May 31, 2017 :: THOMAS MCCONKIE
SOME INSIGHTS FROM THIS SESSION:
Recognize and appreciate the cumulative impact of mindfulness practice over time.
Strategize life practice when experiencing deep levels of "melting and freezing."
Creativity, courage, and patience.
“What if we understood faith crisis as part of a natural cycle of spiritual growth, a breaking open to make room for new life and new faith?”
This quote is from Thomas McConkie’s new book and website, “Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis.” Thomas views identity and faith crises through the lens of adult development and the ability for mindfulness skills to potentiate growth.
He grew up in Salt Lake City in a Mormon family. At age 13, he abruptly left the church and suffered significant fallout from the decision. As a freshman in college, he found meditation.
I started meditating because of insomnia and anxiety. I was totally overwhelmed by life and the pain of separation from my family and community. I had an intuition that meditation could help.
But this was in an environment where there was no talk of meditation. There was no one around me doing it. In fact, there was enormous pressure to not meditate.
Over the next 15+ years, Thomas deepened his practice in a variety of Buddhist and Hindu contexts, along with Shinzen’s Unified Mindfulness system. He has traveled and lived all over the world.
In 2011, Thomas returned to Salt Lake City and sensed that the Mormon culture could benefit tremendously from the same meditation practice that had transformed his life. At that time, he was integrating a significant shift he experienced during a sesshin at Mt. Baldy.
I knew something fundamental was changing in me.
Growing up, Mormonism was the very definition of pain and suffering to me. The rupture in my family, my sense of shame and worthlessness—it was all wrapped up in the Mormon tradition.
After that sesshin, I felt my sense of “self” completely reconfiguring. I noticed a lot began to change in my family relationships and in my relationship to Mormonism in response.
I remember Shinzen talking about his ability to form a new relationship with Judaism because he had done so much processing through meditation. He came to appreciate the core of the tradition in a way he couldn’t before. I had a similar experience with returning to Mormonism.
I’ve been a dedicated student of the Mormon tradition for the last six years now, working to understand the theology, the doctrine and how to artfully weave the timeless practice of meditation into this unique tradition.
Thomas now teaches mindfulness in Salt Lake City, in tandem with research he carries out in adult developmental psychology through Pacific Integral.
When I moved back, I realized that so many people had a similar story to me: They’d been brought up in this tradition. It often didn’t make sense to them or they didn’t feel like it was relevant anymore, and yet there was also this sense that they didn’t want to leave their heritage behind. There was something essential in the tradition that was worth preserving.
In teaching mindfulness and principles of spiritual growth and adult development, my students include people who are very traditional and active in the Mormon Church, people who have left the church because they don’t believe in it anymore, and people who were never associated with the church to begin with. It is a Millennial experiment in gathering the community on the basis of not shared beliefs, but shared humanity and Spirit.
The work has flourished.
You can learn more about Thomas and his recent community work at lowerlightsslc.org.
THOMAS’S CHILDHOOD NICKNAME WAS "GOOSE." AS A TODDLER, HE CARRIED AROUND A GOOSE STUFFED ANIMAL THAT WAS AS BIG AS HIS ENTIRE BODY. (HIS DAD STILL CALLS HIM "GOOSE".)
HE IS A CLOSET DANCER. WHEN HE WAS 6-YEARS-OLD, HE WENT TO DISNEYLAND AND FELL IN LOVE WITH MICHAEL JACKSON'S "CAPTAIN EO." THE SPIRIT OF DANCE (AND MJ) HAS BEEN WITH HIM EVER SINCE.
HE SNEEZES EVERY TIME HE EATS DARK CHOCOLATE; A MILD ALLERGY HE IS WILLING TO OVERRIDE TO FEED HIS HABIT.