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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Meditation, Part 6 - Still Your Mind

For thousands of years, sailors have looked to the stars to understand where they are.  As oceans move beneath them, they take comfort in the fixed mark of the North Star, while here below, nothing ever stops moving.

Entering the presence of the Lord is no different.  To help ensure this event, we must focus on a fixed mark -- one which God has unmistakably identified.  In the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price....through his own words and the events in the lives of those recounted in those scriptures...he has used one word to describe the North Star, the positive point which propels us into his presence:


Certainly you've encountered peace before.  It's that moment when a new mother holds her baby for that very first time.  It's standing at a beautiful natural scene, like the Grand Canyon.  It's sitting back on a boat, in the middle of a perfectly calm lake.  It's watching your child, your wife or husband while sleeping. 

Think about this for a few minutes.  Close your eyes, take yourself back to those times, and remember how they felt. 

No wonder it's been said that peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.
"If our normal tendency is to think from a negative mindset, we need to repent and think again. Worry, anxiety, fear, anger, bitterness and resentment will not enable us to become Christlike. A successful relationship with Jesus is founded on rest, peace, trust, faith and worship." (Graham Cooke)

Why Silence is Golden

In it's most rudimentary form, silence is much like fasting; yet instead of going without food or water, you are instead quieting your mind.  This may be why Paul admonished the Thessalonians to "study to be quiet" (1 Thess. 4:11).
"The greatest mystery a man ever learned is to know how to control the human mind and bring every faculty and subjection to Jesus Christ; this is the greatest mystery we have to learn while in these tabernacles of clay" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:46).

"To conquer and subdue, and school ourselves until we bring everything into subjection to the law of Christ, is our work." (Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, p. 205)

Putting Stillness in Context

Let's face it: meditating -- seeking the Lord's presence -- can be so challenging!

One of the toughest aspects is trying to meditate when your head is filled with competing demands to do things.  You can encounter lots of nagging thoughts in your mind, i.e., "Fix this, fix that, do this, do that, worry about this, worry about that," etc.

The human mind is always talking, especially in the conscious state, when you are awake.  The average human being breathes around 21,600 times in 24 hours.  And in those 24 hours, an average person goes through 60,000 thoughts.

When you clear your mind so that there is no background chatter in your head, you discover the inner stillness that is, in all actuality, your normal state.

A Stillness Strategy

There are many processes you can use to meditate, then calming your mind.  Here's a possible one:

  1. Find a place to meditate, in solitude away from any possible distractions.
  2. Find an optimal time to meditate, when you won't be interrupted by family members, friends, phone calls, etc.
  3. Calm your body, ensuring you literally and figuratively feel peace.
  4. Next, close your eyes and listen to the chatter in your head.
  5. Focus in on one of the inner conversations (i.e. chatter).
  6. Ask yourself, is there anything I can do about the subject of the chatter right now (as in, that very instant)?
  7. If the answer is yes (for example, you're about to be bitten by a rattlesnake), deal with it now.
  8. If no, imagine wrapping the thought in a big bubble.  Then imagine that you have a helper in the bubble, and tell them to go away and work on a solution to the problem/task.  Work out when the problem/task needs to be actioned and tell the helper to come back then with suggestions and options on solutions.
  9. Then, flick the bubble into the back of your mind and imagine it getting smaller as it disappears into the background.
  10. Now focus on the next bit of chatter, and do exactly the same thing.
  11. Keep repeating the process until all the chatter goes away into the back of your mind quietly working in the background.
  12. If you send a task away and it comes back early, ask what it wants, then re-do the process and send it back until it goes away consciously.  (This usually means you haven't given clear directions). When you do this, you are not chasing your subconscious away, or shooting duck targets at the circus; you are directing your subconscious to do things.  You are not trying to make it go away or chase it away, which is a mistake people often make who struggle with chatter in the first place. Work with it. Command it. You are the boss, not the monkey chatter.
  13. If you need added help focusing on the calm, just say one word within yourself, and focus on it: "Peace".
  14. In stilling your mind, you'd be wise to take baby steps at first.  Just go for maybe half a minute, or even a minute, without any thoughts.  Just bask in the stillness.  Then the next time you meditate, try for a little bit longer duration.  As you slowly, steadily and methodically try to lengthen your periods of quietude, the more powerful your meditative states will become. 
In this state, your mind can enjoy a condition that is consciously calm and perfectly peaceful, while also being able to solve and work on many complex solutions at the same time in the background.  With your mind clear and "in the moment", you are now focused on the one thing which many fail to ever see:

Your North Star.

Your Next Steps Beyond Meditation

In "Meditation, Part 2", we learned about the Parable of the Empty Cup
.  The moral of the story: we can't receive anything if our cups are filled, if not overflowing, with cares, concerns and worries about ourselves, our families, our jobs, our health, the world, as well as the past, present and future. 

When we eliminate these thoughts, when we are still, we are then able to clearly and unmistakably meditate, which Pres. McKay described as "one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord."

However, all too often, many people expect tremendous spiritual experiences to result once they are consistently enjoying a meditative state.   

My counsel is to avoid such a mindset. "Don't look for solutions to problems in meditation.  Rest in that state beyond problems.  Divine guidance will emerge from that consciousness." (Ellen Grace O'Brian; emphasis mine). 

In my experience, a meditative state is perhaps the best preparation you can have for prayer, where you can enjoy an abundance of divine guidance.  Why?  Because
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: 'Be still, and know that I am God.' (Ps. 46:10; emphasis mine) And the promise, 'You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.'" (D&C 36:2; emphasis mine). (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 21).
This is why, in my next post, we'll discuss what others have done in the past with their meditative states to approach God...which, in turn, elicited a similar action from God as He drew closer to the mortal.


  1. Really helpful, thank you! I'm still trying to figure out the place and time I can try these things in my busy crazy house full of kids. Eventually. :)

  2. Thanks. Always helpful.

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  4. Very enlightening, thank you. I look forward to the stillness.