Last week we discussed how our eye of faith is what we might call our sacred imagination. We saw how tapping into our eye of faith is a mental exercise in visualization skills. This week we’re going to discuss another method of accessing our eye of faith through meditation, which is a form of thinning the veil and achieving greater states of communion with the Lord.
Lets start off with this quote from President David O. McKay.
“I think 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. We can say prayers without having any spiritual response. We can say prayers as the unrighteous king in Hamlet who said: ‘My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go’… Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.” (David O. McKay, CR, April 1946)
Meditation is a form of “unlocking” our spiritual imagination, or third eye, through deeper channels of pondering and being open to the spirit.
A couple years ago when I got introduced to this practice, I found it very frustrating. My mind was (and still is) very active (ie. a bit on the uncontrolled side). To try and hold it steady and not think about a dozen different things I needed to do that day was a real challenge. Eventually I learned to focus my attention a little and now meditation is a regular part of most days if even only for a short period of time.
What I have learned from meditating is after a few minutes of being still, I can feel God closer. It’s given a greater understanding of the verse in Psalms 46:10 to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Also D&C 101:16). Time stands still in meditation. At first it was a challenge for me to be still. With time, I discovered that I could build up to feel the spirit and slip into a “zone” within a few minutes and bask in that light for a much longer period of time, even an hour, and be at peace. That’s when I can feel closer to heaven and ask for and receive revelation with greater clarity. I think for many, meditation is meant to just be a breathing exercise, but for me, once I get into a meditative state, it’s very natural to start praying and receiving answers that are more clear than other prayers I offer.
The scriptures are full of references to meditation, but there are other forms of this word used in scripture.
Prayer is a form of meditating. The words pondering, consider, muse… These are all synonyms for thinking deeply and slowly about something. When we pray, are we just saying words? Or are we striving for a deeper connection so we know heaven heard those words and is sharing light, knowledge, and understanding back to us?
Remember when Jesus told his followers to enter into their closet and shut their door to pray (Matthew 6:6)? The Greek word for closet is tameion. It means closet, secret chamber, or storehouse. For our purposes, a secret inner chamber is the most appropriate thing to visualize. You have within your “temple” a Holy of Holies where you commune with God on a whole different level. That’s the purpose of this post to introduce you to this practice which will in turn enhance your eye of faith.
Meditation is not just some “new-age” practice. Many millions of people around the world have no clue about the gospel but have discovered the power of meditation for “centering” themselves each day and when the stresses of life overwhelm them. Is that not a prayer? They are trying to connect with something greater than themselves in the universe, even if they don’t know they are trying to “thin the veil” and connect with their Heavenly Father.
In essence, meditation is letting go of all the baggage and distractions of the physical realm and putting ourselves in tune with the spiritual realm. Then holding ourselves in that realm for a period of time, allowing it to change us. How it does this is by making the things of the natural man irrelevant in our lives, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Doing this repeatedly will change the natural man (the enemy to God) inside us into the spiritual man (and woman) that we desire to become.
In President Henry B. Erying’s talk at the October 2018 conference entitled “Women and Gospel Learning in the Home,” he talked about a woman’s power to nurture and things that would assist in this. He stated that it’s critical to rely on the Lord because He knows when someone is ready to accept nurturing. He stated that prayer and scripture study are essential, along with treasuring up in our minds the words of life so we can receive in the moment we need it, and then said:
“So you will take more time to pray, to ponder, and to meditate on spiritual matters. You will have knowledge of truth poured out upon you and grow in your power to nurture others in your family.” (Henry B. Erying, CR, October 2018)
This is a good time to pause and recognize there is a difference between prayer, pondering, and meditating. These are different things with different purposes but they are very closely related.
Prayer: Communication with heaven; typically opens with “Dear Heavenly Father” and closes “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Can be formal or informal. Prayers of thanks, praise, mighty prayer (praying by the spirit), are all part of this category. Can be done anywhere, any time, vocal or silent, kneeling, sitting, standing, working, playing, and everything in-between.
