Christian Meditation; an Oxymoron?
This blog post is meant specifically for the person who calls themselves a Christian. Specifically the Christian who is hesitant about meditation or feels like it is something that a Christian should not practice. As a person who has been transformed by the practice of meditation and a person who has been transformed by a relationship with Christ, this subject has been on my mind, heart, and soul for sometime now. It is something I have wrestled with and made deep peace with in my own life and faith. My intention is to bring some light into a subject that scares some people and bring awareness into a practice that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt produces joy, peace, loving kindness, and equanimity; calm and steady in the face of life's ups and downs. Which is something all human beings want, regardless of religious tradition.
An oxymoron is a noun defined as a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined. I find the idea of Christian meditation as two halves to one whole. Prayer seems like an extroverted exhale and meditation an introverted inhale. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is a deep listening. Also known as contemplative prayer which was founded by Father Thomas Keating, a method of meditation used by Christians placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. It is not about clearing your mind of nothingness, it is a deep befriending of our minds. It is an opportunity for us to understand the mind of God, to understand and deeply be still and know. It is an opportunity to practice and ensure Ephesians 4:27.
"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." Jeremiah 33:3
After much practice, meditation brings us to the point where our thoughts begin to calm, the mind is anything but blank. Instead it’s full of an awareness of thoughts, sensations, feelings, and emotions. We become Mindful.
We live in a busy world full of distraction, sensations, and a barrage of information, constantly. Our minds are created healthy, but in order to keep them healthy we need a practice to keep them that way. It is no different in my experience as a dental hygienist of brushing and flossing to keep our mouth healthy. Our minds need to be flossed, so to speak. We need mental hygiene because our thoughts are so often not true. 1 Corinthians 2:16 asks us a question, "Who can know the Lord's thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him? But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ." How do you know if you have the mind of Christ if you are not practicing and deeply listening.
We know of Jesus's early life up until about 12 years of age but we have no idea what Jesus was doing until he was 33 years of age and began his ministry. I can imagine that Jesus spent many years in practice, in spiritual study, and in a deep inner stillness that allowed him to know beyond a shadow of a doubt with boldness and courageous love that, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12. Jesus also said in John 14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." Christian, I ask you are you doing even greater things than Jesus? If not what is holding you back? I know for me my mind has kept me from doing even greater things than these. Constant streams of thoughts that were not true; shame, self-doubt, it was looking outside of myself for something that could only be found from looking within. Being a human doing instead of a human being and plagued with busyness. So much busyness I was not taking time to "be still and know that I am God." By studying God's word and sitting and practicing and over time making friends with my mind I learned to hear the voice of God in the whispers of the Holy Spirit with more clarity. Those whispers of perfect love allowed me to completely embrace the shadows and allow God to illuminate them. To shine the light that is my life. God asks this of us, asks us to walk in the light and to shine that light into others lives.
Sitting in quiet reflection and asking ourselves these deep questions without judgement is the birthplace of compassionate love. Jesus asks us in Mark 12:30-31 to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” How can we truly do this if we do not take the time to train our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our spirits? How can we love others when we have not learned to let God teach us how to love ourselves in agape love?
Our inner self-talk generates and reinforces unhelpful emotions. It also has the effect of keeping us at a relatively superficial and egoic level of our experience. We get so wrapped up in what we’re saying to ourselves inside our heads that we often don’t really notice what’s going on in the heart, the body, or even in the outside world. How can we truly know God's thoughts if we are not quiet enough and still enough to listen. Isaiah 40:31 says, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Without a practice our brains respond to an event, our brains judge that event and then we respond to it. If we have no control over our breath, over our minds, and over our reactions how can we hit the pause button? How can we wait and respond in a way that is loving, compassionate, and deeply kind, a way that is first renewed by the Lord? How can we respond in a way that is strong and courageous and with truth if we are not spending time filling the well that is filled with living water; living water that Jesus says "will flow from the heart".
Psalm 145:5 "On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate"
As we start to pay more attention to the breath, and therefore the body, we find that our thinking naturally starts to quiet down. And this creates an even greater opportunity to notice the body, feelings, emotions and to truly hear the voice of the Lord. To allow the Holy Spirit to breathe grace deeply into our hearts and our souls. To transform us from the inside out and remind us deeply that we are made in God's image, we are created in love. We all are.
Nothing about it strikes me as incongruent or contradictory especially when you compare it to what the Bible says. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Meditation is just that, fixing your mind on that which is true, noble, right. pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
I think that is why after completing my meditation teacher training I was so surprised from some of the fearful and negative responses I got from other Christians. Some have been very curious and open to learning more about the practice, but most seem extremely apprehensive of my new love for "some weird Eastern religion." I have been praying and meditating on this topic because when I was early into my teacher training and began an established sitting practice to be of benefit to all beings I received a very direct message from Spirit. The message was to teach meditation to Christians through contemplating scripture in community. I didn't realize that this might be an obstacle, I was naive. I have come to relate it to if I were to go into a land where I did not speak the language and try to navigate. So- I realized if language is a barrier I must learn a different language. I call it the Holy Spirit, I am not too concerned with semantics. Others may call it intuition or your Higher Self. I have learned many languages on this spiritual journey I have been on and have seen there is much more in common with different faiths than there are differences. To you Christian- I offer an invitation.
If fear is holding you back from meditating, pray about it with an open heart and an open mind. Call it contemplative prayer, don't get hung up on the language. 1 John 4:18 states, "There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out all fear."
Mindfulness based meditation's body of research is growing every day and the science that backs this ancient practice is convincing and promising. If you are experiencing fear and anxiety or depression, if you are having difficulty in your relationships, if you have trouble controlling your emotions, try meditation. If you desire more compassion, empathy, loving kindness in your life, a deeper connection with God or your loved ones, try meditation. If you want to prevent inflammation, preserve brain structures and create neuroplasticity which has been proven to help prevent dementia and alzhiemers, try meditation. Are you in pain, have brain fog, struggle with concentration or creativity, meditate. All these benefits are being proven to be helped by this transformative practice. By opening my mind and practicing the teachings I have learned from my Buddhist teacher, my relationship with Christ has never been stronger, and I have never seen more fruits of the Spirit in my own life. Maybe that is an oxymoron but it is truth for me. For me personally, Jesus has always been my refuge. Psalm 46:1-3 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Just as Christians can feel uncomfortable with the word meditation, I have met so many others who have experienced religious trauma who feel the same way when they hear the name Jesus. I don't know about you but this hurts my heart and creates a call to action. A call to embody the teachings of Jesus in a way that others would see that light. In my experience, the practice of meditation truly strengthens the light. I feel like it is my obligation to share, my small way of shining the light that has so generously been given to me.
Matthew 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
So I invite you, Christian to meditate. I would be honored to teach what I have been taught and meditate on the scriptures together. I would love to answer any of your questions or to be of benefit to you. My intention is that my practice is of benefit to all beings. Christian meditation, is living unscripted. It is rewriting the scripts that we have been given and showing up in new ways to let our lights shine. By allowing our minds to be renewed and our hearts do what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."