The “M” Word
There I was, a guest at a local meet-up group, expecting to hear a speaker share ideas about how they approach health, healing and spirituality. Instead, the topic that evening was the “M” word – Meditation…not a talk, as I had anticipated, but an actual meditation exercise. Now as someone who is used to praying deeply – and alone – I did not have a warm fuzzy about having such a personal experience with strangers!
Meditation can mean different things to different people. I thought it dated back to early Hindu traditions and that later forms of meditation grew in Eastern countries. And, I had read that it could involve repetition of phrases and/or specific body positions. Celebrities like Oprah and Deepok Chopra are currently making a modern version of mindfulness meditation very popular for those looking to improve their lives with calming mental exercises.
Furthermore, “Christian meditation” is becoming more widely accepted. At the heart of this practice, are the words of the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” By this, one can enter into that oneness with God beyond what the human mind can experience. Here, there is an expectation of achieving a feeling of both peace & calm and permanent healing.
While I was interested in learning more that night, I was (for a moment) tempted to bolt for the door when the instructor said we would sit quietly and meditate for 90 minutes! What?! Me, sit still and be quiet for 90 minutes? Now, let me clarify…I can easily ‘pray’ for 90 minutes and in my spiritual practice, I often follow Jesus’ instruction, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”
So, with that in mind, instead of running, I spent the first few minutes (of the ninety) thinking: could I commit to sitting here with strangers and prepare my heart for meditation? Sure. I realized that this “meditation” time was, for me, simply a good opportunity to engage in my normal ‘spiritual exercise’ that would concentrate on whatever needed real healing.
My prayer immediately began to focus on a struggle I had been having for two years. After totaling my car in a head-on collision (Thanksgiving week, two years ago), I had been tormented with fear when on car trips or just simple drives around town. This fear was disturbing for me and my family, especially since we often make trips to visit out-of-town family or to go to antique car shows. As a passenger, I’ve been so emotional since that accident that my family has worried that I would never be free to enjoy driving again.
While I had been praying for God to help me find freedom from this fear, I had truly not devoted the proper time in prayer to silence the fears that were haunting me. This was my time! I had 90 minutes to think of God’s goodness and love for me. I thought about the stories of protection, safety and care I had read in the Bible. I kept thinking that God’s love applied to me and to the young girl who had hit me, as well.
By the end of the 90 minutes, I felt a sense of calm that I had not felt in a while. And, it was as if that mental giant of fear had fallen over – kind of like the giant in Jack & the Beanstalk. After the meditation exercise was over, we talked for a few minutes, sharing our inspiration. While it was clear that a couple of people used this time to simply relax, several others (including me) spoke of actually praying to God for healing during the time. One woman, in particular, shared how she had used the meditation time to pray for healing of her broken heart after the end of her 20 year marriage…admitting that it was the first time in over a year that she felt the anger would be healed.
I came away from this experience realizing that, for me, meditation is more than achieving a temporary feeling of human calm, it’s a commitment to set aside time to better understand God as the source of all good and healing, and to experience that goodness in a practical way. By praying to God as our Creator, and affirming ourselves as His loved creation, there is healing for both body and mind.
Interestingly, I didn’t think about my prayers again until a couple of weeks after this meditation, when I realized something had changed. I was no longer fearful while in my car! My husband noticed I had not been nervous about riding and that my whole mental attitude about being in the car had shifted from one of fear to one of peace and complete freedom.
Communion with the Divine, in prayer, and its impact on health are as ancient as the Old Testament. Some forms of meditation are as old or older. What’s new these days is merely the bio-medical approach to trying to understand what is going on physically when someone prays or meditates. It’s a commonly held belief and experience that meditation can make you feel more peaceful. A recent Harvard study indicates that meditation actually changes the brain. The hope, of course, is that if we can better understand the link between prayer or meditation and actual physical changes, we will be better able to harness the therapeutic value of these practices.
Whether this ongoing research does or doesn’t, eventually, produce such results isn’t as important as it might seem. The fact that I and others have experienced consistent healing through a prayer-based system and others have found relief from stress or a way to manage pain without drugs through various forms of meditation, is valid in itself. It tells us we don’t have to wait for clinical research results to access effective solutions such as the one I experienced when I took that 90 minutes to commune with God.
Debra writes about the connection between thought, spirituality and wellness. She has been published in the UK, chattanoogan.com, UK Health Triangle Magazine, Jackson Sun Health Magazine, and in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She is the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in TN