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.
Are you longing for more this Lenten season? Looking for ways to connect your body and spirit? Seeking accountability and connection along the way? Grab your copy of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit and join us for this online retreat.
Over 40 days, you'll receive direct support and encouragement from Whitney as well as bonus teachings using the book, Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. Included in your retreat is access to our new Peace Seekers online community.
This Lenten season, give yourself the gift of safe space and explore God's peace in the process! Your retreat is open now with instant access to help you begin preparing for your Lenten journey.
The 40-day experience will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Will you join us for accountability and connection this season as we listen and prepare ourselves for Easter? Click below for full details and to register today.
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.
Last week I wrote about what a Rule of Life is, an opportunity to discover your own routine with God and seek wisdom for how you long to order your days.
It's also important to know what it isn't. A Rule of Life isn't a compilation of what you hope to accomplish or achieve, it's not your goals list or your vision board. But a Rule of Life does help you find a rhythm for the life you long to live and may intersect with these. Crafting (and living) your rule may even help you reach your personal or professional goals and dreams!
So, how do you begin? There are several published books and even free resources on the web to guide you in creating a very detailed rule for your life (I'll share links for those in our Peace Seekers Community this Friday, January 29th). In the meantime, I invite you to keep it simple! Start brainstorming the habits you long to cultivate as well as things you're already doing that help you live your best life with God.
Consider talking with your spiritual director or seek out a spiritual friend to help you process and notice what's important to you in this season of your life. It's not uncommon to be overwhelmed by too many goals or resolutions at the start of a year, setting ourselves up for disappointment. Remember, your Rule of Life isn't a resolution list, it's an invitation to live your whole life with God. I've found simple is best for me when cultivating my Rule of Life. Try using the categories I am currently using below (God, Self, Creation, Companions) or create your own and jot down the habits you long to cultivate for each. This is a work in progress, one you can grow into with God.
So grab a pencil or start a note in our phone to brainstorm the habits that help you find the rhythm you long for, ones that draw you nearer to your Creator. Do you long to pray or meditate daily, move your body a certain number of times per week, get outside more, connect with loved ones on a regular basis? Once you've recognized your longings and habits, you can begin to cultivate your own rhythm and routine for purposefully living an embodied life with God.
Want to see examples from my own Rule of Life tomorrow? There's a seven day free trial to join our community, click here to join us.
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.
A decade ago, in 2011, I crafted my first rule of life in a spiritual formation course while pursuing my certification. When I look back now on that first "rule" I realize now how I've grown spiritually over these past ten years, where I've been stuck (pandemic, anyone?!) and how God has met me in each stage of my spiritual journey.
A Rule of Life is an opportunity to discover your own routine with God and seek wisdom for how you long to order your days. My personality is one that swings between the rule obedience (I tried to follow) In childhood and the longing never to embrace rules others place on me as an adult. Anyone else feel like a rule rebel? But when I find the rhythm of my own rules today and embrace them, I thrive. I think this is true for most of us. If we can honor ourselves with what works for us, we can embrace discipline that helps us grow. Yet that discipline isn't the same for everyone. Afterwall, we don't have "one size fits all" bodies nor do we have "one size fits all" souls.
In the Christian community, Saint Benedict is known for inviting the monks of his order to establish the rules that shaped their lives, giving structure to what we know today in spiritual formation as a Rule of Life. While those of you reading this likely are not monks, I'm guessing you could benefit from the simple structure of a rhythm for your own life.
Living in a pandemic has invited me to revisit my rule and discover new rhythms for connecting with God. The shifting of worship, small groups, personal connection, routine, work, and everything else that had given my life structure dissolved in 2020. I was left with a shapeless routine and someone in most every room of the house logging on to a device to go about their day. I soon realized a new routine was in order if I was to connect with God.
So I began updating that Rule of Life that's undergone quite a few revisions in the past decade. And this time, it looks completely different. My Rule of Life is less structured and more inviting than ever before in regards to my daily routine. It includes good books, hot tea and time in nature. It also includes reminders of my dreams and goals and how God made me. And here's a bit of irony, there are no rules for how you create your rule.
