I have made a new discovery for myself. I have been focusing on spiritually grounding myself with daily scripture study and prayer. Sadly, my commitment to my scripture study, and most frequently, prayer is irregular at best. Don’t get me wrong. I am much better at these two practices than I used to be and I “keep a prayer in my heart and mind” all day long most days. What I have trouble with is the formal, traditional forms of prayer. I find that my mind wanders. I often feel a bit spiritually empty and I fear becoming apathetic.
This past week I’ve experienced a couple of thoughts that inspired my determination to better understand my scripture study/ prayer habits. The first came while reading some thought from a fellow blogger. I was reading her thought on a few verses in 1 Nephi 8. She said, “When we read this word – clinging – it gives us an idea about this people. To me, it seems like they are afraid. And, initially, I think that they are afraid for a good reason. They are afraid to fail. They don’t want to get lost! They want to get to the tree of life, and they are so afraid that they won’t make it, they cling to the rod. They hold on tight to it – overly dependent. Afraid.” Then, she said, “So – we are reading about the final group of people in Lehi’s dream. Those who partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and they remain faithful and loyal to it…
Firmly fixed, tightly shut, adhering firmly. This is how the final group of people we read about are described. They aren’t clinging to the rod, they are fixed to the rod.
What a difference this connotation makes!
The group that rejects the fruit were using the rod, but there was a hint of fear in how they proceeded. This faithful group, however, held fast. They adhered firmly, and were fixated on their goal rather than the world around them.
This group pressed their way forward in faith, rather than fear. In my mind, when we move forward with faith, it is closely related to creation. They had the vision in their minds – the fruit of the tree of life, then faithfully they moved forward. They wanted to create a future for themselves based on the vision they had.”
Wow! I had never noticed this before. For years I had thought I needed to cling to the scriptures for dear life because life was scary. I taught my children that they would only be safe if they were to cling to the gospel. What I needed to do, what I should have taught my kids to do, was to HOLD FAST! I suddenly realized that I would be much more successful if I were motivated by love and not motivated by fear. DUH!
You can read more of her thoughts on Daily Book of Mormon here.
Okay… so I’ve bee thinking about this idea a ton since I first read this bloggers post. Then I attended the temple and the next thought came to me. “Be still and know that I am God.” This is the first part of Psalm 46:10.
Okay. I’ve heard this scripture phrase a bazillion times before. However, this time I was struck with a new idea. If I still my mind and my heart, I will see. I will understand. I will know. Gah! I am not very good at putting the thoughts on this subject into real words.
Per my habit, I began to dissect the words and phrases in the verse. The word “still” comes from a Hebrew word that mean to “let go” or to “release.” Hah! We need to come to a place where are willing to submit ourselves to God and acknowledge that He is in control. It boils down to us completely trusting and having faith IN JESUS CHRIST!
I still needed to look up “still” in the dictionary:
Still: free from noise or turbulence; untroubled.
When I free myself from outside noise and turbulence, I am able to hear the still small voice of the Holy Ghost as he comes to comfort, instruct, enlighten and guide me through my troubles. Some of the noise that surrounds us might be blocking my ability to feel God’ presence and my connection to Him and to others. By obeying the command to “be still,” changing negative thoughts to positive, I am able to to more fully fell god’s love because I will be in harmony with Him. Noise and turbulence will be replaces with sweet peace.
Still- calm: a period or condition of freedom from storms, a state of tranquility. To be calm does not mean that the storm has stopped raging… it means that the storm is not long within me. I am free from the effects of the storm. I am in a place where I no longer live in fear.
Still = hushed: to put at rest; mollify – to soothe in temper or disposition. In the past I have found myself angry with God for my troubles. I begin to complain. I have only succeeded in chasing away the Spirit and I lesson my own ability to feel the Spirit because I have not left room in my heart due to the anger that fills it. God can not dwell in a heart full of anger. Duh! When I finally learn to put my complaints at rest and cast my burdens on the Lord, to hush my complaints and wait upon Him, I have found solace.
Still = peaceful: untroubled by conflict; devoid of violence or force. When conflicts come and I am still, I know peace.
Still = placid: serenely free of interruption or disturbance. As I learn to be as I pray, read scripture, go for a walk, or meditate I give myself time to ponder free from interruption or disturbance. I am learning that this not only gives me the opportunity to communicate with my Heavenly Father, it allows Heavenly Father to communicate with me.
Still = restful: marked by, affording, or suggesting rest and repose; being at rest. The business of life sometimes makes it impossible for me to truly hear what God wants me to know. It is only when I stop, slow down and allow myself the opportunity to reset my mind and heart and focus on what is important. God wants to talk to me. I must be ready and available to listen.
Still = serene: shining bright and steady. The sun does not rise and set. The sun stands still! The sun is steady and bright. The earth TURNS to FACE the sun! Darkness comes when the earth turns away. When I face the Son, who is steady and bright, I am filled with light. When I turn away from him, the darkness takes over. Be still and face the light.
Still = quiet: gentle, easy going. When I am gentle I more able to hear God’s commands. He gently persuades me to love Him and serve others. I am more able to ease my own troubles. The Spirit will strive with me.
