This past week marked the beginning of my month long endeavour of trying out different spiritual disciplines. The first discipline that I attempted was that of meditation.
The word meditation is bound to conjure up very similar images for most people… monks sitting cross legged on a stone by a river, yogis chanting “ohm” for hours on end, or people attempting to clear their minds so that they can get in touch with the world around them. All of these are different forms of meditation that are used by a vast variety of people, however none of them are the type of meditation that I took part in this past week.
The type of meditation that I practiced this past week is the kind that is spoken of in the Bible, and specifically in the Psalms. The one verse in particular that I used as a guide for this week was Psalms 77:12 which says:
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
There are also several verses that speak of meditating on God’s word day and night, so that’s exactly what I attempted to do. What follows is an honest account of my week of mindfully trying to center my thoughts on God:
When I was planning for this week I had the great expectation that I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning and dedicate an hour of my time to the Lord before I started getting ready for the day. However as in most cases our expectations and reality do not align. So rather than waking up early today I ended up meditating in the evening. Now if you were brought up anything like me then you probably know as much about meditation as I do…which is not a lot. So to say that I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do would be a bit of an understatement. But thanks to some help from some notes I took during Bible school (and a quick peruse of Google) I decided that tonight I would simply try to sit in God’s presence.
Sitting still in silence is not something that people seem to be very good at these days (myself included). We live in such a fast paced society that when we try to unplug and just “be” we have a very hard time with it. My goal for meditating tonight was to be able to sit for 30 min while focusing my mind on God and not on what was going on on social media. What I was met with was not an overwhelming experience of God’s presence in that moment, but instead the overwhelming realization that the walls in my house are very thin, the T.V. is very loud, and I get distracted very easily. So the way that the night actually turned out was me sitting on the floor trying to focus my mind on the Lord for what seemed like an eternity… but was really only 5 min.
This was going to be a lot harder than I had thought.
Today I was actually able to stick to my original plan of getting up at 5:30 am. There is something strangely beautiful and calming about being up before anyone else in the house, even before the sun. For this session I focused on meditating on Scripture, since I figured that if I couldn’t still my mind I could at least make it focus on God’s word. So I ended up doing a variation of Lectio Divina which for those of you who don’t is a practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer which is intended to promote communion with God and treats the Bible as the Living Word. Or in other words you read a passage of Scripture, you meditate on that passage, you pray the passage, and then you rest in God’s presence.
I chose to read Psalm 36 using the Lectio Divina method, but also combined it with a method that is similar to how you would memorize a monologue. I read one verse and thought about it, and then read the next verse by itself and thought about it and then read it along with the verse before it and considered about them together. You continue doing this until you have read the whole passage that way. I found that this allowed me to pick up on aspects of the passage that I would have otherwise missed if I had just quickly read through the whole Psalm at once.
I then closed out the session with a breath prayer which is where you match your breathing to a verse or a saying. The most common one is praying “Be still and know” when you inhale and praying “that I am God” when you exhale but really you can use any scripture. Or you can practice breathing in God’s love for you and breathing out the shame you feel. Whatever is on your heart at the moment and gets you into the right mind set.
After this morning I realised that it was much easier for me to meditate in the morning when there are less distractions around and that I do best with a more structured approach to meditation.
This was another evening meditation day, which really doesn’t work the best for me because I’m so tired in the evenings that I keep falling asleep. But if people in the Bible can meditate day and night I’m sure that I can do it too. However after my last evening session I set a more realistic goal for myself to focus my mind on God for 10 min (none of these lofty half hour aspirations anymore). I used the breath prayer again tonight, but instead of praying while sitting down I did it while lying on the floor on my stomach. Which may seem strange – and very uncomfortable – but I have found that when you get into a more vulnerable positon it puts your heart in a state that is more open to what God has to say to you. Also being in an uncomfortable position makes it harder for you to sleep. So after 10 min of uncomfortable meditation I peeled myself up off of the floor and felt surprisingly calm and relaxed.
Another early morning, but this time I thought that I’d shake things up a bit and headed outside in the wee morning hours. I was outside for around 30 min just sitting in silence and watching the world God made slowly wake up; but then I got too cold so I headed back inside to the warm embrace… of my floor. There I sat, read through, and reflected on Zephaniah and finished out the hour simply sitting in God’s presence.
This was the day that I a) had the easiest time getting myself to focus and, b) got the most out of my session. It’s true what they say, that the longer you do something the easier it becomes. So I would imagine that if you were to practice meditating on God’s word for a month it would get significantly easier by the end.
I would love to be able to tell you that I once again got up at 5:30 am today, but that would be a lie. I would also love to tell you that I spent 30 min before bed sitting on my floor in God’s presence, but that too would be a lie. I started out today with the best of intentions, but as it seems to be the case all too often my best intentions did not come to fruition. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to integrate a spiritual discipline into your life, and not every day is going to be perfect. You simply have to try your best, forgive yourself when you fall short, and then try again the next time.
The Take Away
The whole purpose of this week of meditation was to take my focus away from the world around me and turn it to God. To stop for a little bit each day and not worry about what I’m going to cross off next on my to-do list, and instead open my heart and my mind to what God is trying to say to me.
Some of you may be wondering why I chose to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, when I could have chosen a more human hour or even meditated in the afternoon. My answer for you is that this is a spiritual discipline. Meaning that it’s not supposed to be easy or something that we pick up when it’s convenient. It’s supposed to be hard because when it’s hard it makes sure that we’re dedicated to it. I didn’t want to just half-heartedly commit to this, I wanted to give it my all so that I actually got something out of it.
Will I continue to practice meditation? Yes, I hope to incorporate it into my daily life, and I plan to continue with the early morning sessions.
Would you recommend it for others? I would for sure recommend it, but you have to find the way and time that works best for you. No two people are alike and no two people connect with God the same way. So you have to find the way that you can intimately connect with God, and then give your all to that variation of meditation.
So that marks the end of my first week of spiritual disciplines and tomorrow marks the beginning of my second week with the focus being on prayer and worship.