Ty Mansfield and Jacob Hess: Living a Mindful Latter-day Saint Life
President David O. McKay once called meditation, “one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.” On today’s episode, we explore the many ways meditation and mindfulness already play an important role in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the things I've wondered is if people are not walking away from the Gospel as much as (having) an impoverished experience of the gospel, where the gospel has become sort of like this devices that's not working anymore. And rather than going for an upgrade and getting rid of the device, our hope is that if people could approach the gospel with fresh eyes and experience it as full of opportunities to stop, to pause, to interrupt the busyness, to interrupt the activity, that it might awaken something that has become dead because anything...can die.
Learn more about "The Power of Stillness" here.
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The Adam Miller quote from "Letters To A Young Mormon" referenced in the episode: "The substance of a prayer is this willingness to remember, to heave your wandering mind back, once more, in the direction of God, and then, when it drifts off yet again, to heave it still another time."
Read the talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson referenced in the talk here.
Watch Elder Christofferson's "Daily Bread" video series here.
3:00- What is mindfulness?
6:12- Personal background with mindfulness and meditation?
12:25- Being still amidst activity in the Church
15:21- Hyper-stimulated culture
19:04- Anxiously engaged
26:59- Rushing through the gospel
34:23- Prayer as a mindfulness practice
39:27- Daily bread and suffering
50:50- What Does It Mean To Be All In The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones: "To propose that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints primarily need to look outside of their own tradition for mindfulness would be to miss something big, namely, the degree to which mindfulness is already inherent within the restored gospel." This is a statement from the upcoming Deseret Book release, "The Power of Stillness." Still, at times, it would seem that this contemplative meditative aspect of the gospel is often forgotten amidst our efforts to fulfill our callings, clean the church and plan our next Family Home Evening. Last week, we talked with Thomas McConkie about how being still changed his life. This week, we discuss what increased stillness might look and feel like in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ty Mansfield is a practicing Marriage and Family Therapist and an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University. Ty has actively practiced mindfulness for over 10 years. He has also been influential in cultivating space for more mindful listening in the area of conflicting views on sexuality and gender for the last decade through his work at Northstar International and the Reconciliation and Growth Project. He and his wife Danielle are the parents of five children. Jacob Hess is a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction instructor through the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is one of the creators of online mindfulness based classes for those facing serious mental and emotional distress, depression and anxiety and compulsive pornography use. He is on the board of the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation, and he and his wife Monique are the parents of four sons.
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'm grateful to have Jacob Hess and Ty Mansfield with me today. Gentlemen, welcome.
Ty Mansfield: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Jacob Hess: Nice to be here.
MJ: Well, I have been looking forward to this conversation. I think this is something that I definitely can work on in my life, as I'm sure all of us can. And so I'm anxious to talk about mindfulness and stillness today. I want to start out, I warned Jacob that I was going to do this, but I want to start out and make a clarification that Jacob Hess is not Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame. And now that we've gotten that out of the way we can move on with our lives. Is that right?
JH: Yes. I'm not the important one. Yeah.
MJ: Very important. We do not...yeah.
JH: There's two kinds of people in this world. Those who love Napoleon Dynamite and those the rest of us, right. Yeah. It's an endless family debate.
MJ: And you know what, there may be middle ground perhaps, but we just need to clarify that we're not talking to Jared Hess about meditation. So now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm interested to hear how both of you would first describe mindfulness and stillness as it pertains to this book that you've written, and how that became a part of your lives. So you can decide who goes first.
TM: Why don't you start?
JH: The definition that I like to share is Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, non judgmentally. Another definition is conscious, affectionate awareness of the moment, just being able to be present in a way that's gentle and compassionate. In our book, we we use words like space, stillness, silence to convey the feel of mindfulness though sometimes just simplifying it down to say, when we let ourselves be still silent and make a little space, we experience this kind of mindfulness sometimes. Sometimes when you make space, your mind goes crazy. And it gets a little scary. And you're like, Oh, I want to distract myself again. So, space and silence is no guarantee that you are going to experience calm, right? Mindfulness is also not the same as calm. By the way. I'm kind of getting too complicated here.
MJ: No, you're good. So please.
JC: Some people think mindfulness means you're just going to be calm, and you're not going to have any thoughts and you're going to feel peace. But sometimes when we stop and bring ourselves to stillness, we notice how much we're hurting. We noticed how our thoughts are really scary. And so mindfulness is about being here. Whatever that means, if you're hurting, that means being able to be with the hurt, and know what we're feeling and know what our body is experiencing. So what we have found in our students is that when we're able to be with whatever is here, in a mindful way, though, it hurts less, even if we're hurting. If we can unclench our fists and just say, Okay, I'm feeling angry, or I'm feeling really sad, or my body's hurting. If we can be a little more gentle with the pain, it hurts less.
MJ: Interesting. Ty, anything you would add to that about what mindfulness is?
