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By Megan Wilcox Goates

My doctor occasionally asks me about my exercise patterns.

The occupational therapist and I frequently discuss my seven-year-old’s behavior patterns.

The internet keeps an eye on my online shopping patterns, and then floods me with ads for (currently) swimsuits and YA fiction.

My phone keeps a tally of my screen-time patterns (which I don’t want to know, actually. I happen to listen to scripture and read quite a lot of books on my phone kthanksbye).

Netflix monitors my TV-viewing patterns, and then offers me shows I might like. #thoughtful

And because it’s January and culturally we care about improvement, I’ve been examining my snacking patterns, sleep patterns, and awful-task-avoidance patterns. Awareness is the first step, I am told.

I made a list on my phone before the new year, titled January Things. It was a short list of things to look forward to during the bleakest month. And now, halfway through said grey-scale season, I’m finding that these cold weeks of winter are rife with unexpected opportunities for recognizing patterns of refined spiritual awareness—of listening, seeing, and feeling with greater spiritual sensitivity. It’s a good surprise.

While it’s brittle and foggy outside, inner me is actively seeking a pliable plasticity, a state of openness to whatever my Heavenly Parents want to teach me at this moment in time.

If you’re sarcastically thinking, “Well good for you. I’m over here just surviving winter and its seasonal depressive qualities while eating cookies,” I get it sis, (and would happily eat cookies with you. I’ll bring some over). I’ve spent many a January in survival mode, which is to say, in a deep, dark emotional pit.

So how is it that this winter is proving instructive, rather than static, for me? What patterns have awakened this openness to spiritual insight? I’ll share my ideas, then I’d like to hear how you foster patterns of seeking and receiving.

I have been deliberately practicing patterns of:

  1. Attending the temple with regularity.

At the risk of sounding irreverent, I believe that going to the temple can be accurately compared to going to a thrift store or to Nordstrom Rack (hear me out; don’t throw your vintage garb & discounted higher-end shoes at me please). By this I mean that a successful trip to the temple, much like a visit to a thrift/outlet store, depends on a) checking in frequently, and b) really scouring the place for gems. The more you go, and the more focused your search for that thing you just really need, the greater the odds you will leave with something amazing.

  1. Paying attention to my dreams.

Okay, so I actually always do this because I have some WILD & INTENSE dreams, you guys. Not all of them are memorable or meaningful. Some of them are just weird, bubbly concoctions of subconscious fluff. But some of them are detailed and vivid. They stay with me, and my spirit reacts to them—recognizing patterns of meaning before my conscious mind does. I’m writing them down and analyzing them later. Not everything makes sense at the moment we receive it. Time, new information, and even more sensitivity with one’s spiritual eyes and ears can allow us to connect the dots. I’m learning that I hone my spiritual reception when I pay attention.

  1. Praying for help in knowing how to open my spiritual eyes and refine my spiritual gifts.

Why haven’t I thought to do this before??? I mean, honestly. It’s kind of so basic and obvious that maybe we don’t even think to do it.

This is what Elder Uchtdorf said this week in a BYU Devotional about this idea of learning to “hear the music of the Spirit.” He teaches that light comes in God’s way and in His timing, but also as we believe. He notes:

“There you might say, ‘In order to have greater belief in God, I have to believe? But, that’s exactly my problem. What if I can’t believe?’”

His response pinpoints the issue at the core of all spiritual expansion, at least in my life’s experience. Uchtdorf replies,

“Then hope. And desire to believe. That is enough to start. To desire to believe does not mean to pretend. It means to open your heart to the possibility of spiritual things, to lay aside skepticism and cynicism. Eventually, that seed will grow until you can begin to believe. Those first glimpses of belief lead to faith. And your faith will grow stronger day by day until it shines bright within you.” If you need me, I’ll be laying aside skepticism.

  1. Taking inward note of “random” thoughts that enter my mind.

I’m finding that these insights are instructive, and that they teach me when I cease to be dismissive of them. Being receptive invites more opportunities to be receptive.

  1. Paying attention to how my spirit feels in response to various stimuli.

This morning at work, I looked out the window at a scattering of snowflakes blowing across the cold concrete of a university plaza and my spirit felt a brightness of wonder at the snatches of beauty even in the most colorless times. All of this is to say that I am…

  1. Choosing to notice things.

This includes obvious and blatant things, like celebrating the fact that my son with sensory processing disorder has been able to tolerate staying at church THE ENTIRE TIME since it’s shorter (hurrah for Israel), and we’ve learned how to help him manage his overwhelmed inner engine.

It also, significantly, includes the subtle, *invisible* things, like the moment of pure, burning grace I felt in the celestial room with my mom last week. It’s a powerful thing to begin seeing what the physical eyes can’t behold.

It’s the opposite state of being that prompted Nephi to tell his brothers, “Ye are past feeling.”

Seeing with spiritual eyes requires sitting, living, residing in a state of feeling—of not dismissing but perceiving. Of recognizing and paying attention to the real, illuminating feelings which the Spirit is waiting to gift to our spiritual selves.

About Megan Wilcox Goates

Megan Wilcox Goates is raising four fire-cracker sons while reading all the books and teaching writing to university students. She writes about faith and special-needs parenting at tooursurvival.com

5 thoughts on “Perceiving”

  1. Love this! One of the ideas I've been working with lately is to be still, as in "be still, and know that I am God". This fits in perfectly.

  2. Once again I'm grounded and reminded of so many important things in your words. I love the idea of praying to be perceptive to gifts of the spirit. I want to pray to notice how to receive and observe the little gems around me. Like you said, so much stimuli and information can be overwhelming and I want to practice perceiving spiritually.

  3. This is good stuff. I really love your temple attendance and thrift store shopping analogy, it's like you really get me.

    I want to do more noticing and practicing and noting and praying, too. Thanks for this, friend.


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