We have been plunged into a very different way of living our lives since the outbreak of the Coronavirus Pandemic. I know that it can be unsettling at times with so many aspects of our ordered lives suddenly thrown up in the air with no sure sense of where all the pieces will land when this is all over. Into what sort of world will we re-emerge?
I have found it to be reassuring to reconnect with our Armadale family on Zoom: though rather frustrating learning the ropes of this technology. I feel that I am getting to know Armadale folk in a new way however; per phone and Zoom which I am enjoying very much.
I think that it was as a result of my saying during one of our Zoom discussions that I found Christian Meditation to be both grounding and stabilising, that Fiona asked me if I would write about it. I have certainly found Christian Meditation particularly helpful during these challenging times.
I have been meditating for many years and I cannot imagine not doing so! This is the experience of most people, who find that if they persevere long enough, realize that it is making a difference in their lives.
There are many forms of meditation and it has been practiced over many centuries. Although Meditation has been shown to have many health benefits, both physical and mental, (see below) the main aim of Christian Meditation is to bring us into the closest relationship with the Spirit; God at the centre of our being.
John Main, the founder of the World Christian Meditation Community put it this way;
“Meditation verifies the truth of your Faith”.
Meditation is simple- but not easy. The biggest problem when trying to meditate is our very active minds! We tend to become distracted very easily- or I do!
To help in getting beyond distractions a Mantra or prayer word is recommended, and repeated slowly and continuously in “sync” with our breathing.
I think it is wonderful that this form of meditation was practiced by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth and fifth centuries and eventually recovered by John Main it’s founder in 1975. The essence of our Christian Faith was recaptured by these Desert Fathers and Mothers and passed on before it became influenced by the cultural values of the Holy Roman Empire.
The reason that I was drawn to this form of meditation was because I wasn’t receiving the spiritual nourishment I needed at the time. I wanted a closer walk with God and sought a way to find this. Over the years I have found that my perseverance has been repaid. I feel upheld even during hard times and sense that I am moving towards increasing nourishment, integration, simplicity, inner peace, and clarity.
Christian Meditation groups meet throughout the world and in many different places; in homes, churches, schools, prisons, businesses and other situations and have made a big difference in the lives of many people. However, as with everything else in life, one size doesn’t fit all.
Neurologically speaking, when we meditate, the anxiety part of the brain in the amygdala is overridden by the part of the brain that gives us a sense of the big picture. We are then able to see our lives in perspective and our worries in an entirely different light.
As mentioned above there are many health benefits that result from regular meditation. Amongst these are lowered blood pressure, decreased stress levels, anger management, freeing of addictions and generally a glass half full rather than a glass half empty feeling.
Spiritually speaking, Meditation is considered to be the purest form of prayer as our spirit is enabled to commune directly with God in our hearts. This can happen also when we meditate on a bible passage (Lectio Divina)
When we meditate in a group, we also commune at a deep level with those with whom we are meditating. This still happens when we meditate at the same time in our own homes or on Zoom.
It is recommended that we meditate for 20-30 minutes at least once but preferably twice a day. We can start with baby steps say with 10-15 minutes a day and gradually build up if that feels more doable.
The aim of Christian Meditation is to turn off the many distractions occupying our minds so that we are enabled to move down from our minds to our hearts. This is where we communicate with God most closely.
In time, if we continue to faithfully meditate, we will find that we are able to be transformed little by little. Then the fruits of the spirit will imperceptibly be manifested.
I am not wanting to say that this is the only way that transformation can happen.
A mantra is recommended as a way to focus the mind and let go of the distractions that keep our minds going around in circles! The mantra we use in Christian Meditation is a word that is from Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. MA- RA-NA-THA means Come Lord… and is pronounced inwardly as you listen to it in 4 syllables of equal length. It is important to keep coming back to the mantra every time you notice that you have become distracted again.
Would you like to have a go?
Sit down. Sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase, ”Maranatha”. Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently, but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything spiritual or otherwise. If thoughts and images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation, so keep returning to simply saying the word. Meditate each morning and evening for between twenty and thirty minutes.
The inner “work” of meditation is directly related to the outer work or fruits of that prayer. These two inner and outer aspects are seen as two integral parts of a whole. It reminds me of what we say after the bible readings at Armadale “Lord, may your word live in us… and bear much fruit to your glory”.
Christian Meditation is practiced in groups throughout the world and is a World Community. There is a wealth of information and daily reflections on the WCCM Website. There are also Christian Meditation Groups listed geographically online should you wish to join one. It is very helpful to become part of a weekly Christian Meditation Group and be able to both receive and give the support that a community imparts. Christian Meditation is something that is best learned experientially.
You are welcome to ring me if you would like to borrow any books about Christian Meditation or to have a chat about it.
Mindfulness has been a bit of a buzz word over the last few years hasn’t it and can act as an introduction to meditation. Basically, it is a quick and effective way to relax and regain our equilibrium.
All we need to do is stop what we are doing, sit in an upright chair, and start by taking some slow and deep breathes. We can tighten and then relax as many muscles as we can tune into all around the body first. Then tune into each of our senses one by one. Feel the soles of your feet where they sit on the floor and the weight of your body on the chair plus where your back rests against the back of the chair. Then feel your clothes where they touch your skin. Feel the air as it plays on your skin and as it passes in and out of your nose. Next, move your awareness to tune in to what you can hear; firstly, the sounds in the distance… and then the nearer sounds. Open your eyes. What do you see as you scan everything in your line of vision?
I am still trying to be as mindful as I can throughout the day and am always pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to both my enjoyment and efficiency.
If we just focus on what we are doing whole heartedly while we are doing it two things seem to happen. Firstly, if we are totally focussed on what we are doing there is no room for anxiety about the past or the future. The second thing that fascinates me is that everything else still manages to get done when the time is right
Meditation helps one to be mindful and mindfulness can be a first step towards meditation.