Experiencing God Through Meditation
Former Trappist monk James Finley talks about the spiritual benefits of contemplative practice for Christians.prayer for more than 20 years, six of which he spent at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he studied with Thomas Merton. He is the author of several books, including "The Contemplative Heart," and his teachings are also available on CDs from Sounds True. In "Meditations for Christians," for example, he guides listeners to "enter the mind of Christ" (listen to an audio clip). Now a clinical psychologist in California, Finley leads meditation workshops and retreats throughout North America. He spoke to us about his book, "Christian Meditation."
Many people associate meditation with Eastern traditions. What do you mean by meditation?
Today more and more Christians are using the term meditation in a way that was traditionally referred to in the Christian tradition as contemplation, and that's how I'm using it.
At the heart of the Gospel is Jesus saying "I and the Father are one." The early Christians understood this as a call to enter into Christ's divine oneness with the Father. They felt they could respond to that call by entering into that oneness experientially; even on this earth they could realize something of this eternal oneness with God that Christ came to reveal and proclaim. And they sought to experience this through meditation and prayer.
Christian meditation is way of experiencing God beyond what the ego can grasp or attain. It's beyond thought, beyond memory, beyond the will, beyond feeling.
Although many Christians are rediscovering this ancient practice, there are other Christians who are opposed to meditation of any kind. Why?
My understanding is that it really has to do with the historical origins and developments of the Protestant traditions of Christianity. [It's] within some of the more fundamentalist or evangelical versions of the Reformation that you have this resistance.