5 Cool Expressions of Spirituality Which Might Seem Weird To Mormons

Clay Whipkey5CT, Culture, curiosity, diversity, inter-faith, mormon, spirituality 17 Comments

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Yoga
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. Gardening
    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.

Comments 17

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve tried mindfulness and yoga, and I found them to be helpful. I like learning about the varied spiritual practices that people have and find meaningful.

  2. 1 and 5 are the practices I’m most into right now, and they have a very centering effect when I need them. It’s nice to jump off the hamster wheel by focusing on my body and by whatever is growing in my garden.

    Thanks for the reminder that spirituality lurks around every corner.

  3. I have tried varieties of all five of these, although every plant I touch dies (the opposite of the guy on Pushing Daisies), so I’m lousy at #5. There is also a Sunrise Salutation exercise in Yoga that’s a combo on 2 & 3.

  4. Incidentally, they have a meditation session in the World Religions class at BYU. Our uber-orthodox EQP (or at least, he was perceived as uber-orthodox) quite enjoyed it.

    Yes, the truest Mormonism would revel in these things, methinks. But I’m just a crazy conservative 😉

  5. mindfulness: if you consider this equivalent (or related) to meditation, consider that Pres. David O. McKay was a proponent of meditation (as something distinct from prayer).

    prostate prayer: this is described in the Book of Mormon: “And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:…” (Alma 22:17).


  6. Excellent post, Clay. There is an element of spirituality in many forms in this world, and it never is a bad thing to tap into the positive ones.

  7. I don’t do any of these things, except for maybe number 2 and that may be because I live in Florida and go to the beach and the pool often.

    Bastardizing other people’s religious practices strikes me as pretty disrespectful, but I don’t see anything wrong with borrowing the ideas behind them.

  8. I’ve been doing 1, 4, and 5 for years.
    For #1, I’ve inadvertently done this at ward or community service projects. Nothing like digging ditches or clearing sagebrush for hours to clarify the mind and enlarge the soul. Additionally, I’ve always wanted to do this practicing marital arts, but I can never let go of thinking about what I’m doing (from the outside) to get into the zone.
    Yoga = awesome, but I don’t know any practitioners who are “spiritual” about it.
    Soaking sun= hmmm. Interesting.

  9. Significant post and something which i have often wondered about.Tai chi is very beautiful,demanding an attention to mind and body being brought into equal harness,as does any mindful physial practise-my favourite is salsa though!
    I’m also fascinated by the spiritual experience of great art-I frequently find great poets prophetic and great prophets poetic.Mark Rothko and Monet,particularly the waterlily ponds painted late in his life,I find deeply moving.Each work with paint like layers of experience,like veils that if only we could look beyond we might actually see,like a struggle through the blindness of life. There’s something very consecrated in that,something that speaks in archetypes to a vast swathe of humanity.We seek after these things.

  10. I have engaged in each of these things and it is wonderful to see you put these up as cool possibilities to increase spirituality. For the people who do believe that these things may be a little weird, remember that the main point of the LDS religion is to bring you to a point that you can have a personal relationship with God. Since none of these practices violate the tenets of our faith and since they are aids in giving our complete attention to the Lord by shutting other things out, then I would challenge anybody who thinks they are weird to approach it with an open mind and essentially “don’t knock it ’til you try it” : D

  11. Wonderful post Clay. The more open my mind has become to new spiritual traditions, the more I understand the divine. I agree with your assessment of yoga – it is very much like the LDS way of fasting. I am a yoga teacher, and I always have my students set an intention at the beginning of class, dedicating their practice to someone who needs a little love.

  12. Soaking up the Sun

    Way cool – dido from our family- we are accept my wife part indian. I am 1/16 this in a weird way resonates with me.

    We couldn’t watch the link from over here in the UK can we see it on you tube?

  13. Clay, I enjoyed this post. I have been practicing mindfulness for years now and feel that it is very beneficial…something I would love to see infiltrate LDS culture… and I have a couple questions to ask you. Is there a way to contact you by email? (I am new to this site).

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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