Matt Townsend is a presenter, author, and relationship coach. He is featured in our new video series, Hope Works, as one of six presenters who share interesting insights about hope and faith and how it works in their lives. We asked him to tell us more about the contrast between the mind, body, and spirit and how we can focus on the one that matters most.
Your testimony that God is our Father and loves us is so comforting. What advice would you give to someone who is wondering how to discover that truth for him or herself?
Test it out! The most reassuring truth I have found in teaching others about the love of their Heavenly Father is the fact that anyone can discover this love on their own, without the influence of anyone or anything else.
One of my favorite quotes from my graduate studies in human systems says, “The system always reflects its creator.” That thought is so true when it comes to our Heavenly Father as well. His love is everywhere in our lives. It’s in the simple moments when we’re rocking a child to sleep and feel that amazing peace. His love can be experienced climbing a mountain or seeing a sunset. It is manifested at the beginning of a new life being born into the world, or at the other end of mortality as someone we love leaves.
The Father’s love is always there and the only thing you need to do to find it is to be present in the moments of our lives—to learn to quiet your mind, calm your body, and let your spirit commune with the Spirit. The next time you’re feeling a deeper gratitude for life, an appreciation for all that you are blessed with, pause for moment, look to the heavens, and sincerely ask, “Father, are you there?” Then start looking for the peace, the love, the hope, and the confidence that only He can send.
He promised, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
How can we get the “human” part of us to focus on the more important “spiritual” part of us on a daily basis?
First, we must remember that our truest, most original state is as spiritual beings, not human beings. Because we were created spiritually before we were created physically, we have had significantly more time and experience as spiritual beings than we have as human beings. Our basic spiritual nature might be overwhelmed at times by the much noisier, chemically driven carnal body and mind, as well as the veil we had to pass through at birth. So perhaps the best way to get back to our spiritual self is not necessarily to look for it, but instead to notice when we’re not in our peaceful, confident, loving, hopeful state of the spirit.
When we are more focused on our mind and body, we have completely different feelings than when we are focused on our spirit. Our carnal body can generate many feelings like stress, anxiety, fear, lust, hunger, and exhaustion. The carnal mind drives us to feel in competition with our fellow human beings, so we are always either “better” or “worse” than they are. Such competition induces what I call “Overs”, like over confidence and feelings of being smarter, prettier, or more popular. The carnal mind will also use “Unders” that give us less confidence and feelings of being weak, pathetic, stupid, ugly, or inadequate.
The carnal mind is the great divider, creating a sense of separation from our Heavenly Father, making us believe we’re entirely alone here on earth. In the end, the more we can pause in the present and notice when we are in our mind and body instead of our spirit, the more we can fill that space with something much more powerful, like the redeeming and comforting power of God.
“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31).
How has turning to the Lord in your good and bad times impacted your own life? Is there a time you truly felt lifted by turning to Him that you’d be willing to share?
Absolutely. It seems obvious for us to turn to God in our most difficult, trying times in life, but I’ve found that it is so much more important to bring the Lord into our lives during our most mundane, mortal moments.
I’ll never forget the peace that the Lord brought to my heart after turning to Him on the evening before a really important audition as a speaker and consultant for a training company. I remember being completely overwhelmed by my carnal mind as I was preparing. The job was my dream job. It would be a significant promotion for me and would help me be able to better take care of my family. Despite being prompted to apply, I still felt an incredible sense of inadequacy, inferiority, and complete hopelessness about my prospects. I was competing against other consultants who had more years of experience in the field than I had years of life. My mind was seriously working overtime, and with every new negative thought, my confidence and sense of worth dropped. Eventually my body responded to all of the negative thoughts with more negative energy and nervousness, making it impossible to sleep.
Exhausted, I got out of bed and turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer to share with Him my immense fears and doubts about the audition. In the middle of the prayer, I paused and took a few deep breaths and then the words, “Peace, I’ve got you,” came to my mind. Immediately my worrisome thoughts were gone and peace filled my heart. I knew in that moment it was okay, and that whatever happened the next day would be for my benefit. I ended my prayer and was completely calm and full of the Spirit.
I then opened my scriptures and turned directly to 1 Timothy 4:12-16, where I read the following scripture that hit me as strongly as if the Lord had written it specifically for me:
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity… Neglect not the gift that is in thee… Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them;…”
By turning to the Lord in the moment of my mind-driven stress, He turned my fears into an amazingly faith-filled space of peace and confidence.
In D&C 6:36, God tells us, “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not.”