Thomas McConkie invites the Lower Lights group to inhale and exhale slowly as the sound of a gong echoes across the room during a traditional Buddhist-inspired meditation.
The group meets on a weekly basis and is only blocks away from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, reported KUER-FM. Sessions consist of introspective questions and journaling led by McConkie, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who according to the article studied mindfulness in New York, Spain and China. Now, McConkie uses the Buddhist practice and his own LDS background to help bring the local community together.
McConkie’s own religious history has had many ups and downs, said the article. As a teenager, McConkie became “disaffected” with the LDS Church and he “left Utah and his faith behind” when he was 19, said KUER-FM. When he felt like he should move back to Utah during his 30s, McConkie still wasn’t happy about the transition, the article said.
“Oh no, I have to go back to Utah,” McConkie admitted was his gut reaction at moving back home. “Sounds funny when I say it like that.”
Since then, McConkie has again become an active member of the LDS faith and began leading meditation practices about five years ago at the request of a friend who was experiencing difficult times, said the Lower Lights website.
“Since our first evening together, hundreds of people from all walks of life have shown up to participate in the community,” the website stated, defining meditation as “our natural state: open, clear, creative, compassionate.”
It's McConkie's experiences with both Buddhist and Mormon thought that shapes his Lower Lights sessions, said KUER-FM. “Mormons are primed for [meditation],” McConkie said. “Mormons want it. It just takes a gentle breeze to blow them in that direction.”
McConkie’s podcast “Mindfulness+” was also recently featured between general conference sessions of the LDS Church by KSL Radio.
Not all of the attendees are necessarily religious, though—all kinds of backgrounds are welcome, said the Lower Lights website.
Mindfulness is “paying attention to how you pay attention,” the Lower Lights website said. “Paying attention in different ways over time unleashes profound creative possibilities in life.”