Carrie Skarda: Creating Space for Mindfulness and Meditation as Latter-day Saints
The Sacrament, temple worship, and prayer are all aspects of Latter-day Saint doctrine. But have you ever considered that they are also exercises in mindfulness? On this week’s episode, we discuss everything from what it means to set an intention focused on Jesus Christ to what the story of Joseph Smith teaches us about being still long enough for answers to unfold.
One of the downsides of approaching our spiritual life and our religious faith with this sort of instant microwave mentality is that the gospel, a lot of aspects of the gospel, just don't work that way. You can't get personal revelation by asking Siri a question. And you can't order your testimony to be delivered by Amazon... these things by definition, take time to grow.
Latter-day Saints are great at getting things done. But sometimes an excessive focus on "doing more" can take us to a place where we're mostly going through the motions—and missing the deep, rich spiritual power that can come from being still. Using Latter-day Saint vernacular and examples, The Power of Stillness explores ways in which mindfulness can help deepen our conversion to the gospel. Infusing our homes with more stillness, silence, and space can reinvigorate the joy inherent in our faith and help us feel calmer, more present and engaged in our lives, and more spiritually connected to our Savior.
Related All In episodes:
Thomas Wirthlin McConkie: How Meditation And Being Still Help Us Know God
2:54- An Emotional Burn Victim
6:42- Latter-day Saint Practice of Mindfulness
9:21- Setting an Intention
10:21- Creating Space to Calm Down
16:24- President Nelson’s Invitation to Women
27:33- A Place to Begin
34:04- Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
37:46- Sitting with Christ
40:06- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones: Hi everyone, I hope you are all happy and healthy amidst the craziness that is the Coronavirus. I'm fairly certain I have never experienced anything like this in my life. But if there's anything we have an opportunity to practice right now it's stillness. So I'm so excited to share today's episode with you. I'm recording just the intro and extro for this episode out of our office and away from our recording equipment. So you may notice the audio quality being not as great as usual. But don't worry. This interview that you're about to hear was recorded last week before we even knew what social distancing meant. Enjoy.
Last year, we released two episodes of this podcast about meditation and stillness. Those two episodes alone collected over 86,000 downloads. So we decided that because this topic is clearly something you're interested in, and because last time we only talked to men. This time we're going to do a two-part series with just women. First up is Carrie Skarda.
Carrie L. Skarda is a psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is provided individual and couples therapy with particular interest in attachment trauma and mindfulness for the last 18 years. She was the Director of Training at the Antioch facility of Kaiser Permanente HMO in California and has facilitated numerous therapy groups on such topics as depression, personality disorders work stress, crisis management and parenting. As a facilitator at Sixteen Stones Center for Growth. She has taught workshops on mindfulness, mindful eating, and forgiveness. Carrie has been studying and practicing mindfulness and formal meditation for over 10 years.
This is All In, an LDS living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so grateful to be here today with Carrie Skarda. Carrie, welcome.
Carrie Skarda: Thank you so much, Morgan.
MJ: Well, I have looked forward to this last year, we did a two-part series on meditation on this podcast. And it was very successful. We got a lot of really great feedback from people who I think people are hungry to talk about this topic, especially within a Latter-day Saint context. And so we've really looked forward to doing another two part series on this. And Carrie was one of the authors of the book, "The Power of Stillness," which she wrote with Jacob past time Mansfield, and tell me the other person's name.
CK: Kyle Anderson.
MJ: Kyle Anderson, he's the only one I haven't interviewed.
CS: He's a little farther out. It's harder to track him down.
MJ: But together they created this book that focuses on the role of mindfulness and meditation and stillness within our culture as Latter-day Saints. So Carrie, first of all, tell me how you got involved with mindfulness and meditation.