TM: Yeah, maybe a couple things. One, I want to add on a little bit to what Jacob was saying that part of some of the language of mindfulness, it complements, I think, our worldview, our theology, really well, but it's not the way we typically talk about things. So sometimes it can feel unfamiliar. And so part of our want in this book was to bridge that right? To make it more familiar because it really does compliment beautifully. And I think that's really important.
So when I was in graduate school and this is when I first came into it, so I had I went to Texas I went to went to a private Christian University in Texas where I did my graduate work in marriage and family therapy, my master's program, but I had had a really strong impression that this was where I was supposed to go. But it also seemed like a really inopportune time to go to the middle of West Texas, I was a 29 year old young adult. I still kind of hoped to get married at that point, I was single, and there weren't really any opportunities in West Texas so I felt when I got there was very lonely. So it was difficult in that way. And I had this prayer like why am I supposed to be here? Like why did you guide me here? And the the feeling and question that I kept getting was to learn meaningful solitude to learn meaningful solitude and those words kept coming to me over and over again. And so my thought, that's where my thoughts were like, what does this mean to be in solitude? Because I think so often growing up solitude was synonymous with isolation. And those are two very, very different experiences. And one of my professors there, she was, she was very, she'd been practicing with kind of a Christian contemplative tradition for quite some time. But one of the things that struck me was just how present she was. And I could feel it whenever you were with her. You were with her. And it was it was really beautiful and powerful. And so there was something about that, that really drew me in and then of course, my again, my degree was in marriage and family therapy. And mindfulness has been, there's been a very strong thread growing thread of, of work in mindfulness in mental health. And so that was my introduction was the mental health side of things. And I was introduced to it through Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was using or introduced what's called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and was doing some work with chronic pain patients. But in his book, he really clarified this point because I never really saw myself as you know, sitting in the lotus position, you know, humming mantras for spiritual practice. But he was really, his work was was very valuably introduces you into presence, into non judgment, into compassion, in ways that I knew my life would probably wouldn't ever look like that or at least at the time, I didn't think it would. So to learn how to be in the full catastrophe, right, the craziness of life, but to be more present, to access greater compassion, to be more still in the moments that we can be was transformative, completely transformative. And of course, being who I am and, and being a Latter-day Saint and seeing the world through that lens. I was always thinking about it in terms of like, of those intersections, right? And it really did enhance my spiritual practice as much as I was looking at it from this through this mental health lens.
MJ: Interesting. I think that's fascinating, because, like you touched on you said, at the time, at least, you didn't picture yourself sitting on a pillow, humming mantras. But I think that the cool thing about what you all have done with this book is that you've made it more accessible to everyone. And so there may be people that are ready to go and do like a seven day mindfulness retreat, but there are other people who just need to take those moments of stillness in their everyday lives. And so I love that you touched on that already because that was something that I definitely wanted to to address during this interview. Jacob what about for you, how did you first get into mindfulness and meditation?
JH: Mindfulness started for me as an intellectual exercise because researchers have found that it cuts relapse from depression in half. People who practice meditation, mindfulness, don't fall back into depression as frequently. So I was studying depression. And I was like, cool. I want to learn more about this. So I approached it as sort of, in a scholarly way, until I actually met people who were practicing it. And I was at a conference at the University of Massachusetts, walking around and noticing these people are really calm.
And they had bumper stickers that said, What would Buddha do and lighten up! And I'm like, okay, there's a very different cultural thing here. Does this mean you have to like convert to an Eastern philosophy to get this kind of calm? Yeah, but like Ty, I found that Jon Kabat-Zinn work was very helpful in that he translates mindfulness for Americans and helps them see no, this is very sensible stuff that you can just do in your life as it is. So our hope in this book is that we can also translate and see that in the restoration itself, we have lots of excuses to be mindful, if we see them that way. Lots of chances to stop and be still, too often we language all of these beautiful things in the Gospel as things to do, things to get done, things to finish, right. And so we sit down to read the scriptures, and we're getting through it. And we kneel down the back, we kneel down to pray, and we're saying the prayer and get it done with the prayer. And so one of the things we explore is what would it mean if every time we prayed, it was a chance to stop, and let the mind settle and pause all the doing. And every, every time that we open the scriptures same, every time that we have Family Home Evening, or Sabbath or get to the temple. But it was a chance to stop the pause rather than to do do do. So that's that's some of what we explore.
MJ: Yeah. I love it. You touched on so many things that I'm like making a checklist in my head right now, which is not very mindful. But I think first of all, Jacob, I have to say, I'm like, you're like the calmest person I've ever been around. So I can just imagine you in Massachusetts and being like, these are my people. But I can't imagine you not being calm. One of the things that you touched on was these different things that we do within our faith, attend the temple, go to church, read our scriptures. And I think in the book you touch on that there's this idea of active versus inactive, that those are words that we use a lot in our faith. And I wonder, how can we be better at being still while remaining active in our faith? Can you either of you speak to that? Or both of you?
