Experiencing God Through Meditation

Former Trappist monk James Finley talks about the spiritual benefits of contemplative practice for Christians.


11/01/2012 08:33:12 PM

Deep meditation can lead to oneness with the divine essence, i.e. spirit, grace and love. In the Christian tradition that might be better termed the Holy Spirit, rather than God the Father.


10/22/2006 05:50:05 PM

I think that would be a difficult proposition to prove, chidrake, considering that prayer is one of the more private and personal aspects of religious belief. In some countries, especially in Eastern Europe, prayer is well considered on a par with poetry and constitutes an important element in traditional song. And I wounder what you mean when you use the phrase "essential belief", considering what a belief actually constitutes?


10/22/2006 03:24:35 AM

As awriter of poetry and song lyrics I believe the importance of Prayer has sadly been lacking in our essential belief and it's boundless techniques we have overlooked to improve upon. Prayer is not recorded on par with poetry and song lyrics and this major oversight has caused our lack of development and it's uncharted source of expression in the whole of our society.


10/16/2006 10:28:00 PM

Yes, jd70, which is why my own meditations are largely upon the new story of science rather than the old story - or stories - of religion as a basis for spirituality. And, as Chet Raymo has pointed out, there are several compelling reasons for making science the focus of our meditation, some of which are: it works; it is universal, true for all people at all times; it emphasizes the connectedness of all people and all things; it makes us, rather than some transcendent force, responsible for our destiny; and it reveals the universe to be more complex, vast, and beautiful than we ever imagined.


10/16/2006 10:19:44 PM

I would hazard a guess, Henry7, that your meditative failure in encountering any of the divine beings you mention in your post could be put down to their probable non-existence. Mind you, if you believed in them adamantly enough, you may have had such an encounter. Strong belief has the curious ability of sometimes furnishing its own experience. It's not that the experience comes along to prove the belief but, rather, that the belief begets the experience.


10/16/2006 05:09:37 PM

As an Ex Christian, I have never found any god, gods or goddesses while in Meditation.


10/16/2006 01:58:29 PM

Namchuck: I would say the intellect is integral in interpreting the world, but it is rather the five senses that we use to experience it. Meditation is simply a focus on the latter. I would agree though with the rest of your post.


10/15/2006 09:43:57 PM

Nice post, jd70, and I know that meditation can give one a little bit of mental peace and time out, but surely, contemplation of the past can also be a reference point in determining and shaping future decisions and actions? Further, I don't know that we have evolved a "superior intellect" to the rest of animal creation, or that our intellect is "a distraction to experiencing the world around us". It seems to me that our intellect is an integral component in experiencing the world around us. But I would concede that certain meditative practices have a recreational benefit.


10/15/2006 07:45:07 AM

No offense taken Namchuck. Actually when you compare "a cow chewing cud" with being immersed in the present moment, it is exactly the point I was trying to make. The cow simply eats. I don't know what a cow thinks, but I would guess that it is only about how good the chud tastes. We humans have been blessed with a superior intellect, but at the same time it becomes a distraction to experiancing the world around us as it truely is. We worry about things in the future that don't exist and contemplate the past "What if I had done this or that?". This activity is meaningless. We should ask "What can I do right now to improve my situation?" Space and time are reletive and past and future depend on a reference point. In the case of humans our mind becomes the reference point. Medition is about becoming aware of such which gives us freedom and at least for me a sense of peace and well being.


10/15/2006 01:59:02 AM

One has done all that, but is it necessary to keep on repeating it? And who or what is the meditator anyway? It can all become so self-indulgent. There is some much else of transcendent import awaiting our attention to spend too much time gazing at our navels. As Richard Feynman said: 'I came into this world knowing nothing and have only a little time to change all that'.


