Christian Meditation Technique - Part 1

The term "Christian meditation" has taken on some unnecessary connotations over the past few decades. Hearing that phrase, many would be meditators have come to believe that there is only one proper way for a good, faithful Christian to meditate if that person is fairly well read, they might be open to two ways.

Before talking about each of those two meditative disciplines, let me quickly dispel the notion that there is a specific Christian technique when it comes to an interior practice. The fact is that ANY meditation technique, so long as its purpose is to bring us closer to the Trinity, is Christian meditation. The current reliance on two primary modes of meditation is more a result of the efforts of folks like Fr. John Main and Fr. Laurence Freeman Frs. Main and Freeman (and others) were anxious to make meditation accessible to believers who had been largely without instruction in meditation for hundreds of years and who were willing to connect to Asian traditions in order to apply meditative technology in their own lives. I applaud their efforts, but am sometimes frustrated by the subsequent assumption made by many followers that the techniques these good men promote are the only acceptable means of approaching the Divine.

Having gotten that out of the way, it is still important for today's faithful to be familiar with these two basic modes of Christian technique:

1. Contemplative Prayer
2. Lectio Divina

Contemplative prayer is very similar to what is more commonly known as mantra repetition, or what is called the Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson. The meditator chooses a word upon which they will focus their attention Fr. Main recommended the word maranatha. In the context he suggested it, maranatha means "Come Lord", said with the intention of inviting Jesus into one's heart.

The actual technique for using this Christian meditation is very simple, and follows this path:

• Find a quiet spot you can be alone and undisturbed for 10 or 20 minutes
• Close your eyes (or simply allow your eyelids to shade the eye)
• As you naturally breathe out, say quietly or silently to yourself 'maranatha' (emphasize each syllable evenly and with some definition: ma - ra - na - tha)

When your allotted time is up, sit quietly for a few moments, simply resting in the resulting quietude with gratitude for the chance to spend time with the Trinity.

That's the mechanics of this Christian technique of meditation. But, the importance of the practice begins to come clear once you move a bit beyond the structured technique. As you continue mindfully repeating your chosen word, the meaning of the word fades, and you are left with the bare sensory awareness of the sound. But along with the word's meaning, the other chatter which generally occupies our minds (hopes, fears, loves and hates) also fades. We are then left with a bare awareness of awareness itself and when we stop paying all that attention to our own self talk, we can start to listen to what God is saying. THAT is the real benefit to contemplative prayer - getting out of our own way as we look to see God.

In part 2 of this article I'll address lectio divina, the other half of what many consider the 'official' Christian techniques of meditation.

Until then - Vigilate!