TM: Yeah. I think the way we conceptualize faith I mean, in this very kind of Western, industrious (world). One of the things we touched on in in the book was this, we have these in the, in the church, right, or in this sort of gospel...in the Gospel story, the restoration story, we have these two symbols, we have the sacred grove. And then we have the beehive right? One is about you know, retreating into silence and communing with God and the other is about industry right and it's about doing and being busy and both of those I think are meaningful. I mean, we're Mormons, Latter-day Saints are known for getting things done.
You know, when there's a natural disaster and we bring in the Helping Hands, I mean, there is something really beautiful about being able to gear up and get things done. And there's also I think, if we don't have that other piece in place where we're also taking those moments to retreat, and to enter our own sacred grove, so to speak, then I think we're really doing something harmful spiritually, as well. And so, I think some of it is just the framework through which we've been conditioned to talk about it. Right. And there was a talk by elder Bednar once where he said something about, I'm going to botch this a little bit, but he said something about, you know, we need to change the language right? Rather than, you know, we don't just read our scriptures, we feast upon the word, we don't go on missions, we, you know, do missions we, you know, we spread the gospel. We share our witness of Jesus Christ. We don't just say prayers, we commune with our Heavenly Father. Like the language in which we frame so much of what we do, in some ways undermines what we're trying to do. Right? Because we're conditioned to think about it or engage it or do it in a certain way. You know, if we're just saying our prayers, what is that? You know, are we really communing? Yeah, or are we just saying our prayer?
MJ: Yeah. I love that. That reminds me, when I was in the youth program, I was probably like, 14, we had a youth conference. And this lady got up and she talked about how if she said, What if I called my mom every day, and we had the same conversation, and she was a pretty funny lady. And so she just repeat the same conversation over and over and over again. And it would like vary a little bit, and there'd be some funny moments. But for the most part, it was the same conversation. And she's like, would my mom want to talk to me? Like, would she feel like we were connecting? And we were like, no. Anyway, for some reason, that's always stuck with me. And I think I love how much the book focuses on prayer. And I want to delve a little bit deeper into that as we go on. But I hope that already listeners are seeing how this book is really about the fact that religion and meditation or mindfulness are not mutually exclusive. And in the book, you kind of show over and over and over again, you disprove that belief. And so, you asked a question in the beginning of the book that I thought was, so spot on, you said, "How is this hyper-stimulated rushed culture influencing how we experience the quiet message of Jesus? In what ways could it be changing our experience of gospel practices? And I would love to have you both answer that question.
JH: Sometimes I think the only thing that has to happen in order to distance us from God is to get us too busy. Nothing else, no major like, sins before the heaven. If the only thing that happens is we're crazy busy. Our minds are in a place that the Holy Spirit I think, struggles to reach us. So I've also found that just slowing down, just pausing just stopping that alone, keeping everything else the same has deepened my connection to God.
I want to add to the beautiful things you just said Ty, that there's good reason that we are busy and doing things. There's a lot of suffering in the world. And we're trying to follow a Lord who says, lose your life, and you'll find it.
And He himself did that. He lost His life, He gave everything and so many people reading about Paul right now. And in the book of Acts, he laid it all out there. You know, Paul didn't change the world by just sitting and meditating. He got out there, he went and did a lot of stuff. But it's also true that nine or 10 times in Jesus's own life, you see him retreating. And stopping and getting away from the crowds. And going off to pray to Abba. After John the Baptist dies, for instance, the very first thing that Jesus does is try to get away and be with himself and his father. So we point this out, but we when we talk about following Jesus, sometimes I think we assume that that's just doing more, serving more, helping more, teaching more. But it also means making some time to stop. Because that's what our Lord did. Right? And so there's Jesus by example teaching us that if he needed time, if our Lord needed time to stop and pause and commune with God then how about us?
MJ: Yeah. Well, and I can't help but think as you talk about the scriptures, I, you know, thought of "be anxiously engaged in a good cause." So we're constantly trying to balance have being anxiously engaged, while also be still and know that I'm God. And so there's this balance, this issue of balance, which is so true of everything in life. We're constantly trying to strike a balance between many different emotions and experiences. Ty, do you have any thoughts related to that statement in the book or anything that was just said.
TM: I do. Well, one thought that just came to my mind when you were saying that was Elder Maxwell once gave a talk called "Spiritual Ecology." And he talked about how the doctrines of the kingdom need each other just like the people of the kingdom need each other, and that any truth spun off by itself goes to seed and becomes wild, right?
TM: All truths need other truths to hold them in tention, proper tention, keep them true, right? Otherwise they become imbalanced and then problematic. And if I could read a statement?
MJ: Please, yeah.