10/15/2006 12:54:54 AM

Well, you can take "immersed in the present moment" literally or metaphorically. Consider for a moment the mind's ability to walk backwards in time and project forward into it and, as a result, lose sight of all that you are in this one moment. Until I mention it here, you're probably not even aware that you're breathing. You are not "mindful" of it...so become that. Breathing in and out, deeply and slowly, consider how you need oxygen to live...pursue that aspect of "breathing" that is outside your body as far as you can. Now, go in the other direction. You have oxygen in your lungs, where does it go from there? What sort of path does it take within us, and how does the carbon dioxide we wind up exhaling feed back into the first path above, where the oxygen came from? I doubt cows think that deeply about the cud they chew. Tell your mind to stop and look at the present moment deeply. You WERE alive in the past; you MIGHT BE alive in the future - you ARE alive at this moment. Consider that deeply.


10/14/2006 10:16:03 PM

I'm not trying to be offensive, but a cow chewing its cud in the field is "immersed in the present moment", so what is there about being so immersed got going for it? The present is the constant movement of the future into the past - or, if you like - the flow of the past into the future, but the discursive mind's ability is to be able to roam freely in both directions. How does one know that the so-far unknown aspects of the universe are "sacred", unless, of course, one is using the term with its original meaning of 'wholeness'?


10/14/2006 07:40:36 PM

For me medition is about being "immersed" in the present moment. It is about becoming more aware of what is. We tend to get hung up on terms we apply to simply what is. God, Nirvana, Christ, etc, are terms we use refer to that sacred unknown component to existance. Meditation is about going beyond the particular term to becoming content with that to which it points to.


10/14/2006 04:58:59 PM

While I suppose that every meditator, whatever his or her stripe, enters into the practice with a few assumptions, one would think it to be prudent to keep those assumptions to a minimum. Considering the minds ability - especially among the credulous - towards self-deception, why start off with the most complex and elaborate of assumptions (i.e., God, Spirit, etc) simply because they have the hoary stamp of tradition and cultural authority? Perhaps our first meditation (which doesn't exclude ratiocination) should be on what propositions are at least worthy of consideration. As Locke said, 'One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant'.


10/14/2006 01:52:19 AM

During a Quaker Meeting for Worship, the members listen in silence for the leading of God from within. (There are programmed meetings, with traditional ministry and silent worship, and unprogrammed meetings, where worship is in silence unless a member is moved to speak.) Everyone has this access to the leadings of the Holy Spirit through a direct relationship with God. At times a member may feel that the Spirit has moved him/her to speak during the Meeting, while the others in the meeting contemplate this ministry. While individuals may worship in silence at any time, group worship is an important aspect to the Quaker faith, as is living and acting in accordance with the leadings of the Spirit/the Inner Light/God within.


10/13/2006 10:26:58 AM

steppen, I don't disagree with what you say. One doesn't have to believe in a supernatural being to experience the wondrous awe of the Universe. In a Buddhist sense, one could also be with those aspects of life that don't feel as good as "awe". One could learn to stay with pain more and not run from it quite so much since pain is also a part of life just like joy. Peace...


10/12/2006 09:54:16 PM

And that is why I maintain that science is completely compatible with spirituality. In fact, science is a profound source of spirituality, especially when we recognize our place in the immensity of space and time. Starstuff contemplating starstuff.


10/12/2006 09:48:13 PM

And isn't that undiminished sense of wonder it's own meditation, windbender!?


10/12/2006 09:21:57 PM

Know just what you mean, stepen0410e. Every since I was a child, each time I see a airplane take to the air, I experience a sense of wonder that has never diminished.


10/12/2006 07:41:15 PM

I'm not too sure just what the "treasure that lies within" that edgehabit speaks of exactly is, and I don't meditate as a Buddhist or a Trappist monk might, but when I contemplate what science has given us, I experience a sense of awed wonder that I believe ranks with the finest that music and poetry can deliver.


12/11/2004 12:31:33 PM

The treasure that lies within is worth ever effort to attain it. And the effort is in fact, effortless. We sit in meditation, relaxing, relaxing, sinking deeper into the stillness of God within. The only real effort is the little bit of effort it takes to sit in silence on a regular basis until it becomes a practice that is as necessary and as easy and breathing.