CS: So my very first exposure to meditation actually was when my family and I went to pick up my sister in Taiwan on her mission. And we were doing the touristy things. And we went up to a monastery with a very traditional...a Buddhist monastery with shaved heads and the orange robes, the whole thing. And they broke their vow of silence, the gentlemen who was showing us around, and invited us into lunch, and I had in my head, "Oh okay, I know what a communal lunch looks like." I've got the LDS template, the Latter-day Saint template in my head of, you know, lots of people gathered around circled tables and a big buffet of carbohydrates and noise and talking and chaos in this communal meal, but what we walked into is really different than that. It was a big hall nd the tables were were long and rectangular with everyone sitting on one side. And the monks were all in these silent rows eating a single bowl of rice in absolute silence. And my family and I, we were in the back. And my sister and I, I don't know if you've ever been in a place where you start giggling and it's totally inappropriate. But my sister and I just started giggling because this was so different, so foreign, so different—this idea of being this present and mindful, and still even in the midst of a communal meal. So that was my very first exposure to what mindfulness looked like. But I really didn't think that much about it, because that was so foreign, that it didn't really connect with me. It just felt very different. And fast forward a few years and I was in the middle of a divorce and it was really painful. The analogy that I use is I felt like an emotional burn victim. I looked normal on the outside, but inside I was really hurting. And I kept getting this little nudge that I needed to get involved with yoga and meditation. And that didn't make sense to me. But now looking back, I recognized that that little nudge was a spiritual prompting. And so over the years, I started getting more and more involved in meditation and yoga and noticing the inner interface between my religious tradition and spiritual practices. And what I was learning in these meditation and mindfulness workshops and practices. And that deepened—that understanding really opened up a new way of experiencing the gospel for me. And then I met Jacob, and it cascaded into this book, and I'm a clinical psychologist, and I also use meditation and mindfulness in my practice with my patients and clients.
MJ: Okay. Well, I there are so many things to unpack there, several things that I want to make sure that we talk about. But first of all, you mentioned that you kind of got into this following a divorce. For you, how did mindfulness and meditation change the way that you were able to experience healing?
CS: It was such a chaotic and tumultuous time, emotionally and socially in all aspects of my life, but meditation and mindfulness created a stillness within me in the midst of that chaos that helped me feel more connected to my Heavenly Father, and more grounded and allowed me to keep perspective in the midst of that, so that I could maintain my values and not have my testimony be corroded by the stress that I was under at that time.
MJ: So interesting. I want to come back now to you mention that you first came in contact with this when you were picking up your sister from our mission. And I think that this is something where many of us, we perceive meditation or mindfulness as a Middle Eastern thing. And I think it's actually very much a part of what we already do as Latter-day Saints. Maybe there are things that we don't recognize as that. But that's exactly what it is or what it's intended to be. I think sometimes we missed the point. But how is meditation or mindfulness also a Latter-day Saint thing?
CS: Oh, that is such a great question. Meditation is practicing focused attention with a spiritual purpose. And if we think about that definition, it's practicing focused attention with the spiritual purpose. We do that all the time. One of the most obvious examples of that is the Sacrament. That this is a focused period of time that we set aside in our week to focus our mind and heart on a spiritual thing, on the Atonement, the Savior and on the Sacrament. So when I talk to people in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and ask them if they have a meditation tradition. Many of them say "No, no, I don't meditate." But they are coming to Sacrament meeting every week and sitting in silence in a stillness trying to focus their minds on spiritual things. And that is meditation. So we have a very rich tradition in place immediately with the Sacrament. Other places where we meditate are obviously in the temple. This could be called the Latter-day Saint meditation retreat center, where we take time, dedicated time to be in stillness and concentrate on spiritual things. We focus our attention there in a way that we don't in the regular world.
And then we have the the smaller acts of meditation, like prayer, pondering the scriptures. Even I would say, I would argue, family home evening can be a meditative act in that we're coming together as a little family community with a spiritual intention. And I love that it's crazy and loud and noisy, and it's maybe not what we think of when we think of meditation.
