(Scroll to the bottom to go directly to some meditation resources)
Meditation is something that, for me, is indispensable for finding a sense of peace and balance in my life, and a gateway to connecting with God at a deep level. For me, meditation always involves a time of stillness – where I am not doing anything else but turning my attention to deep within to what is inside me, and at the same time, tuning in to what is outside me as a sign of that which is larger than I.
There are various ways you can meditate. I am biased, in that I understand meditation to always have a component of exclusivity. In other words, I am not reading a book, making lists, thinking about work, driving a car, grocery shopping, and such. About the only exception I have, for me, is walking. I find walking slowly and deliberately to be a doorway to deeper communion with myself and with God. Even then, I am not walking with a purpose OTHER than to connect with what is going on inside me or with God. Basically, meditation is time devoted exclusively to nurturing a relationship with God or that divine other than is above all and in all. It is not a time for multitasking.
Many people who are not practiced in meditation often find it hard to begin a practice of meditation. Some common roadblocks are:
- Finding uninterrupted time to meditate – either their schedule is very busy, or they have too many distractions around.
- Finding it difficult to keep focused – in the void of silence they find themselves thinking about their to-do list, or a problem at work or home.
- Not being sure what they are supposed to “feel” during meditation.
- Not being sure anything is happening. They are not having profound experiences during meditation.
- Not being sure how to meditate.
It is important to remember that everyone’s experience in meditation is unique. Just because I may have a profound experience doesn’t mean everyone does. I rarely have profound experiences, but I do leave that time feeling more centered and balanced.
I don’t remember where I read this, but I remember one author saying that he had been meditating for years and didn’t seem to see a benefit for him, until he stopped. Then he realized how important his meditation time had become. It gave him a grounding that he needed to go through the day that he lacked once he stopped meditating. So don’t go into meditation thinking that you will have mystical experiences or profound visions or find the answers to life, the universe, and everything. Maybe you will! But you may not as well.
Meditation is a commitment to a long-term relationship with the one who is above all and in all, that One whom many of us call God. As such, just as we would in nurturing any relationship with a friend, we must set aside time to be with God. Just as I would set a lunch date with a friend and not let other things push that aside, I need to be that intentional about setting aside time to be with God. If that means you have to put the dog outside for a while, or tell the kids to read a book for 15 minutes (be smart – this doesn’t work with a 2-year-old!), or set a timer to remind yourself that the next 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes are set aside for your date with God, then that’s what you have to do. Meditation means making your relationship with God a priority. Maybe you only start with 5 minutes. That’s ok! You’ve started – that’s the important thing.
Once you get started, if you find yourself having a hard time keeping focused, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just acknowledge the stray thoughts that come into your mind, and remind yourself that they are just thoughts. The important things they are connected to will be ok for the short time you are meditating. Then let them go.
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR MEDITATING:
- Sitting quietly and focusing on deep breathing – what it feels like. When you find yourself distracted, focus on your breathing again.
- Repeating a phrase or word over and over to help you focus.
- Once you are focused and/or centered, let your mind go blank – then see what comes up for you.
- Read a brief scripture or inspirational text several times before meditating, and see what thoughts or emotions that spark.
- Practice lectio divina (I’ll put a link below to more information on how to do that). This is one of my favorite meditation practices.
- Try a guided meditation (links below for some to try).
After your meditation time, you may find it helpful to write down what happened – or did not happen – for you during that time.
RESOURCES AND ONLINE MEDITATIONS
Lectio Divina is an ancient, meditative process for reading sacred texts. Here is a simply way to delve into Lectio Divina:
Lectio – Read the text slowly several times. Take your time, and pay attention – is there a word or a phrase or an image that speaks to you?
Meditatio – Reflect on the text, or that word, phrase or image, and consider how it applies to your own life.
Oratio – Respond – how are you feeling called to respond to that text, word, phrase, or image?
Contemplatio – Listen to God. Still your own voice and your own thoughts. What is God saying to you?
Sacred Space – spend ten minutes, praying here and now, as you sit at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance and scripture (Catholic Tradition)
Surrender to God Guided Meditation – 7 minutes.
Experiencing Divine Essence – Perfection – 8 minutes.
Help for Dark Times -4 minutes. this meditation video is with music and no voice Scripture passages and questions are interspersed with photos.
These are just a few meditation sites. If you go to YouTube, you can search for guided meditations from many traditions and get many choices. I encourage you to try some out, and if you find any exceptionally good, please let me know and I will add them to the list here.
These next two sites have meditations based on “mindfulness” which is developed from the Buddhist tradition. I find these kinds of meditation very helpful for just centering myself and opening myself up to what is going on in me, and to the larger energy of God in the world. Meditation in itself, and mindfulness meditations, are also powerful ways to deal with stress.
Guided Meditations with Malcolm Huxter – About midway down the page. Like the previous meditation, these are awareness meditations – cultivating awareness of breath, of body, and of self.