My Spirituality Stack

I’m a sucker for those lifestyle influencers that show off their green smoothie stacks. Even though I know that 99% of supplements are scams that don’t pass the double blind, RCT standard, at the very least it’s still health-motivating to see somebody cram a bunch of greens into a blender (although, to save you time, the only health/muscle/workout supplement that is really worth the cost if you’re already eating your fruits and veges is creatine).

Similarly, I’d love to see somebody put together a sort of collation of spiritual “stacks” of spiritually powerful people, including but not exclusively Church leaders. I suspect they would shy away from this kind of thing because beyond the basics of prayer, fasting, and scripture study it’s highly individual, and people might take a particular individual’s personal routine as gospel, but I don’t think there’s any risk of that coming from me, so…

My personal spiritual “stack”

Prayer at night: My Mission President told us a story about how his MP would require that they set a timer to pray for five minutes every night, and how he thought it was dumb thing to require, but that when he actually tried it and realized that when you have five minutes you have to use, it helps you sit and center your thoughts and not feel any kind of rush. So he did not require us to do the five minute timer, but strongly suggested it, and I’ve found it works in much the same way. I’m very much a checklist guy, and forcing myself to take even just five minutes helps push against the strong rushing impulse that almost inevitably makes a prayer too fast and superficial. 

Daddy devotional: Every night (okay, maybe every couple of nights), I spend about ten minutes talking to my kids about some life lesson, principle, or practical knowledge. About ? of the time these have direct spiritual content.

We don’t really do the third hour of Church. Although to be honest I don’t really know anybody who does, I kind of suspect that the third hour idea was a half-hearted bone thrown to some of the higher-ups that wanted to keep three-hour Church. Still, the principle that religious socialization should happen at the home is a sound one. I like to follow the “Gospel principles” manual just as a broad thematic guide to make sure our kids get the basics, but I’ll also dip into whatever theme or issue I feel like our family is struggling with at the time. 

 My ideal “stack”: What I don’t do but would like to

Fasting: Yes, I know this should clearly be in the standard list. I’ve always been bad at doing the strict 24-hour fast because 1) I always forget until Fast and Testimony meeting that it is in fact, Fast Sunday, at which point I’ve already had breakfast, 2) between young kids and a pregnant or nursing wife, I have been the only faster in my household for over a decade, so it’s hard to remember, although my older children are starting to fast now.

Daily meditation: I haven’t gotten the meditation bug, and find the idea of clearing my head boring. In a sense I feel like Mormonism is a very Western religion. It’s (arguably) about striving until our individual consciousness can (with the necessary boost of the atonement and God’s Grace) reach Godhood. It’s not, like in some other faiths, about losing our individuality and passions in the collective divine. I have to experience struggles and vicissitudes in this lone and dreary wilderness to advance. So the idea of meditating my way to the divine without the daily living, whether through, say, a Christian tradition or Buddhist one, does not sit well with me personally.   

Still, the idea of meditating on a particular spiritual feeling does, and for me to be able to glow in spiritual colors, for those sorts of feelings to become reflexive, I feel like I need to develop those muscles, and in an ideal world I would love to have 10 minutes of spiritual muscle development/meditation. In the same way that Orthodox Christians meditate on icons to draw their attention to God, I have found benefit in meditating on a sort of distillation of a very particular feeling, whether it’s love for someone, faith, calmness, sagacity, etc., often with the aid of music, a life event, or a scripture story or character where you can feel that distilled essence. Mordechai standing before Haman and remonstrating Esther, Christ healing the ear of the Roman guard, Isaiah having his “you shall not pass” moment with Sanacherib. 

Morning prayer: I would love to have a meaningful, heartfelt, prayer alone in the morning to set the tone and cognition for the rest of the day. However, as the father of seven wild ones my mornings are not dictated by me, and I need to figure out a way to make this work. 

Daddy devotional with younger kids: I need to do the daily words of wisdom thing with my really young children too, even if it’s very basic. 

