A woman sat by a lake in a meditative position

Is Meditation Good For You?

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Meditation has been a huge part of my spiritual journey. I have been on various meditation retreats and spent long periods practising mindfulness (even before it was cool!) and focusing on what is often referred to as ‘living in the now’. But is any of this really helpful? Here are a few reflections.

Being Grounded is Important

It’s possible to be so carried away in thought that we become out of touch with our bodies and immediate surroundings. Being in tune with our bodies helps us to stay healthy, and being in tune with our immediate surroundings helps us to be more relaxed, and at peace. If you experience a lot of stress, live a life that is very fast-paced, or have mental health issues, meditation could certainly be beneficial.

Don’t Meditate to Become ‘Enlightened’

If you’re attracted to meditation because you want to experience ‘Christ consciousness’ or some other deep state of spiritual awakening, you’re going to be disappointed. Often people begin meditation practice as a form of escape, and the dangling carrot of enlightenment has a strong pull for spiritually-inclined people. But as I explained in depth in this article,ย there is no enlightenment. You may experience more peace and a greater awareness, but if you’re looking for a grand mystical experience that will free you from your troubles, you’re taking the wrong approach. Psychotherapy or counselling are likely to be a much better option.

How do I get Started with Meditation?

There are of course many different ways in which to meditate, and I would encourage you to explore different approaches and methods and see what appeals. A great way to get started is the 5-4-3-2-1 meditation practice, which is explained in this video. By far my favourite meditation technique is Autogenic Training, which has helped me to counteract the onset of panic attacks, as well as to de-stress in times of personal difficulty.

If all of that sounds too complicated, try simply sitting or lying in a quiet space and focusing on the sensation of your feet. Whenever your thoughts wander, return your awareness to the feeling you are experiencing in your feet. Do this for 10-15 minutes and you might be surprised by how relaxed you feel.

Is Meditation Compatible with Religion?

Of course in certain Eastern religions, meditation is central. For Christians, things are rather more complicated. Prayer is itself a form of meditation, and many Christians will feel that prayer is the most important and most effective way in which to impact our circumstances. In my own experience, the practice of focusing deeply on my thoughts gave me a greater awareness of the existence of God, and while this isn’t necessarily typical, meditation is complementary to philosophy and religion in that we are exploring the nature of our experiences and what it means to be alive.

Conclusion

The word ‘meditation’ encompasses a variety of practices that are focused on making us more aware and in tune with how our minds and bodies function. If you’re just starting out, be aware of your motivations for wanting to meditate, and consider whether talking therapy might be more beneficial, or at least complementary to your meditation practice. Don’t expect miracles, but a small regular time commitment to a meditative practice can reap great rewards and contribute to a more balanced, happy life.


I have written an extensive account of some of the dangers of more extreme meditation practices in my book entitled The Philosophy of a Mad Man. For more information, go here. What’s your experience of meditation and/or mindfulness? Feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

16 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Steven. I am glad you pointed out that motivation is key in determining whether meditation and/or mindfulness is compatible with Christianity. I agree with you that Christians using meditation to achieve some end goal like enlightenment will be disappointed. But do you think that meditation and/or mindfulness itself presupposes achieving some enlightened state? So no matter what our motivation is, the act itself already moves us away from Christ? Maybe not so much with mindfulness, but more so with mediation?

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    1. Hi there! Many thanks for reading, and for your comment. In response to your questions I would say that people approach meditation with different motives. For some, it may be because they are seeking enlightenment, for others it may be for relaxation or stress-relief. I suppose it’s possible that Christians could see meditation as a kind of idolatry, because it’s a spiritual practise not focused entirely on Christ.

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    1. Thanks, Lily! I think the thing with profound mystical experiences is that they are always fleeting. At the end of the day you still need to cook your dinner, do the cleaning, chat with your buddies, etc. States of mind come and go as God wills, which is why I believe a lasting โ€˜enlightenmentโ€™ is a somewhat misleading concept. But meditation can still be a useful practice in my experience ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  2. Good stuff, Steven! Another form of meditation that’s good is one the Jewish leaders practiced, which is also a Christian practice. That’s filling your mind with a passage from the word of God called Lectio Divina. Biblical meditation was likened to a cow “chewing the cud.” ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. I have been meditating since taking my first (and best) yoga class in 1971. I lapse once in a while and then begin again. My yoga instructor always said when we are awake we are like the forward gear on the car., asleep we are in reverse, in meditation we are in neutral.

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  4. Nice write up Steven. Meditation and I go back a couple of decades. It has been a beneficial experience for me -from improving concentration to lowering blood pressure to calming disturbing emotions- and it’s natural as breathing in the air.

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  5. I haven’t quite given meditation much thought, maybe because the most emphasis given it by folks around tend to tilt towards getting mystical revelations, which feels weird to me. However, I do know scriptures talks about meditating on the word. Although this post doesn’t focus on that, I believe that’s a good way to ease out stress too as a believer.

    Lovely post you’ve written. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Someone said mid-eastern meditation uses something like Ohm… to clear your mind while Biblical meditation uses Scripture and/or prayer & praise, focusing on God and I guess you could add body mindfulness to this. Someone else mentioned that we don’t understand in our day what it means to meditate on Scripture, but memorizing Scripture is probably what we moderns can equate to this.

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