Meditation...physical nourishment for mind and body, spiritual nourishment for heart and soul. Christians, atheists, Buddhists and New Age believers may all practice meditation. Some sincere and concerned Christians who did not grow up with a tradition of meditation wonder whether it can be a healthy practice for them.
Yet it shouldn't surprise us that non-Christians can access the physical blessings of meditation. The enriching physical showers of meditation nourish those who love Him-and they also nourish those who don't even know He exists! After all..."He sends rain on the just, and on the unjust too"!
Whatever our beliefs may be, we all live in the world God created. Our lives are always better when we walk in the paths He has laid out for us. And meditation, with effects both spiritual and physical, is part of God's plan.
More and more, research has shown us the positive physical effects associated with meditation. We've seen how the healing showers released during meditation are good for mind and body. And there's nothing wrong with benefiting from that process. Physical blessings are a part of the natural world, here for us to enjoy, and to nourish and bless us.
But meditation is also a powerful way to open our hearts to intimate relatedness with God. When we engage in the physical processes associated with meditation, we begin to touch the edges of God's plan for our spiritual lives, coming in through the "back door" by way of our psychophysical experience.
Sometimes, people who are seeking meaning and spiritual experience in their lives reject God, but still enjoy the positive physical and emotional effects of meditation. After a while, they experience the growing openness of their heart, and begin to think of their meditation as spiritual. When that happens, they begin to direct their spiritual longing toward their own psychophysical interactions.
Sam Harris is an atheist who calls religious beliefs "ludicrous", and sees belief in a true God as the source of war, violence, persecution and social ills. Yet he practices Zen meditation and believes in the value of "mystical experience". He doesn't believe in God, yet he experiences (to use Pascal's imagery) the open space within him that only God can fill. He values entering that space, but when he gets there, he doesn't allow God to fill the space. He values the space, the longing, the waiting-to-be-filled. His meditation is ultimately an empty experience, one that satisfies some psychological and physical needs, but which never engages in contact and intimacy with the One who created those needs.
Buddhist mediation is being taught and practiced around the world, and it's especially popular with spiritual seekers here in the United States. Spreading warmth and enlightenment based ultimately on the simple experience of following your breath, there's no relationship or encounter with any actual external reality of God, and certainly no personal relationship with a Savior. There is only letting go of self and connection with an everything that is also nothing.
For those who grew up in a Christian culture, that connection to oneness-with-everything is sometimes thought of as a connection to God, but that is a lack of understanding of what Buddhism teaches. Buddhist "oneness" is a non-personal everything and nothing, with no form or content, no communion with another personality, and no demands. The only truth is that there is no Truth, and the only reality is that nothing is really real. Love and hate, war and peace, life and death...in the final analysis, neither one matter, because nothing is real, including the "person" who is pondering the questions.
Practicing Buddhists spend many hours meditating, with an attitude of openness and even desiring spiritual experience. They develop a strong neural framework for spiritual experience, and a longing to let go of self and become part of something greater than they, but they do not open to relationship with the One who created the framework and fulfills that longing by entering into our hearts and recreating us in Him.
The simple physical practice of meditation does, in and of itself, cause positive effects. The nourishing biochemical showers encourage neuronal regeneration, enhance health, and calm the spirit. Those biochemical showers nourish our bodies and our brains, and there's a warm sweetness to many who meditate. For many who are seeking meaning, the physical and emotional effects of meditation have become the goal, and those changes become evidence of spiritual meaning.
New Age believers value the experience of meditation. "New Age" is a broad term with little well-defined content, but those who claim that name often do meditate, and they do so for spiritual reasons, in addition to a desire for the physical and emotional benefits.
New Age meditators seek spiritual meaning. They experience the internal stillness of meditation, and the spiritual openness that comes with stillness. They experience the biochemical soothing and healing God has given us. They have a positive emotional experience. And they see that it all happens within them.
Recognizing rightly that the spiritual realm does exist, the response goes something like this: "I experience the longing for God within me. When I meditate, I have a deep, warm emotional experience. That must mean God is within me. And if God is within me, then I must be God, or at least part of God."
New Age teachings encourage followers to awaken to their own perfection and answer their own prayers. Christian meditation techniques are taught along with Jewish mysticism, Indian chants and various paths to feminine enlightenment. And if the practice of meditation bores you, you can buy a biofeedback video game to put you in touch with the divine within you.
Buddhist and New Age meditators alike have confused the valuable psychophysical experience of meditation with the One on whom we were made to meditate. They've fallen in love with dancing in the rain. But they've forgotten the Rain Maker.
Yet no matter how many showers we dance in, no matter how many blessings are enjoyed, fallen human nature is still fallen. Paul reminds us that "our natural, earthly lives don't in themselves lead us by their very "nature" into the kingdom of God. Their very nature is to die so how could they "naturally" end up in the Life kingdom?"
None among us, on our own, become all we were created to be. We are finite and limited, and death comes to us all. All the natural meditation and personal growth in the world won't change that. We still need help from outside our created selves. We need relationship with the One who made us.
Try a FREE guided Christian meditation by Dr. Kukal at her website, http://www.joyofchristianmeditation.com Learn to meditate and experience the healing joy of Christian meditation.