Slowing Down in a 242 Mile Per Hour Zone

Slowing Down in a 242 Mile Per Hour Zone

Miryelle Resek

slowing down

The City

I once heard that the first speeding ticket ever given was to a 26-year-old taxi driver who was going 12 miles per hour in an 8 mph zone.

12 miles per hour.

In the 100-meter sprint, Usain Bolt was clocked in at running almost 28 miles an hour. More than double what the taxi driver was going.

As of date, the fastest speeding ticket in the USA was given to a motorist going 242 mph—230 miles per hour more than the first speeding ticket ever given.

Our cars are fast, our music is fast, the ability to find out information is fast. We walk quickly, talk quickly, and sometimes jump to conclusions just as quickly.

So what’s the rush?

For me, rushing is a type of defensive wall. People might realize that I don’t know what I’m doing if they see I’m not hurrying to do it—though I don’t think any of us really know what “it” is.

I fill spaces in my time to look as driven as everyone else—whipping out my phone at the elevator, at a café, or in line for groceries to make me look busy.

So I’ve started doing spiritual checks. It’s similar to when you’re thrown off a four-wheeler and you analyze how your body is without moving it to make sure there isn’t anything broken—it’s like that, only in a spiritual manner.

The Mountains

I have the luxury of living near mountains, it’s one of the best ways to physically remove myself from the world.

It’s okay to go 3 mph while you’re up here—the average walking speed. And if you slow down to 0 mph the trees don’t complain.

For a few quiet hours, the memory of the city is replaced with the rustling of aspen leaves, the scent of wet pine trees, and the steady movement of the stream.

It’s a place where I can take a breath.

In the mountains, it’s okay to be still and think.

Here you can break away from the day-to-day and go back to the basics. There are deer tracks next to patches of grass, chipmunks in the branches above, and if you’re lucky you’ll see a caterpillar spinning itself into a cocoon.

Here you can commune with God because you’ve made time to talk with him. In those hours you can let Him into your heart, and surrender your worries.

Here you can check in with yourself. How are you? What is your body telling you that you’ve been ignoring? What’s your mental state like? Are there things hurting your spirit? What repairs need to be done?

Apps That Can Help

Not everyone lives near mountains—even those living nearby don’t always have the time to go. However, we do have the ability to be still and check in with ourselves regardless of where we are.

There are several devices that can help us pause from hurrying around and check in with ourselves—even if it’s while we’re at a bus stop, shopping, or going from meeting to meeting.

Some of them can send us a reminder to clear our minds.

Others track our body movement and tell us when to relax.

And there are others that can transport us to a better state of mind by providing soothing sounds.

These types of apps provide ways for us to ignore the way the world seems to speed by and be mindful of our own internal rhythm. They remind us to do a spiritual check.

When you’re in the mountains you analyze how your body is doing: Out of breath? You’re hiking too quickly so you slow down. Muscles cramping up? Take a few seconds to stretch. Stomach growling? Time for a snack.

We sometimes forget this in the day-to-day. If you’re out of breath, you walk faster to get to the office quicker. Or if your muscles are cramping, you keep going because you don’t have time to stretch. Or if your stomach growls you work through lunch because that’s the only time when the office is quiet and you focus better.

Having the notifications from the apps can help remind us to check in with ourselves, in the same manner, we do when we’re in nature when we’re in the city.

This type of technology can help us go from an overwhelming 242 mph to a much slower rate of 3 mph as they transport us to places where we can find healing.

What devices do you use to be mindful in a rushing world? Tweet us at @MyFaithCounts.

Miryelle Resek enjoys hiking, four-wheeling, rock climbing, and wakeboarding but is actually terrified of mountains, heights, and water. It’s a struggle.

Meditating your way to stronger relationships

Meditating your way to stronger relationships

Lauren Elkins

purimYou experience relationships every day. We’ve never met, but right now, you are relating with me as you create an opinion about my writing. Our lives are surrounded by relationships and they have a powerful impact on us.

By increasing your mindfulness, you can make your relationships, the important and the passing ones, positive experiences, and you can strengthen your faith: in yourself; in others; and in your relationships.