Pondering: a form of prayer in asking for help in understanding something such as a doctrine or principle of the gospel as we study the scriptures. We either informally reach inside with a “what does that mean” seeking revelation from the Holy Ghost, or formally pray, “Heavenly Father, please help me understand this.”
Meditation: a form of prayer that just seeks a more open and deeper connection to God. A form of praise that lets us reflect on the the power and majesty of God and seek to be one with Him, and to have our lives transformed by being in His presence.
Lets start off getting familiar with the scriptures on meditation and then I’ll share a couple resources.
First, open up Scripture Notes and do a search for verses that are variations of the word meditation:
Are you surprised how many of these verses are in the Psalms? David was a gifted poet and meditation brought out that gift even more for him. Meditating on the Lord can bring us greater love for him than we can experience in other ways. That love pours out in our writings and David wrote of his great love of the Lord in the form of poetry and songs. I can’t imagine a person better suited for meditation in the scriptures than one of the greatest battle-hardened warriors who needed an extra infusion of peace to counter his war-filled life.
Next, create a collection note from this search and save President McKay’s quote at the top. Title the note something like “Meditation Thins the Veil” and tag it Meditation, Pondering, Prayer, and Eye of Faith.
Now go through these verses and note what you learn. Keep in mind the things you learned last week in the project about seeing with an eye of faith. You may want to review your notes there or even pull up that collection note next to this one so you have your thoughts to reflect back on.
Consider also doing these searches and adding the verses to your collection note where you feel it appropriate.
be still and know that I am God (2 verses)
reflect* (4 verses)
ponder* (22 verses)
If you haven’t used Scripture Notes yet and don’t know what this looks like, here’s a quick video look at it.
Copy/paste this list of questions into your master collection note and answer them as you study the verses:
1) What do the scriptures teach about the purpose of meditation?
2) What do the scriptures teach about what we should meditate on?
3) What do I normally meditate on? (The Mandelorian? :))
4) What are the blessings that come from meditating?
After you’ve read the verses and gathered some thoughts together, I invite you to actually do a guided meditation by retired LDS chaplain Phil McLemore. Phil had a very damaged body at one point in his life and he credits meditation with removing most of his pain and improving his communion with God.
The first six minutes of this meditation video are instructional and then there is a short guided meditation that lasts about twelve minutes and then a few closing remarks. Make sure your surrounding is quiet when you do this. It’s more powerful and relaxing when you can really focus on meditating.
Meditations don’t have to be guided like this one, but it helped me to start by having an experienced individual do some guided meditations. You can also just practice clearing your mind and pondering on the Lord, inviting his spirit to be with you and teach and refine you. It can be a struggle to keep the world out of our mind and heart, and our “eye of faith.” What we put there matters. Creating a practice of meditation can help strengthen our mind and give it greater powers of focus to keep the world out.
I mentioned this a little above, but if you have trouble focusing your mind, it takes practice. Don’t beat yourself up or engage in negative self-talk which is destructive like “I’ll never do this” or “Why do I keep thinking about laundry!” If you get distracted while meditating, gently push those thoughts away and focus on your breathing for a while. Tell yourself “I can concentrate and focus my mind with great ease.” You might also repeat in your mind a spiritual phrase while breathing such as “Be still, and know God” or something like that.
A book I started listening to recently is called “Concentration” and the author (Kam Knight) shared an exercise very much like meditation. Take 10 minutes and picture a circle or square in your mind. Try to hold that image and not think of anything else. Just set a timer and practice this till you can master holding the image without being distracted away from it. Just like weights at the gym, you are building a mental muscle to be able to focus your mind. This will then translate into a benefit that applies to meditation and everything else you do. Focus is a skill we truly lack in this digital distraction era.
Please share below something you learned from the scriptures on this topic, or some other insight you have about meditation.
(Featured image by Wavebreak Media LTD @ 123rf.com)