09/11/2004 01:04:43 PM

IMO meditation's acceptance within the Christian community is more or less dictated whether the denomination has a history of supporting contemplatives within the church. The Catholics and some of Greek Orthodox groups don't seen have a problem nor do the Anglicans. Those who generally condemn meditation or inner stillness generally seem to come from a more fundamental or evangelical background with no history of supporting or even understanding those with a contemplative mindset. So IMO there will always be a chasm in Christianity as to the role of inner stillness work. To some it will always be "devils work" or a valid instrument useful in training the mind to be still and open.


08/29/2004 09:39:38 PM

Christ is always in us, but we are not always in Christ. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind--and are left free to love God in a personal relationship as we choose. Some see this as going to church services and praying devoutly, or helping the neighbor with love--it is all this, snd can also be the formation of a personal relationship with the Lord as mental husband and oneself preparing as the mental bride that approaches with all their heart, soul, and mind. Some people have a negative connotation of the word "meditation" but i see it as way of forming a personal approach to the personal Saviour, a way of praying without ceasing, a way to give thanks by becoming aware of the unceasing Presence of the Lord by being still and knowing God and having the peace of God that passes all understanding.


08/29/2004 09:38:23 PM

(con't) Instead of meditation, call the inward practice a form of centering Prayer, or a form of self-examination or reflection as a way for the Lord to reveal what we try to keep hidden. We should examine ourselves daily to confess the separating mental sins of upset, worry, and other distrusts of God that take the form of anxieties, instead of bringing every thought captive to Christ. Examine, confess, and be repented unto the forgiveness of salvation. God brings mental peace and trust, not anxiety and upset--those states of mind are not from God and the non-identification of meditation can be a way to have those hell states repented.


08/29/2004 09:36:48 PM

The quality of an action depends on its ordered alignment with God's Love or disordered misalignment with God to become a self-centered harm of others and ourselves. Anything we do can have a self-centered intention, or be an image of God's selfless love. The awareness of meditation or reflection can bring the intentions within our thoughts to the light of self-examination.. Anything can have a negative intention, even the greatest charity can be done from selfish intentions. (An outward act of charity motivatedby selfish intentions can help others, but does not bring spiritual growth) And anything we do with our entire being in the present tense can be a form of meditation, such as the athlete when in the zone, or the person cleaning house while listening to devotional music--as one looks at the floor and notices it needs sweeping.


08/17/2004 11:52:52 PM

Meditation has been a tremendous, and subtle help for me as I live my life and participate in the human family. Though nominally Christian, I understand that no religion has a monopoly on truth and salvation. Having practiced a little over 30 years, I believe that meditation can be part of any religious tradition in which we believe. It will also enable us to feel a deeper bond with different traditions, and understand the commonality from which the religious impulse springs. Is that what they call "Love"?


08/16/2004 01:35:20 PM

What is amazing to me is how very few of you want to give up your aspect of power mongering and making the other party see that you are correct. From my aspect of life you are all very dangerous people without tolerances or compassion (except Mammah). Your religious beliefs or lack of them over-ride your practicality and common sense and you blither and argue for the sake of argument and gaining power over the other. You have forgotten the roots of your faith and you look down on others forgetting that we are one people, bleeding red, having feelings and journeying through this life as best are able, passing on to others the experiences and discoveries we have made along this journey. What each one does in the in end (unless you have lived a life full of hatred) may or may not be right or wrong, but merely different. I am truly sorry I read your dialog at all, but I do hope that you might find some peace being who you are and letting others be themselves.