TM: When you were kind of introducing this thought, there's a statement about, you know, just meditation and religious practice. Well, I think in our culture of practice, we don't talk about it as much. It's there in the scriptures. As Jacob just talked about, church leaders have talked about it. And there's one statement from President McKay that I've, that I've loved and that I come back to often but he said this, he said, "We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship, there are two elements. One is spiritual communion, arising from our own meditation, the other instruction from others, particularly those who have authority to guide and instruct us, of the two, the more profitable into, respectively is the meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul. And so when we think about how much if these are two ways, two ways that we that we learn, how much time do we spend in classes and lessons and listening to talks and these sorts of things and how in contrast to how much time we spend in silence, and one piece of it just to follow that up. President Hinckley once made a comment, where he said, "I daresay that most of those in this room today have not taken an hour in the last year to just sit down quietly, each man to himself as a son of God, reflecting upon his place in this world. I recall so vividly president McKay in his old age in a meeting with his counselorrs in the 12, saying, 'Brethren, we need to take more time to meditate. So this is this has been something that has been encouraged. It's been on on various prophets' minds. And I think it just hasn't really made its way into our culture of practice in the way that we're hoping, because that to kind of tease it out, right that it's already implicitly there. But I think one thing, even in even as they've talked about it, we don't in the church have a real strong culture of teaching what that means, right? I think most people think of meditation is synonymous with pondering while you're studying the scriptures. Where there are lots of different traditions, I mean, to say, you know, meditation is kind of like saying sports, right? There's lots of different kinds of sports. And there's lots of different ways to exercise. And meditation is more of a genre than it is, or a genre of different kinds of practices than it is one specific practice. And mindfulness is a kind of meditation and there are other kinds as well,
MJ: Right. How would you defined mindfulness within that?
TM: Well, kind of like Jacob did, where it's more of being fully present in the moment on purpose from the stance of compassionate non-judgment. So you know, even in mental health, they talk about mindful eating, right. So it's like, being more attuned and more present to what you know, because, we eat mindlessly. You know, when I was young, we had a rule in our house that whoever finished dinner last had to do the dishes. So I learned really quickly to throw it down really fast, right? Which I didn't, you know, and there were times that my mom would joke like, "Did you even taste your food?" And so mindful eating would be a practice of being really present with the experience of eating. If I'm mindful parenting, as we talked about, you know, when I'm with my children, if I'm with them, and then I'm not really with them, they know. And there's a kind of anxiety that comes up. But when I'm really present with them, and I'm looking them in the eyes, and I'm listening to them, even touching them as they're talking to me, they calm down, right and they really breathe into that, they want to be not just heard, they want to be felt. And we can't, we can't really fully be present with other people if we're constantly distracted by a number of other things. So, so much of mindfulness meditation, you can be doing lots of things, eating, walking, sitting, talking right? In a mindful way, where other forms of meditation, you are being silent. Right.
MJ: So I, first of all, I feel like we need to have some kind of eating contest because I have the same problem with not tasting my food before I swallow. But I think going back to the statement you read from President McKay, I think it's so interesting to look now at the church, and we have so many resources available to us not only whereas in the past, people went to church, and that was it. Now we have YouTube videos where we can watch conference talks 24-7 if we wanted to, we have podcasts that we could listen to things, we can read all that we could ever want to read. And so now we see where they've taken church and narrowed it down from three hours to two hours and created this home-centered church. And so how do we see this concept of mindfulness and the things that President McKay was talking about here in these changes that we're observing in the church today. Jacob, do you have any thoughts on that?
JH: I love it. I'm glad you're asking about it. One of the things that is powerful about mindfulness practice is recognizing that you can do something yourself with your own mind and your own body that will lead you to a place of deeper stillness and joy and insight. And it seems to me that in President Nelson asking us to worship more at home, he's encouraging that, not just in the home-centered church, but as you look at President Nelson's talks across conferences. He's pleading with us to receive more power, more revelation, more direct access with the Holy Spirit and with the Lord. And in doing this for ourselves, which is very consistent with with the practice of mindfulness. It's it's this idea that in the silence in the space, there's a lot there, not just in going and hearing from someone else. But for yourself. I also would add, I just got back from the temple this morning and some of the recent changes in the temple, also, in my mind, lead to an even more contemplative experience of the ordinances. A quieter, calmer, more spacious experience with less stimulation and more chance to really be in a quiet place.
MJ: That's beautiful. Thank you. I love in the book, one of my favorite things was where you said "The roots of the Chinese character for busy," And I'm not even going to attempt to pronounce how you would say this in Chinese. I don't speak Chinese. But it says, "the Chinese character for busy point to some of the deeper effects of an overall hectic way of life, namely the death or loss of the heart." And then this is the statement that I love, "Could we be losing the heart of our spiritual practices, in large part through the exhaustion and frenetic pace of life described earlier in the book? How do we see that in the Church today?" And you give some examples throughout the book of maybe some of the different things whether it's a new calling or rushing to the temple, you give examples, how would you say that we see this this exhaustion, this fast pace, within the Church.