Through meditation, you increase your mindfulness. You probably know some of the benefits of this such as a stronger immune system, stress reduction, and better management of anxiety. But did you know it also helps you to increase your empathy and improve your satisfaction with relationships?

Here are three relationship benefits gained through meditation:

1. Learn to be mindful of how your thoughts and actions affect your relationships.
Think of a recent, important conversation with a close relationships (such as a spouse or close friend). Do you feel like you were mindful during the conversation or did emotions run high? Here are some mindfulness guidelines to help with your crucial conversations:

  • Come to the conversation with faith in a positive outcome
  • Focus on being present and open
  • Stay engaged and don’t shut down
  • If you feel you are disengaging, use coping strategies such as deep breathing
  • If you feel you are being judgmental, of yourself or the other person, stop
  • Express empathy for the other person’s different opinion
  • If you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay: it’s normal
  • Be aware of the other person’s discomfort and offer them support
  • Recognize your shared vulnerability

2. Improve your sense of self-worth and stop looking to others for validation. Mindfulness helps you to love and have faith in yourself. In fact, it creates a physiological difference in your brain: you can see a decreased activation of the areas of the brain associated with rumination, according to Biological Psychology. Have you experienced a downward spiral of negative self-talk? We can be our own worst critics! When you shut that down, you love and have faith in yourself. In turn, you won’t need to depend on others for that love and validation, which places unfair expectations and strain on your relationships.

3. Manage your own emotions better so you don’t react as much to others’ actions or words. Meditation also helps change your brain for the better in regards to managing your emotions. A study using fMRI showed that participants who did a short mindfulness intervention were better able to regulate their emotions in response to negative stimuli. The study found that it didn’t need to be extensive periods of mindfulness or meditation, nor did the participants need to be meditation experts to see a difference.

About a year ago, I attempted to make meditation a daily habit.However, when I sat down to do it, I felt a tangible feeling of dread. I thought meditation was supposed to help me with anxiety, but it seemed to exacerbate it!

At the time, I wanted meditation to be an instant cure all. And, I wanted it to somehow work its magic on an infant with difficult sleep habits. As I was trying to meditate, I felt on edge, waiting for the baby to cry.

It took me a long time before I learned consistency. Today, I am slowly learning to be more mindful, but I have learned to notice when I put up emotional barriers blocking other people. When I take the time to meditate (I don’t do it every day, still), I like to use a visualization of a person close to me. As I focus my thoughts on them, I picture a light shining within them that grows and grows. Little, by little, I am learning to see that light in each of my relationships and help it to grow.

I’ve also learned that by strengthing my faith through meditation, I am more satisfied, committed, and invested in my relationships. Over time, I’ve reaped incredible benefits! Have you?

Lauren Elkins is a writer, former IT industry expert, and a mom, with a lot of faith in herself, her family, and God.

3 Lessons I Learned from Meditation in 7 Days

3 Lessons I Learned from Meditation in 7 Days

By Ariel Szuch, FaithCounts.com Contributor

3-lessons-i-learned-from-meditation-in-7-days
Until recently, my experience with meditation was that time at the end of a fitness class in college when “meditate” was code for “doze for a few minutes before you get up and run to your next class.” I had heard about some of meditation’s benefits but never really tried it, so when asked to write about it, I said, “Thanks, but no thanks” on account of zero practical experience.

“Why don’t you try it for a week and then write about it?” came the reply.

Seemed reasonable.

In its basic definition, meditation is the practice of training the mind to be focused and calm. However, as even a simple Google search on the topic will tell you, there are a dizzying number of ways to do that. I felt overwhelmed by all the information about posture, breathing, different kinds of practices, and so on. Finally I decided that the best approach was the same one used for getting used to cold water—just jump in.

So I did. Each day for seven days I looked up a video or audio recording that guided me through some form of meditation that would help me in an area where I was struggling that day. I did several meditations from Self-Compassion.org, yoga for meditation, mindfulness and anxiety meditations, and tai chi, and I found that my mental focus was the best when I did some form of movement (yoga or tai chi) followed by some kind of audio.

