Yes, there are various different types of meditation that have been practised by followers of Jesus down the centuries! We will look at some of them in this letter.
Most people who want to run in a marathon, do not just turn up on the day and run! They train first, wear appropriate clothes and practise over many weeks. Similarly if we want to enter into stillness and meditation there are some practical steps that we can take which will help us.
When I was a child there was a radio programme each day at 1.45pm which lasted for ten minutes before the shipping forecast at 1.55pm and then the news at 2.0pm! The presenter always began with “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin.” This is also good principle to adopt when starting meditation!
We do not usually focus on our posture unless we are experiencing some physical difficulties with our body. But how we sit ,stand, move, can non-verbally convey our moods and feelings. Posture is an important concept when it comes to prayer and meditation.
We need to sit in an upright and comfortable position, with our feet firmly placed on the floor and to close our eyes. Our hands are best placed gently in our laps, with our palms facing upwards, signalling our readiness and openness to hearing God. I know that some traditions encourage sitting cross-legged on the floor, but I now find sitting on an upright chair is better for me.
As we go about our everyday life, we do not usually think about our breathing unless we have a cold or lung infection, or some other medical condition which affects our breathing. While we may not be aware of our pattern of breathing, we do automatically change it depending on what we are doing. For example, some of us may become out of breath if we run for the bus, or we may find that if we have to speak in public, we feel nervous and our breathing becomes more shallow.
When we come to meditate it helps to deepen our breathing. For while worry, tension and excitement may all lead to short shallow breathing, a deliberate move towards slower deeper breathing helps tension to seep away and enables us to become more relaxed and to experience a greater sense of peace.
I think it is important to acknowledge that, whenever we enter stillness and prepare to meditate, distractions will abound! The phone or the doorbell rings, the dog next door starts barking. The external noise and the internal thoughts, cares, concerns and anxieties all impinge upon our consciousness and distract us!
What are we to do? Well you can:
- Chug through them with the determination of a motor boat!
- You can make use of them! For example, by thanking God that he is closer to you than the barking dog.
- You can deliberately hand them over to God (Twigs/Pigeons/Feathers, are short meditations designed to help you to do this)
- Richard Fosters ‘Palms down/Palms up’ exercise
I invite you to try Richard Fosters palms down/palms up exercise. He suggests that you place your palms down and say, for example:
“Palms down to my concern over the mortgage/my anxiety about my driving test/my health issues” and release/surrender those concerns and cares to God. When you have done so, turn your palms up to symbolise your desire to receive from God. You may like to pray silently that God would give you whatever it is that you need for each of the issues you have relinquished to him. When you have done this, rest in God’s presence for a few moments in silence.
Let me know how you get on!