Even my photo search for this post, revealed very few suitable photos for a Christian context. That sentiment seems to be prevalent even among the Christians I talk too. There seems to be a fear of becoming too “new age” if you practice meditation. That is unfortunate.
Meditation is one of the ancient Christian Disciplines. And it has its roots in Judaism before that. But don’t equate ancient with irrelevant for today. Before Jesus meditated, and the apostles encouraged us to meditate, King David practised it. in fact, God commanded it long before then:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8
The practice of meditation is something that we Christians have not valued, and as a result, we are not reaping its benefits.
I admit, my primary reason for writing this, is the lack of information I found in my search of it. In my effort to study what meditation is, I found surprisingly little contemporary written from Christian perspective. And the bit that does exist is primarily from a Catholic Church perspective that basically equates meditation to prayer. I mostly agree with it. While I think prayer can be part of meditation, I also believe that meditation is a distinct discipline that is too often forgotten.
Please don’t think of this post as a scholarly teaching on meditation, but rather as an informal introduction to meditation. Also, think of it as a public acknowledgement that it is something I need to study more, and a public expression of a need I see in our North American contemporary church culture. Hopefully in the near future, I will have learned more on the subject and be able to write something more meaningful on meditation as a practice. I believe the awareness of the need for the revival of this practice is growing, so more voices will join this conversation.
And yes, sometimes I am downright crude in my summation of meditative practises and purposes. Hopefully I will grow in my understanding of the subject matter in the future.
We have become an action oriented Christian culture that values results over worship. And the irony of this? The results we are looking for are often the fruit of a quiet moment before God, which we miss because we can’t stop our performance long enough to contemplate. In fact, if you are like me, you often feel guilty for not “doing” something, when you set that time aside for meditation.
But there is an increasing desire for meaning that is turning many Christians to eastern meditation and yoga. Even in business, including Christian businessmen, modern meditation practises are growing in an effort to realize more success or relieve stress. That the practices they are unwittingly choosing are eastern in origin is unfortunate, and undermine the relevance of today’s church.
The goal of meditation is the disruption of current thinking with a new understanding. That is fairly consistent in all teachings of meditation regardless of religion. There is however, a major difference between Christian Meditation and the Meditations taught by eastern religions. (they include Hindu, Buddhist and its disarticulated North American cousin known as New-Age.) Where the tenant of eastern meditation (i.e. yoga for one) teaches you that you can find all answers in yourself if you reach deep enough, Christian Meditation is about focusing yourself in finding the wisdom that can only come through Christ by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Eastern meditations seek to empty your mind of all things in order to connect with all things around you for meaning and enlightenment, for the purpose of self fulfilment. It seeks to bring meaning into your meaningless existence.
Christian Meditation attempts to fill your minds with the truths of God, for the purpose of wisdom in your dealings in life, so that you may alter your course from a meaningless existence into one of purpose.
While bodily postures have always been a part of meditation, it is not so much a matter of physical position, as it is a matter spiritual position. That position of humility that seats you at the feet of God (as in the story of Mary, Martha and Jesus) and opens yourself to learn the truth from God’s Perspective. And yet, posture has historically been part of the teaching of spiritual disciplines. Like Christian postures can symbolize humility before God, so the postures of eastern religions are supposed to connect you with the pantheistic divinity of all things surrounding you.
There has been a lot of buzz that doing a yoga pose will open you up to demonic footholds. While I see no value in practising the rites of a religion I don’t believe in, the postures are probably an equivalent to the meat offered to idols that the Apostle Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8.
I believe we need more awareness of meditation practises in today’s church, and I hope that this post is one of gathering of voices on this subject, although I am far from an expert on this subject yet.