As a Christian, I have always heard of the benefit of meditating on God’s Word. This is an active meditation that includes contemplation of the Scriptures and prayer. I have also been warned about the dangers of Eastern meditation, which is basically am emptying of the mind, a turning off of the thoughts, and is considered a form of self hypnosis, and therefore dangerous for a Christian to engage in.
However, there is a third form of meditation, often called mindfulness. As I understand it, it is mindfully focusing on one thing at a time, as opposed to multitasking. Perhaps that is eating a meal, exercising (it’s hard to think of anything else while exercising, unless the intensity is extremely low), or just about any task. This could include deep breathing exercises, listening to music, etc.
So I have heard well-meaning Christians shying away from mindfulness because they think it is a form of Eastern meditation. However, I am beginning to think that this is a misconception. First, it is based on the understanding that Eastern Meditation also focuses on the breath. However, even the most adamant opponents of EM would agree that daily deep breathing exercises are a good daily practice. The difference is that one is done with the intention of clearing the thoughts, while the other is done with the intention of breathing deep. I would challenge you to try to do deep breathing exercises while doing anything else that requires any kind of focus (reading, cooking, etc). You can’t do it. As soon as you begin to focus on the other task, your breath returns to normal.
And what is wrong with focusing on one thing at a time? Nothing. Multitasking is overrated. Eating mindfully would be focusing on the food and flavors and the sensation of fullness or hunger. Nothing wrong with this. In fact, far from clearing the mind, of being thought-less, it is thought-full, actively engaging the frontal lobe and critical thinking skills (Do I need more? Have I had enough?). I would just call this mindfulness, not meditation, but some people like the word meditation (usually not the conservative Christians I’ve referred to).
The point of all this is that if you are inclined to avoid something because of the label it is given, because the label is similar to something you know to be dangerous, make sure you’re judging the thing for its own value and not for the label it has and the ideas you have of the label.
In this definition, all intense exercise is meditative, because there’s hardly any way you can do anything except focus on the exercise. You can’t do math; there’s not enough glucose available. If you try, your intensity will drop. You can’t plan the rest of your day. All you can do is focus on the next rep, the next jump, the next pull, the next step. That’s mindfulness by default; you don’t have a choice. But what if you spent more time being mindful in other areas? How about in spending time with your kids? Mindfulness would be putting the phone down when your kids talk to you. Mindfulness would be playing a game after the chores are done and there’s nothing to distract you. Mindfulness would be family worship with everyone attentive and participating.
Author: Lisa Reynoso