Make kids watch more spiritual content: I’m dealing with the reality that all of my religious formation “content” is competing for the attentions of my children against 24 hour streamed, high-quality content that’s available at all times and places on whatever subject they want. I’ve actually found that I also enjoy watching the geopolitical talking heads that my kids watch for hours, but Middle Eastern water conflicts will not get them any closer to exaltation, and I keep meaning to set some kind of prerequisite requirement (you can watch the Nate Silver interview after you’ve watched 20 minutes of general conference, etc.), but it’s the kind of thing that it takes a certain energy to enforce that I haven’t mustered up yet. 

11 comments for “My Spirituality Stack

  1. I’ve gone the other way with prayer – mornings are working well for me, while evenings aren’t.

    I know what you mean about being the family’s designated faster. That was me for a long time, and it was fine. For me, fasting has actually gotten physically more difficult in the last several years, which is kind of an unpleasant surprise. It’s hard to teach a Sunday School lesson while you’re feeling light headed. I don’t know if fasting has been an effective part of a regular “stack,” but it’s certainly been part of some spiritual experiences in extraordinary circumstances.

  2. My OCD has gotten so bad that I can’t do anything the way I used to these days. I can’t read the scriptures linearly anymore. I can’t have regular personal prayer in the morning and evening anymore–except maybe just a quick little send off to keep the tradition. I have to wait for an unplanned clear moment during the day or the middle of the night to have meaningful prayer. And fasting can be very difficult–it can really mess with my anxiety. And so — when I feel up to it — I try to fast for half a day, sipping a little water as needed–that’s about the best I can do these days. Even so, I know that my offerings are acceptable if I make them sincerely. And so sometimes we just have to make do within the scope of our limitations.

    As far as talking with my kids goes–the door to my cave is like a revolving door with a constant flow incoming and outgoing traffic. I have have six adult children with three of them still living at home and the others visiting frequently. And I typically spend hours — sometimes many hours — chatting with them on a daily basis about subjects having to so with the gospel to mental illness to everything in between. This is the primary ministry that “hath been allotted unto me.”

  3. Good stuff, and I identify with the struggles–including having a near pathological inability to remember Fast Sunday. If any of the Gospel Library app developers are reading, I have a suggestion…

    I’d add spending some time every day pondering theology. Of course ideally this would be sitting down and reading the Book of Mormon. But I’ve found that even what I can do while driving, washing dishes, or mowing the lawn makes a big difference. One of the my favorite things about my current calling is I’ve always got a next talk to think about, which helps me “remember to goodness of God,” keeps me “spiritually minded,” etc.

  4. Why hasn’t anyone, including me, mentioned music yet? It probably belongs in there for a lot of people, and it seems weird no one has mentioned it.

  5. I do feel like music is already a constant for a lot of us when we’re cleaning and such, but yes, just sitting and focusing on the music itself is a supernal experience that is worth making specific time for.

  6. Music is definitely part of my spiritual practice. I listen to (and play) music throughout my day, but I also use it in an intentional way to increase my closeness to God.

    It was really freeing for me when I realized that the point of these daily spiritual activities was to do things that bring me closer to the Divine and to increase my ability to be in relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus. I know that sounds obvious, but I think we get locked into thinking that it has to look a certain way (the Church-prescribed way) and the activities become the focus rather than a means to an end. I looked at the end and realized that I could expand what would get me there.

    Sacred music is probably my second most used means of communing with God. Prayer being the first.

  7. I have a morning spiritual ‘stack’ that I’ve found makes a huge difference in my day-to-day life. (However, I’m definitely not any kind of spiritual giant. For sure. ) Goes like this.

    -Mini-devotional: currently reading Tao Te Ching one page at a time
    -Meditation/prayer: specific visualization where I have a brief chat with a symbolic diety.
    -CBT visualization: of whatever I’m trying to improve about myself at the moment. I use an app for this
    -Read outload my monthly mantra
    -Drink a glass of water

    Takes maybe 5 minutes, but I end up reflecting on it all day long.

