Years ago, while study abroad in Israel, a field trip landed us just along the beaches of the Red Sea in the small town of Eilat. With a warning to keep our distance from the coral, we were given a snorkel, flippers and brief “how to” before being left to explore on our own.
Having never snorkeled or even experienced the painful beauty of coral, I ineptly worked my way into the water. I was not 10 feet away from shore when I witnessed another student exiting the water with blood running down his leg – the result of getting too close to the coral.
With a vivid image in my mind, I focused on floating as close to the surface as possible. I tried to enjoy the beautiful colors of the underworld without becoming overly concerned about my location from the beach.
Soon a massive coral reef captured my attention. Distracted by the vibrant fish I was unaware of the direction the current was carrying me. Trapped in the shallow water above the reef I suddenly realized how dangerously close I was to the coral. Panic set in with my inability to redirect my course. I HAD to snorkel to move away from the coral without knowing which direction would provide the quickest escape.
My intense need for air is not something I’ll ever forget. Anxiety about being cut by the coral caused me to take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing caused me to panic. My panic intensified my anxiety all while I was getting more light headed and dizzy. It was as if someone had put a pillow over my head and I was struggling to get free. Redirecting my focus away from my anxiety and toward just breathing would have calmed me down enough to move safely away from the perceived danger.
Finding Our Focus
Much like my first snorkeling experience, finding our focus as we swim through life is not always easy. Our focus should give our lives meaning, and power – improving our abilities to becoming a better person. For me, my faith is a motivating focus because of the peace, direction, and joy it brings to my life.
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” – Russell M. Nelson
The pattern for prayer, or meditation, is a foundation in creating a meaningful focus. If you think about the technical steps of prayer, there is no part where we talk about all that is wrong. Prayer focuses on gratitude, giving thanks, and asking. These steps are a means of recognizing and focusing on what we need more abundantly in life.
After my snorkeling experience in Israel, I wrote an essay comparing my need for air to my desire to know my Savior and His infinite love for me. Acquiring that knowledge has required diligent and focused effort. I have had to reach with the same intensity I felt as I was struggling for air. This focus has brought power and purpose in my life.
How does your focus help you do great things?
- Nelson, Russell M. (2016). LDS.org. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/joy-and-spiritual-survival?lang=eng