Need some companionship in discovering your own rhythm? I'll be sharing my Rule of Life in our Peace Seekers community next week on Friday, January 29, 2021. You're invited to join our community if you'd like to be part of that conversation. This year in our private online space, we'll focus on a theme each month for ways to meet God. And in doing so, we'll be working on our own Rules for the entire year of 2021. It's not an overnight project to discover the ways you best connect with your Creator. Rather, it's a journey. You can find details to join our community by clicking here.
Have you explored a Rule of Life? What has it offered you?
One of the first things they tell you when you publish a book is to make sure you stay in front of your audience. I've worked consistently over the past few years to not only be present on social media but also connected and engaged. And I've loved it. I truly love seeing your photos and reading your favorite quotes. I appreciate being inspired by people different from me, helping to expand my perspective. I crave to know what's happening in the lives of my internet friends. But guess what?
Recently, I found myself overwhelmed. Not only because our country and our world are amidst crisis but also because I found myself using my thumb to see your reactions and concerns before I even checked in with my own.
Here's how that looked:
Hop out of bed, open Instagram.
Eat lunch, check LinkedIn.
Have a snack, click on Twitter.
Post yoga, better look at Facebook.
After dinner, repeat.
And lots of clicks in between.
It was exhausting!
Now the irony doesn't escape me that I'm using these platforms to share with you my burnout moment. I heard clearly the nudge in my spirit to take a break into the new year. And, I did.
Here's what I learned, the first few days were really hard. It was truly like letting go of an addiction (well, I guess it had become that based on the detox time period I have needed). After a week of complete social media detoxing, we had a death in the family and it felt quite appropriate to share my grandmother's obituary (because she was amazing and I wanted to honor her memory) on my personal account. I appreciated the kind words and condolences that interaction offered me. But I didn't jump back in completely, I found myself purposely entering in slowly to check the messages you sent.
And guess what? With purposefulness rather than mindlessness, I felt more in control of my scrolling and less depleted. I found myself realizing I could find balance in my presence here rather than letting social media rule my heart and mind. I wasn't sure that was possible, I was afraid I may have to completely cut ties forever to care for my soul. That felt impossible with my role as a business owner and author (who hopes to publish again someday and will then have a new book to share with you, that I hope you'll want to set your device down to read). At a time when physical presence in community is limited, social media has become a practical lifeline to others. I did not want to lose that connection but I did want to find a new rhythm for my life.
Four ways you can decrease social media time to care for your soul (and how I did just that):
1. Stop using your thumb. Uninstall social media apps from your smartphone and after a detox time period (set by you) re-enter using them only on a computer or tablet. I've found there's less temptation to scroll from these devices than the always present phone that is by my side.
2. Set time limits. You can either set limits for yourself or (if you're like me and need a bit more structure) set your phone to shut down from social media or all screen time at certain times of day or after a certain period of time. This way, your phone is still a phone (what a concept!) and less of a time sucker. I've read so many more books and even picked back up some hobbies (knitting!) I had long forgotten about. I'm amazed at how much time I've gained back with my limits.
3. Install helpful apps (apps that help you be present, learn, or grow) on your phone for those moments of waiting that you truly think you need something to do. I like Insight Timer, Audible, and Mighty Networks (the app where our Peace Seekers community connects).
4. Keep your phone outside of your bedroom. I'll admit, this one is tough for me as I'm a parent of a teen who works evenings and my spouse and I are often already in bed when our son gets home from work. I'm finding a new routine though and purposefully plugging my phone in to charge in the bathroom. I can still hear it in an emergency but it's not by my bed nor am I tempted to pick it up first thing in the morning. Now in the mornings, I brush my teeth, let the dog out, practice meditation then open my devotional. After all those things, I pick up my phone. And guess what? It's just a phone now so it's power over me is much less than it's ever been and my thumb is way less stressed too!
Why shouldn't I be telling you this? Because what if you decide to unplug? What if you miss out on something I'm supposed to share with you soon? What if you make discoveries like me and find a new rhythm that leaves us less connected? Maybe this invitation will keep us accountable to one another? Maybe we'll find a new way to explore peace in our own lives. Maybe we'll discover what matters most and choose being present with God, ourselves, and those around us over the constant distractions. Maybe we'll see more of what God wants us to notice and feel less overwhelmed by the constant stream of information that's available in arms reach.
