Source: Religion News Service
By Kelsey Dallas
SALT LAKE CITY — Thomas McConkie sits in a tall, straight-backed chair, the sleeves of his crisp, button-down shirt rolled up to his elbows. He smiles at men and women in sandals, T-shirts and summer dresses, who watch him from two sections of chairs in the center of the room.
“We’re just a bunch of adults out on the town doing a little mindfulness,” McConkie jokes, referring to the activities he’ll soon lead. “Nothing unusual about it.”
Meditation groups may not be unique, but this gathering is. McConkie, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is also trained in Buddhist mindfulness, is pushing the boundaries of traditional religious practice, helping people of varied faith backgrounds use meditation to deepen their spiritual lives.
“We are not here to tell people whether they should continue in their religious tradition or not. We want to provide space and practice where they can come to a new level of honesty and truthfulness within themselves,” McConkie said in an interview, referring to his meditation community, Lower Lights Sangha.
McConkie’s group meditation work recently caught the attention of a couple of Harvard Divinity School scholars who invited him to apply to a conference they hosted in December. He was one of 80 leaders gathered there to discuss the future of faith and community building at a time when organized religion is on the decline.