As I went through the week, I gained a few insights on the practice of meditation:

1. Meditation is about practicing present awareness and exercising self-compassion along the way. I tend to be hard on myself in general, which extends to getting off track and distracted during meditation. Sometimes I feel like keeping hold of my focus and staying in the present is like trying to hold a wriggling fish in your bare hands—the tighter you hold on, the more it slips through your fingers. On Day 1 (and a couple days afterward) I lost the battle and dozed off. However, meditation is called a practice for a reason; being present and focused is a learning process. In several of the guided meditations I did, the audio talked about how if your mind wanders, you just bring it gently back to the point of focus. No shaming self-judgment—just acknowledging that you’re learning and moving forward. It was healthy for me to practice some intentional self-compassion.

2. Meditation is about taking time for self-care. I struggle with this. Even though I just have me to take care of at this point in my life, I tend to disregard my own needs as less important than others. At one point a friend told me, “No one cares about your feelings except you!” What she meant was that I have to care for myself—my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs—because I am the one who is responsible for them. It’s not about putting my needs above everyone else’s, but honoring my needs as valid and my part in getting them met. Meditation helped me tune into myself physically and emotionally, and I could better see how to take care of myself and what help I needed from others.

3. Meditation is about setting the stage for truth to come—truth about ourselves, our lives, and our faith. By cultivating that present awareness in body and mind, tuning into myself physically and emotionally, I put myself in a state to receive truth. In several days over the course of the week I would start the meditation feeling agitated and by the end was able to get at the root of what was bothering me. Sometimes that truth was hard to face, but coming to terms with it was the way to move forward.

My meditation practice is still fledgling, but I’m grateful for what I learned over the course of the week and have incorporated aspects of meditation into my life since then. It has helped me focus at work and navigate stress in my personal life. Pausing for even a few moments to breathe and care for myself in high-emotion situations has made a world of difference for my overall wellbeing and peace of mind.

Ariel Szuch is a word nerd, writer, and compulsive reader who finds purpose in a life of faith.

Choosing Mindfulness

Choosing Mindfulness

By Camille Ward, FaithCounts.com Contributor

choosing-mindfulnessEven when sitting still, I feel like I live in a perpetual whirlwind of chaos. On particularly stressful days I find myself pulling my coat tighter and tighter, as if it were the only thing holding me together. I’m not just bad at mindfulness, I’m downright terrible at it.

Sounds like I could use some time in mindful meditation, right? But that would take even more time out of my day.

Maybe that’s the point. Time out.

I’ve begun to realize that I’ve been thinking about mindfulness all wrong. Mindful meditation isn’t about putting another item on the schedule, but about taking things off. All of us need a time out at some point. Meditation allows us to step out of life to practice…for life.

We arrive to life in a shocking explosion of cold and noise and pain. No crash course. No manual. We’re expected to wing it from day one. And it just keeps getting crazier. Yet when the opportunity actually comes along to practice for this circus we call life, we pass it by because we’re too busy. But life, like any other skill, requires a mastering of the basics: The ballerina’s first position, the bassist’s scales, the ball player’s swing. And a brain’s mindset.

Mindful meditation isn’t the goal. It’s the practice. Our goal is a mindful life.

When meditating, we focus on the sensations of the present, allowing distracting thoughts to come and go without judgment. By practicing the skills we need to make the most of life we learn to experience life intentionally and observe and accept change without fear. Hopefully we emerge to find ourselves more content, peaceful, and ready to face life.

Of course, none of these things are useful if we dive back in with the same attitude we had before meditation. We have to learn to apply mindfulness to our life as a whole.

Worry is the opposite of mindfulness. All of us have fruitless worries that clutter up our lives. They pull us into the future, prevent us from engaging with the present, and manage to be exhausting without actually accomplishing anything besides making us unhappy.

In an effort to live more mindfully, I’ve begun my week by listing 5 concerns that I am consciously choosing NOT to worry about:

  • Finding a new apartment next year.
  • Finding gifts for my friends’ unborn children (who aren’t due until July…).
  • If people think I’m lazy because I need naps.
  • If the weather will keep me from getting to work this week.
  • Whether or not I’m ever going to get married.

