Meditation as Means of Transformation
A Christian Perspective
Meditation encompasses a broad range of religions, beliefs and practices. It has gained popularity in recent years as a way to relieve anxiety and stress, thanks to scientific research that has proven its efficacy. It is commonly known as a Hindu or Buddhist practice and its secular practice is largely derived from these two religions with most aspects of spirituality stripped out. Because of this, Christians today regard meditation either with disinterest or unease despite the history of meditation and contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition.
We may find biblical support for meditation in the Old Testament, where we are encouraged to “be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructs us that when one prays, one should “go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place.” (Mt 6:6) These verses support a kind of prayer and worship that is silent and deeply personal.
The Society for Spiritual Awakening believes that meditation is the highest form of prayer because with the stillness of the physical body and with the silence of the mind and emotions, the soul is blessed with the space to directly experience God’s love and wisdom without any distractions. The practice of meditation with the intention of asking for Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy is the powerful first step in spiritual development and the beginning of the surrendering process. Sitting still with our eyes closed and our hearts open is our tangible participation of offering ourselves up to God’s will.
When we meditate with the desire to surrender to Jesus Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who manipulates the meditation process from start to finish. Whatever conscious experience we may have during meditation, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is addressing exactly what our soul needs and that the seeds of transformation are being sown and cultivated within us. Jesus reassures us of this in John when he says, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (Jn14:26)
When one practices meditation consistently with a pure motivation, the Holy Spirit empowers one’s soul. With the soul strengthened, the individual enjoys an abundance of positive consequences across his or her life. Enhanced mental focus and creativity, equanimity in the face of challenges and an overall sense of physical health and well-being are some of the benefits proven by science that comes from this practice. Of course, SSA asserts that all these benefits are merely positive side effects and the real objective of the meditation practice is to pursue one’s personal relationship with God. Jesus teaches this when he says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)
Meditation is a powerful practice of spiritual transformation and as such should be done with great care. With the increase in awareness of God’s presence in oneself comes a myriad of realizations of the many things that one must change within one’s character. This can be a painful process if one’s ego resists the promptings of the Holy Spirit to change and grow up. However, God’s mercy is infinite and as long as we continue to surrender our flawed selves to God, we will be blessed with the grace to change.
There are dangers inherent with meditation that all practitioners need to be aware of. Meditation opens up one’s spiritual faculties and energies. In the absence of a spiritual relationship with God that protects an individual during this practice, negative spiritual entities can influence an individual to have undesirable experiences ranging from confusion to depression and may even drive one to contemplate suicide. These negative experiences with meditation have been termed the “dark night of the soul” and are only recently being studied by science. Though these cases are rare, they do occur.
To ensure a safe meditation practice it is critical that we understand and respect what St. Paul explains, “for it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens or have enough resources to hold your ground.” (Eph 6:12-13)
Putting Jesus Christ at the center of one’s meditation practice is of utmost importance to avoid the dangers of meditation and spiritual development. Should we have any doubts or fears, Jesus reassures us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.” (Jn 14:1)
SSA advocates a meditation style of listening to verses from Scripture such as Psalms 51, 91, and 23 and John 14, 15 and 17 while one is meditating to invoke the Holy Spirit for protection, guidance, wisdom and elightenment. To strengthen our faith and ground our meditation practice in God, it is ideal to read the Bible especially the books of John, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus and Isaiah, as these books share great spiritual insight about our relationship with God and his Son.
St. Paul exhorts us, “Train yourself spiritually.” (1Tim 4:7) Meditation serves as spiritual training for our soul in the same way as going to the gym is training for our physical body. It strengthens our connection with God and empowers us to live with awareness, compassion and wisdom. With this awareness, we realize our weaknesses and are blessed with God’s grace to overcome them. Without this awareness, we doom ourselves to spiritual stagnation, to constantly make the same mistakes in our relationships or work over and over again.
Jesus calls us to a life of continuous positive transformation when he commands, “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) Meditation is the vehicle that we can use on the journey to perfection. As a practice, we return to it again and again to let God transform us into the image of his Son. The Holy Spirit uproots the spectrum of negativity deep within us, from our pride and arrogance, to our selfish hypocritical ways, to our impatient and ungenerous tendencies, and then plants the seed of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:22)
As we progress in our journey of spiritual development, Jesus reminds us, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.” (Jn 15:16) God chooses us to have a deep meaningful relationship with him. God transforms us to be conduits of His love to others through acts of kindness and service. Meditation serves to establish this truth into the very core of our souls therefore enabling us to indeed bear fruit.