MJ: I'm like my family home evenings growing up were anything but still.
CS: Exactly. Anything but still, but that noise and that chaos can still be part of being fully present and and trying to focus our minds on spiritual things even in the midst of busyness and chaos.
MJ: Yeah, I want to ask you a question and this is something that I've always wondered about. So I do yoga a lot. We talked about this when when Carrie first came in, but I have always heard them talk about set an intention. For those that are not familiar with that concept. What exactly does that mean? Because you just said you know, family home evening we're coming in with a clear intention. So what does that idea of setting an intention mean?
CS: Setting an intention means, practically speaking what that means for me, is I will have an idea or a word in my mind about what I'm hoping to focus my energy on during this moment, so that word might be unity, or it may be love, or it may be presence or compassion. And I revolve my experience coming back to that touch point, that this is a moment for me to be compassionate or for me to be fully present. And that is setting an intention about what you want that experience to be for you.
MJ: Yeah. I love that. I want to touch on something. And I asked Jacob and Ty about this. In the book, there's a question that's posed. And I love this question. And I think it transitions perfectly from your statement about family home evening. But the question says, "How is this hyperstimulated rushed culture (meaning the culture that we live as Latter Day Saints) influencing how we experience the quiet message of Jesus? In what ways could it be changing our experience of gospel practices? When I read this yesterday I was, you know, pondering about the things that I learned from Jacob and ty. And the words to the Taylor Swift song where it's like "You need to calm down." I'm like that is that is Latter-day Saints like we need to calm down. So why do you think that of all people, Latter-day Saints could benefit from taking time? And I would say, maybe even in addition to what we do already, like the sacrament and the temple, how could we benefit from taking that time?
CS: There's a lot to unpack in that question too Morgan. We live in a culture in our Western culture, outside of just the Church that very much values speed, efficiency, being busy, more and more, busy busy, being fast, and that permeates the way we experience everything in our lives, including our spiritual life, including our religious life. There is a research study of people asked to sit and quiet without any distraction in a silent room. And the only thing that was available to them was a button that would provide a rather painful electric shock. And people chose to shock themselves rather than sit in quiet and do nothing for a period of time. It's hard to sit in stillness, it's really hard. We would rather distract ourselves we would rather do just about anything else.
We definitely would rather look at our phones than be just still and present. And we bring that pressuredness, that it's never enough and I want to be constantly stimulated and distracted into our spiritual lives. We even talk about our membership as "active" or "inactive" right as the defining quality of who we are as members of the Church. But we can become so consumed with that, that it starts to feel sort of hollow and we lose the richness of the depth that can be present, that can be there when we're fully present in our spiritual practices.
One of the downsides of approaching our spiritual life and our religious faith with this sort of instant microwave mentality is that the gospel, a lot of aspects of the gospel just don't work that way. You can't get personal revelation by asking Siri a question. And you can't order your testimony to be delivered by Amazon like these things by definition, take time to grow. And we have to learn how to cultivate a patience and a stillness to allow those answers to unfold and to allow our testimonies to grow.
The other thought that comes to mind is that this is a quality of our Heavenly Father, that He is a creator. We learn in the Genesis story about how He creates the world, and He takes chaos and He creates order and we don't see Him doing that in a really chaotic, frenzied, anxious way. He is training us and telling us this story about how to become a creator like Him, how to take the chaos or dizziness or mess of our lives and order it. And in the ordering of it, He is very still, He's not frenzied. And we can learn how to emulate that—to be still and take the chaos that comes at us and not just react to it, but create something beautiful out of it.
MJ: I love that so much. I want to come back to what you said about inactive versus active being the words that we use, and I was thinking about it and I was like, okay, so when we say that someone's active, what we mean is just that they're there. It doesn't say anything about what they're gaining from that experience, or how deep it's sinking in. It just means that we're going and so I love that idea of, you know, maybe changing that a little bit to create a place for it to all sink in a little bit more?
