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In this episode Andrew Ainsworth interviews Phil McLemore to discuss his own spiritual transformation through meditation & the Hindu yogic tradition.
A big thanks to Richard Holdman for his audio production support in this podcast.
Thanks for the information. I am an Army brat. We lived near a Mormon chaplain surnamed Roberts, did you ever meet him? My dad retired in 1984, so I suspect Roberts probably retired in the late 1980’s or early 90’s.
I am no longer LDS and categorize myself as atheist. Yet, I am very interested in mediation. Any suggestions for one without supernatural beliefs?
By “mediation” I meant “meditation.” And for the record, I am interested in both!
I knew an Alex Roberts while on active duty. He was a wonderful chaplain and very helpful to me. Beliefs, which are thoughts, are irrelevant when it comes to meditation, which is a process that transcends thought. If you can establish an effective meditation practice you will have you own direct spiritual perceptions and your beliefs will be superseded by inner knowledge. This is true for those with and without religious beliefs. Although I endorse meditation for its spiritual potential, it also has tons of physical, emotional, and psychological benefits for believers and non-believers.
I agree. The sticking point I see most often is that this process is all about non-rational, or maybe extra-rational, mental processes. Which is pretty much anathema to most *thinking* folks in our culture.
Having experienced the beauty & joy inherent in transcendent mindfulness, I enthusiastically endorse it. People aren’t as rational as they like to think, anyway.
I have only listened to the first portion but wanted to stop and send a thank you to all involved in this podcast and Mormon Stories in general. This forum provides a fabulous opportunity to “meet” such a diverse array of people, each exceptional in their own way. Many, many thanks for everyone’s contributions to make this happen and for what it provides for our interconnected journies.
HI! I am enjoying listening to Phil. However in section 4 after 2.44 min. everything ends. Can this be fixed?
Hi Karin, I haven’t had that problem with episode 4. How were you playing the episode when this occurred? (E.g., on your iPod, or here at the MoStories website)
downloaded it and everything works just fine. thanks.
This is awesome! Thank you, thank you. I confess that I haven’t listened to it yet, it’s downloading now. But if it’s anything like the Sunstone article, The Yoga of Christ, this is going to be a real treat. : )
Now in the Presence, wow! Just listening to a couple of the segments I find these to be very spiritual and enlightening. Eckhart Tolle when asked what would be the best spiritual courses and seminars one could attend and Tolle told him that if he just listened to his breath 2-3 times a day would be better than all the courses and spiritual seminars to which one could attend. The example of Phil’s wife when taking care of her animals is really a spiritual practice and if one could do that all the time, one wouldn’t need meditation. Having long ago practiced TM and used a mantra that had no meaning but was used coordinated with ones breath as Phil mentioned got me through a lot of tough times. My mantra is “Allah-ma”. Alan Watts, the Episcopal Minister who became interested in Zen Buddhism also taught mediation via listening to ones breath and conscience breathing. In TM they teach you to let your mind when it wanders follow the though and trace it back to where it came from and then go back to the mantra. Tolle koan was realizing that if he was an observer of his thought then he wasn’t his thought. Of course these are all words and words are like signposts. You can’t really talk about spiritual things directly but only point at the experience. Also, I enjoyed, the thought that having some spiritual goal in the future is self-defeating. Being in the Spirit is really BEING in the Spirit. I like the cartoon in Tolle and McDonnell’s book :
Thanks for this podcast! Great!
Thanks for sharing. The TM you describe is sounding significantly different from the different from the Transcendental Meditation I learned as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I’m just curious who your teacher was. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one movement uses the term TM, but I haven not personally encountered it before.
@ Andrew. I just pushed the arrow on my computer screen. i may try to download next.
just tried it again before i tr y to download. Am hoping it downloads- and i’ll be able to find it :P as this was a very fascinating topic. i had learned to meditate when i was dealing with my childhood issues. Then i presumed that i didn’t need it anymore. kind of like when you don’t need a cast anymore, you take it off. After my daughter was born OCD symptoms completly took over my life. I am now trying mindful meditation. Now i know that if i continue with it i can get other benefits too. thanks.
