Meditation East And West

I am pretty much into meditation and have been since about 1973. I read about what it does in the brain, I have tried many different methods, and an article by a psychatrist was especially helpful in knowing the psychodynamics of it. I want to read more of this Dr. Mark Epstein. But right now I am in the midst of a James. H. Austin book. They are both Buddhists but that does not bother me.

You see, I think the Eastern religions have a lot to offer on the inner journey. They have road maps and terminology that the West does not have. When it comes to pure mental hygiene there is so much there we can benefit from. BUT it is pure mechanical, like learning and playing an instrument or something. To be complete I need to bring God into it. And I have studied the great Christian mystics but I find the approach through Zen and Yoga to be more instructive in how the brain and mind work.

So there is great psychological and physical benefit but in my view spiritually empty and impersonal. So most of my life has been exploring the questions of, “How does Christ fit into my meditation and how does meditation fit into my journey with Christ?”

St. John of the Cross and St Bonaventure have been my Christian companions but they can be pretty difficult to follow. And, meditation may not be for everyone because learning about our inner selves can be very rough going. When we sit and observe the inner processes it can be dark and deep. But it is what it is. We are who we are.

But meditation is not just about sitting in silence. All the rest of our life must be supportive, the work we do, our interaction with others, our prayer, our reading, every thing we do as disciples of Jesus, as followers of Christ, it all comes with us when we go deeply inward. I am 65. I have been on this journey with Christ as long as I can remember. It was Christ who led me to the interior work. In fact it is he who does the work. I just sit and watch. I would say it is a vocation. In the silence of my heart I sit and wait, “like a child at rest in its mother’s arms, even so my soul”. It takes patience and faith and discipline. I would be glad to message with others who share the inner interest.

Sounds like you have a good Christian approach to meditation. I tried meditation about 30 years ago but couldn’t seem to get it. I read The Relaxation Response, by Dr. Herbert Benson, which describes a secularized method of meditation.

If you haven’t already read the Vatican letter on some aspects of meditation, here it is:

Why don’t you follow the Christian yoga priest guy?

I’ll get around to meditating one of these days, if I live. My life is currently a bit shambolic and I don’t feel ready to take this other stuff on.

Hi: I am Catholic and I meditate the Eastern way. I follow a zen master named Thich Nhat Hahn. He has many books and youtube videos. The nice thing is he says you can do both: the Catholic faith and the “practice” He has lived in France many years so he understands the thinking of the Western mind also.

[quote=“Beryllos, post:2, topic:629332”]
The Relaxation Response , by Dr. Herbert Benson[/quote]

I remember that. Purely secular, but relaxing.

You mean follow on facebook? I am kind of done following anyone but Jesus.

No, he’s deceased since 1992. He wrote Catholic yoga books years ago. I want to read his books.

We just had a discussion about him on here recently - Fr Dechanet.

And of course I didn’t mean follow him instead of Jesus, he certainly wouldn’t want that.

I meant he might have a useful method or tips in his books for you to apply.

““never give up prayer and should you find dryness and difficulty, perservere in it for this reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.””
St. John of the Cross

in my humble opinion, there is a difference between meditations that relax the mind and body and prayer life which is soulful.
and the prayer life as many saints in various ways have stated can be difficult and challenging. once our souls are united to God our minds and actions follow, or vice versa. as we often heard and read in scripture our Lord ‘prayed’ probably much more than we know about. a prayer life can bring much peace also when we truly surrender to God.

I prefer to stick with Christian mediation on the work of salvation and the union of the soul with God. What was good for the great Christian mystics is good for me. No need to risk falling into syncretism.

1 Like

have you tried thomas merton??

Yes, but he gets pretty intellectual. I like his reflections.

I read him a long time ago. These days I find that I do more harm than help so I only do simple stretches with my arms and legs .


I dabbled in Buddhism before turning back to Christ.
To me, Buddha was a proto-psychologist more than a religious leader; his doctrine was entirely about “fine tuning” the mind and not get attached to false concept of self (“no self” is a Western misconception, he never affirmed that) that leads one to unceasing suffering.
Therefore, Buddhist meditation can fit into Christian living, because it requires only to not hold firm to any thought that comes to mind in the span of a sitting session. The difference for us, it’s that we have God. So, sometimes, during meditation, I just repeat the Jesus prayer instead of counting my breaths.
Of course, Buddhism became a religion, it would be disingenuous to think otherwise (that’s was what Ratzinger warned naive Westerners about). There are spiritual realms, hells, demons, and so many strange things that make even the Trinity seems a mundane concept.
Still, it’s enough to limit oneself to Buddha’s teaching (the Suttas). Those are concerned only to the here and now: what to do with our mind, that it’s like a monkey on a high dose of caffeine? Furthermore, Buddhism ethics are more similar to Christian virtues than, for example, Muslims’.

Yes, I think the Buddha himself was more practical psychologist than “religious” leader. All the other religious trappings of no interest to him.

Many of those were attached to him later when Buddhism developed as a religion and entered in contact with many different kind of spirituality (like Tengrism in Tibet or Taoism in China). Buddha himself never confirmed or denied even the idea of “rebirth”, for example. For him, any time one gets attached to an “unskilled” (we would say “sinful” instead) thought he gives birth to a bad version of himself, so to speak, that will have repercussion in the future. And even if he recognized the existence of many spiritual creatures, because anyone did in the past, he rejected their importance. Those would be demons for us, and even angels.

The desert Fathers are the most similar thing we have to Buddhism. Their writings I would highly recommend.

I was so blessed to be introduced the the Conferences of John Cassian in my early 20’s.

Have you ever read or listened to John Main or Laurence Freeman? John Main learned to meditate from a Hindu teacher in Malaya. After he became a Benedictine monk, he found a Christian equivalent of this way of prayer in the Conferences of Cassian, the Cloud of Unknowing, and the writings of Augustine Baker. Laurence Freeman carries on the work he started today.

John Main, yes but not Laurence Freeman. Good to know the work goes on.

When we go into silence. When we detach from our thoughts and remain in Being. We remove our sinful nature and get closer to God. At least that’s how I like to mix the two. Not sure if that mix would be considered orthodox but it’s helpful to me.

God bless

Sound like something St John of the Cross would say. Satan can mess with our thoughts but not our Being.

1 Like
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit