Sometime before Christmas I started getting up before everyone to meditate, pray, and study my scriptures. I did a lot of research and study about meditation, what it is, how, why. I knew I would be taking a big dive into it at my yoga teacher training, and I wanted to make sure I knew what I believed about it before I was learning from someone else.
In my study I found these quotes from David O McKay (a former prophet of my church):
We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is the meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as “a form of private devotion, or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.” Meditation is a form of prayer. …
Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. (You can click here to read more of President McKay’s teachings.)
He says that more than going to church, more than reading the scriptures, more than listening to people speak, it is meditaion that brings us in communion with God. Over and over church leaders have mentioned the importance of meditation. Over and over I’ve wondered what that really meant and where to find some kind of instruction.
So, here’s what I’ve found it to be. It’s quiet listening. It’s internal focus. It’s the realization that God is IN us. For my whole life prayer has been more like a grocery list, a rattling off of thoughts and hopes and wants and thanks. It has been almost entirely focused on thinking. I remember looking into meditation several years ago when my mom was reading a lot of Wayne Dyer books and feeling uneasy about the New Age emphasis on completely quieting thought in meditation. For one thing, that seemed impossible, but also totally contradicted the way I’ve thought prayer was supposed to work throughout my whole life.
But, here’s what I’ve come to realize. I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS. For so long I equated what I thought with my spirit, the essential part of me, but that is not true. Our brains do a lot of our thinking, and the natural man comes out in full force. We get in thought patterns, habits, ruts that loop over and over which are so often negative and tell us things that are not true. They don’t describe reality, but our internal experience is what determines the quality of our life, the happiness we experience, our ability to open to relationships. What meditation can teach us is the difference between the chatter that constantly goes on in our heads and who we really are. It helps us feel and experience that part of us that has always existed and is intricately connected with God. Too often our thoughts are noisy destractions from that reality. It is good to learn to discern them and control them effectively– to have minds that are tools rather than masters.
So, here’s what I’ve been doing. I kneel on my comfy cushion and open with a prayer asking to be filled with Christ’s light and love. Then I find a comfortable cross legged seat, spine tall, hands comfortable, and draw my attention to my breath. I’ve been using the Ham Sah mantra which means “I am that,” (“that” being the soul, the spirit, the essential part that has always existed and is connected with the divine). I silently inhale Ham and exhale Sah, feeling the sound originate at my heart center. When I notice I’m thinking I just renew my commitment to the mantra, to my breath, to the quiet, to the internal light. And I keep doing that until my little timer goes off. My mind is busy more than it is quiet, but I get pockets of stillness and I do feel so much more connected to Heavenly Father. My access to Him feels so much more real and immediate. Then I pray about my day and read my scriptures.
In Kundalini yoga (which is the kind of yoga practiced by Sikhs) it is strongly encouraged to wear white while you meditate. I’m in love with that idea. Maybe someday I’ll have to get some nice white jammies.
I have so many thoughts about things I’ve read, but I think I’ll stop here for tonight and leave you with a few links.
Mastery of Destiny by James Allen is lovely. I’ve read As a Man Thinketh a few times. My Life Long Learning class last fall read it and in our discussion it came up that he had written a book about meditation (Mastery of Destiny), so I gobbled it up!
Light in the Wilderness is a book my mom suggested to me just a few weeks ago. I’ve read it and am re-reading it. It is full of so many insights and helps me see that this spiritual practice is essential.
This article, Mormon Mantras, also helped me realize that I’m not alone as a Mormon exploring Eastern practices to really figure out this spiritual journey.