What ministers say about Christian meditation
Interview with the Rev. Dr. Jo Campe, a minister in the Methodist Church
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “You yourself are a meditator, aren’t you?”
“I’ve been meditating for years and years, every morning for 30 minutes. I’ve tried many different types of meditation. Some I did for ten years at a time, and others I tried, but they just didn’t work. For me, it’s an essential part of my day. I meditate every day because my goal is to be more centered and relaxed. I think that’s how God works with our lives.”
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “What if a parishioner comes to you and says, ‘I know I need to heal. But why not just pray for healing? Why meditate?'”
“Prayer and meditation are resources, but they’re not necessarily going to heal you. You need to try a variety of things.
“We have to admit that we don’t have the power to heal ourselves. We need to use as many resources as possible— Use whatever makes sense. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.
“We have to take some responsibility for ourselves, for getting the help we need. There are so many different ways to meditate, and some work for some people and others just don’t. Until you try it you can’t possibly know what’ll work for you.
“Meditation is just one means of healing. If you look at the wonderful book by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy, they list dozens of ways to heal at the back of the book—Lots of things to try out, several dozen meditations with great explanations. But you have to try it.”
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ChristianMeditation.Blog: “Why would a Christian meditate? Why isn’t church enough?”
“For some, going to church is enough and that’s great. Meditation is okay but it’s not the only way.
“The thing is that quietness is not a big part of the Protestant tradition. And meditation is about stillness, about quietness.
“With meditation you have to give it a period of time. Try it for a month. See if you feel better. Are you more quiet? What is it you want to get out of it? Has something changed for the better in that month?
“You can use mantras during meditation. I know in one recovery group, they use the phrase, ‘Let go, Let God.’ They meditate using ‘Let go’ on the in-breath and ‘Let God’ on the out-breath. I personally use the word ‘Shalom’ as my mantra. ‘Sha’ on the in-breath and ‘lom’ on the out-breath.
“Try not to be too rigid. Try it for 15 or 20 or so minutes every day for a month. Does something change for the better?”
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “Can meditation deepen faith?”
“It’s hard to meditate and not be closer to God.
“But some people have a hard time with the specific word ‘God’ and that’s okay. You have to make the practice work for you as an individual. Use the words that work for you.
“There is no right way or wrong way to meditate. If you start thinking your meditation has to be perfect, you’re really screwed. It’ll just be what it’ll be.
“The thing is to try it out. Use a timer so you’re not sitting there thinking about how long you’ve been sitting there. Thoughts will come up and you can say, ‘Welcome, old friend.’ Thoughts will always come up. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to do it.
“By the third week, there will be some positive changes. It’s worth doing. It’s a tool, a technique, a resource that really works for some people.”
ChristianMeditationBlog: “Is there anything in Christianity against meditation?”
“No. Nothing at all. Nothing.
“Every time that Jesus performs a miracle, he prepares somehow beforehand. How did he get ready? What did he do?
“He does a variety of things—He goes off and he prepares. They say he went into the desert for 40 days. He got centered and close to God….How? He was praying and meditating.
“He wasn’t praying to himself, you know. He was praying to God. He was meditating. He got centered and closer to God.”
Jo Campe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church. He has a BA in Education, a Master’s in Divinity from the Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and a Doctorate in Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Interview with the Rev. Dr. Frank Davis, a minister in the Presbyterian Church
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “How does meditation help us connect to each other and to the Divine?”
“From a very early age I was blessed to spend a lot of time outdoors. It was in the mountains of north Georgia and western North Carolina that I began to experience God’s presence in thick hemlock stands alongside clear running streams and on Appalachian peaks overlooking the gentle contours of sweet, tender valleys. These kinds of moments became touchstones for my certainty that all life is connected by unfathomable Mystery which I am, to this day, comfortable calling the sacred presence of God.
“If we allow it (and we often do), our connection to the Divine becomes compromised. William Wordsworth, of course, speaks to this in his poem, ‘The World is Too Much With Us.’ Indeed, how readily the world can become too much with us. Next time you are in an airport, or almost any public gathering space, observe how many of your fellow humans are on the steady screen time of their personal devices. How present to oneself or the world or God can a person be staring into the face of the latest high priced gadget ?
“Meditation is simply the practice of being present, of quietly breathing into the moment. As such, meditation transcends the specific teachings, creeds, beliefs, practices and biases of all faith traditions. It is an antidote to all the ways that the world distracts us from our fundamental connectedness to each other and all of creation. Meditation is then a means of coming home in a deep way. If we come home in this way on a regular basis, we may engage the world with greater appreciation for the joy and wonder of our earthly journey.”
Interview with Rev. Romana Shemayev, a priest in the Episcopal Church
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “What would you say to a parishioner who asked, ‘Why should I meditate? Why can’t I just pray?'”
“You CAN just pray—Different strokes for different folks. No one says you have to meditate. To force anyone into a mold is spiritual violence. Meditation is just a tool like reading the Bible. It’s something you have to work up to. In the monastic traditions, they have four ways to pray: reading, praying, meditating and contemplating. All require work. All require effort. With any kind of spirituality you have to want to get it, after all. Think of the moment in church just after the scripture is proclaimed. That moment of silence is actually meditation. You pause. Just because it’s only a minute, doesn’t mean it’s not meditation.”
ChristianMeditation.Blog: “Do you think meditation can deepen faith?”
“Yes, I do, absolutely. There are several stages of faith development, from childish or primitive to the fundamentalist, where whatever is passed down is absolute truth, to the liberal rationalist who questions, to the highest final stage—enlightened. But I don’t like that word at all. It is overused. In the final stage someone finds grounding and comfort living with the unanswered questions and glaring inconsistencies of the Bible. You see, the spiritual divine is infinitely greater than our human experience of it. The only way to know it is to settle down and listen, and meditation is listening. It depends on the ability of the individual to find comfort in the uncomfortable, not even seeking but appreciating the moment, the mystery of the moment, whatever that moment is.”