“If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky–up–up–up–into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just FEEL a prayer.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
My brain was born to multi-task, born for stimulation. My college roommates would ask how I could cram for a test with the TV blaring. My writing students throw puzzled looks when I tell them I sometimes like to listen to the radio, public radio interviews or news programs, while I write (I tell them it’s more about finding one’s personal writing groove).
My prayers are those of the distracted. In an effort to get through them, I cling to the simple formula I was taught in primary: address, thank, ask, and close. But often I think of things I’m thankful for during the asking part, and even more often I want to ask for things before I feel satisfied with my thankfulness. In a child-like way, I am constantly worried that my efforts to connect to God will end up giving offense instead if I break from the prescription.
Not unrelatedly, I’ve been seeking out ways to quiet my mind so I can better connect to God. Recently I attended a Deeksha (Diksha) blessing. Over the course of an hour and a half, I sat with group of 30 people, breathing in and out to music (some Indi, some popular). During that time, five Deeksha blessers, two women and three men, individually laid their hands on my head in silence, each a conduit for the peaceful transfer of energy. I didn’t have an extreme spiritual epiphany during these moments, but I felt lighter with a focus on the better things in my life. Like the darker things were melting away.
Mostly, I sat quietly and listened to the music. I tried to sit up straight in my chair, but after an hour I began to get tired. I opened my eyes and tried to remain focused. At the end of the 90 minutes, I found my energy was spent for sitting still, and I was grateful to shift position when the music ended. I looked at the calm, peaceful meditative people around me and concluded that I must be a meditative lightweight. On the way out, I picked up a meditation help sheet with a mantra to think of when I meditate. The first syllable was, predictably, Om. That night I went to bed early and slept a deep sleep, only the second night in a year I’ve been able to fall asleep and stay that way for eight hours.
It occurs to me that meditation is perhaps the other side of prayer that I’ve been missing, through all my effort to make the correct prayer, in the correct form, with the correct pronouns and verb conjugations. In meditation is the formless, nebulous desire to be more, to connect, to do better, to feel better. To work my connection to God in a present sort of way, rather than in the linear one-way direction my prayers tend to go. I may not even use the mantra for this reason, to keep my meditation personal and to preserve myself from self-critique during the process.
I know many people who associate with Mormonism believe in meditation, but what is said about it is scarce, and instructions from the Church on how to do it are nearly non-existent. So, as a beginner, I want to ask you: How do you do it? How (and where) did you learn it? What has the impact in your life been?