JD wrote: "I have just read your book on Yoga and I am left with the impression that if the people who use yoga could be taught and led on the power of Christian meditation before the Eucharist, they would not be so easily misled."
JD, I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, your e-mail was a confirmation for me. Just the other day I was sitting in adoration, wondering why people opt for eastern instead of Christian meditation. One form is all about blanking the mind in order to achieve an altered state of consciousness while the other is about conversing with the Power of all powers, Almighty God.
I couldn't help but wonder why anyone would want to sit in an empty void rather than converse with Someone who could actually help them.
But as illogical as it sounds (and is!) millions are doing this all over the country in yoga classes, centering prayer sessions, etc. And, for the most part, as JD states, it's because many Christians have no idea what kind of power lies in Christian meditation, a power that is sourced in the God to Whom we are praying.
This becomes all too obvious when you consider the number one reason why people say they want to meditate - to find peace and alleviate stress.
Those who choose some form of eastern meditation will enter into an exercise where they use a mantra to help them blank the mind. Some forms, such as transcendental meditation and its spawn, centering prayer, advise that this be done for 20 minutes twice a day. If they're successful in this exercise, they'll certainly forget about their stress for awhile and may feel physically and mentally refreshed afterward. But eventually, these feel-good sensations will wear off and the stress will be right back in their face.
Compare this to just one type of Christian meditation such as private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I've been the coordinator of a perpetual adoration chapel for the last 10 years and one of the most common comments people make after doing a holy hour for a few months is this: "I don't feel so stressed anymore. I just seem to be able to handle things better."
When you ask them why, most just shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't know!"
When asked if they did anything special during their holy hour, most of them couldn't think of anything and said it was just a matter of sitting quietly in front of the Eucharist and laying their troubles at the foot of the altar while asking the Lord for help. "I'm broke, Lord, and I just lost my job. Please help me!" or "My family is constantly fighting. Why can't we get along?"
Their method of prayer wasn't very fancy. There were no special techniques employed. In fact, it was all very natural and spontaneous.
However, many reported that during prayer they would receive a "eureka!" moment - an inspiration about something in their life that they could change or do differently that might ease their stress level.
In my case, I was suddenly able to see all the ways that I was wasting time during the course of a day and how I could use that time more effectively, thus eliminating that constant feeling of being "time starved."
Others said they were led to forgive someone who had seriously hurt them in life. Several admitted that they finally repented of a sinful habit. More than a few confessed to having received an outright miracle in the form of a new job, a sudden financial windfall, physical or emotional healing, mended family ties, etc.
The bottom line is that instead of escaping their troubles by sitting in an empty void for awhile, they turned to the Creator, He Who Is, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e., Someone who could actually help them. And He did!
Even more amazing is that this happened to normal people who didn't employ any kind of fancy prayer technique, and who did this for only one hour per week!
What's the difference? One person is sitting in an empty void while the other is sitting in the Presence of the Almighty.
One of the many morals of this story is that if you're looking for a meditation technique that really works, it's all about Who you pray to, not about how or why you do it.
Whether you meditate to find peace, self-knowledge, or personal perfection, sitting in an empty void and chanting mantras won't get you anywhere compared to what God can do with little more than a whispered plea from the center of a sincere heart. He can heal you, change you, transform and perfect you. Who wants an altered state of consciousness when you can achieve union with Love, and, in advanced stages of prayer, revel in mystical states such as ecstasies, wounds of love, and flights of spirit that make the New Age's astral projection look like something kids do at the playground?
And all of this is possible without techniques, mantras or special postures. The way Christians advance to higher degrees of meditation and contemplation is simply by surrendering to Love. And the more they do so, the more the Lord will favor them with states of prayer that are beyond our wildest imaginings.
Let's be honest. If Brahman was doing even half as much for all those millions who are practicing eastern forms of meditation right now, don't you think we would have heard about it by now? I don't know about you, but the last time I checked, Jesus Christ was still the only God producing bona fide miracles.
Want to learn more? See the Catechism of the Catholic Church Secs. 2558-2751. To learn about the four stages of Christian prayer, read The Life of Teresa of Jesus and/or The Interior Castle by Teresa of Jesus.
Chapters Two and Three in Johnnette Williams' Full of Grace also offer a comprehensive overview of Christian prayer.
My book, The Learn to Discern Compendium: Is it Christian or New Age contains chapters on Centering Prayer and Mindfulness that may help you understand more about the very real differences between Christian and eastern forms of prayer.
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