CS: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Our tradition has incredible depth to it. We have these two images. I think Jacob and Ty talked about this too, in your interview with them, of the beehive, the analogy of the beehive that we're busy, we are productive, we work together as a community. And then we also have this other image of the Sacred Grove where a young person is wrestling with a question. And they designate a time and space to bring that question to their Heavenly Father. And then they stay present with whatever shows up as that answer unfolds. And some of what shows up is frankly, really scary and hard. And some of what shows up is intense, intense intimacy with the divine and Joseph has to stay present with all of that, as he gets his questions answered in ways that were completely unexpected. So we have these two images that we use in our own faith too. We're busy and part of the beehive. But we also need to take time to commune with our Heavenly Father, and bring our questions to Him, and then stay still and present long enough for the answers to really unfold.
MJ: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. You just touched on the Restoration, which I wanted to ask you something in relation to all that we've been asked to do to prepare for conference. I think conference prep this time around, which now we know is going to be truly a conference like no other. I feel like the the prep especially for women has at times felt a little bit overwhelming for me. I'm like there's so many things that I want to do. But how does meditation interact with some of the ways that President Nelson is asking us to kind of step up as women, rise to this occasion, a higher calling?
CS: As you're saying that I can I feel a connection to it because we do want to follow our prophets counsel and prepare ourselves. And we also feel all these demands on us. What's the priority? Where do we focus our energy and when we're invited to to engage in different activities at church, and often when we go to church, we walk out with a laundry list of things we've been invited to do, right? "I challenge you to do this" or "I invite you to do that." It's hard to know where do we focus our energy and what is the priority? There's a story of Christ that I come back to that that illustrates this principle of "How do we know what we should be doing? How do we know what we should be doing when there's so many things we could be spending our time on?"
It's at the height of his ministry, and He's in the area around Capernaum. And He gets up early in the morning. And He goes, as He frequently does, to pray. He's starting his day by connecting with His Father in Heaven. His disciples wake up. They're like, "Where did He go? Because all these people are waiting for Him. We have people here ready to be taught, ready to be healed." And they go and they find him and they say, "Come on, we've got to go back to this crowd." And the Savior says, "No, that's not where we're going. today. We're going to go serve in this other city, in these other little villages." And it's interesting to me that in the midst of really good things for the Savior could teach or heal. And when there are righteous demands being put on Him, He doesn't go that direction. He follows what His Heavenly Father has asked Him to do that day. And there's so many good things in the Gospel that we can focus our energies on. We we need to take the time to sit with our Father in Heaven and literally ask Him, "Where would you have me focus my energy at this moment today? And it's interesting. I remember one time, I did that. And I was sort praying and I had my journal in front of me. And I was doing this writing in my journal and praying to receive revelation. And I kind of was irritated with God, right? Like, "These are all the things you've asked me to do like, and there's no way I can do all these things today." And I kind of made this whole long list of all the things I was supposed to be doing. And I said, "Alright, Heavenly Father, which of these do you want me to do?" And the feeling I got, as I sat there asking that was "You could do any of those things. But the most important thing to me is that you just sit here with me for a minute." And that felt so healing that the Savior's priority was me, not any of those things on my to-do list and I think, we as women in the Church, sometimes need to come back to that—that we have the opportunity to sit at the Savior's feet and be nourished by Him. And then we can go out and do the work that we're called to do.
MJ: I love that. And it calls to mind the story of Mary and Martha, right? That sometimes the higher priority is to sit with Him. I was just having a conversation with my mom the other day, she and I have been doing this meditation challenge. And she was telling me about an experience that she had had while she was meditating. And she said, I think I could have gotten more if I had sat with Him for more time. And I thought that was such a powerful thought that like God wants to just keep giving us more and more things. And sometimes, like, we're the ones that have to be like, "Oh, I have to run," you know, but He's there as often as we open up that channel of communication. And I think that's a powerful thing to keep in mind.
