It seems that nearly every day there are reports of some natural or human disaster that both fascinates and terrifies us. Within this toxic atmosphere and the emotions it creates, we add the day-to-day dramas and worries of every day life – finances, relationships, unemployment or overwork. The favorite buzzword for their effect is stress. Countless studies have shown that stress is bad for our health – but do we understand how to deal with the small and large storms of our lives?
Increasing numbers of people are turning to meditation or mindfulness to cultivate a sense of inward calm. Meditation, often thought of as an Eastern religious practice, also has a Christian meaning and tradition, exemplified by such exponents as Thomas Merton, John Main and Bede Griffiths.
But what does meditation do? For one thing it helps the human mind to focus. It is rather like gazing for some time into a really beautiful painting, or sitting watching the sun rise. You become so engrossed in the beauty of the moment that the troubling issues of the present fade into the background. Studies show that at that moment our heart stops racing, our blood pressure drops and we are more able to concentrate….
The problem is that like all spiritual practices, it takes practice to cultivate the ability to focus. This flies in the face of our modern multi-tasking days that require us to perform many tasks all at once, leaving us feeling unfocused and overwhelmed. So for many of us, the thought of spending time just focusing on one thing in the form of meditation is yet another item on our everyday “to do” list. We imagine that this spiritual practice will take time to implement, and many of us feel that, like exercising, meditation is something we will get to when we have time.
In a recent talk with a British audience, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams shared his difficulty with spiritual focusing in the every day demands of life as head of the Anglican Church. He said –
It is quite nice to have a bit more time to say my prayers and turn into a Christian again
Lord Williams’ comment resonates with me, because it reminds me to see my day, not as compartmentalized like items on an agenda that must be completed before the day is out, but as a pray-based “unfoldment.” I constantly take prayerful moments – quiet, reflective pauses that are available to us all no matter how difficult life gets. These are places we can go to for inspiration and peace.
I am reminded of Christ Jesus’s words
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Meditation as a form of Christian prayer has the power to transform our fears into calm and our emotions into deep spiritual insights, rewarding us openly with renewed energy and ideas. These moments of reflection taken frequently through the day are not just inspiring, but health giving.