    In the past I’ve also listened to the online daily devotional from the national cathedral and used a very old school Angelican prayer book. Both experiences I enjoyed, but they took too long. I’m more likely to actually do a few short activities over 1 longer.

    If I’m feeling worn down in the evenings, I have a YouTube music list that I put on that starts with the BYU male a capella group singing Nearer My God. (YouTube graciously put the Playlist together for me after realizing what I like when exhausted.)

  8. Most of my third hour of church doesn’t take the entire hour, but it does happen. I do Come Follow Me with the kids every Sunday. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes, sometimes forty, but it does happen.

  9. My current go-to activities…

    I prefer praying/meditating throughout the day since I learned that God hears and answers my prayers from the mind. I can do this anywhere and anytime. It has become actual communication and not just a feel good checklist to be done morning and evening. Lots of prayers answered immediately through revelation to my mind. Yes, even while driving or at work or in line at the bank etc. The thought of kneeling by my bed in the morning or in the evening seems silly to me now. I missed out on so much. Prayer is wonderful for me now.

    Music is my other go-to activity to be close with the spiritual. Especially on Sundays but everyday. I am listening to my “Sunday music” playlist right now. 90% of my play list is “Christian” music and the rest mormon and classical.

    I watch “Music and the Spoken Word” every Sunday. The Show “Grace Notes” on the BYU channel is also a wonderful Sunday habit for me. Its about music and testimony.

    I dont read scriptures anymore and haven’t for about 10 years. This could change someday but I have never in my life (I am old) felt as close to God reading scriptures as I have with prayer and music. Like Lisa said above, I would rather spend my time on what works for me than what others think should work for me.

    Most of my reading is church history stuff and NDE experiencers. Fav church history reads are biographies of past presidents.

    Do the “stack” that works for you!

  10. In my totally unbiased opinion (heh), participating in music will do far more for our spirituality than listening to it. Listening to music lets you pick up on others’ feelings; participating in music makes those feelings your own.

    [Warning: I’m about to tell an Old Testament story. In doing so, I’m making no claim that it is historically accurate rather than literature that describes the human condition. I’d say the odds favor the latter, but it doesn’t matter to how I’m going to use it. Please don’t accuse me of lying to you if you later read that many Biblical scholars think the various stories of Saul prophesying were put there by “the Deuteronomists” to mock him for basing his discipleship on experiences and feelings rather than The Law, thus marking him as inferior to David and furthering their agenda of making Israelite religion less ecstatic and more legalistic. Side note 1: If that’s true, the Deuteronomists sucked. Side note 2: I see why people don’t put something like this in the middle of conference talks.]

    When the Lord told Samuel that Saul should be the first king of Israel, Samuel saw that Saul needed to learn about the Lord’s power. So he told Saul everything that would happen to him the next day, in detail (1 Samuel 10). But the key event would be meeting a “company of prophets.” This was a musical group (the instruments are specifically mentioned) and presumably they prophesied by singing or chanting. Perhaps they sang early versions of the psalms, which are full of prophesies of Christ. Samuel then told Saul: “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.”

    The ward choir is your local company of prophets, and joining them in singing songs of thanks and praise will turn you into another person too. Musical talent or skill not required, any more than it was for Saul. As the psalms put it, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

    (I guess I didn’t think of choir as a “stack” item since it isn’t daily. And at the moment, my least favorite part of my current calling is that it keeps me from singing in the choir regularly.)

  11. Ward choir is definitely not a spiritual stack item for me. I participate out of a sense of duty and desire to serve, but there is nothing inherent in that experience musically that provides me any sort of spiritual nurturing.

    Playing the organ *is* that sort of experience for me. My calling as ward organist allows me to immerse myself in sacred music on my own terms, playing what I want (within guidelines of course), magnifying the calling in ways that also nourish me even if nobody else in the congregation really notices or appreciates it.

    Ward choir still has value to me, but it’s not a “feed my soul” sort of value.

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