Continued from the previous post.
It seemed like meditation could be an important spiritual discipline to help me grow. But, let’s face it, it also sounds weird. I associate meditation with Buddhists and George Harrison and New Age Eastern religions that are so taboo as I was taught from my right-wing fundamentalist Evangelical upbringing, because they are the Cults Of The World. Well, OK, that was when I was 14. The way Dr. Payne described it to me just now, it actually sounded kind of cool, and probably relaxing. And if I’m thinking of a God-Word, how could it be displeasing to God to use one of His favorite words? It’s not like I’m replacing Jesus with Buddha just because I stop and think quiet thoughts. And Dr. Payne told me to do it in his very commanding British accent, so I have to do it.
Meditating is definitely harder than you would think it is. To prove that point, right now I want you to try and think of one word, just one single word, and repeat it for two or three minutes without letting another thought enter your mind. Let’s use the word “BLANK”. Go ahead, just close your eyes for a minute and try it. Say BLANK fifty times without allowing another thought to enter your mind.
I know, right?
Most of us western Christians think of prayer in terms of a more active thing, like we want to get something accomplished with God. We want to show God that we are keeping busy. Meditation, on the other hand, we think of as passive, on the receiving end of things. It’s more like going blank and just listening to God rather than telling him what you want Him to do or what you think of Him. We’re just not used to that. It seems like a complete waste of time. Passive is for wimps. But the truth is that meditation, it turns out, is anything but passive. It’s more like heavy lifting for your brain.
The first time I tried to meditate was very awkward. It was like learning to use a new software program. I found a quiet place and sat in the chair, positioned myself just as Dr. Payne instructed: feet flat on the ground, arms and hands on the armrest, back straight. I got settled in, and then began to choose the One Word to concentrate on. I immediately became all flustered because I couldn’t decide which word to use.
No, glory, yes glory. God’s glory. That’s nice.
No, mercy. I really want to appreciate God’s mercy. Yes. That’s good.
No, glory will be more productive. It’s got more bang.
I went on like this for several minutes. Then I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t even get past the first part of the spiritual discipline, which is simply choosing a word. Eventually I committed to “glory” since I had just read it in a Psalm and I had some context with which to think about it. I started repeating the word in my mind over and over. As the other random thoughts entered my mind, I followed Dr. Payne’s instructions of picking them up (in my mind’s eye) and placing them in a gently flowing river that washed those stray thoughts away. It took a lot of discipline. Almost like my flabby brain was being whipped into shape, conditioned like a muscle that hadn’t been used for a long time, and I’m panting hard. This strange new exercise is the act of focusing on one thing, nothing else. That’s all, just concentrate. My concentration muscle was out of shape.
Soon, my breathing began to slow. After ten minutes or so I was in a deeply relaxed state. It felt good. After twenty minutes I didn’t want to stop and open my eyes. I wasn’t sleepy, but I felt content and peaceful. And it’s not like God spoke to me that morning or anything. I just liked the way it felt, concentrating on one thing about God. God got one hundred percent of my attention. Afterwards I explained to someone that it was like flushing a toilet in my brain and letting all the toxins wash away. It was like a spiritual brain-purging.
For the past couple of months I have attempted to meditate like this for 20 or 30 minutes in the mornings before work, whenever I get a chance and get up early enough and don’t have a thousand little chores to do before I leave. I’ve been steady at it, three or four times each week, and I’m enjoying it. By the way, I became much less anxious about choosing a word to use, so that was a big obstacle out of the way. And overall, it’s been a pleasant opportunity to calm myself, focus on God or a characteristic or quality of God, and suck up some peace of mind for a little while. But no major messages from God, per se.
Until yesterday. I had an epiphany yesterday while I was meditating.
To be continued at Meditation for (Christian) Dummies – 3