The command – “be still” leads me to remember that we are finite and God in infinite. We need to “take a chill pill” and have confidence in Him. I am still struggling to find the right words… To be still is to remember… or employ a stead, deep reflection on all the ways God has intervened on behalf of His people. We can “be still” because of what we know about God… know that he is God intellectually, practically, spiritually, and emotionally. Know that He is the ruler of kingdoms of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe. Know that He is Omniscient – all knowing, Omnipresent – a universal presence at the same time, Omnipotent – all powerful, Holy, Faithful, Sovereign and Infinite without measure forever.
Maybe the best way to describe what I am feeling is by “labeling” it the art of meditation or pondering. It’s deeper than that though… perhaps a more intentional approach to bringing stillness and focus to my distracted mind.
President David O. McKay referred to this type of mindfulness like this, “Meditation is the language of the soul… It is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”
I’m not talking a 10 minute ritual in the morning or before bed in the evening. I’m talking about an entire way of viewing and encountering the world everyday. As soon as I got home from the temple I decided to see what thoughts meditation masters my give me to deepen my understanding of meditation.
One thing I learned is that a central idea of meditation is that at the core of every human being is an infinite soul. The Hindu tradition would call this essence “atman,” best described as a divine spark or a piece of God. They would say that humans are feeling a temporary separation from God but can reunite with Him as they remember their true nature as divine beings. Hmmm…. sounds so familiar. I am a child of God! I carry a piece of Him within my own spiritual DNA. The Savior reinforced this idea when He taught, “The Kingdom of God is within you.
That led me to question… if I of a divine nature, if my inner self is “the light of truth,” why is it so hard to feel the presence of God? The thought came to me… when we came to earth we “fell” from the peace of God’s presence and harmony with all creation we went from “we” to “me.” Meditation studies would call this “me” view of self as “ego.” I get that. The Book of Mormon mentions this concept as the “natural man. and teaches that the natural man is the “enemy of God,” or in other words, the one thing that creates the distance between ourselves and our divine origin. We must be still! We must quiet the voices. We must “put off the natural man and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”
The “natural man” in me has a constant “knee-jerk” reaction to nearly everything. Someone insults me, I feel offended and react poorly. Someone hurts me, I want to hurt them back, even if all of my training would tell me that I should walk away. Something scares me I want to run or to fight. It’s like I am programmed… Stimulus = response. Action = reaction.
However, I am created to act, not to be acted upon. The meditation traditions in the world would say the natural needs and fears of the ego are called “attachment,” and would say that these “attachments” are the main cause of all human suffering. They would say that these attachments stop us all from spiritual progress. Jesus referred to these “attachments” as burdens. He invited us to “take His yoke” upon us so that our burdens would be light. He invited a young man to unburden himself of his riches. He questioned Martha’s need to be “careful about many things,” and instructed her to “take no thought for the morrow.”
Burden, attachments, cause us to live in a state of anxiety and dissatisfaction. We live in fear. Gah!
Be still! I need to train myself to let go of burdens… of attachments… and awaken my soul! Like when Lehi and Nephi instructed those they were talking to to “Awake! and shake off the chains…”
I have found many different traditions and approaches to meditation. I am going to need the spirit of discernment to find a form of meditation that works best for me.
Perhaps it is one way I can more fully access the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I can become “at-one” with God each time I am mindful of the natural man and return my attention to the Lord and His grace. As I quiet the mind, with my “eye (or my attention) single to the glory of God,” my “whole body shall be full of light.” Thinking of the Atonement in this light I begin to see that the Atonement is a kind of burning away the darkness and the natural man within me as I am reunited with my inner light with the Savior’s light.
“He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
More light brings greater grace. Commandments stop being a check list that encourage depressing thoughts at setbacks or an obsession with perfectionism.
Be still! Mindful, intentional living brings about “confidence [that] wax[es] strong in the presence of God.” When I practice abiding in the light every day and return each time I wander I form a new habit… becoming one. This daily practice leads to sanctification allowing the transformation of body and mind until I finally “put off” the natural man and “become a Saint through the atonement of Christ.”
Be still and know that I am God… Be still because of what I know about God.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth do change.” – Psalm 46:1-2
I can know God by having an intimate relationship with Him. It is more than knowing about Him. It is getting to know Him personally through His word, through the words of His servants, by recognizing His hand in my life, and through obedience.
Be still and know that I am God is a state of being. It is the ability to know God well enough to surrender all… to trust Him. We come to know that we are His children. We are never alone, never unaided and never forgotten. We are a part of Him and He is a part of us!
I am not the poster-child for a stress-free attitude! I am a stress case. Just look at the title of my blog! I might actually strive on stress. There have been times when I thought I did my best work under stress. Boy, was I wrong. I need to continue to work hard and do my part, but I also need to learn to “be still.”
Moses commanded the children of Israel as they fled from the Egyptians: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). Ten he parted the waters of the Red Sea. The people were afraid and complained that they wanted to return to Egypt. They lacked faith that the Lord would really deliver them.
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side…
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav’ly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
[Hymns, 1985, no. 124]