JH: I've had friends step away from the church like many people have. And as I sit down to try to understand their experience, and what was church like and what were the scriptures, like, when I understand what it has been like for them? I, it doesn't surprise me they're walking away. Like, if I really like, found the Sabbath to be so exhausting, or church meetings to be really painful or scriptures to be so just not to have a whole lot of meaning, or prayer to be this routine thing. Why would you want to keep doing that? Right? So one of the things I've wondered is if people are not walking away from the Gospel, as much as an impoverished experience of the gospel, where the gospel has become sort of like this, this devices that's not working anymore, right. And rather than going for an upgrade and getting rid of the device, our hope is that if people could approach the gospel with fresh eyes and experience it as full of opportunities to stop, to pause, to interrupt the busyness, to interrupt the activity, that it might awaken something that has become dead because anything, including marriage, by the way, can die. If it becomes just an object that's getting in the way of what we really want. So the fast paced culture around us has many casualties, not just spirituality. I mean people's health, right you know, physical health breakdowns are happening because of stress related conditions everywhere, like a high percentage of cases in the doctor, depression and anxiety, relationships break down with the overactive pace, so we shouldn't be surprised if our spirituality also takes a hit. If it gets taken up in this, I gotta get things done. So that's our big question in our experiment is what does the gospel look like with a little more space stillness, silence, and for me, I, I can tell you I have found a greater depth and richness and joy, in all of it, the temple becoming a place of retreat and sanctuary where I go, not to just do a session or do a name, but to not do all the stuff that I'm busy with in my life to to really practice what the Buddhists sometimes called non-doing. That's our place. This is our Latter Day Saint meditation center. And the Sabbath becoming a retreat, a real retreat where I'm exhausted, so thank heavens, it's the Sabbath. Yeah, I can actually stop. So Ty your turn.
TM: Similar thoughts, I think it, it comes down to a couple things. I think for most people we want to feel nourished. And we want to feel connected. In this the busyness of life, and this frenetic pace and just the doing doing doing. Like I know, in my own life like even when I don't notice, like I get exhausted. And once and I know this is hard for a lot of people. You know, you mentioned the seven day Silent Retreat, and I did a seven day Silent Retreat earlier this year. And I felt more...and this is hard for a lot of people I know, I mean, my wife is saying to let me do something like this, so I just have to honor her. Yeah, but I felt more like me than I have in years. And I didn't even realize how when you slow down to let your exhaustion catch up with you, it was very healing, to just let myself be in silence and it was a Silent Retreat. You don't talk to people, you're not even supposed to look, look them in the eye. And yet there's this real, there's this deep kind of intimacy with self and intimacy with God if that's how people are approaching it. And then even a really interesting intimacy with each other, for not talking to each other.
MJ: Even within that.
TM: Yeah, I felt really remarkably close to everyone who was there. But there's this kind that we long to feel nourished and if we're doing lots of things and not feeling fed, you know, Elder Packer once gave a talk on teaching where he's where he shared some experience about deers being fed but not nourished, like they died of starvation with bellies full of hay, like, if we're being fed but not nourished, of course, people are going to leave. Or we're just going to be hanging on surviving but not really flourishing in the way that I believe that God wants us to. And we can still waste and wear out our lives in the service of the kingdom doing good things, while also recognizing that well that springing out of a place of feeling fed and nourished in a connection with God. But then the other piece of that is connection with each other. You know, are we going to church and just interacting with each other in very role oriented ways? Or are we communing with each other, you know, one of my favorite descriptions. So, in D&C Section 76, when Joseph and Sydney have this vision of the celestial kingdom, they describe it as this sociality "where we see is we are seen and we know as we are known" communally. Like when you look at the Latin root of the word intimacy, that's what it means. It's really to be with each other to see and be seen and to know and be known. And we go to church and we just interact with each other in role-governed ways and we don't really, you know, we may or may not talk to each other outside of that and I believe that God is inviting us into something much more profound than that. Because I don't want to go to church and feel as alone when I leave as I did when I got there. Right? And so how do we be more fully present with each other? And feel that sense of connection that we all really hunger for? And that I believe that God wants for us, rather than just do?
MJ: Yeah. It's interesting, all the things that you both just noted, kind of remind me of why I wanted this podcast to happen initially. I like you mentioned Jacob, we've all had people that have left the Church and we've watched that happen, and I had a friend right around the time we were developing this who was going through that, and I would listen to her talk. And I remember thinking if I felt that way, I'm not sure where I would be at in regard to the Church because there's not any joy in it and not that life is always joyful. But what I've hoped is that through this podcast, people like you said Ty are being nourished, but also that they remember the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, we're creating a space for people to take time to sit and ponder or listen to the spirit telling them why they believed in the first place, and that they'll remember the times when the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought that joy and that happiness into their lives. I loved in the book, it was so interesting as I was reading, before you ever quoted Adam Miller, about prayer, and the wandering mind during prayer, I was already thinking of that quote, where he says, Let's see where is it at? I don't think I put the quote in here. I'll put that in the show notes. But he talks about when your mind wanders during prayer and that that's okay. That prayer is practice and just as in yoga or meditation, you call your mind back when you recognize that it's wandering that the same is true in prayer. How would you say that prayer is a practice in stillness?
