A few years ago I felt compelled to study deeper into the topic of meditation. This was something I had taught about and helped others with, but had been pretty lazy in my own personal application. I was aware of the physical benefits that meditation had on the nervous system of the body, but it wasn’t until I started studying the spiritual benefits that I was impressed to begin pursuing it as a daily practice. My life has changed immeasurably since I made daily meditation a habit and I wanted to share some of what has helped me in creating time and space for this habit to be built in hopes it might inspire others to do the same.
An LDS painter, Simon Dewey, painted this piece titled To Be With God. His description really stuck out to me:
In the midst of our commitment-filled lives, who among us has not murmured the all-too-common refrain, “If only I had more time!” Never has anyone’s life been filled with more critical things to accomplish than the Savior’s. Even as His ministry unfolded and word spread of His miracles, the scriptures tell us that still He made time to retire into the wilderness to pray and commune with His Father. This is yet another quiet message from our Master Teacher: We, too, must make time to find our way into the wilderness to be with God.
Christ was the perfect example of someone who prioritized correctly and made time for the things that mattered most. In Luke 6:12, Matt 14:23 and also Mark 1:35 we find some of my favorite accounts of even Christ himself making time to be still and connect with God:
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God”
“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
Sometimes the thought of creating space for meditation can be intimidating. I have found that there are many beautiful and different ways you can “meditate”, and many different ways you can draw closer to the Lord. But the most important thing is not how you do it – but that you do it. We live in such a fast-paced world, that it can be more than easy to overbook ourselves and underbook time with God.
I came across this story about the time I started including meditation in my daily practice, and it spoke deeply of truth to my soul. I love keeping myself busy … and it has been a hard mountain to summit as I try to overcome the natural man within me who wants to run at full speed and include more “quiet, still and simple” into my day to day life.
There once was a Japanese Zen master who received a university professor who came to inquire and learn about Zen. It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning about Zen as he was in impressing the master with his own opinions and knowledge. The master listened patiently and finally suggested they have tea. The master poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the cup overflowing until he could no longer restrain himself. “The cup is overfull, no more will go in,” he said.
“Like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
What in my life keeps my cup so full that I am “too busy” to make time to commune with God? Like Christ’s example, do I make that a priority or does it become something that pours over my cup and onto the table because I have not made enough room for the Lord in my life?
Consider these quotes,
In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation – even thoughts of timeless truths? – Thomas S. Monson
I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship, there are two elements: a spiritual communion rising 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 meditation. Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. – David O. McKay
Meditation involves re-positioning oneself away from the storms, turmoil, chaos, loudness and confusion of life to a solitary, peaceful environment to become better attune to, and eventually enjoy the presence of divinity. Again, this involves minimizing one’s involvements with the physical world for a time in order to concentrate on something inner, on ideas and feelings. – Chauncey C. Riddle
Prayer and meditation are two very different things. Prayer is a two-way conversation between you and God, a dialogue if you will. Meditation is clearing your head and allowing Him to communicate with you. – Author Unknown
I don’t believe there is a single right way to meditate, in fact, I have experimented with different kinds of meditation to see what works best for me. Regardless of how you choose to do so (ask the Lord, He will teach you), here are a few things I have found absolutely necessary to having a spiritually and engaging meditation session:
- Put away all distractions. Clear your mind. Move anything that is a temptation. Say a prayer before you meditate and ask the Lord to help you clear your mind. I have found personally that I have to be alone in order to do this, and also that if I fast from social media for long periods of time, it is much easier to clear my mind and focus.
- Tune it to the right channel. Don’t go into meditation expecting a certain answer. Instead, keep your mind clear so the Lord can impress upon it whatever he chooses to tell you at that particular time. If you find your mind wandering to a certain topic or a thought over and over, pray about what you can do to re-adjust your tuning so you’re not distracted.
- Get up early. The scriptures are full of stories and examples when someone woke-up early and had a very spiritual experience. I believe the spirit is strongest in the morning when our minds are clear and free from distraction and fatigue. My suggestion is to study the scriptures (look up the topics of morning and early) and see what patterns our scripture examples used to communicate the most clearly with God.
- Create your own sacred grove. Whether this is inside your home or a special place in the mountains or a park, find somewhere that speaks to your soul and puts you at rest. Robert L. Millet taught about the importance of a sacred grove when he shared a story of a man,
“One of the things most needed in our prayer lives is consistency and regularity. Some people find it helpful to pray often in the same place. One man I know set aside a special place in his home, a place which over the years came to be like unto a personal sacred grove. It seemed when he entered that room he felt a hallowed presence. In fact, that is exactly what had happened over the years; because some of the most profound insights and some of the sweetest feelings and impressions had come to him in that room.”
5. Keep a meditation journal. I keep a handwritten notebook, my husband keeps notes on his ipad – that works for him. Find what works best for you, and create a place to record your thoughts, questions, answers, impressions and other things that come to you while meditating and conversing with the Lord. Some of the greatest treasures and teachings have come to me during these moments and because I write them down, I return to them often to put pieces together or to reflect/built upon new revelations given to me.
6. Be consistent. I have found that meditation and conversing with the Lord is a learned skill. It comes naturally to us because we are children of God and have a deep connection with Him, but because of the nature of Telestial living – we often find it difficult to feel that connection. Being consistent is key if you want to not only get good at meditation, but truly learn and blossom because of it. Don’t give up if you feel you’re not getting anywhere, it might just take more time and more commitment. God blesses those who show they are serious about connecting with Him.
7. Shield up and invite angels to protect your conversation. Many people become frightened at the concept of meditating because they are afraid of deception and of being misled. From my experience, you can tell quite quickly by how your heart feels if you are tuning in to the wrong channel. To avoid any kind of intervention, I have found it helpful to cast everything out of my home, and then say a prayer – asking the Lord for a shield of light and angels to protect me and my home. I specifically put the intention out there that I will not be influenced and that Him and I will be able to converse easily. This also makes me feel at peace to close my eyes and be in a quiet room as I connect with Him, knowing I am being protected and will not have any uninvited influences to interrupt my holy time.
8. Visualize. Some forms of meditation include clearing your mind and keeping it blank. I have always struggled with the concept of keeping “nothing” in my mind. My meditation became fruitful once I adopted a practice of visualization and began creating a place for my conversations with Christ to take place. I built a beautiful place in my mind – a sacred grove of my own – that every time I would meditate, I would visualize myself there until I felt Christ appear. Then our conversation seemed to flow more naturally, rather than me picturing a blank screen and listening to His voice.
For more helpful posts on meditation, I highly suggest checking out this blog meditation series. These are all very helpful and include a lot of different ideas and things you can try to be successful at meditating!
As I have worked to make time and space for the Lord each day, my relationship with Him has become tangible. He is a real person who desires nothing more than to be an intricate part of our earthly lives. In my meditations I often come with questions, seeking guidance and understanding, and it is within the quietness of my soul He speaks to me and leads me. My life is beautiful and so much has unfolded because He directs my day-to-day decisions. If you have yet to make room in your life for holy time with heaven, now is the time to begin.