Meditation is something almost everyone agrees is a good practice for quietening the mind and connecting with our deeper selves. We all know that running around busy all the time is not the right way to live, but that’s how we are nowadays.
Meditation has many benefits, it relieves stress, anxiety, and even depression, as learning to shift the focus from your mind to your heart brings greater inner peace and happiness.
But, how does meditation help us to experience inner peace and happiness? It helps us in that it shows us that it is possible to move out of our unhealthy moods or states of mind.
If we are not aware of how we can get stuck in negative thinking patterns and feelings, how then can we change them?
The secret is to know that you do actually have the power to change how you think and feel, by entering into meditation (being still).
In meditation, you are moving from the mind to the heart. The heart in the Bible is referred to as the centre point of stability, but it is also the point of life. (Fr. Laurence Freeman)
This is the invitation of Christian Meditation. Come into the secret inner room (your heart) and find oneness with God. In this place, you will experience peace and happiness.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
God wants to be known, and the best way for you to know God is through prayer and meditation. By prayer, I mean contemplative prayer. There are other forms of prayer, but meditation is contemplative.
“Be Still and Know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a universal spiritual wisdom and practice found at the core of all great religious traditions, leading from the mind to the heart. According to The World of Christian Meditation (wccm.org), meditation is a way of simplicity, silence, and stillness.
A Brief History Of Meditation
Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedanatism around 1500 BCE. Around 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India. Into the Middle Ages was the growth of Japanese Buddhism from the 8th century onwards. This developed further in Japan where Zen techniques were practiced. Jewish meditation also grew and changed at this time.
Sufi mysticism had its beginnings in the first centuries following the life of Prophet Mohammed, but there is another view that Sufism traces back to the early Christian mystics of Syria and Egypt. Sufi view or Islamic mysticism involves meditative practices and meditation and contemplation of Allah is a large part of their daily prayers known as Dhikr.
Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana. Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of meditation techniques that aim to develop mindfulness, concentration, supramundane powers, tranquillity, and insight.
Dhyana in Hinduism means contemplation, reflecting, and meditation. Dhyana is taken up in Yoga exercises and is said to lead to samadhi and self-knowledge.
New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy, mysticism, yoga, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Prayer has been an essential part of Christianity since its earliest days. As the Middle Ages began, the monastic traditions of both Western and Eastern Christianity moved beyond vocal prayer to Christian mediation.
The progression from Bible reading, to mediation, to loving regard for God, was first formally described by Guigo II, a Carthusian monk who died late in the 12th century.
Later in the Middle Ages, Lectio Divina became a regular form of prayer. In the 14th century, Geard of Zutphen had built on ‘Guigo’s Ladder’ to write his major work On Spiritual Ascents.
He warned against considered meditation without reading of scripture and felt that the reading prepares the mind for right connection with God.
Practicing Lectio Divina
John Main a Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine monk introduced a way of Christian meditation in the early 1970s which used a prayer-phrase or mantra. He said the elements of meditation were silence, stillness, simplicity.
The mantras can be sacred words such as Jesus, Abba, God, or Maranatha his one of choice, which means “Come Lord”. The point is not to focus on the meaning of the word but just to say it to stop the mind from getting distracted and bring it into stillness.
According to Main, the great challenge to us in learning to meditate is its simplicity. It is a simple practice, but not an easy one. It takes a willingness and a deep desire for union with God. It’s not enough to just say it’s a stress reliever (although it does relieve stress), it is so much more and will take you further into the unknown dimensions of self and God.
Even among Christians, there are different thoughts on meditation and what is the right way to go about it.
For me, I believe, it’s a natural progression for the Christian. As we mature in our faith, we develop a deeper longing and desire for more of God, and so meditation leads us into that secret place, where we can find God and be nourished.
So, wherever you are on your journey, meditation can help you. If you do not know God yet, you can enter into meditation with an open heart, seeking Truth & Love. God will meet you there.
HOW TO MEDITATE IN 3 SIMPLE STEPS
Step 1 – Choose The Time & Place
Choose a time in the morning or evening that best suits you (preferably somewhere quiet). You need silence to begin.
Set your clock a half-hour early – you will soon get used to this. In fact, you will come to look forward to these precious times in your busy day. You are choosing to enter your day with gentleness and poise.
Now, choose a sacred place; maybe your favourite room or perhaps somewhere outside. Make sure you like the environment and it’s comfortable, but not too comfortable where you fall asleep!
Whether you choose to sit on the floor or a chair, make sure your back is straight. You can sit in the lotus position if you like or upright in a chair with both feet placed firmly on the ground. Make sure it’s warm enough too for if it’s cold you will be distracted.
It’s important to be comfortable as stillness is needed for meditation to really work. In the stillness, we are letting go of our self-life for a while, to focus on connecting with God (The Spirit of Truth, Love, Light, and Peace).
If you live an alternative lifestyle or you’re travelling the world, adapt the time and place to suit your needs. The whole beauty of meditation is that it is 100% yours, it’s you being you, connecting with your Creator.
Step 2 – Make It Personal
Okay, so you have the time and place organized, now it’s time to make it special, personalise it. Create your space just the way you like it. If it takes cushions, blankets, candles, soft music to make you comfortable, give yourself this time to prepare.
Silence is usually best, but if soft music helps – go for it! Now, you’re well on your way, but remember, meditation is a discipline rather than a technique.
Step 3 – Prepare With Prayer And Choose A Mantra
If you are a Christian, perhaps read a small piece of scripture to get you started and have a sacred word ready, such as, “Come Lord”, “Jesus“, “Maranatha“, or one of your choice.
If you are not a Christian and you want to try this, but don’t feel comfortable saying, “Come Lord”, maybe just call on, The God of Love and Truth, and use the word “Love” to focus on.
So, sitting in your sacred space. Turn off your phone, close your eyes gently, and simply focus on your breathing. Let it be what it is, just be aware of the breaths. Focus on your body sitting there, just be aware of this.
This practice of sitting still in silence will lead to simplicity which is the real beauty of meditation. You are choosing to move from the complexities of daily life to the simplicity of being still.
Everything and anything will come into your mind as you start to meditate; don’t worry, it’s okay the thoughts will settle, just be aware of them and let them pass on.
If they don’t, use your mantra and say it slowly and gently over in your mind…“Come Lord” or “Maranatha”, or “Love”, etc. Repeat it until your mind becomes still. You will get distracted, this is normal, just keep going.
After a while you will feel calm and at peace just sitting; being at one with yourself and God’s divine love and light.
Get comfortable just being in this peaceful position. At first, it feels unusual just sitting there, but let that thought go too and persevere. It’s not easy at first, but when the spirit of God shows up and starts to fill your heart with Love, you will not want to move.
It’s a beautiful practice, but only you can find your way into that secret place. When you feel the time is up, simply open your eyes gently and ease yourself back. You will feel refreshed.
The best way to establish a rich prayer life is to remove distractions. In the words of W. Tozer
“Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So, let us cultivate simplicity.”
Practice this for 15 -20 minutes, once or twice a day, if you can. You will have more inner peace and clarity each day and be able to make better decisions.
Don’t give up too soon, persevere at the beginning and it will soon become a part of your daily routine. Forming a new habit takes 21 days, so please don’t give up before then.
I wish you success in your efforts. Meditation is an ancient practice and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to go away. We are human beings, not human doings. So, enjoy the Peace & Joy of Being Still.