JH: Yeah, I think Adam uses the verb heaving the mind back, like wanders off and you heave it back. When you meditate, you notice that the mind has wandered, and you bring it back. And you notice the mind has gone and you bring it back so that there's this practice. It's not about making the mind still. It's about noticing where the mind has gone and bringing it back. So in prayer, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has my mind wandering during prayer. And so in a very similar way, it becomes a practice of bringing, bringing your attention back not just to the breath, but to God, to the person that we are communing with. And sometimes I will admit, when I'm really like my mind's all over the place, I'll kind of let the conversation go for a minute and just breathe and let my attention kind of stabilize a little bit and then return my attention. And maybe even start prayer with a few minutes of just breathing and feeling the body and noticing what's on my heart, so that I'm not just blurting off. And I noticed that what I end up saying is very different. If I give a little bit of space on the front end. I say something different, because I'm noticing something different. To start, I'm noticing what's really on my heart, rather than just going into what I think I'm supposed to say. I'm saying what feels right to say so prayer is a fascinating practice. I actually think it's the...it's the greatest mindfulness practice there is because rather than just sitting in silence with yourself, you are communing with God. And my prayers have become more quiet, have more pauses. I like to have silence at the beginning at the end and even times of just sitting and searching and trying to, it's not always easy for me to know what I'm feeling. And so if I give a little time to that, it really changes the experience. I find a lot of my prayer becomes trying to find what I'm feeling and then trying to discern what God really wants. And then like noticing the discrepancy between where my heart is and where it seems like God wants me to be. And then the conversation really gets interesting, right? Like, wow, what do I do with this? I'm really angry right now, but I'm hearing you say I need to let go of this. So let's talk about how, yeah, it becomes more like a therapy session with ty.
MJ: Yeah, which we all need.
JH: Like, like an actual...we're doing work in the prayer. We're working through things that are real in my life, rather than, you know, this and this and that. And we're trying to teach our boys to make prayers, not just like saying the same three things over again. But we all do that.
MJ: Absolutely. Well, and I, the thing I love about Adam Miller statement in "Letters to Young Mormon," is to me, it made me feel okay about those moments when my mind starts to wander. Because I think in the past, I'd always been kind of hard on myself, like, "Come on, Morgan. Like, you've been here for three minutes and your minds already somewhere else." But I think that since then, I've looked at it as God is merciful in that moment of the wandering mind. And so I've been super, super grateful for that. Another of my favorite quotes in the book is where you quote Christian author Tish Warren who said, "There are indeed moments of spiritual ecstasy in the Christian life and in gathered worship. Powerful spiritual experiences when they come are a gift. But that cannot be the point of Christian spirituality any more than the unforgettable meal I ate years ago is the point of eating. Thousands of forgotten meals have brought me to today. They've sustained my life. They were my daily bread." And I love that idea of our spiritual lives being made up of all of these little meals, many of which we've forgotten, but gave us the nourishment that we needed. And there's that idea again, Ty, of nourishment, but that then there are also these unforgettable spiritual experiences that are like a feast, but we just need the daily bread to move us along. So do you have any particular examples before we get into our last question, of in your life, how you've experienced this idea of receiving your daily bread from the Lord.
TM: If I could go back to your previous set on prayer and then bring those together. One of the thoughts that we share in the book, we shared a quote from Elder Christofferson where he was commenting on an interview with Desmond Tutu.
And in this interview, the interviewer asked Reverend Tutu, you know, how his experience with prayer had changed. He said that he had become less like a shopping list or, you know, a Christmas list kind of thing. And it began to feel to him more like he was basking in front of a warm fire. And Elder Christofferson commented on that like this is a really beautiful idea of prayer. And if we think of prayer, as intentionally coming into communion, and being present with, that we can begin to resonate with godliness, right? As we invite godliness or try to connect with godliness, we're going to resonate with a similar frequency. And that prayer is more of that communion than it is just the talking. And then with the daily bread piece part of maybe even for me to come full circle with my story. When I first started when I had this impression that it was to learn meaningful solitude. Part of mindfulness practice for me was learning how to be in the moment without judgments. Because in our culture, we have so many expectations and narratives around what's supposed to happen in when being a 29 year old single person, in a family or in a church and people are constantly wanting to set you up and like, there's just so many stories about a person who's not married, right?
MJ: That's not relatable to me at all Ty. You're talking about my life.
TM: I listened to the interview with the "Studio C"...
MJ: Yeah, Mallory.