Okay. That list was kind of hard. But also very relieving. While some of my worries made me feel silly or vulnerable, writing them out helped me remember that most of them aren’t even in my control. They’re real worries, but they interfere with living a happy life. This week, instead of stressing over those things, I’ve been enjoying where I am now. So far it’s felt great.

What about you? What 5 worries are you going to reject? Share in the comments below or on social media, using #faithcounts.

Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and is not to be trusted with a budget in bookstores or bakeries.

Yoga and Your Spirit: Finding the Connection

Yoga and Your Spirit: Finding the Connection

The following is the experience of Jennifer Sousa from Spokane Valley, Washington.

Love is an action word, so it only makes sense that one of the best ways to show love to our own bodies is through movement. For me, that means yoga. Yes, I am talking about the weirdo hippie exercises your neighbor has been raving about, and for good reason. Yoga is more than a few poses done in slow motion; it’s allowing movements to bridge a connection between your body and your mind. It’s about realizing that it’s okay to slow down in a way that not only feels great, but also brings health and wellness.

yoga

Our heart was the first organ to spring to life, and gave a blueprint to create the rest or our bodies. Your fingers, your lungs, and even that extra roll of fat (gotta love it) is a miracle that’s manifested with every beat of our hearts. With everything we put that little muscle through, it deserves a break a couple times a week. Just like sleep, yoga lowers the heart rate and allows it the sooth, except we’re awake to feel the sensation and reap the benefits in the moment. And when we’re allowing our hearts to rest while opening up our bodies through different yoga positions, we’re also opening up our spirits to instruction, guidance, and reassurance from a higher power.

How on earth do you get instruction, guidance, and reassurance from a higher power while trying (as gracefully as possible) to maneuver a strange yoga pose? It’s all about not judging the pose. It’s actually about not judging at all. Yoga is a timeout from all of that. It’s a timeout from measuring up, looking down, or thinking sideways. Instead, it’s a moment to relish in all the blessings you’ve been granted over the course of a week, month, or even years. It’s not about comparing your house to your neighbor’s; it’s about the fact that you have a place to live. It’s not about comparing your kids to someone else’s; it’s about the fact that you have brought more little people into the world. Yoga, like faith, is about gratitude, and that’s where the bridge starts to build.

When we have the intention to move and the intention to be grateful, we can be unstoppable forces for God. Our bodies learn to break physical barriers while our minds tear down the barriers of a worldly perspective. With deliberate and raw devotion to your body and your mind, God will recognize your actions not only as an intentional call to Him, but will reply with deliberate answers to your burning questions, and that is where the connection between your body and spirit is formed.

For those of you just starting out, give yourself a break. You don’t have to bend like the person next to you, and it’s okay if your yoga pants rip (it happens). Most importantly, don’t go to one session and expect to know how to do every pose while simultaneously solving all your problems. Like scripture study, yoga takes practice in order to get something out of it, both physically and spiritually. So keep going, test out new instructors, and finally learn how turn love into action.

As a writer, believer, and chronic Pinterest fail-er, Maddy believes that everyone has a unique message to share with the world, and enjoys finding new ways to strengthen her faith through different perspectives.

5 Ways to Find Fulfillment According to the Dalai Lama

5 Ways to Find Fulfillment According to the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama describes himself as a “simple Buddhist monk” yet somehow within his life’s simplicity he has been able to find personal fulfillment and share that fulfillment with others. How can we follow his example?

dalai lama-01

1. Believe you can make a difference

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Often in my life the things that made the greatest difference were not big. Someone wrote an encouraging note, dropped off a pint of ice cream, gave a hug. Those who performed these acts will likely never know the difference they made. Yet, the world was made better because of them. Your talents and unique viewpoints are needed. You can make a difference. The trick is figuring out how.

2. Choose positivity

“Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, ‘I am of no value’, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought – so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.”