CS: That has been really surprising to me. One of the most impacting things that meditation has done for me has been my experience with prayer. And as you're saying that it's reminding me that sometimes you know, life is busy. And I'm like, "I don't have time to pray." And so I literally have to set the timer on my phone for five minutes or 15 minutes, like I will sit here with Heavenly Father for 15 minutes. And I often will sit down and think, "Well, this isn't going to be that meaningful. Like, I have my timer on, I have all these other things on my mind." And I am really surprised at how often the Savior shows up, that if we create space for Him, even if it's a timed 15 minutes on my phone, that He will show up if we create space for Him and, and I think of it more now as checking in with a friend. I call my sister three times a day, right? It'll be like, "Hey, how's it going?" And then if people start screaming. I'm like, "Okay, I gotta go." Right and it's checking in with a friend and feeling her love helps me get through my day. I now think of checking in with Heavenly Father in a similar way—that sometimes we sit down and have really deep long conversations and sometimes it's just, I'm checking in just to feel His love. And then "Oh, yeah, I got to go and get back to the chaos that's happening in the other room."
MJ: And He understands that.
CS: And He totally gets that. He's my friend.
MJ: That's so cool. I want to touch really quickly on stigmas. So I think within our culture, there are stigmas associated with things like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, whatever, what are some of the stigmas associated with these things? And why can it be kind of a hard thing to adopt for some people?
CS: So, first we and we've talked about this we have to get past sort of the the stigma that this isn't part of our tradition that it looks like Buddhist monks in a monastery or it looks like people sitting in a fancy yoga studio with hippie hundred dollar yoga pants, right? We kind of have to get past that imagery, but once we start looking within our own imagery, about meditation practice some of the things that can hold people up is this idea that "Oh, I'm just not good at that. When I sit and I'm trying to focus even during the Sacrament or during Church, my mind just wanders and I can't focus." One of the really powerful things that I learned as I was beginning meditation is that meditation is not about creating this constant state of calm, that it really what meditation is about is about being fully present, and practicing being fully present. And just like, we go to the gym, we're not going to the gym because we want to be forever running on treadmills and picking up dumbbells. We go to the gym so that we can go out into our real life and run across the street and not get hit or carry up our groceries in one trip, not have to make three trips, right? We go to meditation, not because we want to live in a constant state of meditation, but so that we can build that muscle memory when we're out in our real life and the muscle memory that we're building here is the ability to stay still and present, even in the midst of difficult things or in the midst of a busy life. So meditation, though, isn't about a constant state of relaxation, it's about catching ourselves drifting into our thoughts or distractions, and then catching that and bringing ourselves back to the present moment. And that is a concept that has been really helpful for me in my spiritual practices within our faith that I can forget about ministering for a few months and catch that I've forgotten about that and come back to it. And I can realize like "I haven't really had a sincere prayer or read by scriptures in several weeks," I can catch that and come back to it. And that that's not failure. That is the cycle of meditation and that is, the practice of religious life is catching that and coming back. And to define that not as a failure, but as part of the practice was very freeing for me, that I wasn't doing something wrong, that I was engaging in the practice. So that's a stigma I think that people think of.
MJ: Yeah, as you were saying that I had a realization that I have not had, which is really cool to think about. So I started to kind of get into this stuff like four years ago. And I was just thinking, as you were saying that about how much being present is required when we're doing these interviews. And I think that, in many ways, has like, prepared me to be able to sit in the space and be totally engaged in what the other person is saying. And I think that's a blessing like I have just now had like this sense of gratitude for these principles. So thank you for sharing that.
