Meditation and Christianity in Conflict?
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” – Psalm 104:34
As a practicing Christian I often get ‘raised eyebrows’ from people who learn that I am a Certified Meditation Instructor. Many people believe that meditation and Christianity are not compatible with each other.
First of all I should point out clearly that meditation is not a religion. Although nearly every religion has some meditation component (yes even Christianity), meditation is a universal practice which encompasses all faiths and is free of orthodoxy and dogma.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” – Genesis 2:7
The simplest form of meditation is focusing all of your attention on your breath. As you practice this simple exercise, you will find the mind quieting, the body relaxing and sense of well-being and peace beginning to wash over your body. Now I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time finding the sin in that. In fact, isn’t it normally the mind that leads us into temptation? If we had the ability to focus our minds on positive things such as love, peace and God’s will don’t you think we would have less temptation in our lives? The simple practice of meditation, redirecting our attention to our breath, over and over again as our attention wanders, builds up our mental muscles. It is literally “mind fitness”. Our normally scattered and confused minds become focused and calm – an attribute which is powerful for any Christian.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
No discussion about Christianity would be complete without looking at the example of our Lord Jesus. Didn’t Jesus go off into the desert for forty days and forty nights by himself? I don’t think Jesus brought along an iPod or cell phone for those forty days. The Bible tells us at the end of the forty days Jesus was tempted. Could it be that there was a reason Jesus needed to be in silence and solitude prior to his temptation? I think so. When tempted his mind was clear, focused and decisive. He was able to resist temptation using clear logic and thoughtful dialogue. He wasn’t confused or scattered.
“.. The kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:21
So did Jesus practice meditation? The Bible doesn’t say it explicitly, but one could assume that something was happening during all the time that Jesus went off by himself to be alone. It is very clear from the Bible that Jesus would often leave the crowds and his disciples to be alone and spend time in solitude and that he was “sitting”.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately” – Matthew 24:3.
I suppose we can never know for sure if Jesus was practicing some sort of formal meditation, but we absolutely can be certain that he placed value on spending time alone, in solitude and in prayer. He often needed to get away – and we should certainly follow that example.
My personal belief is that the anxious and distracted mind causes us to falter and make bad decisions, not a calm focused mind. Scientific evidence now shows us that there is no better way to obtain a calm focused mind than through a regular meditation practice.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14
In addition to breath meditation another popular form of meditation is called “mantra meditation”. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means “mind instrument”. A mantra is just a word or phrase that is repeated over and over again. As you focus on your mantra, your mind will calm, your body will relax and you will begin to experience a sensation of peace. For those Christians who are still doubtful about meditation I would recommend choosing a very short Bible verse that has special meaning for them and simply repeat that Bible verse for some duration of time and really begin to feel the deeper meaning of the verse. This form of meditation has all the same benefits as breath meditation and is actually commanded of us in Joshua 1:8.
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” – Joshua 1:8
In conclusion, I would like to add that meditation has been scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health in dramatic and conclusive ways. Isn’t it time that Christians begin to enjoy the same health benefits that practitioners of other religions are experiencing?