So much in this podcast really resonated with me and how I have been approaching church issues lately. Thank you for taking the time to do this podcast. I have not completely finished listening to the podcast, but what books on meditation would you recommend for a spiritual leaning, hopeful agnostic?
oh my Mormons meditating and doing yoga! They just might start to think on their own, then what?
Obviously your at being very general as were it not for Mormons who were interested in this there would be no need for these podcasts… I don’t judge u by ur sexual orientation. Religious affiliation, ethnicity or anything else and respectfully request the same from you!
“Conceptual understandings are not spiritually transformative.” Brilliant. I love this podcast.
“refining the sub-conscious” or was it “cleansing the sub-conscious”. Yup. The reason we have “clean hands & a pure heart” is to that end.
Paramhansa Yogananda! Wow. I read his “Autobiography of a Yogi” and enjoyed it very much. Do you take the experiences and stories therein as literal? Just curious. His book is like scriptures on steroids.
Great interview. I predict all sorts of folks will come forth & tell you they have followed this path.
So much of our unproductive and limited conditioning, which accounts for about 95% of our perceptions and responses, comes out of our subconscious. That is why substantive change is so hard. When the subconscious is purified then our ability to see from a fresh and more comprehensive perspective is expanded, along with a broader range of choices which reflect divine perspective. In other words, agency in harmony with divine nature unfolds. The Yogis call this “liberation of consciousness”.
Yogananda intentionally sought out the most accomplished Yogis so he could demonstrate the potential of awakened consciousness through his experiences with them. Some claim he exaggerated. Many of those had reasons to be jealous. My teacher, who is still living, was Yogananda’s disciple and the stories he tells me about Yogananda and things he said do not reflect a person who tried to attract attention to himself through distortion. Yogananda’s scriptural commentaries evidence a pure heart and an enlightened consciousness.
I tried my first meditation sitting after reading Mormon Mantras when it first came out in in Sunstone. Coincidentally, I had finished the Bhagavad Gita a week before, so I was primed to give it a try. Meditation has been an important part of my spiritual practice within Mormonism ever since.
Regarding Yogananda, I was completely mesmerized by his autobiography. I attempted to read it a second time, but ironically found the stories and some of the metaphysics to be very distracting, and interfered with my meditation practice. Did you ever have a similar experience?
Hi Brad, The Autobiography was inspiring to me but it is “out there”. I realized I needed to be content with my own inner awakening and not compare it with others–especially with others whose entire existence was focused on the inner path. Personality differences draw each of us to writers who speak to our souls. Many books that inspire others I find indigestible. So go with the writings that open your soul.
Phil, I so enjoyed this podcast and was heartened to finally have someone accurately communicate the principles and philosophy of yoga (not just asana practice) to a Mormon audience. I have been practicing yoga now for about 16 years and teaching for the past 8. I don’t tell many people, but God brought me yoga. A gift I am grateful for daily. After decades in the Mormon church (I am no longer active), it was the practice of yoga that finally woke me up to the nature of God, to love, and the Divine self that resides in each of us.
Conni, Wonderfully expressed. Thanks for sharing.
great interview! I forwarded it to many friends. One thing that surprised me was no one mentioned the recent first presidency letter read during sacrament meetings which seemed to frown on the idea of going down the yoga / buddhist meditation path. I don’t remember the details. Anyone recall this letter?
As I remember the letter, it seemed to be focused on programs like Impact Training where exhaustion and other methods are used to weaken a person as a means of getting past defense mechanisms.
