I wish someone had taught me to meditate when I was, say, two. It’s one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done, but as a highly distractable, late starter, it took me ages to realize how key it is to spiritual sanity.
Gobs has already been written about meditation, including the differences between eastern meditation (which focuses on emptying the mind) and Christian meditation (which focuses the mind on God.) This blog will cut to a few simple steps for getting started with Christian meditation. (You don’t have to be Christian, just willing to give God the benefit of the doubt!)
- Find somewhere quiet where you can be alone and uninterrupted.
- Relax into solitude and become aware of yourself, shutting out distractions. The blog just before this one helps with this.
- Get physically comfortable. For most of us this does not involve twisting our legs into the shape of a pretzel. It’s nice to have your head at rest.
- Start with a prayer, asking God to lead you into peace and truth and protect you from spiritual darkness.
- Focus on your breathing, and inhale deeply and slowly. Exhale slowly. This will help you calm down and slow your thoughts.
Next, try one of the following ways of meditating:
1 .Center on what feeling or thought is dominating right now, and come up with a simple prayer related to it. For example, if you’re obsessed with a deadline and having trouble relaxing, pray, “God of peace, help me to rest.” Or if you’re angry and can’t forgive someone, pray, “Please God, take this anger!” If you’re grieving, “Father God – comfort me.” Notice these examples are really short, and in two parts. That’s so you can sync it with your breathing. As you inhale, breathe in the truth about God that you need to focus on; as you breathe out, breathe out the request for what you need. As you exhale, try to let go of tension, try to let go of anything negative and surrender it to God. You can say the words, but it may be more helpful just to think them.
2. Instead of coming up with your own prayer, you can pick a short Bible verse, to sync with your breathing. Psalms are a good place to look. A few of my favorites: “Be still and know that I am God”, “You are my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear,” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Pick a verse that addresses a current need, that drills a truth you want to live into. Meditating on one important thought at a time drives it deep into your being. What you want to believe becomes what you do believe.
3. Take a chunk of the Bible and read it slowly, letting it speak to you personally. Don’t hurry. Don’t analyze. This isn’t study. Meditating is like eating good chocolate. You take it in small bites and savor it. Try reading the passage three times. Maybe a short psalm, maybe an incident from one of the gospels. The first time, read for understanding. The second time, imagine the scene – make a movie of it in your head. The third time, you can put yourself into the scene as one of the characters.
It may not click right away, but if we keep at it, meditation becomes a powerful way of stepping out of the craziness of everyday life, to let God heal, guide and renew us.