I’m starting a series which I’m calling “5 Cool Things”. It will basically be a list of 5 things, not in any order, that follow a particular theme. Here’s the first edition, on the topic of methods of spiritual expression that fall outside the typical Mormon repertoire which I have found to be pretty cool, and not incompatible with Mormonism at all.
- Mindfulness Exercises
Bhuddism calls it being mindful, Eckhart Tolle calls it being present or “in the now”. I’m more familiar with, and practice myself, Tolle’s suggested exercises for trying to get into this state. Basically, you are trying to stop all the thinking noise about the baggage of the past and anxiety about the future and just become fully present in the current moment. He suggests simply to take some deep breaths and really focus your attention on the air entering your lungs, all the little sensations that come with that, and the air being exhaled. As you “get lost” in what your body is doing in the simple involuntary act of breathing, you can then start to expand your focus. Noticing other sensations you never pay attention to. Your whole body is constantly moving. From personal experience, it really has the effect of calming you and bringing your attention to the only time in which you can really take any action… now. You can’t change the past and the future cannot be affected until it becomes… you guessed it the present.
- Soaking up the Sun
On the TV show 30 Days, Morgan Spurlock spent a month living on a Navajo reservation and one very cool practice they shared with him was to get up before dawn and “race” the rising sun. When the sun peaked, they would stop and engage in a ritual of holding out their open hands to face the sun, and then pull them back in to their faces and then inhale whatever it was they soaked up. The idea is that the sun represents the source of light for our world, and thus the source of life (sound familiar?) and they wanted to begin their day by drawing life into their bodies. Way cool.
Its exercise, discipline, and spirituality all combined. There was an episode of Speaking of Faith which describes how Yoga can even be used as a way to perform “body prayer”. Using the movements and poses in a concentrated grace that focuses your positive intentions towards a specific goal. It sounded very similar to Mormon fasting to me.
- Prostrate Prayer
In an interview with a representative of a Muslim organization in the United States, an explanation (or interpretation) was given for the practice of bowing prostrate during the five daily prayers of Muslims. The main reason is to demonstrate humility and subjection to God, but an additional insight given was that when you do this, and specifically when you put your face to the ground, it has the effect of mostly blocking out all the light around you. It shuts out all the visual distractions and enables you to enter a mode of direct one-on-one communication with God. That concept seemed beautiful to me.
This one might not seem that weird to Mormons. Really, the spiritual aspect is in the way that you are communing with nature and taking up God’s work of tending to and nurturing the growth of living things, and facilitating the cycle of life. Its a great thing to be able to disconnect from the inanimate framework of modern convenience and spend some time in places where you can so clearly see how much life is all around you, all the time.