I am a practicing Mormon who practices yoga and I, like a few others, have found great value and comfort in the way this has opened my mind to peace and to a divine connection that wasn’t there before. I, too, feel like God brought me yoga. And I apply the practice to my life and to my work in the church and have found great joy. I think what yoga did for me that attending church alone was not doing, was that it provided perspective on the importance of my own spiritual development. It helps me connect my body to my soul and allows me the ability to extend the inner peace I feel to those around me. Yoga allows me to stand on my own as a woman and daughter of God, separate from tmy previous, seemingly-singular identity as a “Mormon Woman, ” an identity that was so difficult for me to endure prior to yoga. It’s difficult to articulate what yoga has done for me, but I am truly grateful for a new awareness of life. I hold to the 13th article of faith for dear life: “. . .if there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good-report, or praise-worthy, we seek after these things.” I seek. :) Thank you for the interview. I could truly relate to Phil’s experience.
This podcast was both fascinating and extremely enriching to me. Thank you to everyone who devoted their time to sharing this valuable information.
Do you ever question whether building zion is one big attachment? Wouldn’t it be classified as an external form, and therefore something that won’t transform individuals? Is there any place for such ambition and goal-setting in a truly spiritually-centered life? Are the desires to become better, more enlightened, and more virtuous part of the problem within Mormonism? I ask this because it seems to be a very future-oriented approach to life, an approach that reveals how dissatisfied we are with our current state, that we are not yet complete, and that we won’t be complete for a long time. This mindset doesn’t seem to focus on the present at all, even though the ambitions are spiritual in nature. Another question I have is whether you find any of the doctrines of salvation to be the cause of rigid attachments? Examples might include the specific and legalistic steps required to enter the celestial kingdom, and the great tension that arises in families where someone does not fall in step. The celestial kingdom seems like one big attachment to me because it can cause a lot of unnecessary pain, worry, and future-oriented thinking. Maybe it offers security and peace of mind to those who adhere, but isn’t the need for security just another attachment that limits our ability to love? I’m curious how you divide the legalistic and future-oriented culture from the legalistic and future-oriented doctrines. Thanks for any insights.
I agree, most of our teaching and emphasis focuses on the future when the Kingdom is present and open to us now. Oddly enough, even in metaphysical communities it is difficult for folks not to look forward to future enlightenment. As Tolle points out so well, it is an ego/mind game to keep salvation out in the future so it (ego/mind) can continue to exist. So attachment to the future is an obstacle to union with God now and of course Jesus said, “Take no thought of the morrow.” In John 13:34, Jesus commanded us to love each other “as I have loved you” . It is impossible to love as he loved without spiritual rebirth. He certainly was not talking about the next life so the implication is he expects us to pursue spiritual rebirth in this lifetime. That will only happen if we learn to have conscious communion with God and that is a present moment experience. Yes, attachment to a future kingdom as a hope or desire will not bring about spiritual rebirth and Oneness with God. Conceptual thinking, which combines past and future, is necessary for mortal living but it is not transformative. At some point we have to get serious about the “inner” work and the “inner” kingdom. That requires an “inner” discipline like meditation which develops pure, spiritual perception–present moment awareness. One done, then it doesn’t matter what happens in the future since one is One with God and in the flow of his purpose.
“Once done, then it doesn’t matter what happens in the future since one is One with God and in the flow of his purpose.”
For me, this was the most helpful part of your response. Thanks for taking the time. It’s very difficult to detach from the need to have all the answers about the next life.
Yes, this might sound like Eastern mumbo jumbo but here we go. God lives in an Eternal Present–the infinite, ultimate REALITY. Events in the flow of time from past to future are finite, meaning they ebb and flow on the surface of ultimate reality and are contained in this Infinite Present. Infinite and Eternal do not mean tons of time or infinite time but timeless–existence itself beyond time and space. If you become One with God you will be resting in the Infinite and past and future events will have no more reality than a dream does to us. It is exciting and interesting while we are in it but we wake up. Life in time (finite, lacking ultimate substance) is the same until we wake up in God (infinite, ultimate substance). So why worry about the finite events of past or future when you can be rooted in Present Reality, the infinite. 2 Cor 4:18 “we look not at the things which are seen (material, finite), but at the things which are not seen (pure existence, infinite): for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Maybe “temporal” in 2 Cor 4:18 has double meaning in English and it fits quite well:
1. Of, relating to, or limited by time: a temporal dimension; temporal and spatial boundaries.
2. Of or relating to the material world; worldly: the temporal possessions of the Church.
3. Lasting only for a time; not eternal; passing: our temporal existence.
4. Secular or lay; civil: lords temporal and spiritual.
How does the original Greek read?
4:18 μη σκοπουντων ημων τα βλεπομενα αλλα τα μη βλεπομενα τα γαρ βλεπομενα προσκαιρα τα δε μη βλεπομενα αιωνια
Or loosely translated by me helped by ;-) :
“Not paying attention to what can be seen, felt or touched, but to that which cannot be seen, felt or touched. For that which is seen is for a short time, but that which is not seen is without time and forever.”
The Greeks didn’t really have that ambiguity. Did they know something that we don’t readily acknowledge? It goes hand in hand with the foreknowledge of God, Theory of relativity and the time/space continuum. Is there time in Heaven? ;-)
Thanks Glen. Your translation supports my point nicely. Time is related to the relative domain. We measure time with space and space with time based on our finite level of consciousness. The soul is infinite and timeless as is its home–heaven.
Greatly enjoyed the podcast. Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts/impressions of God. Do you see him as defined in traditional mormon doctrine terms?
Oh Rad!!! A fair question. I don’t know how to answer in less than 10 pages without being misunderstood. I won’t do 10 pages so give me a few days so I can distill something concise and clear.
The simple answer is no. Any conceptual description of God will be flawed and incomplete because words and thoughts are mere fragments of reality. How can a human mind that processes input from the severely limited senses of a mortal body, trapped in space and time and three dimensions, comprehend and infinite God! That’s why the scriptures call the “knowledge of God” a “mystery”. Mysteries can be known when the mind is stilled and one accesses pure, spiritual perception. Spiritual masters (Jesus included) learned that they had to use paradoxical language to even come close to describing God in words. God is both personal and impersonal, transcendent and immanent. The mind can’t put those contradictions together but they become clear “in spirit”. Mormonism did a good thing by emphasizing the personal nature of God but in the process we lost the sense of his infinite nature. So you have John Widtsoe in the book Rational Theology describing God as being limited by space and time and using the medium of the Holy Spirit to run the infinite universe!!!!!! God cannot be less than the mediums he uses. So I experience God as well as my own soul (in his image) as infinite and beyond time, space, and form. Traditional Mormon doctrine limits God and man to form. It was Brigham Young who taught that power over life and death means one can take up a body and lay it down at will.
I was wondering what your opinion is on one such as I sharing with you a mutual understanding and perception of God and spirituality with affection for Yoga, built on not only a foundation of a lifetime in devout Mormonism practice but being married to a chiropractor which took me down paths as a student of many great teachers who lead me to feel I have completely outgrown mormonism to the extent in many ways feels completely deficient of spiritual qualities my soul demands. So much that participating as a member of the LDS faith does not feel congruent or healthy for me. I feel like I have a healthy perspective and affection for the saints but have no desire to be one anymore especially to hear as recent as this past weekend that *I* have been duped by Satan. My letter of resignation is written and after my work out this am and a weekend of conference I know that that chapter of my life is over. I have no desire to be counted among them as by and large I share none of the beliefs (no matter how I twist them to fit my new paradigm). With all your experiences and evolution in this realm do you feel it is too rash for me to toss out the old pair of shoes branded Mormonism that, while comfortable, no longer fit? Is it likely I will find them to fit once again later down the road? I just don’t see that. My husband has observed me change to a place of peace, and enhancement and has supported me beautifully. I value your feedback and counsel with regards to walking away from 30 years of Mormonism which as you can imagine has been frowned upon by loved ones.
The immature spirituality to me is directly fostered and endorsed by the LDS subscription! You articulate my exact feelings, observations, and perspective on the matter. While this doesn’t mean one cant recognize this and remain LDS (as you and so many do), it does demand almost a dual existence that I am too impatient to implement in my life. It would be completely disingenuous for me to live, think, and act one way and go through the ease of LDS living and culture. It feels time to move on and offer my children this perspective from here on… how much to their advantage would this be!!!?! Its so exciting. Also, I want to say removing my name from the records is less for me and more for the saints. It removes false assumptions with “well, I was raised LDS, blah blah blah, my name is still on the records…” It eliminates it to simply, “No, I am not a member.”