TM: Where you talk about that..yeah Mallory, but you talked about that, but there was a piece of me that I had to part of what this practice did for me was learning how to be in the moment without judgments. Learning how to surrender narratives and judgments and stories and expectations that I had about the way life should be, when it wasn't the way that I thought it should be. And to appreciate each moment for what it was, and to invite awareness of each moment as a gift. And doing that for weeks and practicing that for weeks, and then months and then years. I mean, it really it helped me to better understand this idea of relying on today's manna today, being present with the Lord today. He's not going to give us tomorrow's minute today, he gives us today's manna today. And this is the only piece of manna we get to sit with and appreciate. And that was very healing for me, when so much of my life and my future seemed complete, I had no idea what my future would look like. All I had was relying on today's manna today. And so and it was really this practice, which to me is deeply spiritual, and, and really deeply embedded in our...to me again, it's so inherent in what I believe God is asking us to do and so complimentary that I wished I had learned it earlier. But I was grateful for the gift when it came but that relying on today's manna today, and experiencing each moment as a gift, surrendering expectations, surrendering stories of the way things were supposed to be, or what God would give me if you really loved me or whateverwas really powerful and important and transformative for me and my faith.
JH: Beautiful Ty. I was reflecting on how we love dramatic things in the American culture, like
TM: We want to be stimulated.
JH: We want to we want to be able to say, "I'm going to India to sit with the Guru's and you can follow me on Instagram and my journey.
MJ: Right. We want something for the gram.
JH: Yeah. Right, our own dramatic telling. Are we willing to do the non dramatic to sit and listen to an untrained speaker in sacrament meeting share in fumbling words how they're trying to find God? I've noticed in myself that it's a certain kind of practice to sit in a situation that is kind of routine. And maybe even boring sometimes. No, daily bread is just daily bread. It's not a daily feast. It's not a cruise, luxury...It's bread. And so that's been one of the big revelations for me is our gospel culture is full of simple, normal, even routine, even boring sometimes, opportunities where we can actually if we're listening, commune, and hear God's voice. It's simple, but maybe even a funny example is we used to bring crayons and Cheerios and stuff to our boys because of course, they had to have something to pay attention to the church until like a fight broke out one day, and we're like, "Okay, this is clearly not working." And so we tried taking all that away and saying, you know what, we're going to sit, and we're going to listen, and we're going to practice just being here, even if it's not entertaining, not boring. I mean, entertaining, and even sometimes boring. And that's okay. You made a comment earlier about the joy of the gospel, and reminding people that there is joy. I would also add to that, that mindfulness as Ty hinted is about allowing ourselves to be with whatever is including the very bitter things. In studying the life of Paul, in the book of Acts, it's hard to look at any chapter where he wasn't hurting in some way, because he was doing the will of the Lord, he experienced great pain, right alongside the joy. So sometimes I think we believe or hope that life in the gospel is supposed to always be joyful, but whoever taught that? Certainly not the Lord, or the model of his life, or of anyone who follows him. So there's also this piece about saying, and if it hurts, and if you live the word of wisdom, like my mom and still get cancer, and even still die, that's not some contradiction to the gospel. There's like a beautiful way. And going to Thomas, who you interviewed, Thomas once told me, "Jacob, we accept, or we suffer." Either we accept the stuff that's coming up, or we cause ourselves suffering, because when the marriage struggle comes up, instead of just experiencing what's happening, we say, "It's not supposed to be hard," you know, or when we start to feel despair, we say, "No, I'm not supposed to be this sad," right? Or I'm not supposed to be angry. And so instead of just being angry, we're angry about the anger. And mindfulness takes away that second level of suffering. So if we feel anxious, we can notice that we're anxious and try to understand what's going on, rather than panicking about the panic and getting depressed about the depression and anger about the anger. It's about saying, Let's, let's allow this to be as it is, and that'd be so fragile, when things get a little scary or painful, or doubts or rise. This is like the process and not have to run away so quickly, in a relationship or from even our faith.
MJ: Yeah, absolutely.
TM: I have something...there's a saying that "The pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." And I heard a teacher of mine commented on that, and they they offered kind of a slightly different perspective that they had said was that suffering equals pain plus resistance. So as Jacob was saying, we're all going to experience pain. The degree to which we judge the pain, resist the pain, fight the pain.
MJ: That's what's creating suffering.
TM: That's what's creating the suffering. And part of mindfulness practice is learning how to accept and be with the pain without judging it. Or to be with the anger without judging it or judging because we say things in our culture. Like I feel good or I feel bad. There's no way emotion called good or emotion called bad. Those are judgments, not feelings, right? So to be able to surrender our judgments and say, "Okay, I feel sadness. Okay, what does this mean for me? Can I be curious about that sadness? What's underneath that? Why am I feeling so afraid right now?" And rather than trying to numb, distract, or avoid, can I be present with it, try to understand it, be curious about it so that I can respond in helpful healing, productive, adaptive ways. And mindfulness is what informs that space between, you know, stimulus and response, as they say, right. So when I'm feeling something, if I can create space, to act, rather than be acted upon, I'm going to be in a greater position of power to do something. And I think mindfulness in its practice helps foster and cultivate that space in between in which power lies.
