Meditation: Silent Prayer
Meditation is a key that can open many doors along the path to God. We tend to be so outer focused that we lose track of the real path, which is the inner journey to a personal relationship with our Lord. Mother Teresa wrote, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.”(No Greater Love by Mother Teresa, p8). With a minimum of effort, meditation can help us find the trail that takes precious time off our journey to the Truth. Meditation is a more direct path, perhaps a short cut, to understanding this mystery.
Meditation is the process of stilling the mind. The conscious mind, with its worrying and negative beliefs, is the cause of our material predicament. Inside and behind this worrying process, the perfection and abundance of the divine realm is persistently trying to press itself into our minds and lives. If we still this mind, then we get out of the way and allow the grandeur of God to enter our existence.
Stilling the mind allows our little self, our worries and concerns, to take a break. If this little self can get quiet, our true Self can emerge. God can express Himself in our world. Our agitated mind is constantly dwelling on the past, reacting to some event in our world or preoccupied with fears and concerns about the future. These worries and concerns of our fearful self, like wind on a lake, keep things stirred up and keep us removed from our peaceful self. Anxiety, fear and anger are unproductive protective mechanisms that keep peace at a distance in our world. Taking a break from these primitive defenses is possible. Meditation is the key.
Meditation is very simple. It is also very profound, very deep. If one takes meditation step by step, the depth will come of itself. First time meditators can begin with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation at a time, performed twice daily. A morning and evening time is generally preferable, but creating a time and place that fits your schedule is fine. It is a wonderful practice to begin the day by becoming calm and getting in touch with God’s energy and love within.
Comfortable, loose fitting clothes are essential. It is nice, but not necessary, to have a designated meditation spot that creates an atmosphere of serenity. Sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor and your hands placed comfortably in your lap. You can also sit cross-legged on the floor, perhaps sitting on a cushion. Relax and close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath. As you relax, your breathing will become deeper. It’s called belly breathing. Your muscles relax and you breathe more from the diaphragm rather than shallow chest breathing. Feel the tension flow out of you as your abdomen collapses with each out breath. Breathe in vitality; breathe out tension and toxins. Breathe deeply and slowly. Pay attention to your body relaxing in the chair. Feel the tension flowing out of your body as you relax.
Give yourself permission to step away from the worries of the day. This is your time, time for your personal growth. The cares of the world will present themselves later. Learn to disregard them for a short time. When thoughts do arise, notice them and then let them go. Don’t be upset with the initial wandering thoughts. Notice them and then gently bring your focus back to the increasingly peaceful sensations within you. You are trying to find the quiet spot between your thoughts.
Attempt to decrease your effort in this process. Our tendency is to go at things with gusto. Meditation isn’t like that. The more we “try” the more we chase it away. The inner peace we are exploring is naturally present, when we get out of the way. It’s like we are unlearning our conditioned thought processes.
As you end your meditation, allow your attention to return to the room around you. Gently open your eyes. Keep the inner focus as long as you are able. As you take time to meditate each day, it will become easier to relax and enter the quiet of your deeper mind. Regular practice will also allow you to become more peaceful between meditations.
Meditation is a short cut on the path to experiencing God-consciousness. When one contacts God, all other objects of one’s desire appear of themselves. “Seek first the kingdom of God… and all these things will be given you besides.”(Matthew 6:33) There are a myriad of research studies on meditation that show benefits to health, sleep, mood and psychological growth. Here are some of the things that meditation can help us discover:
Happiness. Meditation does help one become happier through inner peace. There is magic in meditation in which our being settles itself down and rediscovers the priorities. Peace is one of them. The absence of anger and fear is part of that happiness. Love and peace, like light eliminating darkness, cause anger and fear to disappear.
Anxiety Reduction. Daily practice of meditation will slowly but surely calm one’s mind and decrease symptoms of anxiety. It is difficult to calm one’s self in the middle of an anxiety attack, but if a person persists in daily meditation the level of experienced anxiety will decrease.
Thought control. By calming the mind one learns to focus the mind and consequently one’s thoughts. With more focused thoughts a person can choose more wisely, think through things better and pursue one’s goals more completely.
Healing the body. Most powerfully, meditation helps us get in touch with the miracle working power of God. Associated with the process of relaxation are benefits such as decreased blood pressure, improved circulation, and fewer stomach problems. Every area of the body is helped by the healing power of meditation.
Material comfort. God wants us to have everything we need or want in order to accomplish our function on this earth. With our fears and negative beliefs, we actually prevent God’s abundance from entering our lives. Meditation helps to remove the negativity that blocks the prosperity trying to permeate our life.
We resist meditation because we are addicted to doing. This is especially troublesome when we don’t know exactly what we are doing or why. We have been taught that we have to get things done. Certainly, being responsible and discharging our duties are important. We need to help our neighbor. However, most of our activity level is frenetic. Much of our cleaning, socializing, shopping, work and organizing is habitual; we can’t sit still. We tell ourselves we do not have time for exercise, relaxing or meditation. Notice how our busyness gets in the way of accomplishing. A famous Hindu teaching is: “Notice the inaction in action and the action in inaction.”(Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter 4, Verse 18) The reality is that meditation allows us to generate more energy. It helps us to be more organized and we actually get more done if we spend time meditating.
Preconceptions about meditation can get in the way. Assuming that meditation is New Age or sacrilegious and of Eastern religious origin hinders one’s even beginning the practice of meditation. In reality, silence is a very important part of prayer. The Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms, 46:11). Our Christian desert forefathers practiced contemplative prayer. Meditation is an essential part of our spiritual growth. It is a short cut to making conscious contact with God.
A huge impediment in perfecting meditation is becoming frustrated and giving up. We can become impatient with our progress. We make excuses for not meditating today. We feel tense or hungry and believe we should be doing something else instead of meditation. We substitute busyness or not well considered activity for needed rest and replenishment. Stick with it. Like Father Bernie Owens says, “Trust the process!”(Fr. Owens of the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House)
Meditation is the real secret. It is so simple that it is the overlooked key to our bond with our inner being and God. We think we are afraid of our weakness but we are really afraid of our strength. It is often easier to avoid something that may bring success if we feel unworthy or unable. With two five-minute sessions a day, meditation can lead us to a totally new experience of life. Our primary goal is increased awareness of God. As we move along this path to God through meditation and inner peace our heart’s desires are fulfilled of themselves. Opening up to Spirit helps us to be naturally more giving and loving and focused. With this change of consciousness and getting our negativity and ego out of the way, abundance and happiness expand from within. We are allowing the perennially loving power of God to alter our life.