I don’t mind responding to general questions or philosophical issues in a public forum but your questions are quite personal. So email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can be more clear about your situation and respond accordingly.
I actually came from the yoga/eastern spirituality paradigm and joined the church out of a desire for family culture roots and an appreciation for the vedic friendly aspects of Mormon theology. Even though I think the deeper principles are authentically there, and I choose to believe that a person could use Mormonism to navigate their way to oneness with God, in the end, it just wasn’t meaningful to me to participate in a community that didn’t embody anything like my interpretation of the theology. When I took my name off the records I felt some wistfulness for the vision I had had of being part of a faith community that shares my love of Jesus and connects me to my ancestry, but I mostly felt a huge sense of relief, like I got my integrity back. My outsides matched the insides. I love your question to Phil though, because so often we reject something while we are at one level of consciousness only to embrace it later. When someone first gave me a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, it was way to far out for me and I didn’t finish it. Now it’s right up my ally. Good luck to you.
Mormonism has a tremendous potential for mystical spirituality but it has been neglected in favor of morality and loyalty to the organization. Morality is necessary but only foundational. Once one’s life is stabilized by adherence to moral principles it is then necessary to pursue the “inner” path of purification and communion with God if one is to experience rebirth and spiritual awakening.
Once a person is ready for that inner development then day to day Mormonism can become rather frustrating as you discovered.
Loved the podcasts! I had never heard the BRM quote about not praying too much, and I that hasn’t been any part of my experience in the Mormon culture but I do think, because meditation/pondering isn’t the focus of a lot of our teaching, part of the culture is to pray, but it’s not the type of praying that will be “spiritually transforming” if that’s the word Phil used. In my experience, praying, and especially “being still” and listening has been taught, but certainly not stressed as much as other topics. I think to some degree, we get out of lessons what we’re looking for. So I heard messages in Conference that told me to take time to be still, and I took that to mean meditate and ponder and don’t be so busy doing things, but someone else might take that to mean something else entirely. (I’m thinking something Uchtdorf said, but can’t remember any specific quote.)
Meditating works for me, I’ve never tried yoga, but have girlfriends who swear by yoga, and others who swear by spending 30 minutes in prayer with most of that just listening time. I agree we could all use more emphasis on our inward quest to know God and less on the external things we need to do to “come unto Christ.” Thanks to Andrew and Phil for this great podcast. Loved it, loved it, loved it!
I was doing some filing and ran across Elder McConkie’s 1982 chastisement of George Pace, who was encouraging his students at BYU to pray more deeply and to develop their full spiritual potential. In his talk Elder Mc Conkie said, “it is possible to pray too much”since these people might “consider themselves holier than others or become despondent because their extravagant expectations for themselves are disappointed. He also warned against “inappropriate familiarity” with God. Certainly there are those who can take good things to an extreme but I would argue that most are not praying enough vs. too much. In my experience direct communion with and knowledge of God far surpassed any “extravagant expectations” my puny mind could cook up. I encourage folks to go deep into prayer and meditation because I know there is no way they will be disappointed much less despondent in God’s presence. As to “familiarity”, yes, immature people can come up with an inappropriate slant on relationship with God but we have been invited to become the “brides” of Christ and to become “One” with the Father. That’s pretty familiar. So…to discourage LDS in general to not prayer deeply and to not seek intimate union with God because a few will take it to an extreme or do it in some inappropriate way is to “hinder” the saints (Luke 11:52) from “entering the Kingdom”.
I’m still challenged in church classes by those familiar with Elder McConkie’s comments when I encourage LDS to pray longer and deeper.
