Christian meditation seeks to still the mind so that it can be filled with Christ.
There are usually four stages to a meditation:
DO NOT RUSH THIS SECTION
Allow as much time as you need to relax as much as possible.
There are many different ways to relax the body. You can go for a walk in a pleasant place, sit quietly, swim lengths of the pool, or walk on a treadmill.
Health warning: Whatever you choose it needs to be something that does not need your attention. Driving the car is not a good time to meditate! Lying down has a real danger of falling asleep. (But that may be exactly what you need so don’t rule it out.)
This one is my personal favourite:
I sit in a pleasant place, in a comfortable position, with my spine as near upright as possible. I place both feet flat on the floor and clasp my hands lightly in my lap. I am still.*
I breathe gently, without haste, simply allowing the breath to come and go.
I say in my mind, “My feet are heavy, my feet are heavy, my feet are heavy and relaxed. My legs are heavy, my legs are heavy, my legs are heavy and relaxed.” Gradually I work my way up my body, my buttocks, my back, my chest, my arms, my shoulders. I don’t try to relax – if you are trying you are not relaxing. I simply say the words, and allow my body to respond.
When I reach the throat and neck I say, “My throat is healthy, my throat is healthy, my throat is healthy and relaxed. My neck is long, my neck is strong, my neck is healthy and relaxed.” I unstuck my tongue, and allow my jaw to relax. I feel my head become light and float freely on the tether of my neck.
I say softly in my mind, “I allow my mind to relax and be at peace, clarity and harmony surround me.”
*You need to be still and quiet. Clearly if you are uncomfortable then you need to move your position, if you have to cough or sneeze then do so without fuss, but if it is just a discomfort or a tickle say to yourself, “discomfort” and go back to your meditation.
There are many different ways to relax the mind. The simplest is to think of a beautiful place, which is safe and peaceful, and allow yourself to smile.
Alternatively, you could choose any of these, or make up your own:
~ Say quietly, “I allow my mind to relax and be at peace, clarity and harmony surround me.”
~ Be still and quiet and pay attention to your breath. Quietly notice it as you breathe in and out. Carry on noticing it until your whole attention is focussed on it.
~ If you are outside look into the sky. Notice the tree tops, or the birds, or the clouds, notice them in a detached way allowing them simply to be, then look beyond them far into the distance. Carry on looking until your whole attention is drawn into the infinity of space.
~ Listen. Listen to the obvious sounds that are loud or close to you. Notice them in a detached way allowing them simply to be. Listen, beyond the loud or close, to the little sounds, the distant sounds. Allow your ears to relax and listen for the silences between the sounds. Listen until your whole attention is on the silence beyond the sounds.
~ Quietly repeat one of the names of God. My personal favourite is “Maranatha”, which means “Come, Lord Jesus.”
~ Look into the heart of a rose.
~ Build in your mind an imaginary garden. Take time to walk around the garden and get to know it. It is a safe place where everything is as you wish it to be.
That says it all, really.
Let your mind rest in the place to which it has come. Let go. Let God ... ... ...
While you are at this level of the mind you might like to:
~ repeat a meaningful word or phrase over and over.
~ listen for your heartbeat, and match your breathing to it. Between four and six beats to each inhalation seems to be about right.
~ count down slowly from 10, or from 50, or from 100
~ If you find a stray thought comes into your head, notice it, say to yourself, “It’s just a thought,” and let it float away like a leaf on the river, or fly away like a bird in the air.
~ If you find your mind dwelling on a worry or problem, as soon as you notice say to yourself, “Worry, or Problem, I hear you. I don’t have time for you at the moment. Come back at another time,” and let it float away like a leaf on the river, or fly away like a bird in the air, or float like a bubble which suddenly bursts and is gone.^
^ If you know that something is a particular worry at the moment ,then it is worth setting out the problem before you start the meditation. You may want to write it down. Promise yourself that you will come back and deal with it. You may even want to set a time for that. One of the joys of meditation is that God will often give us insights into our difficulties as a result of the meditation. It is very unusual for Him to give us an answer during the meditation itself, but he often makes the way clearer for us as a result of the meditation. In my mind I have found myself weeding the garden, or clearing a path through the woods. Sometimes in the meditation I get lost, or lose something precious, and a “stranger” helps me find my way. These don’t bear any direct relation to the current worry, but in some way they seem to help.
