The intention of this article is to encourage those Christians who may have some misgivings or fears regarding meditation or have found it difficult to experience meditation fully. This is an introduction to meditative practices which can benefit anyone.
Although I first began practising Christian meditation more than twenty years ago, this past year my meditation experience has profoundly transformed into something more rich and beautiful. Suddenly, after all these years something just clicked into place. Trying to explain meditation and my experience with it has proved verbally difficult for me. How does one put into words an experience which engages spirit without dialogue? Couple that with the problem of my ever decreasing memory for events and words (seriously, is this early alzheimer’s?), I often didn’t even try to explain. My spirit convicts me though. How can I not share something so beautiful? Something that has led me to an even closer intimacy with God? Something that has helped to bring me to an even greater understanding of God’s nature?
The more I learn about the history of meditation, the more surprised I am that many Christians still feel a bit uneasy about it. More often associated with Eastern religion and thought, meditation has also been practised amongst Christians for centuries. There are many verses in the bible pertaining to meditation such as Psalm 19:14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer and Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. We learn of meditative and contemplative practices amongst the Benedictine and Carmelite monks when we read the teachings of St. John Of The Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. We also know it was practised in ancient Celtic monasteries. In more recent history (1970’s), John Main was instrumental in re-introducing Christian meditation utilizing the Eastern practice of mantras or ‘prayer-phrase’. Joyce Hugget wrote the Christian meditation book, Open To God.
I have found that the idea of Christian meditation raises many questions such as How is it different from prayer? How is it different from Eastern meditation? How is it different from Contemplative prayer or daydreaming or even self-hypnosis? On the one hand, I understand the concerns that many feel about meditation. I use to have the same concerns and questions. One of the reasons for this now makes me laugh. When I first learned about meditation as a teenager, it was through books that made meditation sound more like an acid trip. I suppose the intent was to get people interested in meditation by promising that you were going to have some sort of mystical or out-of-body experience. However, the truth about meditation is that while it is very profoundly spiritual, it is also very natural.
One of my favourite quotes from L.M. Montgomery is from her book, Anne Of Green Gables: “Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”
Feeling a prayer—I think that is probably one of the best definitions of Christian meditation there is.
To be continued in Part 2 where I will attempt to go over aforementioned questions.