By Shyamal Sinha
The term “mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali term sati,which is a significant element of some Buddhist traditions. In Buddhism, mindfulness has been advocated as a way to spiritual enlightenment and cessation of suffering.
Fast moving community of Mormons in Salt Lake City, in the US sate of Utah, known as the Lower Lights Sangha, is practicing Buddhist mindfulness to deepen their spiritual lives. Meditation teacher Thomas McConkie, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, guides the group through their mindfulness exercises.
“We are not here to tell people whether they should continue in their religious tradition or not. We want to provide space and practice where they can come to a new level of honesty and truthfulness within themselves,” said McConkie, who organized mediation sessions in his home for nearly five years before founding the Lower Lights Sangha in September 2016. “It was my Buddhist meditation practice that helped deepen my understanding of Christianity and deepen my Christian faith,” he added. (Religion News Service)
McConkie is a descendent of a family of influential Mormon leaders. He left the church and his faith when he was 19 to travel and work in Europe and Asia. He studied mindfulness while living in New York, China, and Spain, and found spiritual fulfillment in Zen Buddhism. After 15 years, he returned home and returned to the Mormon church. He now uses his knowledge of Buddhist practice to help members of the local community overcome their own faith crises, and has published a book on the subject, titled Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Development Map.
Mormonism is a Christian restorationist tradition, practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and founded by Joseph Smith in upstate New York in the 1820s. The headquarter of the church is located in Salt Lake City.
The meetings of the Lower Lights Sangha are open to all who are interested and because of this, the community is growing steadily. Between 80 and 100 participants gather for each meeting, two-thirds of whome are below the age of 40.
At the beginnning of each meeting, McConkie invites the participants to introduce themselves to the people sitting next to them, encouraging them to share their motivations for attending the meetings and for meditating. He then continues with a brief mindfulness exercise: “I want to invite you for a moment to do absolutely nothing.” (Religion News Service)
“I don’t find anything that’s in contradiction to what my spiritual beliefs are,” said group participant Sam Nielsen, 25, who is active in her Mormon congregation and who has been visiting the meditation meetings for more than a year. “I think I may be open to something that’s spiritual because of my religious upbringing.” (Kuer 90.1)
McConkie described how Mormons focus on answers rather than prayers and believe that there is a possibility to one day become like God. These beliefs provide a framework for meditation: “Mormons are primed for [meditation],” McConkie explained. “Mormons want it. It just takes a gentle breeze to blow them in that direction.” (Kuer 90.1)
The meditation gatherings particularly resonate among younger Mormons. As McConkie observes, “There’s a huge need, especially in the millennial generation, to start to explore what’s beyond partisan and religious divides.” (Religion News Service)
Mindfulness as a modern, Western practice is founded on modern vipassana, and the training of sati, which means “moment to moment awareness of present events”, but also “remembering to be aware of something”.It leads to insight into the true nature of reality,