|Cat Pose (above), Cow Pose (below.|
Example #1: When I was in kindergarten I faced a fairly traumatic event involving bullying that left me very shaken. My family came with me to speak to a children's therapist who taught me some ways of relaxing so that I could de-stress and sleep better during the night. The first method was something called "the cat" where I would, on hands and knees, slowly arch my back upward and downward, breathing deeply. This, I later found, was two common yoga poses called the "cat" and "cow" poses. My therapist also taught me a technique of full-body relaxation where I would lie on the floor and slowly relax one isolated body part at a time until my whole body was completely free of tension. I started with relaxing the muscles in one leg, then the other, one arm, then the other, the torso, the neck, the head, the face, etc. This also is one of the most commonly practiced forms of meditation and let me tell you, it works!
Example #2: When I was eleven years old I took classes in tae kwon do (I eventually made it to a yellow belt by breaking a board with my foot! LOL) At the end of every class our sensai would have us sit with our legs criss-crossed on the floor and our hands sitting palms-up in our lap, one resting over the other. He asked us to silently think about ways in which we could use what we'd learned to better the world. We did this for about 5 to 10 minutes each time.
Example #3: There have been countless times when I've put on a beautiful piece of music (soft music or classical) and found somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down and just listen. I remember becoming calm and still, focussing on the way the rise and fall in the sounds awoke different emotions in my heart and guided the pleasant images in my mind. Under my closed eyes I saw colors and felt my heart beating gently in my ears, sometimes even in sync with the beat of the music. When the music was over, I always felt relaxed and refreshed. This is a kind of meditation that I did without anyone even telling me I was meditating, and I did it without any goal in mind except to relax and ponder.
What can be gained from meditation that is so vital? And does it align with the teachings of the gospel? From my own experience I can say that meditation is definitely a powerful tool in which we can open infinite possibilities of health, peace of mind, and even good fortune. For these reasons I would even go as far as to say our Heavenly Father wants us to meditate as an exclusive branch off of prayer.
I recently purchased a beautiful children's book called "I AM a Rainbow" by Roseanne D'Erasmo Script. It tells the story of a teacher taking two of her students, a little boy and a little girl, through the seven different "worlds" inside the rainbow and showing them how each color is connected with one of their seven chakras. (For more info on chakras, click here: http://theldsvegan.blogspot.com/p/chakras-scriptures.html) When the children reach the color violet (which represents the chakra involving spiritual connection) the teacher has this to say:
"This is where you connect with spirit, a higher power or universal good. It is the point of prayer."
They then go on to briefly discuss how prayer works with opening the chakras. I was amazed when I read this! So very true.
I have heard so many General Conference talks and read so many scriptures mentioning the word "meditation" that there wouldn't be room in this post to list them all. However, I will share some of my favorites.
But first, what does meditation really mean? Dictionary.com's definition states:
Meditation- 1) continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.
2) devout religious contemplation or spiritual introspection.
The practice of meditation has been used in every religion and belief system around the world since the beginning of the world itself.
The Book of Mormon provides several mentions of the words "meditation" or "pondering" including this passage in
2 Nephi 32:1-5:
Not only is meditation a way to relax as much of the modern world believes, it is also a tool to connect more closely with the spirit!
Joseph Smith History 1:44 states:
I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside.
The mind and the heart are connected in meditation. As we see in Joseph's account, when the mind is pondering wonderful things, a path is made for the light to shine through, thereby making the way for us to understand.
Psalms 49:3 states:
When we shut out those things in life that distract our mind, we start listening to the pondering of the heart. Only then can the spirit fill us and give us guidance.
These techniques have all worked for me in different ways and I hope they work for you too! Remember to always focus on those things of the light, not of the darkness, and the spirit will always be within you.