MJ: Yeah, I love so much. As Jacob was talking, I couldn't help but think about my own experience. And since Ty's already thrown me under the bus, and we've brought up my singleness, I think, for me, a lot of power came, when I recognized that it was okay to admit that that was a painful thing. And rather than resisting it, just allowing myself to feel it, and that, like you mentioned, Jacob, the gospel is not all these moments of joy. It's not joyful moment after joyful moment, there are so many hard things. And when we accept that, and then draw back upon the joy and begin to feel it again, that's when I think the most beautiful parts of the gospel are found in again, that balance between feeling difficult things and feeling joy. So I'm so glad that you brought that up. As far as the Daily Bread thing goes, I just couldn't help but think of an experience that I had on my mission, where I was in an area for six months. And it was so bad that by the end, we had knocked the same doors three times. And I wanted to get out of there so bad, I had trained three missionaries in the same area. And it was to the point where people would say, "Didn't you knock on my door like a month ago?" And I was like, Yep, just fat trying to see how you're doing. Hope you're doing well. Good to see you, you still not interested? Okay. We'll talk to you later." But I found myself feeling super drained. And it was to the point where every night, I would get home. And I'd say my prayers, and I tell Heavenly Father that I just felt so depleted. And then the next morning, I would wake up and I would pray, like, please give me the strength to get through this day. And then again, that night, I would feel depleted again. But it was like I had enough to get me through that day. And then right after that is when Elder Christofferson's series of videos about daily bread came out. And I realized that that was what I had been experiencing that Heavenly Father had given me just enough to get through those days. And then it wasn't any more than that. It was just enough to get me through. And then He would give me a little bit more the next day. And I think that that's so much the way that our lives work. And especially in those times where we're struggling, is that we, He gives us just enough. And I think in that mindfulness, in prayer, is where I began to recognize that and so I'm so grateful for the things that you all have taught me through this conversation. I feel like I've learned things myself and things have been brought to my remembrance, which is one thing that Thomas talked about in last week's episode was that we, we learn things from each other, and things are called to our rememberance. So that's a huge part of this. And so, in conclusion, I just want to ask you both. What does it mean to you to be "all in" the gospel of Jesus Christ?
JH: I guess it's okay that we take a pause in a conversation like this. I think again, I liked I would love to be able to answer that with some dramatic, big answer. But my answer might sound more mundane than that. I like to think there's, in days where I get overwhelmed with the busyness and stuff, I like to pause and just say, okay, there's one thing on the schedule, there's just only one thing on the schedule...what, what does God really want me to do right now, today? And if I'm willing to really fill my schedule, with whatever I really believe God wants me to do, even if it's not dramatic, even if it's mundane and simple. Those are the times, I feel like I am all in. In other words, that scripture, "Lose your life." And you'll find it. It seems like "Oh, I gotta go do something dramatic." But sometimes, for me, losing my life is letting go of my big idea of all this stuff that I'm supposed to do. And instead, being willing to just be here to whatever God is asking now. And very often, it's not this big, old dramatic stuff. It's, am I willing to really spend time with this person? Am I willing to make extra time for my boys? Am I willing to read, this radical thing called reading? Am I willing to make time in the morning before starting work for a little space and silence? Those are the times where I feel like I'm really there. I'm really all in.
MJ: Thank you. Ty?
TM: I think that for me. For a lot of my life, it was about being a good member of the Church. And everything was as we've talked about today, a lot of it was framed in terms of church activity and being a good member. And that was the way that I think I saw things. About 15 years ago, I had a bit of an existential crisis, though. And in that I think, for the first time I, I felt...I had an experience that I think for the first time in my life, I understood what it means to be saved. And ever since then, it's been less about being a good member, and more about being a disciple. And so...and to be a disciple is to, to disciple is to teach and to be in a tutoring mentoring relationship with Christ. And remembering that all things work together for good for those who love God, and so for me, to be all in means that I'm willing to trust the process. I'm willing to be in the moment, trust the process, believe that all things have purpose and design. Every experience that we have here is designed to lead us to sanctification, be that the mundane moments of parenting or the beautiful moments of spiritual communion, that when we do each of those, with an eye single to the glory of God, knowing that every moment is designed to teach us something about God or to lead us into relationship with God and living from that space. To me, that's what it means to be all in.
MJ: Thank you so much. Ty and Jacob, thank you both for joining me and for sharing your thoughts and your testimony. I appreciate it so much.
TM and JH: It was a pleasure. Thank you so much.
MJ: Thank you to Jacob Hess and Ty Mansfield for joining us on this week's episode. Please keep an eye out for "The Power of Stillness," which is expected to hit bookshelves on December 30. Thank you for listening and for your continued support and we'll look forward to being with you again next week.