I’ve had something of a revelation recently: meditation is brilliant, and we don’t take nearly enough time out of our days in order to spend time in contemplation. Meditation has an intriguing place in modern western society. It is reserved for the ‘spiritual’, or simply understood as psychological tool to sooth the mind.
Yet meditation is something that people have done for centuries as a part of every day life. Instead of a medicine to the rush and busyness of the world, meditation was once held as an essential practice for those wanting to truly connect with the world around them.
In the Psalms, there is talk of “meditating” on God. It’s actually something that ancient Israelites would have done. Richard Foster comments on our lack of appreciation and time for meditating in his book (which I am currently reading), “A Celebration of Discipline”:
The purpose of meditation is to enable us to hear God more clearly. Meditation is listening, sensing, heeding the life and light of Christ. This comes right to the heart of our faith. The life that pleases God is not a set of religious duties; it is to hear His voice and obey His word. Meditation opens the door to this way of living.
I have suffered, and continue occasionally to suffer, from anxiety and from panic attacks. I initially turned to meditation as a refuge from them. To an extent, that has worked well. I am able to take time out if I feel stressed or panicked; learn to breathe slowly and with control, and more often than not I feel significantly better afterwards. So that’s nice.
Last weekend however, I began to explore a much deeper, more meaningful use for meditation. I went on a retreat with a neo-monastic community that I have connected with. We spent a night and a day in a lovely place called Llangasty, near Brecon in Wales. As a part of the weekend, we spent time doing awareness meditation – deliberately recognising our body and the feelings we experience – as well as spending two hours in silence.
I found the experience extremely refreshing. Far from the secular meditation I have been using to calm myself, I found myself instead able to focus on my subconscious feelings; on God; and most importantly, the presence of God in the here and now.
So often we act as though God is not present. We “invite” God to be a part of our prayer meeting or worship service. We forget that God is here, always, at all times, among us, around us, and in us. Through meditation and focusing myself, I have postured my soul, my body and my mind towards this reality; something I am finding incredibly refreshing.
Spending some time – even if only fifteen minutes – in meditation each day, sometimes in silence, sometimes repeating the name ‘Jesus’, sometimes letting my thoughts wander inwards; I have found a deeper and greater sense of the love God has for me. Best of all, I have found that my idle thoughts more often than not drift towards the presence of God in my day to day. Even now as I write this I have a sense of the Holy Spirit living within me.
So there you have it – it turns out that a bit of silent meditation can cure even the most deep rooted of hopeful-skeptics. Give it a go…