A friend of mine is a retired judge and volunteer chaplain in California prisons, and now teaches Buddhist and Christian meditation and yoga. He recently used a word I’d never heard before, but one I loved immediately. He said that many who meditate sit comfortably in their samadhi (a tranquil state of mind, total self-collectedness), but he wishes they would practice what he calls “engaged Buddhism” where they take their mind of compassion and wisdom out into the world. In short, he said they need to serve more and go beyond mindfulness to heartfulness.
Do we need to reach for a higher law as well? It’s wonderful to become scripture scholars, but our leaders have urged us to do far more. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “If you feel that Heavenly Father is not listening to your petitions, ask yourself if you are listening to the cries of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the afflicted all around you.” President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “The happiest people I know are people who lose themselves in service to others.” And President Brigham Young once said, “Go on until we are perfect, loving our neighbor more than we love ourselves.”
Just studying, just knowing what we know is not enough. Jesus wants us to put our faith into action, to bless the poor and imprisoned, to do as much as we know.
Mindfulness (vipassana in Sanskrit) can include enlightenment, Tibetan insight meditation, and timeless awareness. But, as my friend says, “the mind” was never meant to be all about the brain, the way we picture it in the West. He says that in the East they envision the heart as an integral part. And that means actively showing our love to others. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “As we lose ourselves in service to others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”
Volunteering in the community, actively working alongside our brothers and sisters of other faiths, and teaching our children to serve the less fortunate are all pursuits our leaders have encouraged. We’ve been urged to add our voices and efforts to good causes and to accept positions of leadership to make the world a better place. And many Latter-day Saints do exactly this. Their focus extends around the world as they embrace humanitarian efforts of all kinds.
We’re a volunteering people. We serve in callings for free alongside our unpaid clergy, we raise what are often large families, we devote time to temple work and family history—we’re busy! And even though we know there are times and seasons for everything, that should never be an excuse to procrastinate community service. I think we can carve out enough time to add our sweat and our treasure to other causes as well. We can urge our children to come along with us as we help chosen charities achieve their goals. This wider perspective not only blesses our children, but the world around us. And it teaches the vital lesson that we’re all children of God, we all need one another, and even one voice does matter.
Community Days of Service get underway as Spring comes and local projects are shared with LDS wards and branches. What a wonderful demonstration of our faith in Christ’s teachings, to roll up our sleeves and get involved. Justserve.org lists dozens of such local opportunities tailored to your time availability, and even the ages of your kids. It’s a great way to feel great. It could be painting schoolyard equipment, stocking shelves at a food bank, weeding in a park, spreading mulch at a roadside, sewing bags to hold hygiene supplies, tying quilts, or bringing refreshments to those able to work. It all shows love in action.
I know families who have a special Family Home Evening every year to counsel together and select a charity—or another family– they want to help. It’s their favorite FHE, because everyone is thinking of others, and basking in the joy that comes from turning one’s focus outward. As Aristotle once said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
When my friend shared his wish, I thought at once of the 13th Article of Faith which ends, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Heartfulness sounds like one of them to me.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is not just for Christmas. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.