First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Meditation covers a wide range of practices used by different religious and non-religious groups. Personally, I define meditation as an “intentional practice of focus and concentration.” This leaves open the questions of “How do we concentrate?” and “On what do we focus?” The answers to these questions will determine whether a given meditative practice is “Christian,” “Buddhist,” “Secular,” or anything else.
Meditation is an intentional practice of focus and concentration.”
As a follower of King Jesus, I strive to practice meditation in a way that is explicitly Christian. This means that the focus of my concentration is aimed at either the presence of Jesus or Christian scripture. I say “aimed at” because I find my mind is a lot like a firehose. Sometimes it gets away from me and goes flying all over the place. The discipline of meditation is learning how to wrangle it back under control and aim it where I want it to go.
My mind is a lot like a firehose. Sometimes it gets away from me and goes flying all over the place.
Two meditative practices serve as what we might call starter practices: the Body Scan and Breath Meditation. The purposes of these practices is the training of our minds to hold attention. There are other benefits of the meditations as well. For example, these practices are great for relaxation and stress relief. However, I find them very beneficial as beginning meditative practices.
Body Scan: The body scan is a practice I was introduced to in high school. I had a teacher who would lead us through this practice about once a month. I found it quite enjoyable and more than once fell asleep because it was so relaxing.
The Body Scan can be done seated or lying down. The goal of the meditation is to focus one’s attention on each part of the body in turn starting with the toes. Depending on how much time one has to devote to this practice, you can modify this scan to be more detailed (for example, each individual toe) or less detailed (the whole foot as a unit). The goal is to bring to one’s awareness the sensations of that part of the body. Often, before moving the next body part, I try to consciously relax the part I am focusing on. This practice is especially helpful when I am having trouble sleeping.
Breath Meditation: Also known as the Sitting Meditation is very simple. The goal is to focus on one’s breath, each inhale and exhale. Whenever the mind begins to drift, simply come back to the breath. This can be done for a simple three minute exercise or for a longer twenty minute exercise.
Some people prefer guided meditations. I tend to find them distracting. Thus it is hard for me to make recommendations. There are a large number of apps and websites to find them. Try them. Experiment. Find what works for you.
Ideally, as you get more comfortable with meditation, you will be able to simply enjoy God’s presence while you meditate. As the Creator of your body and as the Giver of every breath, our goal in meditation and in life is to acknowledge and worship Him.
“Be still and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10
In later posts, I will cover other meditative practices, but hopefully this is enough of an introduction to get you started.