The Cycle of Concentration

Like it says in my About page, I was called to Utah to speak Spanish in order to better teach the people that live in this area. There are many Hispanics here from a myriad of different countries, all with different accents and dialects. One thing that I learned quickly after I arrived here was that I have a very hard time understanding these different dialects if I am not concentrating with total focus. As time goes on, I have gotten much better at understanding people from the offset, but I am still required to give an inordinate amount of concentration to conversations. As people close to me know, I am pretty dang bad at concentrating on something for long periods of time. I am the kind of person whose mind tends to wander to the far-off reaches of the universe in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, it takes much longer than that for me to recover my thoughts, by which time I have already missed an enormous portion of whatever conversation I was having with an investigator. This cycle usually goes on for a little while until I fully understand the person’s accent and can fully engage into the concentration. I am very glad I have a companion who has been speaking Spanish longer than I have!

I was thinking about this cycle of concentration (and the subsequent loss thereof), when I realized that we often experience the same cycle when we are trying to listen to what instructions God has for us. As a missionary, I have to try to keep myself as open to instruction and promptings by His Spirit as much as possible, but it certainly isn’t easy. Even in the mission field, where we limit distracting influences as much as possible, the world is constantly trying to get into our minds and push our thoughts away from God and His influence. We cannot expect to survive and thrive in the raucous noise of the world today without having our radios dialed in precisely to the frequency that the Spirit works. This often means separating ourselves from distracting stuff and making sure we are spiritually full. The saying is true that practice makes perfect, and staying in constant communication often means trying constantly to get it right. We are all spiritually inclined in different ways, for some it may mean listening to classical music, for others just reciting a scripture will get their mind back on track. For me, thinking about my missionary purpose and focusing on my love for the people I am teaching keeps my gaze centered on what is most important in my life and the work I am performing. No matter who we are, we can all practice being spiritually connected to God’s Word and seeking his guidance constantly.

Like all those goofy internet ads say, “Try this one weird trick” to help you keep yourself spiritually attuned and open to guidance from On High. What is that trick?

Pray.

If we pray, we are already opening the conduit between us and our Heavenly Father. We are showing our desire for guidance from Him when we pray. When you get out of bed in the morning, pray for the things you need help with for the day. During the day, try and think back on what you asked for and ponder about how God is answering your prayers. Writing yourself a sticky note and placing it somewhere prominent at work or around the house is a great way to remind yourself about your prayer. Finally, at the end of the day when you are about to get into bed, kneel down and offer thanks for every answer that you got that day. I can promise that God will answer your prayers, even though it may not be as quick as we’d like. If we pray every day, we will be so much more ready to receive and act on the guidance that God gives us.

“God should be the center of our universe—our literal focal point. Is He? Or is He sometimes far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts? (see Mosiah 5:13). Notice that it’s not just the thoughts of our hearts that are important but the “intents.” How do our behavior and actions reflect the integrity of our intents?” – excerpt from Elder Terence M. Vinson’s talk in the Oct 2013 LDS General Conference

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