When you think of meditation, you might think (as I often do) of one of the earlier scenes in the second Ace Ventura movie. In this scene, Ace is in a monastery in Tibet. You see him in a room full of animals, sitting cross-legged on the ground, eyes glazed and meditating. In my opinion, he looks absolutely insane. That’s not what it means to meditate.
Meditation actually encompasses so much more. That’s a fortunate fact for us Latter-day Saints because prophets tell us all the time to meditate. They tell us, as President Hinkley did, to “take a little time to meditate, to think of what we can do… to become better Latter-day Saints.”
What is Meditation?
“Meditation” awkward to define. It might be termed as a broad range of activities that seek to improve mindfulness and awareness. Even that definition though doesn’t quite capture all that it means to meditate.
Meditation is the act of calming your mind and reaching a state of peaceful stillness. Most types of meditation share that same end goal, nirvana, if you will. The difference though is in the application. Each method goes about reaching this stillness in a different way. Meditation is both chanting on a mountain in Tibet and sitting in a park soaking up the sun.
Meditation is also used to find peace and understanding and to mold the mind. Though it seems otherwise, meditation is not part of any specific religion. Instead, it is a science. It is discovering you.
I recently started meditating. I say meditation is taking all the pieces of yourself connecting them together. You form the whole of your self. Sounds like crazy mumbo jumbo? Well, that’s okay. I thought the exact same thing until I learned another word for meditating.
Meditation in a Gospel Context
In the Church, we call meditating pondering. There is a slight difference as far as the techniques go, but they are essentially the same thing. We ponder to find peace and answers. We also ponder to receive revelation. Meditation has been an important aspect of the gospel since the beginning.
Don’t believe me?
“I get up early in the morning…, five o’clock, when my mind and spirit are clear and rested. Then I meditate. You can come closer to the Lord than you imagine when you learn to meditate. let your spirits be taught by the Spirit. “
Obviously, meditation is much more than sitting still and trying not to think. It has Gospel benefits. This means we can mesh the Gospel benefits with those discovered by science. It means we can have the best of both worlds.
Meditating helps us do the Lord’s will. So often we ask for answers or guidance but aren’t creative enough to accept the Lord’s solutions. He might ask us to do something completely outrageous. He might ask us to do things as crazy as sacrificing our own child, as in the case of Abraham. I doubt it will be that drastic, but you get my point.
Meditating helps us take what we have planned and then step back and look at life objectively. It helps us put our own thoughts aside in favor of the crazy adventures prepared for us by the Lord. Lehi couldn’t have imagined the adventure his family was undertaking when he said, “we need to leave Jerusalem, and I don’t know where we are going exactly.”
Meditation could help you get that next revelation. I’m betting there is a lot the Lord would like to tell us if we were only ready to receive it.
Though meditation might seem wacky, there have been many scientific studies focused on the benefits gained from meditating. The studies show that meditation:
- Increases immune function
- Decreases pain
- Lowers inflammation
- Decreases stress
- Decreases anxiety
- Improves ability to regulate emotions
- Improves memory
Revelation is another benefit only seen through a gospel lens. As President Lee said, the Spirit speaks in quiet tones when we are still and ready to listen. Meditating helps us prepare to receive direction from the Lord. Meditation often goes hand in hand with revelation.
How to Meditate
There are many different types of meditation and, hopefully, you can find one that fits your needs and your style. Two of the most basic types are Concentration and Mindfulness.
Concentration meditation deals with focusing your thoughts on one specific thing. Examples of this are when you focus on controlled breathing, or chant a mantra, or maybe even study your scriptures. The target of your focus helps your body, mind, and spirit align.
Mindfulness meditation deals with observing what is already going on. You don’t direct your own thoughts as much as you watch them. You don’t control your body as much as you examine it.
There are so many other types of meditations, and many of them incorporate both Concentration and Mindfulness, but this is a good start. If you want an easy meditation exercise, just sit comfortably for ten minutes. Focus on your breathing. Pay close attention to how your body feels and the things you hear and perceive. I use an app called Headspace that helps me meditate.
Meditation doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. It’s probably even more simple than I’ve made it out to be in this article. If you want to start, just start slowing down. Take a minute and breathe. You’ll see the change. We could all do with some slowing down.
Please share this article and comment below to tell us what you think about meditating.