Sunday, September 2, 2018
The first letter to the Thessalonians in the New Testament has this:
But we beseech you, brethren, that you increase more and more, and that you strive to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you, that you may walk honestly toward them that are outside and that you may have lack of nothing.
The part in bold caught my eye. What is it we are supposed to quiet? Our voices? Our minds? Our worries? Our spirit? Our whole being? It says “be” quiet. As in a state of being. A possible synonym to quiet that may evoke other scriptures to your mind would be "still". One translation is to "study to be quiet".
Other cultures are better at meditating than typical Western culture. Quietness of mind is not something ever taught to me by any education or religious instruction growing up. Something central to other religious of the world was hardly mentioned in my own. Prayer no doubt can comfortably fit as meditation. But the rigid formula, repetitious words, and required posture I was taught growing up never fit as "meditation". I find such calm still communion, pondering or meditation to be of great worth and now see it in the scriptures I believe to be holy writ (1 Nephi 11:1, Psalm 46:10, D&C 101:16, 1 Kings 19:11-12, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Psalm 1:2, D&C 84:85 to name a few).
I've found success calming my mind with the Ouummm thing typically associated to eastern chants or meditations. The vibrating sound helps focus and calm my mind and body. I often realize as soon as my mind is calm that I’ve been living too stressed, too preoccupied, and too busy. I for one need time to calm down and live in the moment with faith. There’s a whole bunch of sounds everywhere that remind me to calm my mind. Lawn mower from the neighbors, microwave, bathroom fan, car engine. All the hummm’s remind me to stay in the present. Inner quiet is something I believe was being taught in the letter to the Thessalonians.
I was recently reading old journal entries and found one from around 10 years ago. I was sitting in the Jordan River temple parking lot talking with a friend after an endowment session. I was single at the time, full of uncertainty, stressed about relationships, career, future. He looked at me and semi sternly said “You need to relax, let go, and watch the Lord work”. He said it with conviction that communicated it really was ok to relax and trust God more in my life. Part of me was strongly hesitant to do this. I had let my mind be anything and everything but quiet. I had anything but stillness going on inside me. It was more like turbulence on a plane flight.
Years later that phrase rings in my mind and reminds me to relax, be still and quiet, and trust God again and watch Him work in my life. I can't remember if it was the same conversation but this same friend held up his hands as if to refer to the external world around us and said "it's all perfect". I probably muttered something stupid about how life sure didn't feel perfect.
There's a scene in the movie The Last Samarui where Katsumoto is talking with Nathan Algrun (Tom Cruise) in a Japanese village. It's springtime and they are looking at a blossoming tree with pink flowers blooming on it. Katsumoto says to Nathan that one could spend a lifetime looking for the perfect flower/bud and it would not be a wasted life. Fast forward to near the end of the movie where a battle has just taken place and he's been mortally wounded. He is again with Nathan and sees a tree of the same kind as earlier in the movie off in the distance. He has no doubt spent years looking for the perfect bud. But in this moment he realizes, at the end of his life, that they were all perfect. His last words with his dying breath was "perfect...they are all....perfect". He realized something that enlightened him and comforted him during his dying moment. Perfection in what seemed imperfection. Akin to the idea of the worthiness of seeing your unworthiness before God. It’s not a paradox once you get it.
This conversation and movie scene have both been on my mind heavily the past few days. Another worthwhile scene in that movie is when Katsumoto's son who has been observing Nathan for months in their village. There's an ongoing sword fighting theme as Nathan is repeatedly beaten whenever he has engaged. The scene is one where various people are learning to sword fight with practice wooden poles. Tom had been consistently loosing these sword fights for who knows how long, and had taken quite a beating numerous times. At this point in his development the native Japanese character watches yet another failure and counsels him: "Too many minds". Then references his opponents mind, the onlookers minds, his own mind, and says again "too many minds". Then in simple accented English teaches the message: "no mind". After which Tom finds silence in his mind and defeats (well technically a draw) a longtime foe in a sparing match with a singular zen mindedness.
I think there is a lot to quieting the mind. The outside world according to many belief systems is perfect. The mind (mine anyway) cannot even tolerate this thought until it's quiet. But what if it's true? What if we have to quiet the mind to see the truth?