Current Psychiatry recently published a list of research studies supporting the effectiveness of meditation in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Meditation “refers to a variety of practices that intentionally focus attention to help the practitioner disengage from unconscious absorption in thoughts and feelings.”  There are two main types: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.

With concentrative meditation, a person works to maintain focus on a particular object, word, phrase, or body part. In mindfulness meditation, participants consciously observe objects (such as breath, body, emotions, or thoughts) as they appear in moment-by-moment awareness. The first is like mental exercise or weightlifting and the second is like mental massage or spa treatment. In the physical word, a balance of both are needed to stay fit and healthy.

Sadly, Buddhist and Western psychology have taken the credit for developing the practice of meditation, but in reality, God established the importance of this practice long before man came up with the idea. If you don’t believe me, look up Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 4:4; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 119:15, 97; Philippians 4:8. These verses decribe the concentrative type of meditation. We focus on scripture, memorize it, ponder it and allow it to permiate our very being. That way, when difficulties come, those truths will be readily available to our consciousness.

Mindfulness meditation, though not as explicitly described in scripture, can still be found. Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:19-20 speak to the revelation of God through creation. We can learn about God by observing the natural world around us. When was the last time you sat alone and just observed nature, taking it in with all of your senses? A conscious awareness of its beautiful design, even in the normal functioning of our own body can lead us to a deeper appreciation of the awesomeness of God.  The Lord tells us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is often in the silent moments of our lives when we have no agenda, no tasks at hand, no distractions that God speaks to us. The question is this: are we training ourselves to listen? 

Not only is a conscious awareness of our external environment important, but so is a conscious awareness of our internal thoughts and emotions. The psalmist asks God in psalm 139 to “search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” God will not reveal our thoughts, our anxieties, even our sin unless we take time to stop and consciously evaluate them as they come. Setting aside time to do this is important.

Question: What are your thoughts on meditation? How are you practicing it in your daily life?