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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meditation, Part 4 - Finding a Still Time

In "Meditation, Part 3", we discussed the necessity of literally and figuratively turning your back on the world, and for a time, finding yourself alone with no one but God. 

Ancient prophets like Enoch, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Nephi, Enos and even the Savior established a pattern of worship we would be wise to replicate in our own lives: they went to a "higher" place of peace and seclusion, of stillness and serenity, and found God.

How about you?  Where is your own personal Sacred Grove?  Is it your bedroom?  Bathroom?  Living room?  A special room?  Or is it outside your home, in a secluded place amidst nature's beauty?

If you've secured such a place in your life, you owe it to yourself to seek a proper time to commune with the Lord. 

The Difference Between Meditation and Prayer

While it is true that we're encouraged to pray morning, midday and evening, meditation is different.  With meditation, you develop an inward concentration, remove all outside distractions and quiet the chatter inside your head.  In many ways, prayer is the exact opposite of meditation: you focus on a two-way dialogue with God, the contents of which are inspired by the Holy Ghost.  With one, you seek stillness and silence; with the other, you seek a divine dialogue.

In my life, I have found using both forms of communication is most beneficial:
  • I begin my communication with God with a short prayer, asking for divine help in clearing my mind and achieving a state where I am calm and still, unaffected by the concerns of a Telestial world.
  • I then meditate (the specifics of which I'll cover in forthcoming blog posts).  This helps me "empty my cup" and shed the "natural man".
  • After I have meditated, I then pray and dialogue with Heavenly Father.
I've found this method works best for me, because (1) I need all the help I can get in calming my mind and shoving out the telestial, and (2) meditation is a tremendous tool in helping me "tune in" to the spirit's "still, small voice", thereby allowing me to effectively dialogue with Heavenly Father.  Again, this is just what I do.  You may be inspired to do differently.

Regardless, I think you would agree that any worthwhile endeavor requires some time and effort.

Knowing that, the next logical question is, "What time should I meditate?"  While only you and the spirit can adequately answer for you, here are a few suggestions with which you can "study it out in your mind"...

"Arise Early"

"Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124)

"And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD" (Genesis 19:27)

"And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put [for] his pillows, and set it up [for] a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it." (Genesis 28:18)

"And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD..." (Exodus 16:7)

"And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount." (Exodus 34:2)

"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct [my prayer] unto thee, and will look up." (Psalms 5:3)

"Joy cometh in the morning." (Psalms 30:5)

"Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee." (Psalms 143:8)

"The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to [him that is] weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." (Isaiah 50:4)

"And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship..." (1 Nephi 16:10)

"The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee, O house of Israel. When ye are weary he waketh morning by morning. He waketh mine ear to hear as the learned." (2 Nephi 7:4)

"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 37:37)

"And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away." (3 Nephi 10:9)

"So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally." (JS-H 1:14)

"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35)

"It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom." (Aristotle)
It should be somewhat apparent to you by now that the morning is a prime time to hear God's voice. 
"The early hours of the morning give us a freshness and a time when we are unencumbered with the cares of the world. It can be a quiet time, a time to become organized and 'prepare every needful thing.' (D&C 88:119)" (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Finding Peace in Our Lives, p.226).
Not only do the scriptures abundantly testify of the truthfulness of this concept, but our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, lived it:
"Before he gave the beautiful Sermon on the Mount, he was in solitude, in communion. He did the same thing after that busy Sabbath day, when he arose early in the morning after having been the guest of Peter. Peter undoubtedly found the guest chamber empty, and when he and others sought Jesus, they found him alone. It was on that morning that they said: 'All men seek for thee.' (Mark 1:37.)" (Pres. David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1967, General Priesthood Meeting, p.86).
There are a few former apostles that hold a dear, special place in my heart.  One is Elder Neal A. Maxwell.  Another is Pres. Marion G. Romney.  Elder Joe J. Christensen once provided this very poignant insight into Pres. Romney and early-morning inspiration:
"Years ago, Barbara and I had a special opportunity to chauffeur President and Sister Marion G. Romney from Provo to their home in Salt Lake City. Along the way, President Romney shared some of his personal experiences from when he was first called to serve as a General Authority in 1941. He had been serving as a stake president at the time, and had gone to general conference. To his amazement, he was announced and sustained as a new General Authority-an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve-without his prior knowledge; no one had talked to him about the calling before the session started. He was shocked and very nervous. He felt that he needed some advice, and so he went to Elder Harold B. Lee, a relatively new member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a former contemporary as a stake president. Elder Romney asked him for advice about how to be successful as a General Authority.  

Elder Lee spoke about the necessity of receiving personal revelation in order to be effective and said: 'If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested and then in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day.'  

President Romney said: 'From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early morning hours than at any other time of the day. Following that counsel has helped me a great deal through the years.'"  
What is it about morning prayer that makes it so meaningful, so significant?  Elder David A. Bednar touched on this aspect when he said:
"We learn from these verses that the spiritual creation preceded the temporal creation. In a similar way, meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day-and precedes the temporal creation or the actual execution of the day. Just as the temporal creation was linked to and a continuation of the spiritual creation, so meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other.