08/12/2004 09:32:43 AM

This is nice, and I enjoyed your post MammahBunn


08/09/2004 12:47:38 PM

ElGabilon, You said: "There isn't a single living person on this planet, even the most evil, who do not experience God 24 hours a day for their entire life time. One does not need "meditation" to do this. One merely has to open their eyes and see and their ears to hear." I am a Buddhist meditator but my guess is that, for a Christian, meditation is used to experience God more deeply, to learn to "see and hear" God more clearly. This Buddhist is attempting to see and hear more clearly without putting the "god" label on it. Peace...


08/09/2004 12:43:33 PM

dreamsinger, Thank you for your explanation of Christian contemplation. It is not Buddhist meditation but there is always room for those seeking to be open. Peace...


08/09/2004 02:20:22 AM

You'll have to excuse us. "not" should be "note" and "are" should be "have". We took another article about "Mindfull Drinking" to heart. It's a wonder we can type at all. Another dip, another sip, and a meditation tape.


08/09/2004 02:16:17 AM

We not "Former Trappist Monk", now a psychologist making money selling a means to experience God through meditation. Though they have eyes to see they see not, ears to hear, they hear not. There isn't a single living person on this planet, even the most evil, who do not experience God 24 hours a day for their entire life time. One does not need "meditation" to do this. One merely has to open their eyes and see and their ears to hear. The third one "speak" should be "do not speak", for when you speak, you are already lost the connection.


08/07/2004 04:40:46 PM

badger539 Besides Jesus speaking in parables so many wouldn't understand and be saved, there are the people specifically rejected by God, Ammonites, Moabites, people born out of marriage and men "wounded in the stones". You might wish to push the "God is love" rhetoric, certainly to a point that is what I believe. However, you then can't hang your religious beliefs on the hook of Christianity when the Bible simply doesn't support your beliefs? Deuteronomy 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:


08/07/2004 03:07:28 PM

i find it most difficult to accept, fromoz, that people are rejected by god. I believe that it would be more accurate to say that people are estranged from God by sin and error; the parable of the sower implies that not all who hear the good news are ready or prepared to receive it. Only those in some sense "ready" for the message could understand the parable. Those who were not ready did not understand, but that is not to say they were rejected by God.


08/07/2004 12:14:52 AM

I find it hard to pray. I see saying a prayer as comparable to writing a formal letter, and I need to be closer to God than that. Meditating on God's Word gets me there. I open my mind and my heart, and I'm able to interpret the worldly things that trouble me in light of God's will. I'm not sure that what I call meditating is the same as what's described in this article. To me, to meditate is to know that there is another way of seeing, another interpretation of events, another truth, and I open myself up to that. As a Christian, it helps me to think about Christ's life and ask What would Jesus do? How would he choose to see this? I'm not saying that this is necessarily a superior practice, but it has worked for me. Whatever helps get you closer to God is good.


08/06/2004 08:28:29 PM

God's word makes it plain for anyone who wishes to know and understand meditation on Him, contemplation of the things of God are acceptable practices. As we go through this busy life, a more hectic world at an increasingly frenetic pace it is more necessary than ever before for us to worship God by taking time to "be with Him" ...not just in the since of public worship activities, but also in the private time of personal devotion..albeit dedication of ourselves, our lives our families to God and His purpose for us on earth. As rbethell quoted Psalm 46:10 the instruction from the Lord is to, "Be still and know that I am God."


08/06/2004 04:21:56 PM

alpha2 And Jesus clearly demonstrated God's Great Divide by speaking in parables to hide salvation from those who (for reasons best known to him) were rejected by God. In your post you should have emphasised that not everyone is wanted by God? Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.


08/06/2004 01:07:50 PM

There is only one path to God and that is through only one person that promises eternal life. His name is Jesus there is no other way all other ways are sinking sand they have no ground to stand on only through Jesus can the rock of our salvation can we stand.


08/05/2004 11:16:40 PM

Taking into consideration that this is simply IMO: Sometimes we are so limited by language; ie -- when I use a particular word, does it mean the same in your thoughts as it does in mine? Religion is one of those words. Some see this as a word to be honored and a part of a person's life to be respected. However, I personally see RELIGION as individual interpretation of Truth. Where we get into trouble is when we try to dictate how each person's faith should be practiced. Do I believe Jesus was God incarnate and died to pay the sin debt for all mankind? Yes, but the gift is only mine when I receive it. How I express my gratitude for that gift is an individual journey. All I can do is tell others what Jesus/God does for me. I cannot tell someone else how to practice their beliefs. I believe meditation can help me to listen to the Creator's voice rather than my own ego or another man. (Amen to the comment about the Quakers!) Blessings, Mammah


08/05/2004 08:12:14 PM

rbethell I'm sure there's a great deal of diversity within the practices of most religions. And from my experiences, mainstream churches in the 60's and 70's were condemning meditation as an evil practice. A similar thing applies today. While I'm sure there are some Christians leading celibate and single lives to focus on God, most mainstream churches and many Christians reject that lifestyle (one that I cherish) with their insistance on "family values". It's been my experience that most mainstream churches preach benefits from worshiping God, and the idea that someone would leed a celibate and single life, perhaps requiring devotion to a practice like meditation is abhorent to them. That is what I meant with my reference to President Kennedy's speach. I know what it's like to have my beliefs condemned by all of mainstream Christianity that I've come into contact with, and I apologise if my post offended you.


08/05/2004 05:18:17 PM

Christianity follows the "trend" of meditation fromoz? Then how do you explain how the only religion that has had contemplative monastic orders for longer is Buddhism?


08/05/2004 04:31:03 PM

Agree with dreamsinger, the idea of Christian meditation is to listen, to experience the presence of God, not to think about theology or other manmade ideas.


08/05/2004 03:25:51 PM

I'm often intrigued by how "Christianity" follows trends in society. I can remember when Rock and Roll music was considered by many Christians as being sent from Satan. Now there is "Christian Rock", and I left my church shortly after it employed a Christian Heavy Metal" band. The band was called "Aroma" - but I thought they stunk. I can recall in the 60's how many churches were giving dire warnings about meditation and how it gave Satan a chance to enter and twist our minds. Now we have Christian meditation that I believe to be appropriate. I believe Christ spent more time meditating than he did in prayer. If I were ever to try another church, I'd investigate the Quakers who I believe practice meditation instead of the constant badgering of God. I want, I want, I want. I often think of President Kennedy's famous words and how they could apply to God. Ask not what God can do for you etc?


08/05/2004 02:37:14 PM

jacknky, St. John of the Cross, the classic master of Christian meditation, said almost the exact same thing as you. In fact, the path Finley is describing is usually referred to as "the way of unknowing". John of the Cross said, "As long as your spirit is filled with a God constructed from your images and words, there is no room for a God who goes beyond words." That is contemplative spirituality for Christians.


08/05/2004 01:46:16 PM

jackny: I don't follow your line of argument at all - and I do mean at all. Take for example the ancient Christian meditation technique of Ignatius - to focus on stories in the Bible and try to place yourself at the scene of them - how can you remove religion from that equation? And if one is a Christian, why would one even wish to do so? Ditto for the Catholic rosary, or the Liturgy of the Hours/Anglican vespers.... ??


08/05/2004 10:58:37 AM

As a non-Christian I would only hope that this author is not trying to use meditation to support religion. My hope for my meditation is that it be an open inquiry, as free as I can make it from pre-conceived notions, including those about God.


08/05/2004 10:55:48 AM

Here is a quote from the Dalai Lama: "I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others." I believe that meditation supports spirituality, not religion.


08/05/2004 09:07:55 AM

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10


08/04/2004 11:36:17 PM

I have been investigating Zen as a form of meditation and have discovered many Christian Zen practitioners. I believe the Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself secluded themselves away from the crowds in order to grasp something deeper from their time with God. It is hard for me to practice -- my mind has a difficult time with being put on hold. However, I hope in time to become better attuned to meditation as part of my Christien walk. Blessings, Mammah