifted, out of the gleam
and the depth of distance,
so that when you turned
to look again,
the scend of the sea
had carried you on,
under the headland
and into the waiting harbour.
And after the pilgrim lanes,
and the ruined chapel,
the lads singing beneath the window,
and the Corn-Crake calling from
a corner of a field,
after the gull cries and the sea-hush
at the back of the island,
it was the way, standing still
or looking out,
walking or even talking
with others in the evening bar,
holding your drink
and laughing with the rest,
that you realized–part of you
had already dropped to its knees,
to pray, to sing, to look–
to fall in love with everything
and everyone again, that someone
from deep inside you had come out
into the sea-light to raise its hands
and forgive everyone in your short life
you thought you hadn't, and that all along
you had been singing your quiet way
through the rosary of silence
that held their names.
Above all, the way afterwards,
you thought you had left the island
but hadn't, the way you knew
you had gone somewhere
into the shimmering light
and come out again on the tide
as you knew you had to,
as someone who would return
and live in the world again,
a man granted just a glimpse,
a woman granted just a glimpse,
some one half a shade braver,
a standing silhouette in the stern,
holding the rail,
riding the long waves back,
ready for the exile we call a home.
So, now for a few questions:
Whitney R. Simpson
yoga & meditation teacher
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC