As a mother of three young boys, life can be very hectic. I would love to say that I live in organized chaos, but most of the time there isn’t much organization – just chaos. Juggling sports and music schedules, homework and housework, and keeping three wild and crazy boys alive and injury free can be overwhelming at the best of times. I’m sure I am not the first mother who has felt distant from the Spirit or struggled to find time in the day to devote to scripture study.
During one of these periods I was getting pretty frustrated with myself. I would try to find time to read some scriptures, or a conference talk here and there but I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it. I was longing for the relationship with my Savior that I had before I had kids. It was a struggle to figure out what I was missing that was making me feel so distant at a time when I needed the inspiration and guidance from the Spirit most. Through earnest seeking I realized that I was missing one key ingredient. In primary we sing, “Search, ponder and pray are the things that I must do” (Children’s Songbook, 109). I was doing the searching and the praying, but wasn’t taking the time to ponder and allow the Spirit to speak to me before I was on to the next thing, putting out the next fire, or stopping the next child from throwing a rock at his brother’s head. For me, pondering came in the form of meditation.
Meditation is getting a lot of buzz and attention right now, but it is not a new concept nor is it foreign in the church. In Genesis we learn that “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide” (Genesis 24:63). The Lord commanded Joshua to “meditate [on the law] day and night, that [he] mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.” (Joshua 1:8). In modern times, President Hinckley encouraged us to “take a little time to meditate, to think of what we can do to improve our lives and to become better examples of what a Latter-Day Saint should be.” (“A Time of New Beginnings” General Conference address, April 2000.)
One simple form of meditation that has allowed me to be closer to the Spirit and be able to hear his voice when it comes, even on those chaotic days, is the practice of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
– Awareness of the present moment. What is going on around us in the now, without the baggage of the past or the worry of the future.
– NON-JUDGEMENT. Mindfulness allows for thoughts and feelings to come and go as they please. We notice them, recognize them, but we do not judge them. Thoughts and feelings are not labeled as good or bad, positive or negative, helpful or unhelpful. They are simply noticed as being present.
– Mindfulness is a PRACTICE, not a DESTINATION. It is ok if you aren’t great at it when you start, or even for a very long time.
– Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere. I often do my mindfulness practice in the car while driving between gymnastics, karate and baseball with a car full of noisy kids. It doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor in silence for an hour. It doesn’t require you to attend a three day silent retreat. Mindfulness can be as little as a 10 second scan of your current feelings, thoughts and sensations.
How to practice mindfulness:
– It is much easier to be present and mindful in a place that feels good, so any time you can create that space before you begin, the easier it will be – especially at first while you are still learning.
– Stop and breathe. Count your breaths.
– Scan your body and check in with each of your senses. What are you hearing? What do you smell, see or feel?
– What emotions are you feeling right now? Remember, the goal is to notice these feelings without judging them, even if they are not what we would consider “positive” emotions – like anger at my son who is chewing up his flip-flop in the back seat of the car again.
– If your mind wanders, don’t get frustrated, just recognize it and bring it back to your breath. Being able to recognize when our mind has wandered and continually bring it back to the present is what mindfulness practice is all about.
By being continually aware of what our body is feeling and experiencing in the present, we can hear and recognize the Spirit when it speaks to us. If we are always thinking 3 steps ahead, or worrying about something that happened yesterday, we can’t hear the promptings. We become “too busy” to act on them when they do come, because our minds are not in the present moment.
Mindfulness is not something you achieve, it is something you PRACTICE. Some days are better for me than others, and that is as it should be. Over time, for me, it has become easier, and more automatic. As a result, I am more able to recognize how the Spirit speaks to me as an individual and as a child of God. Mindfulness practice allows me to hear the whisperings of the still, small voice even among the noise and chaos of my everyday life.
Nicole Miles lives in Eagle Mountain UT. She is the mother of 3 boys (9, 6 and almost 2) and spends her days at baseball games, gymnastics practice, swim meets, cello lessons, karate classes and skate parks. She is a child and family lifestyle photographer who loves to capture REAL life in all its beautiful chaotic glory. She writes an LDS daily devotional blog that applies mindfulness and meditation practices to gospel study.
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