CS: Yeah. And I think I was in a ward council meeting once and these ideas were rambling in the back of my head, this idea of Martha and Mary—that when we get fed by the Savior, when we take time to engage in personal meditative practices, we are filled up in a way that allows us to then be fully present with the people that we're ministering to, or sitting in conversation with or even talking to in the hallway at church. And they were talking in this word council meeting about ministering. And I was trying to express this idea and it came across more clumsy like, "Oh, we need to pray before we go out ministering." And the bishop is like, "Oh, yeah, we need to pray and find out what we need to do and then go do it." But it's not about just praying to find out what we need to do. It really is this idea of praying to feel filled up and connected, so that we can bring that sense of fullness and richness into the relationships that we're trying to nurture. So yeah, I love this idea of being fully present with each other as well. There's another research study that compared to therapists, and half the therapists were assigned to do personal meditation, and half the therapists were assigned to some other kind of class. And the clients of the therapists who were meditating, made more progress on their symptoms without knowing that their therapist was meditating and without doing meditation themselves than the clients of those therapists who are not practicing meditation. And I think sometimes we think of sitting in stillness is the selfish thing. But we are better prepared to heal and serve others when we are healing ourselves through this practice of meditation.
MJ: That's beautiful. I'm glad that you brought up therapy because you are a therapist. And I wanted to ask, I'm sure that you work with a lot of people who have experienced trauma of some kind, and I think that can present a particular struggle with meditation. For those who have experienced trauma, what do you recommend in terms of like where to start with developing a mindfulness or meditation practice?
CS: So one of the interesting things with meditation is that as we get still, at first we kind of get sleepy, right? Just stopping can make us think, "Oh, I'm tired," and we get sleepy. But that's a normal stage if sort of becoming someone who's practicing meditation. But after that what comes up can very quickly be some form of resistance, which can include big T or little t trauma memories, or negative thoughts, shameful thoughts or memories, those can emerge. And we can feel like "Oh, this is interrupting my meditative practice. This is interrupting my spiritual practice," when actually, it's an opportunity to expand our capacity to hold those things, rather than immediately react to them. We're often reacting to trauma in unhealthy ways, by indulging in distracted behaviors that actually can be harmful to us: overeating, going to the ice cream right? Or engaging in, in even harming harmful behaviors to distract us from those trauma memories from the negative thinking or the shame that comes up. And meditation is an opportunity for us to expand our capacity to hold that so that we're not just reacting to it, we're learning how to digest it. Sometimes people fear that if they get quiet, then this stuff is going to come up. But facing it just means it won't sneak up on you. So we're learning how to face these things in meditation. There's a Buddhist story of a lake, a beautiful lake, and there's this little vial of poison. And if you drink the vial of poison, then it will make you sick and could even kill you. But if you take that same vial of poison and you put it in the lake and let it dissipate all throughout the lake, and then you drink from that lake, it's not going to make you sick. And trauma can be this way. If we're holding it in a tiny little vial and drinking it, then it can make us sick or make us feel overwhelmed. But if we expand our capacity, if we're the lake and we expand our capacity to hold that trauma, then it doesn't make us so sick and it's not so overwhelming. So meditation is expanding our lake, expanding our capacity to hold even difficult things, with more perspective, more compassion, and more peace. Does that make sense? Mm hmm. Okay.
MJ: Yeah. I am curious, Carrie. So we have people that listen to this podcast all around the world. And some of those countries I think, are much more prepared to accept meditation as like a normal part of daily life. I heard that, in some countries, they even have like meditation classes in elementary school, which is unheard of here. I think some colleges have meditation classes. Is the United States of America a little bit slow in adopting meditation and if so, why do you think that is?