Great story. Thanks for sharing. Is there a link to the papers that are mentioned?
email me at email@example.com and I’ll send them to you
Thank you Phil and Andrew for this enlightening podcast! There was so much that I loved. I look forward to reading the Sunstone articles and hopefully developing my own meditation practice. I know I need more time to “be still” in my life.
Phil, sir, would you be so kind to send the papers to me as well? firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been an active duty Army chaplain for 7 years. Prior to my ministry as a chaplain I had a business in Chicago designing and directing interreligious programs. I received the M. Divinity from the University of Chicago and taught world religion and comparative philosophy for a few years before entering the chaplaincy. I have encountered the Divine in my interactions with those of other denominations and traditions, often unexpectedly. I am a seventh generation LDS, with several converts in my family. I experienced a two-fold dilemma early on in my liberal arts education, even before entering seminary. One, how am I to apply the principles of higher criticism to the Restored Gospel, as I have been taught to apply them to the Bible and Christianity? Two, what I am to make of my encounter with God in others’ sacred spaces and in my interactions with them? I am mostly satisfied that I have practical answers to these questions. My relationships with leaders whose religious traditions have grown out of Sanatana Dharma–including Buddhist, Jainist, and Taoist traditions–provided me several opportunities to practice meditation, but I was always too busy to make it a discipline, a lifestyle. During combat deployments, I have made time to re-engage quietness, but only in fits and spurts. A few months ago, I was experiencing some frustration with limited success in marriage counseling. This podcast was, as we say, a “godsend”. It was just the nudge I needed. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight.
I can’t tell you how delighted I am with this podcast. Thank you so much . None of the topics were new to me but several were the best articulated I’ve ever heard. Thank you to all who participated in making this podcast possible. I’ll be imploring many friends to listen.
Intriguing,and I deeply appreciate the peace that is being consciously chosen here-a choice not to be lost in busyness.
However,I do think that my spiritual journey is often best served by my engagement with my family,community and church-although this may frequently not serve my quest for peace.I’m trying to flow with both.
Meditation should help us become more established in our divine nature so as we go about our family, work, and church activities we are relating and contributing from a deeper source of love and wisdom.
Phil, you inspire me. How refreshing and true. Thank you so much for this!
I attended your presentation at the LDS Holistic Conference last Saturday. Divine positioning was my experience of the day. Your handout and presentation became a precursor to an adventure that will begin for me next Wednesday, July 4th. I am traveling to Seattle and then onto Onalaska to the Vipassana Meditation Center for a 10 day silent meditation. I shall buy a meditation wedge at your recommendation and have read your handout several times. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your insight. I’ve downloaded your podcasts from Mormon Stories for great listening and insight. Becky
Handout? Is it in a digital form that I could download?
Thank you so very much for this podcast! I listened to the two first parts driving home from Norway to Sweden today. Is there any way I can get hold of the essay you mention in the podcast?
Enjoyed your podcasts very much [1st two]
You are doing a great job of seeking out greater and
deeper sources of truth and realization.
It does appear that your experiences can serve
as a step forward for serious LDS members.
Hopefully your work will result in bringing
a truly mystical dimension to the LDS church.
It is unfortunate that someone once said that
LDS is the truest of all churches. This has left
both members and leaders with a false premise
and weakens the incentive for betterment in both
personal and institutional levels.
I especially found your response to improper
mission policies one of great courage and
I hope your approach at finding the unity and value
in the wisdom of other faiths will indeed uplift
your church as it has personally uplifted your own life.
Does anyone know how I could get in contact with Phill? Does he have an email or anyway to reach out and contact him? Thanks
Please email me at email@example.com
This was an interesting episode. I am not a beliver and I might have missed something but I want to deliver a defence of the ordinary beliver in both Christianity and Mormonism. I don’t think their spirituality are any less true or mature. To me your theology is the same as when the protestants said that the Catholics didn’t do Christianity correctly and vice versa. You and the people you helped, found another way to achive a satisfying spirituality but that doesn’t mean that other people are not spiritually satisfied what the LDS church could provide.
Also I think consciousness is an activity of the brain not a property of it or the spirit or soul.
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