How much power do we believe we have over our own happiness? According to the Dalai Lama we can determine how we view our situations, accomplishments, and attributes. Optimism is a choice. This agentic freedom means that although we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react. Circumstances do not determine our happiness. Decide today what kind of day it will be.

3. Face death, celebrate life

“You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”

Our modern world with its hospitals, hospice care, and funeral homes separates most of us from death. This protective wall provides a comfortable cocoon of false security. Only through escaping this cocoon and facing the fragility of life can we truly learn to live. In understanding death, each day becomes more precious. Insecurities and inadequacies which previously held us back become trivial. Life is too short to let the small stuff hold us back.

4. Serve others

“Eating, working, and making money are meaningless in themselves. However, even a small act of compassion grants meaning and purpose to our lives.”

Who do you know that is struggling? What can you do to help? Thinking of others rather than our own worries helps us realize how blessed we are and the difference we can make. What is more fulfilling than that?

5. Be patient

“Neither a space station nor an enlightened mind can be realized in a day.”

Discouragement often takes its strongest hold when we are faced with disappointing results to our efforts. Sometime we try so hard, only to have it blow up in our face. However, we do not know how things will develop in the long run. Often what seems like failure one day can be a stepping stone the next. Remember we are running a marathon not a sprint. Things will work out. Keep going!

Erin Facer is a graduate of Brigham Young University and proud southerner. Contact her at facererin@gmail.com.

This is Why I Pray

This is Why I Pray

C. S. Lewis once called our world “the kingdom of noise.” Messages flood our world. They inundate us. We’re told daily how to act and feel, what to eat and drink, how to be happy. The messages are often contradictory and can send us into a tailspin of indecision and worry.

But there’s a way to sort through myriad of messages hurled from every direction. The way is prayer—heartfelt, meaningful, tender prayer.

Transcript
Every day, I’m bombarded by messages. How to think, what to buy, how to dress, what to do. The messages are often convoluted, contradictory, brash. In this labyrinth of ideas, where can I turn for direction? How do I sort it all out? That’s why I pray. Powerful, peaceful, personal. Prayer.

Why You Should Meditate Today

Why You Should Meditate Today

By Kimberly Reid, FaithCounts.com Contributor

meditation2When I was about seven and having trouble sleeping, someone told me the sheep-counting trick. I tried it, but my sheep didn’t scamper up to a fence and hop over it one by one, like they were supposed to. They charged the fence in a mass of matted wool and sharp hooves. The more I tried to shepherd them into a single line to be counted, the more frustrated and less sleepy I got.

There’s probably something psychologically revealing about myself in that story. Maybe I’ve always been anxious or I resist relaxing because it’s boring. Whatever the reason, I tend to lose sleep and overuse my brain to the point of migraines. Sometimes these headaches bring me to the massage therapist to work out the knots in my neck.

“Do you meditate?” my therapist asked me one day.

Meditate? Like sit in a lotus position, close my eyes, and try to banish the stampeding sheep in my brain?

The word makes me think of the man who lives down the hall from me in my condo complex. He burns incense and ignores the maintenance man pounding on his door until he’s finished with his practice. I’m not familiar with his eastern traditions, but I admire his focus.

I don’t do any of those things my neighbor does, but I figure my own Christian faith traditions count.

“Sure,” I say to my therapist. “I meditate.”

I read scripture and search for personal meaning, stopping to savor individual verses for as long as I can. I pray about the things I’m grateful for and the long list of things I need help with. If pondering scripture and praying aren’t meditating, I don’t know what is.

“That’s good,” my therapist says. “Meditation helps with stress.”

It turns out maybe I’m not meditating after all.

I’ve been noticing lately that my prayers, while sincere, don’t always center me on realities bigger than myself for as long as I’d like. Sometimes I don’t make it past the door before I’m swallowed up in the bedlam of the day. I decide to find out how an analytical, non-incense-burning, headache-prone person like me can find more lasting peace.

First, I learn that some who practice meditation encourage studying prayers and their meaning before meditating. The studying and prayers are not meditation; they are preceding steps.

