Before I even start writing about this, there are people who have already checked out. Some who say “I can’t meditate. It’s not possible for me.” And there are others who think “I don’t know about that…it’s woowoo stuff.” The latter I surprisingly hear the most from Christians who for some reason think it’s not part of their faith’s heritage. (Spoiler…it is all over the scriptures!)
So, background on me, I was raised in the Christian tradition. But I wasn’t one of those kids who went because my parents made me. I LOVED church. As a teenager I went because I craved it. I was there every Sunday for Sunday school, “Big church” as we called it, and many times returning for Sunday night. Then I was there every Wednesday for youth group and any extra event the church was hosting. If a sermon was taught on a book of the Bible, I heard it. I used my spending money from my part time jobs to go to the Christian bookstore and would read my Bible and my devotionals in my bedroom. Literally, my friends would be at high school parties, and I would be at home studying the Bible. I have always been hungry for an active spiritual life. With all that church going, I heard a thousand ways to pray, a.k.a. talk to God, but at no point did anyone teach me how to listen.
I was taught prayer journals and prayer requests. At one point I literally kept a journal of my prayer requests so I wouldn’t forget all the things people asked me to pray for. And I would sit there in my quiet time and actually read the list.
I distinctly remember being about 20 years old on my back porch opening up the prayer journal and going through the list and then closing it and saying “This is stupid. Jesus, this feels like a kid on Santa’s lap reading a list of things I want. I don’t think this is what prayer life is supposed to look like.”
I would try to pray and be quiet but one of two things would happen, I would either fall asleep or my thoughts would wander a thousand different directions. I was more likely to remember something on my to do list than to hear the voice of God.
For years I would attempt meditation and I couldn’t make it two minutes without feeling stupid. I even bought the book “meditation for dummies.” I’m not joking. I literally bought the big yellow textbook with big black letters on the cover from Barnes and Noble.
Finally, when I hit my burn out at 24, my sabbatical that you’ll hear me talk more about in my writings, I was tired of not having this skill. I remembered I had a professor in college who used to refer to his daily meditation practice and that he had recently retired. I needed help. I tracked him down on the internet and he invited me over to his home.
I ended up spending an entire day with him asking a million questions about meditation and his spiritual journey. Peace overwhelmed me. There are people in your life who preach the Bible and then there are people in your life who actually live a life that reflects the words in red. At that point in my life, he was one of the few people I had ever met that exhibited all the love of Jesus. I saw him cry once in class because he loved his students so much and needed them to know he forgave them and loved them anyway when they cheated, even though he had no choice but to fail them on that test.
Over time I encountered more people who walked a life of unconditional love, servant-hood, peace, kindness, joy and other characteristics that were reflective of a genuine faith. It made me think of the scripture “you will know them by their fruit.” Man. Read the fruits of the spirit and then try and find some humans on the planet that exude them. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is when you count how many churches we have in America. Whenever I would encounter another person that reminded me of Jesus’s teachings, I would interview them and they consistently had one thing in common…meditation.
Here’s what I can tell you about meditation, it’s a muscle. It must be worked like one. You can not go from couch potato to a marathon the next day, but you can set a goal to train for it and find success.
When I guide people in meditation I teach them to just sit in silence for five minutes counting your breath up to the count of 8 and back down to 0 for five minutes. Whenever your mind drifts, bring it back to the numbers. Just that exercise alone will begin to give you control over your mind.
Today, if I am blessed enough to wake up before my entire family I can sit in silence for an hour in a beautiful meditative state. However, that’s rare. More common in my current season is to feel myself getting stressed and go lock myself in a closet or sit in my car by myself for five minutes and take many breaths while releasing all the stress I’m carrying.
Someone said to me “prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening.” And this has been my experience. Learning to quiet the mind, intentionally reflect, and give space for new perspectives has been incredibly life changing.
I’ve led some guided meditation classes before and I love hearing the stories of what people will discover in the quiet. Most of what you need to know is already inside of you. You just need to quiet yourself for long enough to hear it.