So actually, I should be telling you all of this! Why yes, you can find connection and balance in social media and still care for your soul. It's possible.
Do you have parameters for your social media use? What are they? How do these guidelines help you? Note: we'll be checking in on this in our Peace Seekers group later this month as we explore the ancient practice of Creating a Rule of Life. I'm working on mine now and am excited to share it with our small and growing private community. If you're looking to find a place with less distraction and more purpose, join us there.
Nope, I'm not talking about fighting with your loved ones over the holiday. I'm talking about fighting germs and viruses at home with natural products. Lately, I've gotten lots of questions about how I personally use essential oils. Since my devotional book was published, many have looked to me for essential oil insight. And, while I do have a passion for and experience with oils for myself, I am not an aromatherapist. I do, however, have a trusted team I turn to for my essential oils. There's a small family company called Imani Naturals in Minnesota. Brian is the founder and he was so kind to take the time to help me edit the aromatherapy section of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. I love not only their products but also their hearts at Imani Naturals.
Their Infection Fighting Kit includes oil blends that have already been diluted and are likely safe for use on your person or in your home (I say likely safe because people can be allergic to anything, always test any new oils or blends in a small place on your body before you slather them everywhere!). As of this post, this kit is on sale for $99 and if you use my blog code, "exploringpeace" Brian will send you a free oil too! So what is in this infection fighting kit and how do you use it?
Also in our home, I have the Guardian blend diffusing constantly this season. We're washing hands, taking our supplements, and will be getting a vaccine when it's available. While there's no guarantee for avoiding COVID-19 (our son has had it already), we're doing our best to stay well and essential oils are part of that regimen. While there are tons of diffusers on the market, I've found I like a larger capacity diffuser with varied settings. I set mine up to diffuse intermittently and that means filling it less often (and yes, you do need to wipe out and clean your diffusers when not in use).
How did I learn about essential oils? Well, for one you I looked to trusted sources, like this information and education from companies I know, as well as aromatherapists and their books. I also use my oils regularly to discover what supports my body and my spirit. Aromatherapy is more than just "smelling good" it is an embodied experience that offers natural benefits such as infection fighting, something I'm leaning into to support my body and spirit in these challenging times.
What essential oils are your favorite for infection fighting?
We're in unprecedented times, challenging times. We're amidst a dark season of national discord and a worldwide pandemic. No matter what you're personally feeling, there is uncertainty and there is fear all around us.
And, guess what? There is also an invitation for joy! This is the third week of advent and we're moving rapidly toward Christmas. How can we experience the challenges we've faced this year and embrace JOY? I keep thinking of Mary. What challenges she faced and what joy she delivered!
Our advent retreat in thePeace Seekers community has featured weekly playlists taking us from Advent to Christmas. Music has a way of helping me slow down, listen, be present, and enJOY whatever activity I'm amidst. In tough times, music helps me contemplate, pause, and feel companioned. In joyous times it helps me celebrate and savor. What does music offer you?
Our Peace Seekers on retreat are enjoying the weekly playlists and I thought I would share this one with you! I pray it's an invitation to ponder joy this season. May it carry you from the waiting and the unknown to the joy of the coming of Christ. May the music be with you in the highs and in the lows. May it help remind you that the joy of Christ's coming is not only near, it's for each of us. It gives me joy to receive and share that gift!
A Christmas Prayer
WHEN LIFE FORCES US TO WRESTLE with what's difficult, give us courage.
Teach us that there is a purpose in everything we experience, and everything is more than it appears to be.
This world is permeated by your Presence, and is your Presence in form.
May we be drawn to your Voice above the other, competing voices.
Great and Holy one, we pray for Peace.
Take us to the abode of Peace for which all hearts long.
WE PRAY TO FIND STILLNESS WITHIN our busyness, and
Rest in the midst of our celebrations and activity.
Show us how to walk more gently, more patiently, on the Earth.
Let kindness be born within all hearts.
Teach us to draw together as one people.
May our prayer rise up like fire and be Light for a troubled world. This we know, Something is trying to be born in us.
Take our hand as we set out anew.
From Advent: A Time of Hope by Paula D'Arcy.
Whitney R. Simpson
Click to connect:
Content @ 2010-2021
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC