I’ve been asked a number of times if it’s alright for Christians to practice mindfulness and meditation. I can’t answer for anyone except myself, but I wouldn’t practice something if it conflicted with my faith in God and my religious practices. From the start of this series I have quoted various verses from the bible that speak of meditating on God’s word. Meditation and mindfulness was a common part of Jewish spiritual disciplines. Meditation brought Jewish people closer to God in their personal relationship with Him. Jewish religious practice had multiple styles of meditation and could be practiced by all believers. The fact that Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days and meditated on God’s words and promises before he began his ministry is enough for me to know that God would not object to Christians practicing meditation and mindfulness as well.
I think the fear and hesitation that some Christians have about meditation comes from our North American habit of associating meditation and mindfulness with Buddhism. The biggest difference between Buddhist meditation and Christian meditation is the belief in the emptying of the mind. Buddhists believe in emptying the mind, however, in Christianity and Judaism, one does not empty their mind; instead the mind is to be filled.
Richard J Foster explains it like this, “Eastern forms of meditation stress the need to become attached from the world. There is an emphasis upon losing personhood and individuality and merging with the Cosmic Mind. There is a longing to be freed from the burdens and pains of this life and to be released into the impersonality of Nirvana. Personal identity is lost… Detachment is the final goal of Eastern religion.” Foster explains how Christian meditation differs, “Christian meditation goes far beyond the notion of detachment. There is need for detachment – a ‘sabbath of contemplation’… But there is a danger in thinking only in terms of detachment as Jesus indicates in his story of the man who had been emptied of evil but not filled with good. ‘When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man… he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first’ (Luke 11:24-26).”
Foster goes on to stress the importance of attachment. For us as believers, we detach from the things that separate us from God in order to become more attached to Him. As Foster states, “Christian meditation leads us to the inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely.”
Christian meditation should always bring us closer to God.
Revisit the Daily Examen exercises from Day 4.