Return to your centre
~ Before you begin the meditation choose a word or phrase that has deep spiritual meaning for you. Give your whole attention to listening to the silence. Your mind will go wandering, or a stray thought will come into your head. When this happens simply say your word, and gently return to a state of mindfulness. Every time you notice your thoughts stray, this is good, because it gives you another opportunity to return to your centre.
Three different strands of Christian silence are recognised:
¶ Focussing prayer happens when we focus attention on the breath, devotional word, or some other repetitive activity.
¶ Awareness prayer happens when we stand aside from the stream of our thoughts and feelings, and watch them appear, draw near, and disappear like flotsam on a stream.
¶ Centring prayer happens when we practice letting go, and hold ourselves in readiness to receive God. When your attention wanders use a sacred word (like the "Jesus" prayer) to bring yourself gently back to readiness.
Received wisdom tells me it is best to stick with one of these and practice it daily. They each have their adherents, and groups are growing for teaching each of the different forms. I’m not so disciplined. I go with whichever happens!
~ Rehearse a scene from the bible. In your mind allow yourself to be in the story. See the sights, hear the sounds, feel the place on your hands and feet, be present in the scene and experience the events as if you were there.
~ Stand at the top of a flight of steps leading down a hill. The clouds are below you, hiding the view. Walk slowly down the steps and through the layer of cloud. Count each step as you go. As you come out below the cloud base look out and see the new land spread out below you. Take time to look at it carefully and notice its details. You can create anything you want in that land. Simply imagine it is so, and it is so.
~ Imagine … a river, a lake, a path, a road, a track. Walk beside it or along it in your mind and see whatever the journey offers. Be aware as you walk that a presence is with you. The presence is safe and comfortable. Talk to it if you wish, or simply walk in companionable silence.
~ Imagine a waterfall of healing light. Bring in to the water or into the light anything in your life, or the lives of your friends, that needs healing. Watch it transform under the water or the healing light.
Creative silence is different, and MUCH more fruitful for those able to visualize - talk to me about Alpha Rhythms and Jose Silva. "May the rest of your life be the best of your life" Gale
When you are ready, retrace your steps, make small movements of your body, and gradually come back to the world near at hand. Get up, and go about your day.
¶¶ Why not try out some of the meditations on the gallery page?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q. Do I need to be still?
A. When you are deep in meditation you are usually still and quiet. Clearly if you are very uncomfortable then you need to move your position, if you have to cough or sneeze then do so without fuss, but if it is just a discomfort or a tickle say to yourself, “discomfort” and go back to your meditation.
It is often possible to fall into a meditative state while doing something repetetive. The snag is that some of your mind will still be on the task unless it is truly automatic, like breathing, or digesting. If the meditation goes deeper the part of the mind reserved for the task will be stilled, and so will the task. Ask yourself, is it safe if I stop?
Q. What makes a good meditation?
The only criterion for a good meditation is that you turn up. How the meditation goes is not your problem. You just have to be there! Remember - If you are trying you are not meditating. Stop trying.
Q. Will meditation cure my illness?
A. No. Meditation is NEVER an alternative to going to the doctor, or stopping an unhealthy practice.
Having said that:
~ Meditation can help by giving your body time to heal itself.
~ Any kind of relaxation will make it easier to live with an illness or pain.
~ Learning to accept things as they are helps you to stop fighting against what you cannot change and gives you the space to live life as fully as you can.
~ Meditation based on a sincerely held belief is particularly helpful in encouraging relaxation and acceptance.
~ It also allows space for God to heal the spirit - which is the whole point, really.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.