Next, I learn that meditation can mean a variety of things. Some empty their minds by focusing only on the sound of their breath. Others fill their minds with positive words, setting their intentions for the day.

The second approach appeals to me. I like purpose, and I like words. As a Christian, it occurs to me that Jesus called Himself the Word. Is there something powerfully faith-building in simple letters strung together? Through using a few mindfully chosen words, might I grow closer to the Word?

Finally, I try it. After reading scripture one morning, I pray and voice my hopes: “Today I read scripture to experience Your wisdom and love. I would like these influences to stay with me through the day, and I will try to let them sink deeper into my mind and heart through meditation. Please help me.”

I sit on the floor. Yes, in the lotus position. I’ve read that sitting with a straight back is the best way to maintain alertness, and since I’m sleep deprived again, I’ll take any tips I can get.

With the first inhale and exhale, I think of two words: “Divine love.” With the second inhale, I focus on two more words: “Divine wisdom.” At first, my practice doesn’t seem like anything special. Getting some extra oxygen first thing in the morning is nice, but I don’t sense much change.

I meditate for only five or ten minutes. When I stand, I notice right away I’m walking a little closer to heaven. And it lasts. The fits and frustrations and stampeding sheep of the day don’t overwhelm me like they normally would. Beginning the morning in stillness slows the clock, giving me the capacity to see, think, and feel before reacting.

With scripture study, prayer, and meditation, I finally have all my sheep in a row.

Stop Everything Right Now and Just Be Still

Stop Everything Right Now and Just Be Still

In our chaotic and busy world, it’s important to take time to be still. A few moments of peace can bring perspective and strength to get through life’s challenges.

Transcript:
The world hears, but it doesn’t listen.
We forget to slow down,
to really pause in the middle of it all
and refocus our attention on what matters the most.
It takes faith to set aside time
to step back and ponder.
But it’s in the still moments that we discover
that the more pressing things aren’t always the most important.

“Got a Decision to Make? Exercise Your Faith”

“Got a Decision to Make? Exercise Your Faith”

By Coke Newell, FaithCounts.com Contributor

decision to make
Two years ago my youngest daughter was trying to choose a university. She was clear on her course of study, and had been admitted to both her top schools of choice. But since both were great choices, she couldn’t decide which to attend.

I had a business trip to the city in which one of her “finalist” universities was located, so I invited her to come along and visit the school while I was in meetings. She spent hours that day talking to professors and visiting facilities, and when we got back together that evening, she told me, “I loved it.”

Believing it only fair that she measure both schools on equal footing, however, my wife and I encouraged her, at our expense, to visit the second school as well. After a similar day visiting the faculty and facilities of that second school, she called us on the phone. With both experiences fresh in her mind, she told us with a touch of awe in her voice how this second program was in fact “the program of her dreams”—perfect in every way. So imagine our surprise when she told us that now she wasn’t sure which school to pick.

American religious leader Thomas S. Monson has said, “The door of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. The choices we make determine our destiny.”

While some decisions—wheat flakes or rice puffs? red shoes or white?—will have only marginal impact on either our day or our future, others can change the course of our lives. Such decisions are the ones with which we could really use some help, even divine help, should such be available to us.

Hundreds of millions of people testify that such help has in fact been their experience—oftentimes receiving light, direction, knowledge and clarity far beyond their normal capacity of reasoning or discernment.

But certain mini-steps precede being able to make the large leaps required in the “exercise” of our faith:

  1. Breathe deep and ponder: Is this a matter you could resolve clearly if you just took an afternoon to study it out? Have you dealt successfully with something similar before?
  2. Balance and Alignment: How does it ‘stand up’ to things you already know to be right? Or wrong?
  3. Focus: Sometimes there is no wrong answer—just a good answer and a better answer. See if you can zero in on the precise details and thus find clarity.
  4. Stretching: Can you “play it forward” and see where a given decision leads? If / then reasoning and probability projection is a common technique in high-level decision making.
  5. Reaching: Reach out to others of wisdom or experience you have already come to trust, and seek their input.
  6. Get in the zone, then get out of the way: Commit time to prayer or meditation as befits your beliefs, and don’t be lukewarm about it. American philosopher and author Henry David Thoreau wrote that “Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.” We must truly open ourselves to potential answers that come from beyond our limited experience.
  7. Finally, use a ‘heart monitor’: “In meditation, go deep in the heart,” states the Tao Te Ching. The Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament instructs: “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,” which latter term in the original Aramaic may be better rendered “secret chamber” of one’s soul.