CS: I think we it can be slow. Although I think there's sort of a revolution afoot here, where people are really feeling drawn to these practices because we can feel we're out of balance, right? And there are actually many programs, even here in Utah where they're starting to teach even young young children, meditation, basic principles of meditation. And so that is starting to spread, because I think we recognize that we're out of whack. And we need to be more in balance. I was thinking about that even, I'm a Primary president, and I was even thinking about that in Primary like, how do we teach our children to... Elder Anderson gives a great talk in general conference where he talks about the dance steps of the gospel versus hearing the music of the gospel, that we can teach our children the dance steps, but how do we help them hear the music? And I think meditation or learning how to be still, learning how to be more present, learning how to not embody this rushedness that our culture pushes on us, but slow ourselves down and be more conscious of what's unfolding in this moment. I think as we teach our children that we help them hear the music and not just do the dance steps, and I do hope that that revolution continues to spread. I know my son, my little boy who's seven now, he comes home and he'll sit in a cross legged position and he'll say, "Om", you know, he's kind of laughing at it but he recognizes the importance of learning to calm his body and be still. As a family, we practice, we call it "The skill of still," before we say a prayer, we'll get our bodies calm and take a couple deep breaths and then say a prayer. So there are ways we can teach our young people how this can be more a natural part of the rhythm of their day.
MJ: Yeah. Well, I want to ask one kind of weird question.
CS: I love weird questions. They're the best.
MJ: You mentioned that your son does om,
CS: He learns that at school by the way.
MJ: I've heard people do that, what is that?
CS: Okay, so that is just a means of focusing the mind. So we, for example, in the sacrament, we focus our mind on a piece of bread, or a sip of water. It's a means of creating a focused picture in our head of the Atonement, right? The Savior did such a beautiful job of giving us these emblems as very tangible symbols of Him and of the Atonement. But it's a way of focusing our mind towards spiritual things. And so that that sound or focusing on the breath is just a touchstone to bring ourselves back to when we get distracted, so that we can focus our minds and create a stiller place in our head to be able to observe from.
MJ: Interesting. That's helpful. Carrie, as you have gotten into this yourself, and as you've seen other people kind of adopt this practice. How would you say that meditation benefits people's lives? And specifically, are there particular benefits for women when it comes to meditation because last time we talked to the men so I want to get your take?
CS: One thought that comes to mind, I love Jerusalem. And so it seems like I can't ever talk about anything without bringing it back to Jerusalem. I was in Jerusalem this last summer and it was the Sabbath, which is their...Friday night is the Sabbath. And the Sabbath is sort of a meditative day, right, which I recognize that within our culture too. That it's a day to set aside other things and bring our intention and our attention to spiritual things. And so I was kind of curious to see what the Sabbath was going to look like. We were in the Old City, down by the Western Wall, which is sort of the heart of Judaism. And I expected there to be sort of a Sabbath shut down, right where everything would get, you know, very like rigidly quiet. But it was really the opposite, that as the sun started setting, all these people started kind of coming out into their communities and in the street, they were having these meals, they were dressed in their fancy clothes, their lovely pretty clothes, these lovely meals, they were gathering together. You could hear laughter echoing in the Old City in the streets, as people were coming together, late into the night singing and being together in this joyful way. And these pleasures of food and company and laughter and learning together, these pleasurable things of the Sabbath and it made me realize that when we're fully present, when we take away the distractions of the world, and we're fully here with each other in this moment, there's a joy that comes out of that, there is a pleasure of the senses, of the companionship of other people that comes from that. And that's one thing, I think, the benefits. We're don't just go through our life on sort of hollow autopilot, we're really present to experience the pleasures of this moment. That, I think, is something that as women sometime, as anybody, we can get too caught up in the go, go, go and miss these, these little moments of real joy that can be there when we're more slowed down and present to them. So that's one thing that comes to mind. Another thought that comes to mind is Latter-day Saint women are really smart, and they're often very social. And we often spend a lot of time sitting in lessons or talking with girlfriends about things we've learned at church. It's the church after church, literally where we're sitting around talking about things. Or we're in book groups discussing ideas that we're learning about, discussing these principles of the gospel. Thích Nhất Hạnh, he's a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who I really admire. He has this great quote, he says, "Discussing God is not the best use of our energy. If we touch the Holy Spirit, we touch God, not as a concept, but as a living reality." So we spend a lot of time discussing God, and we don't spend nearly as much time being with God. And I think that's something that I've been inspired to do through learning about this in the books is to then go to Heavenly Father and learn with Him and touch His reality and allow that to be part of my reality.