Consider this example. There may be things in our character, in our behavior, or concerning our spiritual growth about which we need to counsel with Heavenly Father in morning prayer. After expressing appropriate thanks for blessings received, we plead for understanding, direction, and help to do the things we cannot do in our own strength alone. For example, as we pray, we might:
  • Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.
  • Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.
  • Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.
  • Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.
  • Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.
  • Such a prayer is a key part of the spiritual preparation for our day.
During the course of the day, we keep a prayer in our heart for continued assistance and guidance-even as Alma suggested: "Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord" (Alma 37:36).

We notice during this particular day that there are occasions where normally we would have a tendency to speak harshly, and we do not; or we might be inclined to anger, but we are not. We discern heavenly help and strength and humbly recognize answers to our prayer. Even in that moment of recognition, we offer a silent prayer of gratitude.

At the end of our day, we kneel again and report back to our Father. We review the events of the day and express heartfelt thanks for the blessings and the help we received. We repent and, with the assistance of the Spirit of the Lord, identify ways we can do and become better tomorrow. Thus our evening prayer builds upon and is a continuation of our morning prayer. And our evening prayer also is a preparation for meaningful morning prayer.

Morning and evening prayers-and all of the prayers in between-are not unrelated, discrete events; rather, they are linked together each day and across days, weeks, months, and even years. This is in part how we fulfill the scriptural admonition to "pray always" (Luke 21:36; 3 Nephi 18:15, 18; D&C 31:12). Such meaningful prayers are instrumental in obtaining the highest blessings God holds in store for His faithful children." (David A. Bednar, "Pray Always", October 2008 General Conference)
Admittedly, arising early in the morning may not be a challenge for some. But for others, it can be quite a struggle. Elder Christensen continues:
"You can have a similar experience in your own life. You can change, even if you consider yourself a 'night person.' I remember a conversation with a young elder at the Missionary Training Center. On the first day he was there, he mentioned, 'President, I don't know about going to bed around ten and getting up at six in the morning. You see, I'm a 'night person.' I don't go to bed that early. I usually don't get creative until about midnight or one o'clock in the morning.' I assured him, 'Elder, if you will get up in the morning at 6:00 a.m. sharp and go through the ten hours of classroom instruction, get a good workout in your gym class, and do all the other things on the schedule, come bedtime, you will be able to go to sleep.'  Before his time at the MTC had ended, he had made the adjustment.  

It has been said that almost any habit - good or bad - can be set in about twenty-one days. With firm resolve, we can make the needed changes in our lives. If we provide the needed care for our physical bodies, we will have the strength to grow and serve the Lord in other areas of our lives." (Joe J. Christensen, One Step at a Time: Building a Better Marriage, Family, and You, p.126)
There are many techniques you can use to arise early -- early enough to meditate and pray.  Some suggestions may be found here.

Alternate Sleep Schedules

Another concept you may want to consider is called "polyphasic sleep", which is defined here as:

"the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period—usually more than two, in contrast to biphasic sleep (twice per day) or monophasic sleep (once per day). It does not imply any particular sleep schedule. The circadian rhythm disorder known as irregular sleep-wake syndrome is an example of polyphasic sleep in humans. Polyphasic sleep is common in many animals, and is believed to be the ancestral sleep state.[2] The term polyphasic sleep is also used by an online community that experiments with alternative sleeping schedules to achieve more time awake each day."

As you can see on these webpages:
there are many types of sleep: Monophasic, Biphasic, Everyman, Dymaxion and Uberman, to name a few.  Although there are advantages and disadvantages with each of them, one study has shown that polyphasic sleep may complicate your ability to enjoy fuller, more satisfying REM sleep.  To achieve adequate levels of REM sleep, you'll need to spend more time in your day sleeping.  Thus, "Monophasic sleep may therefore be a more efficient sleep pattern". 

However, some people are able to adjust their sleep schedules.  In my case, my body recently "decided" that it wanted to start going to sleep at 1030pm.  I'd then wake up around 3am, and would stay awake for maybe 1-1.5 hours.  I'd then fall asleep, then wake up again at 7am.  By my count, that's about 7-7.5 hours of sleep, which worked fine for me. 

One thing I did discover, though, is this:

3-4am can be a time of very profound, positive spiritual activity.  I know others who can confirm this.


  1. Thanks for another great post!! I am one of those whose mind wanders when I pray. I am not sure if I recognize or know if the Spirit is prompting me to help me petition the Lord in my prayers.
    I am one of the those "night" owls out there. That has always seem to be the most quiet and alert time for me to pray. However from reading your post, I may be missing out an more powerful prayer experiences by rising earlier in the morning to seek the Lord in prayer?
    Another observation I have is that some people seem to always wake up at the same time several days in a row. I have heard Kirk Duncan, a body language expert in the field mention that this is because God is trying to speak to your spirit at those times... Any thoughts on this concept? Thanks so much!