First, here are some instances when I don't feel spiritually in tune. You will probably be able to relate.
Sometimes, even though we have the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, the Spirit can feel distant. This is not comforting. In fact, it is a little disconcerting. For example, I have a hard time feeling close to the Holy Spirit when I am overly tired, which happens often because I have some difficulty with sleep. When I don't get enough rest, I am often not alert enough to be in tune.
I have also noticed that when I am sick over a matter of days (sometime even weeks) that I have a tough time feeling spiritual. I also take prescription medication occasionally, and that can mix up my feelings. I also have trouble feeling close to the Spirit when I eat too much junk food!
Another barrier—and probably the most difficult to deal with—is when I have unsettled or unkind feelings towards another person. When I don't dismiss these feelings immediately and energetically, when I am in a stinky stew, so to speak, the Spirit cannot be present. The same is true of temptation. If I tolerate a temptation of any kind for more than a few seconds, the Spirit starts to leave. Mui no megusta. That is lousy Spanish for: "I really don't like it when I let this happen."
So what do you do to feel the Spirit more, especially when it is critical to get answers?
The first and foremost thing that helps me feel the Spirit is carrying a spirit of prayer in my heart, constantly. When I am vigilant in prayer during the day, kneeling down more than just morning and night, praying out loud when I am alone (such as in the car), turning my thoughts to prayer whenever I feel stress or unkempt thoughts coming my way, the Holy Spirit is stronger and more present. The more effort I put into prayer, the closer I feel to the Lord. This works even when I am tired or sick or taking meds or eating poorly. The more persistent and consistent I am with my prayers, they seem to break all the barriers I face.
Meditation helps me, too. Thinking about things in detail and looking for different solutions to problems. When I do this for hours, the Spirit will signal when I am on the right track.
Fasting helps me clear my thoughts like nothing else. When I have the right attitude about my fast, I don't feel hungry, even after I fast for 24 hours or more. The Spirit replaces my hunger with something better.
Temple attendance is very important, too. Fortunately, we live close to the temple and I can go often. Last week, I went twice. The week before, I went four times. That may seem excessive to some of you. But it is necessary for me to do this to have clear answers to ever pressing questions.
The Holy Spirit is subtle. Rarely does it flash like a neon sign. It rewards sensitivity and focused attention. It comes when you are prepared to receive it. It takes effort and practice. But no time putting forth this effort is wasted.
One last thing: Sometimes we experience the Spirit, but don't realize it. For example, in the Book of Mormon, the Savior talks about a time when the Lamanites were baptized by the Spirit but they did not realize it (see 3 Nephi 9:20). That can happen to us, too. But if you look for these signs, you can know more readily if the Spirit is near, even if it does not come to you in an overpowering way:
- You will feel happy and joyful and maybe even playful
- You will feel motivated to be kind to others and to reach out to them
- You will feel like picking up the phone and calling someone for no reason other than you felt a little urge or prompting to do it
- You will feel hopeful, like there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even when that tunnel seems long and dark
- You will be more readily forgiving of yourself and those around you—you won't feel like holding onto sharp feelings or grudges or being hard on yourself or others
- Admitting fault will come easier to you
- You will feel like setting aside bad thoughts and feelings and moving to higher ground
- You will feel in the mood to pray, read the scriptures or go to the temple or to church
- You will feel like apologizing for something rather than being defensive or pushy
- Your conscience will be more sensitive and alert and you will feel more like following it than ignoring it
- You will feel less turbulent in your mind and more peaceful
- The future won't seem so scary to you
- You won't feel cross or mean towards others—you will feel kind and reasonable and even conciliatory
- You will feel like trying, like being a better person, like helping others whenever and however you can