Meditation. That word is becoming popular in our culture but how many of us have a clue what it means or what it looks like to incorporate it into our lives? I was looking for definitions of it and one said that we need to be careful how we meditate because we may open the door for demons to enter our mind. What the heck! I am not going to say that is ridiculous since I am no theologian but I think it is sad that so often Christians throw the baby out with the bath water on things that could be amazing for us mentally, physically, and spiritually. I also must say that I often recommend meditation to everyone, Christian or not, because I believe that God is so good that he can use meditation as a means to reaching lost hearts and drawing them to himself. As a Christian I do recognize that it is not the "emptying" of my mind that I am going for, it is simply "stilling" the mind.
So on to the practical side. When someone is sharing with me a struggle they are having whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual I often ask "do you meditate?". Ninety percent of the time the response is "I try but it's hard", or "I pray, isn't that the same thing?". I think it is worth a little "how to" blog post, keeping in mind this is MY OPINION only, I do not have it all figured out, I do not claim to be an expert on the subject. I am a massage therapist and yoga instructor so I may be leaving my scope of practice but this works for me.
From my perspective meditation differs from prayer in that prayer is talking to God, meditation is being still enough to hear him speak back. You do not have to be physically still to meditate but I think it is a good practice, your call on that one. My favorite posture is to sit like a yogi, aka criss cross apple sauce, and place the backs of my hands on my knees sort of in a position of receiving, but you find what works for you. If I lay down I will fall asleep. I have a clinging cross I like to hold or sometimes I even bring one of my fingers to meet my thumb, yes I look weird but that connection helps me to stay in the present. I choose a word or a scripture to focus on. That word may be Jesus, or love, or any fruit of the spirit that I am particularly needing that day. I then begin to take slow long inhales, letting the belly expand, then slow long exhales through the nose, slightly contracting my tummy muscles at the end just to push all the air out. On every inhale I breath in whatever word my focus is on, then every exhale I breath out either the same word or the opposite of that word. So say I inhale love, I will then exhale fear. If I am struggling with worry I will inhale peace and exhale worry. Whatever word I chose I attach it in my mind to whatever I am holding, either my cross or my fingertip touch, sometimes I use a rock. If my mind starts to wander I bring my awareness to the thing in my hand which then sends me back to my word. When I think of something that wants to interrupt my practice I imagine that I am beside a river and it's a piece of driftwood and just let it float on by. Not pushing it away but also not holding on to. Those thoughts will come less and less as you practice this. Now for the really crazy....I set a timer. This is a discipline, it takes time to develop so I started with 3 minutes and now can do 7 minutes, no problem. One day maybe I will sit for an hour, who knows. I do not feel any pressure to increase until I am finding the place where I am with it really easy. This is not supposed to be a struggle just because it is a discipline.
This practice of meditation will change your life! After I began doing it I began to hear God speak to me on a regular basis, no not audibly, but with creative thoughts and ideas that I am certain didn't come from my own thinking. It didn't necessarily start happening during my meditation time but I totally believe when we practice that stillness we become more sensitive all through the day. We learn to live in the moment which is so important if we want to live in peace and joy and all the other fruit of the spirit. It will also give you numerous physical and mental benefits. A few that may peak your interest.... "meditation increases positive emotions, life satisfaction, brain function in numerous areas including memory. It also improves attention, empathy, and compassion. Decreases pain, inflammation, and loneliness. Boosts immune function and social connection." Emma Seppala, PhD.
With all of those amazing benefits, touching every area of your life, why wouldn't you want to try it for a while? If it doesn't help you I will give you your money back. Oh wait, that was free advice! :) I would truly love to hear about your experience if you begin a meditation practice, or about your existing practice. This journey towards health is much more fun done in community so please share!
I have to say one last thing. All of my posts make me sound like I am in a spiritual bliss bubble all the time. I AM NOT! I need to be really clear on that. Just because I may meditate a few minutes, not even every day, I still suck at being an "uber Christian", mainly because I'm not trying to be. That could go into a whole other post but I just want you to know that I am highly liable to spit out an "ugly" word, have a little road rage, drink wine pretty often, or any other thing that may disappoint you if you believe that ever a human should be on a pedestal. Just wanted to stay transparent.