The Ancient Tools,” Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit, pp. 23-31.
Hello! My name is Whitney Simpson. I am a trained spiritual director, yoga instructor, and the author of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. Thank you for taking time to join me in a journey of experiencing God’s gift of peace with your whole being. Although peace is a gift God offers each of us, it is one that often seems far beyond reach. This month at My Quiet Spaces, we will explore ways the body, mind, and spirit act as one in helping us connect with this precious fruit of the Spirit.
As Christians, we tend to consider prayer to be talking to God more often than listening for God. Speaking and listening are both important to conversation and relationship. Holy listening means listening for God. I invite you to consider listening in prayer as opposed to speaking in prayer in your quiet time this month. I will show you how the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your body can help you become more connected to yourself and more available to God.
The word peace is interpreted with various meanings, including wholeness and well-being—shalom. I am passionate about helping others come to know God’s gift of peace, especially through our physical bodies, which are themselves gifts of God. During a serious health crisis, God offered me a glimpse of peace in a way I never imagined, in a way that forever changed and shaped my life with God. Nearly twelve years ago on my thirty-first birthday, I awoke with an odd sensation in my body and the inability to coordinate movement on my left side. It turns out, I had experienced a stroke. In the moment, I did not recognize or understand what was happening in my own body. Other than a case of bronchitis, I was relatively healthy, physically fit and successfully balancing a full-time job I loved with co-parenting a young son with my husband. A stroke was the furthest thing from my mind.
That day, in an MRI machine, I began to experience God’s presence through the simplicity of breath prayer. There wasn’t someone nearby teaching me how to pray or what to say. At the time, I did not know from where the words came. But they were the only words I could think of, and they kept me calm. These words became my breath prayer as I called out to God, inhaling and exhaling the same sentence over and over again. The scan lasted over an hour, and I simply repeated, “Jesus, give me peace.” Although my recovery was only beginning, God overwhelmed me with the profound gift of peace on my birthday. I never fathomed I would need this gift so desperately—in my body and in my spirit.
My recovery has been long and, at times, scary. My life had to slow way, way down. The breath prayer that met me the day of my stroke continued to be part of my recovery, along with other practices like praying with scripture, journaling, yoga, and aromatherapy. These tools helped me find the patience to slow down and listen for God—with my whole self. I’m excited to share breath prayer and other practices with you this month.
Before we end this video, I want to explain something about these practices. They are accessible to everyone! Even if you’ve never practiced yoga before and don’t own a single bottle of essential oil. On my journey to peace, I knew nothing about the practice of yoga and never knew aromatherapy had benefits beyond freshening my home. After much exploration on my healing journey, I felt led to these tools. My health situation led to chronic pain and anxiety, yet those issues lessened the more I listened with my body. Yoga, breath prayer, lectio divina, and aromatherapy continue to be part of my quiet time with God. I feel honored to guide you on this journey—whether these are new practices or you’re a seasoned practitioner. You may find the chair yoga sequence in the back of my book helpful if you’re new to yoga. Want to invite friends along on your journey? Download a free small-group leader’s guide from my website, www.exploringpeace.com.
I keep a quote on my refrigerator that says, “Peace—it doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” Whether you’re experiencing a lot of noise in your life right now or just a tiny bit, a crisis is not required to learn how to listen for God’s activity in and around you. Let’s listen together—breath, body, and spirit.