Many authors oriented toward faith have noted that “Revelation is scattered” throughout our world of personal, private tutoring by a God who cares. What emerges as the cumulative wisdom of the above exercise faithfully performed may be trusted as your best answer.

As for my daughter, the accumulated power of both her previous experience and her present efforts led to a clarity that simply wasn’t there before the exercise. After studying it out, talking with many, pondering deeply and projecting forward where each would take her, she went deep in her heart, and then to her knees. And the answer came.

Stillness Is the Language of the Soul

Stillness Is the Language of the Soul

By Breanna Olaveson, FaithCounts.com Contributor

stillness

Language is a powerful tool. If you visit a foreign country, a basic understanding of the language will make your experience so much better. If you are caring for a small child, an understanding of the child’s babbling will make life much easier. If you’re texting an acronym-using teenager, you’ll need to know what the acronyms mean in order to understand what they’re actually saying.

You could say the language of modern life is noise. Many people today believe that the busier a person’s day, the more notifications come to a person’s phone, the more information a person processes or the more money a person makes, the better off that person is. Noise is an indicator of something happening. Noise is the language of our world.

It’s also overrated. Rumi, a noted 13th-century Persian poet and theologian, once said, “Silence is the language of God; all else is poor translation.” Stillness is the language of the soul.

Though it may be difficult to schedule, a moment of silence each day can help us re-evaluate our lives, process our emotions, eliminate stress and reconnect with our faith. In the quiet, our minds can focus on things that matter most. We can consider our beliefs, our fears and how authentically we are living what we believe.

But silence doesn’t need to be lengthy to be effective. A brief silence during a conversation can work wonders. When we are angry, a brief pause before we speak can prevent future regret. When someone asks a difficult question, allowing a brief silence can help you formulate your thoughts. When you’re listening to someone, letting silence remain when they finish might encourage him or her to say something more. When you want to communicate with God, turn off the noise and be still.

These habits take time. But for now, we can shut off the TV. We can pause the music. We can create stillness in our minds — and then listen.

Breanna is the author of one book, the mother of two daughters, and a frequent contributor to several faith-based magazines and blogs. She blogs about her faith, her family, and her favorite things at www.breannaolaveson.com.

4 Ways to Grow Your Faith

4 Ways to Grow Your Faith

By Maddie Wiley, FaithCounts.com Contributor

grow faith

The spring months are the perfect time to reflect on the process of renewal and regrowth, and it can be a great opportunity to work on growing your faith and becoming the person you want to be! Whether you started to forget about your faith resolutions you may have made in January or you are just now ready to focus on your faith, here are four ways you can grow your faith like the spring flowers that are growing right now.

1. Grow through service

Serving others is a great way to stretch your faith and to watch miracles occur. Spend some time each day looking for service opportunities, whether they are big or small. Watching the joy of others as they are served can also bring you peace and happiness.

2. Let meditation be the water your faith needs to become strong

Find a quiet place in your world and sit down for a few minutes. Think about all the blessings in your life and ponder what you can do to improve the world around you. By spending some time disconnected from the distractions of technology and media every day, you will be able to see your world more clearly and you can better understand what you need to do to improve.

3. Get outside and enjoy watching spring bloom

The flowers and the trees are reborn each spring, similar to the chance you have to regrow your faith every day. Go on a nearby hike and do some yoga when you reach the summit. Or spend some time in a field filled with fresh flowers. Your faith will grow while you reflect on the beauty and miracles that you see around you.

4. As your faith becomes stronger, share it with others

Your faith can grow as you watch the faith of others grow. Share your feelings on a certain faith topic with a friend and explain how your life has been impacted by believing. The spring season is the perfect opportunity to live your faith and accept the faith of others.