MJ: That quote is amazing. I love that so much. So Carrie, the book, "Power of Stillness," has been out for a little while. Last time when when I talked with Ty and Jacob it hadn't come out yet. And so I'm curious what kind of feedback are you getting from people? And are there any neat experiences that you've heard of people having with adopting this type of practice in their lives?
CS: It's been really fun. I feel like there's a little community starting to grow and develop about people who are interested in this topic and want to share their experiences with each other. And one simple one that comes to mind is a gentleman came up to me after a presentation that we were doing, and was talking about how he'd meditated before maybe a little bit or you know, he thought about that a little bit. But as I had done this meditative experience in this workshop with him, and he said, as we did an experience that I do when I'm praying, which is to think about that scene of sitting by the Savior, after the resurrection, where He's gathered his disciples by the fire, and He's literally feeding them right? This is the scene where he asks Peter lovest tell me feed my sheep. And the Savior has prepared this, this little meal for them. He's cooked fish and bread and He's inviting them to sit with him there by the fire. And He's literally feeding them and loving them. And I have this image now before I start to do my more formal prayer, I will sit and imagine myself being there by the fire with the Savior, sitting there with Him. So sharing that and we did an meditation using that imagery in this workshop and a gentleman came up to me and said that he'd done meditation before, but it hadn't really meant very much to him. But as he was sitting there in that image, he could feel the Savior sitting next to him, and smiling with him. And that that was so healing for him to imagine the Savior sitting with him holding his hand and just laughing with him and smiling with him. That that brought a depth to his relationship and to this idea of meditation that was new to him. And we're hearing little stories like that which is inspiring to me and motivates me to keep setting my alarm. And keep going back to it and doing it myself. So we all support each other as we learn how to do this together.
MJ: Yeah. Thank you so much, Carrie, as we wrap up, I just have one last question for you. And that is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
CS: This is Morgan's famous question. Joseph Smith had a question for his Heavenly Father. He wanted to know which church was the church for him to join. And I don't think this was a question that was philosophical for Joseph. I don't think he was just trying to be like, "Oh, good. That's the true church. Great. check that off my list and go." He was really asking something very personal. He was asking, "Where do I belong?" And I think it's fascinating that Heavenly Father's answer to that question is, "Joseph, This is my beloved Son. Hear him." For me. I feel like that started Joseph's journey where he's being taught by the Savior over many years, sometimes things that were really very confusing and out of the box, and I'm sure didn't make sense to Joseph for the people around him. And for me being all in means that I'm here with my Savior being taught by Him, even when at times it feels confusing, or I don't get it, or I feel even even hurt or betrayed by the things that He's trying to teach me, that He is my friend. And I'm committed to being in this relationship with Him. So for me being all in is a commitment to my Savior and the relationship that we're in together, and a joy in the Gospel. That there are hard things sometimes in the Gospel, and there are hard things in religious life and being part of a religious community. But I find enormous joy in this process. And I'm really grateful for the things that I'm learning in it. And so even when hard things come up that I don't understand, I am all in. I really am.
MJ: Carrie, you are a beautiful person and you have a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing all of this with us.
CS: Thank you. Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity.
MJ: We are so grateful to Carrie Skarda for joining us on this week's episode. You can find "Power of Stillness" through Deseret Book now, and if this episode piqued your interest, but you didn't hear last year's meditation episodes, be sure to check out our episodes with Thomas Wirthlin McConkie as well as our interview with Carrie's co-authors Ty Mansfield and Jacob Hess. Part two of this meditation series will air next month, so keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for listening. Thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six Studios for making us sound good and stay safe everyone.