Pam Blackwell is a meditation expert and has been a teacher of the practice for the past 40 years, currently teaching at both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. She is also the author of the recent bookChrist-Centered Meditation: A Handbook for Spiritual Practice.Blackwell has a doctorate from the Southern California University for Professional Studies in psychology. She discusses with us here how the practice of meditation goes hand in hand with and enhances her LDS faith.
Meditation is defined as a “variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy, and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness.” The practice of meditation usually involves deep breathing in a quiet space, with a focus on clearing your mind of anything distracting or negative to get to a calmer state. While it can in no way replace the spiritual benefits of prayer, scripture study, and religious worship, there are some valuable benefits you can receive when you take a few minutes each day to meditate.
In 1961, Pam Blackwell was an undergrad student at Arizona State University. She was in the cafeteria one day when she spotted a poster of Yogananda, the East Indian meditation guru who brought the practice to the U.S. in the 1920s. The poster was advertising meditation lessons, and Blackwell was intrigued.
Later in the 1960s, Blackwell continued her meditation training in San Francisco, where she also joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and found the two practices to feel very compatible to her. Blackwell says that this quote by President David O. McKay inspired her:
“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 from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is the meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as ‘a form of private devotion, or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.’ Meditation is a form of prayer. …
“Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us. As soon as he was baptized and received the Father’s approval, ‘This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’ [Matthew 3:17] Jesus [went] to what is now known as the mount of temptation. I like to think of it as the mount of meditation where, during the forty days of fasting, he communed with himself and his Father, and contemplated upon the responsibility of his great mission. One result of this spiritual communion was such strength as enabled him to say to the tempter:
“‘… Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’ (Matt. 4:10.)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 31–32).
Blackwell says that the practice of meditation is often misunderstood. In order to effectively meditate and reap all of the benefits from it, there are a few things that must be done. “We often think that pondering—focusing on one subject—counts as meditation, but meditation is much more than that. If people would meditate 20 minutes a day (10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the evening), amazing things can happen physically and emotionally. Neuroplasticity in the left hemisphere of the brain—considered ‘the joy center’ of the brain—[can be enhanced] if you meditate regularly.”
According to Blackwell, some of the physical and mental benefits of regular meditation are reduction of high blood pressure, an overall calmness, a lessening of disturbing thoughts and obsessive tendencies, and a deeper, more satisfying sleep at night.
When asked about the spiritual benefits of meditation, Blackwell said, “I think meditation is the major tool to enhancing our connection with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I spend a lot more time during the day in a relaxed, receptive spiritual state. In that, I find that there are a lot of synchronicities that happen that I am aware of. If I’m prayerful about something, I am much more aware of the answers all around me. I live in a pretty joyous state; I’m in a good mood—a ‘God mood.’”
For more, listen to the Mormon Channel Daily episode with Pam: Christ-Centered Meditation.