I’ve tried, but my amateurish attempts last about 90 seconds at best. I realize of course that the reason I can’t sit still for that long is the very reason I need it. Meditation is like public television. Everyone claims to be into it in one form or another, but most people rarely, if ever, actually do.
In fact, when I say meditation, I’m not really even sure what I’m talking about at all. Mormons don’t do it. They “ponder” instead (but they really don’t do that either).
I know there are many forms and techniques. I find it ironic that “a meditation” can mean “a discourse to guide others in contemplation,” but that the act of meditating seems to be defined as a complete absence of contemplation. At least that’s the meditating that I’m talking about. It’s the kind where you focus on your breathing, or on one single thing, and push everything else from your mind and somehow reach an enlightened state of spiritual awareness.
I was trying not to say that word… “spiritual.” It gives me the willies.
That first experience on my mission when my companion was described as the “most spiritual missionary in the mission” taught me that “spirituality” can’t be seen, measured or felt by anyone other than each individual himself/herself. I’ve since seen so-called “spiritual giants” such as stake presidents, other Mormon leaders, admired ward members get caught for lying, cheating, abusing and stealing. I don’t think I knew any Mormon intimately that I’d call “spiritual” (but my whole point is you can never know, right?). I remember my ex-wife wanting to be like some of the “spiritual” women in the ward… and then I usually found out they were just pumped up on antidepressants or just extremely good fakers.
I’m even guilty of purposefully faking “spirituality” as a Mormon and getting kudos for it!
After my mission, I was a “zone coordinator” and teacher at the MTC in the late 80’s. One time, at a zone coordinator’s meeting, we were asked to practice giving the new first discussion so that we could teach the missionaries to do it more effectively. We all sat in a circle and our director would point to one of us whereupon that person would begin giving the discussion until the director pointed to someone else. Everyone but me spoke the same language, Spanish. My target language, Portuguese is similar enough to theirs – in the same language family, but I could understand them better than they could understand me.
He pointed to me precisely at the beginning of the First Vision Story “I saw a pillar of light…” or “Vi uma coluna de luz…” I poured it on. I knew I was acting the whole thing as if I were emotionally touched by the story. And why not, I was onstage right? It’s a natural instinct. But it was a total act.
Don’t get me wrong, I believed it at the time, but I also knew I was being less than genuine to get a reaction. I knew how to cause an emotional reaction in an audience.
Afterwards, our director went on and on about how strong the spirit was while I was speaking even though they couldn’t understand every word. I thought, “Wow, if I could do it anyone can…Gordon Hinckley, Tommy Monson and Joseph Smith!” Of course I turned that thought off immediately!
I grew up believing strongly in the spiritual leadership model … that church leaders were somehow more “spiritual” due to their righteousness, prayer, study and obedience. Their “spirituality” somehow put them in a position to advise and guide others. I have experienced just too many holes in that model to lend it any credence anymore. At one point, I read all the biographies of LDS Church Presidents* that I could get my hands on in an attempt to learn “spirituality.” But all I found were a few nut-jobs and some others who were tailor-made for corporate leadership. I’m not saying they were void of spirituality. I’m saying I don’t know and neither do you or anyone else. They were just rather unremarkable people in my book.
So, I know “spirituality” CAN be faked and others easily deceived.
Still I have to admit that I think there’s something to the quest for “spiritual things.” To be clear, I’m not talking about a quest for God in the traditional religious sense or even in the pseudo-religious New Age sense either.
To be real, it has to be a quest and an achievement by myself and for myself.
What I mean by spiritual” is the calm, peaceful, I-can-handle-anything and I’m-prepared-for-anything state that comes via tapping into some unknown physiological sensory.
I’m one of those Post-Mormons who did have what I’d call “spiritual experiences” while Mormon (the MTC experience above wasn’t one of them). I don’t discount them now that I don’t believe in Mormonism. I just don’t believe they mean what I was told that they meant. They’re just part of being human.
So far I have found that everything one might consider good in Mormonism is accessible outside Mormonism. I’ve been able to find and substitute the pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all good stuff for what I would consider even better stuff of my own choosing… social circles, family traditions, service to others. Except I haven’t found a replacement substitute for the inner spirituality that I occasionally felt while Mormon.
I also recognize that these past experiences often had nothing to do with Mormonism… the birth of my children, love and sex, being alone in nature, moments of intense expressions of friendship were all exploited by the church to make me think these were felt as a result of Mormonism being true.
I laugh at even having typed that. I am embarrassed that I once believed spiritual experiences could point towards truth.
“He’s so spiritual” means nothing to me anymore. I’m not searching for anything that others might recognize in me or admire at all. I’m not looking for a connection to God, in whom I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.
I’m not trying to get in touch with something “out there”, but only to strengthen and enhance the potential of what already exists in here.
I think so, but I haven’t discovered it for myself yet.
*Note: Biographies of LDS presidents that I have read:
Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff ,Joseph F Smith, Heber J Grant, George Albert Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, David O McKay, Harold B Lee, Spencer W Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W Hunter, Gordon B Hinckley
(Howard W Hunter was the only one I even remotely felt any sort of connection with… but in the end it was more pity than anything. He seemed to have so much going for him and yet he sold his soul to the LDS corporation.)