Meditation: What Is It?
Meditation is a popular subject these days. With a renewed emphasis on spiritualism and alternative medicine, meditation has gained popularity. Yet, depending on the context, meditation can be defined in a variety of ways. Quite simply, meditation is defined as reflecting and contemplating. It makes no value statement any more than thinking or dreaming does. The subject of a person's meditation is what brings value to the act of meditating.
Meditation: Who Does It?
Meditation is generally seen as a practice of the New Age movement. This comes primarily from the movement's association with Transcendental Meditation. Transcendental Meditation (TM) was developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the Hindu religion. On their website, TM is described as "a simple, natural, effortless procedure…During this technique, the individual's awareness settles down and experiences a unique state of restful alertness. As the body becomes deeply relaxed, the mind transcends all mental activity to experience the simplest form of awareness, Transcendental Consciousness, where consciousness is open to itself" (www.tm.org). The site touts the benefits of TM as enhancing creativity, effectiveness, and success. The site goes on to say that people from any age, background, or religion can practice TM.
However, TM is steeped in Hindu philosophy. The "yogi" in the TM founder's name indicates his status in Hinduism. The philosophy and benefits behind TM are similar with Hinduism's practice that seeks to bring people into union with one's "higher self." Additionally, courts in the U.S. have ruled that TM is not a secular discipline; it is Hindu religion (U.S. District Court, Newark, NJ, on October 29, 1977, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Philadelphia, PA February 2, 1979.)
Meditation: Is It Biblical?
Not all meditation is Transcendental Meditation. In fact, the Bible commands us to meditate. In Joshua 1:8, God tells us to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The words, "meditate" or "meditation" are mentioned 20 times. But meditation's association with New Age philosophy and Eastern mysticism has frightened off many Christians.
In the Old Testament there are two primary Hebrew words for meditation. Haga, which means to utter, groan, meditate, or ponder. Sihach, which means to muse, rehearse in one's mind, or contemplate. These words can also be translated as dwell, diligently consider, and heed.
Meditation: A History
One form of meditation that has been used by Christians since at least the 4th century is the lectio divina. It has been traditionally used in monastic religious orders and is enjoying a resurgence today. Lectio divina means "sacred reading" and has four stages: lectio (reading), meditatio (discursive meditation), oratio (effective prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). In the lectio (reading) stage, one finds a passage and reads it deliberately. The next stage, meditatio (discursive meditation), is where one ponders the text. In the oratio (effective prayer) stage, one talks to God about the reading, asking Him to reveal the truth. In the final, contemplatio (contemplation) stage, one simply rests in God's presence.
As we can see, meditation is simply pondering or thinking over something. The subject of a person's meditation, and the purpose of the meditation, is what differentiates one kind of meditation from another.
What we choose to dwell on and focus our thoughts on make a profound difference in our outlook on life. To find out more on how to focus on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8, NASB), keep searching below.