“Your faith will grow not by chance, but by choice.” Neil L. Andersen

Exercise and Faith – A Lifetime Commitment

Exercise and Faith – A Lifetime Commitment

faith-exercise

Photo Credit: Ashley Barker/Offset.com

I love to exercise every day, whether it’s a walk outside or practicing yoga in a studio. In the process of making exercise a daily decision, I remembered the story of a lady who attended a class on “Commitment.” She sat in the front row with bon-bons in each hand. The instructor asked what she was committed to and she responded, “I am committed to losing weight.” The instructor looked directly at her and replied, “No, you’re not. You’re committed to the emotional comfort that food brings you.” I was struck by the candid response from the instructor and realized there was no lack of commitment, but rather a lack of direction – for her commitment.

I asked myself where my commitment was directed. I had to have faith in myself to get up and get out, because I simply cannot reap the rewards of someone else’s work out. I live in Utah, where extremes in temperature include cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The landscape is truly unique with deep and sharp canyons, majestic mountains, high and low valleys, red rock, and delicate wildflowers.

I can always plan on the winter season visiting, and this past November was no exception. However, it was the first time I tried walking outside in winter weather. It has been breathtaking, and sometimes takes my breath away, because it’s so cold. There have been plenty of days when I could have stayed inside and found every excuse not to exercise, but I had to decide where I wanted to direct my commitment – “Daily exercise” or “Every reason not to exercise.” Directing my commitment to “Daily exercise” helped me embrace winter as a truly beautiful season. I never thought I would enjoy walking in winter weather, but I am awed by the gentle snow flurries, and the calculated movements of deer as they glide gracefully across a mountain side or when they walk right in front of me.

If I would have directed my commitment to “Every reason not to exercise,” I would have missed some of the most powerful nights; nights when the earth is crusted with ice and snow, and the clouds in the sky part, revealing perfect stars in perfect constellations and I have to stop, look up, and acknowledge a power greater than myself.

This acknowledgement requires pondering the direction of my commitment to faith, either, “Faith in a power greater than myself” or “Every reason to doubt.” Directing my commitment to “Faith in a power greater than myself,” has been rewarded every day, and every time I am outside – whether it’s a walk through a path of tulips in the spring, a stargazing night in the dead of winter, a hike on a mountain trail during the heat of summer, or a stroll through a canyon to behold the palette of colorful and vibrant leaves – I can look up at the sky and know a great and loving power, bigger than me, is watching over each of us, every day.

Yoga—A path to physical and spiritual healing

Yoga—A path to physical and spiritual healing

Yoga - a path to physical and spiritual healing

Everyone has heard of yoga. You just say the word and immediately picture a group of people in stretchy pants looking so calm as they strike perfectly balanced poses on different colored mats. While this may be what you imagine in your mind, yoga is so much more than a stretching exercise. It comes from ancient traditions of self-development and self-realization.

It has the power to heal and strengthen not only the body, but also the spirit.

You’ve heard the word “yoga” a million times, but do you actually know what it means? Like its literal definition? Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to unite.” By this definition, you could say yoga is the uniting of the body, mind, and spirit.

Yoga itself is not a religion, but it can increase your spirituality as you take time to reflect on what’s truly important to you and all you have to be grateful for. As you open your mind and heart to spirituality, you can tap into the healing power that comes with it.

In an article from Yoga Journal titled “The Healing Power of Yoga for Veterans,” five veterans describe how yoga is helping them heal from years of disturbing war. One veteran in particular caught our eye. Chris Eder retired in 2013 after serving in the military for 23 years. He felt his mind and body start to struggle and turned to yoga for healing. Chris said in the article, “I’m pretty sure without my yoga and meditation practice, I would be a statistic. I had a pretty solid home practice and began teaching in 2008, but over the past three years, my therapist have taken me into some seriously dark places. The comfort and security of my mat, my space, and my practice have kept me going and given me hope.”

So it honestly doesn’t matter what religion you practice or if you even practice one, yoga can help you cultivate peace, inner strength, and the faith to face life’s challenges with a courageous heart.