Meditation?

Is it OK to meditate? I’m in no way talking about trying to do yoga, Hinduism, or any sort of eastern and New Age spirituality. Nor am I trying to do any sort of prayer. (such as meditating on the mysteries of the rosary)

I’m asking about meditation for the supposed physical and mental benefits people say it has. For example. I have a problem with discipline, and people say that by meditating (sitting down, hands in lap, eyes closed and focusing on your breath, and not thinking of anything else) for 5 to 10 minutes is an exercise to keep your mind focused, have better attention, as well as more self control, and reducing stress.

From a scientific standpoint, that all sounds reasonable. Our brains rewire themselves when we learn, or when we repeat tasks. So it seems like meditating in that aspect could be good for you.

Yet I am confused, because when I think of “meditation” I think of weird New Age stuff. I tried doing research, and when it comes to the Catholic position on “meditation” yet all I can find is stuff on avoiding Eastern spirituality, or something like “meditating on the mysteries of the rosary” I can’t find any information on the Catholic stance on just straight up meditation.

So what is the deal about meditation? Yay or Nay? Is it a good healthy thing that we should do? Or is it Satanic deception that will lead us into the occult?

Yes, I recommend you explore meditation, and that you get started as soon as possible.

The word meditation leads to a certain amount of confusion because it has more than one meaning. It sometimes refers to pondering and mulling, sometimes it refers to reflecting on what one has read or thinking deeply about something, etc. By the same token prayer also has different meanings, one of which is “meditation,” more or less. Maybe you’d have better luck if you researched contemplation or contemplative prayer. My own advice is that you acquire a copy of John Cassian’s The Conferences, published by Paulist Press (Ancient Christian Writers Series, No. 57). It’s a beautiful, life changing book, and conferences one, nine and ten deal very precisely and candidly with your question.

Regarding Christian meditation, I think it is the “not thinking of anything” that is to be avoided.

You can concentrate on your breath in conjunction with the Jesus prayer and it will be just as beneficial for your mind, body and spirit without opening your consciousness to “outside influences”:

On the inhalation, think “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God…” Then exhale, praying “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Repeat for as long as desired. (Do this very very slowly.)

I agree that contemplation might be better for you, as Exiled Child mentioned. I used to do this every New Year in a Contemplation weekend retreat. You place yourself in the presence of God, then focus your thoughts on Him. When (not if) your mind wanders, return to God.

Finally, a practice recommended to me by the contemplation weekend priest was what he called the “Who am I” meditation. You sit still, place yourself in God’s presence and just keep asking “God, who am I?” I still remember one split second of pure insight many years ago that I connected to God and it was the single best moment of my entire life. **Note well, though-- having “great moments” is not the goal of meditation; I believe what I received was a gift from God.

God bless you.

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19891015_meditazione-cristiana_en.html

Thank you, Bookcat! To the OP, this is absolutely worth checking out:
LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ON SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

Bryan77,
Hello and blessings to you and yours. Meditating on the breath can be very helpful just as you’ve listed and yes we really don’t need to do this form of meditation very long each day. This form of meditation isn’t necessarily eastern-maybe these will set your mind at ease about doing something non-Christian or non-Catholic.
Firstly> First Kings 19:12–regarding god heard in whispers.

 Secondly> Quotes from Mother Teresa's book  No Greater Love.
      "We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence."

      "In silence we will find new energy and true unity."

      "Silence gives us a new outlook on everything."

      "We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally."

 I think we can only hear the holy spirit if we are open to listening and in order to listen we have to still the mind chatter. Awareness of the breath is a practical way to do this. Take care and stay safe.

Here is a book that explains the value and method of all Catholic types of prayer. Very crispy. Good for beginners and advanced. A nice book to keep indefinately as a source to refer to. Wonderful for any Catholic who has questions about what is happening to their prayer life. Not complicated. When and how to pass from one prayer style to another. Explains how not to get stuck in a prayer style that will stunt your growth in growing closer to Jesus. Answers where you are and what you may now be ready for.

ORDINARY PATH TO HOLLINESS by R. Thomas Richard

amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=ordinary%20path%20to%20holiness

:thumbsup:

This is where I get confused. When talking about “meditation” spirituality gets brought up. I’m not trying to find a new way to pray.

The link LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ON SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

Is about prayer.

Maybe another way to ask my question…

Is meditation always a spiritual activity? Or can it be a secular activity (Like running)

Running is physical, yet although you can pray while you run, running in of itself isn’t a spiritual activity. Is that how meditation is?

When people suggest meditation to calm down, and focus, it is usually not in any spiritual context. Is this true? Or are these people mistaken, and meditation is always spiritual?

It seems there is “Christian meditation” (a form of prayer)
as well as “Eastern/New Age meditation” (A misguided prayer, and opening yourself up to demons)
Is there a “secular meditation”?

By “not thinking of anything” is that New age, and opens us up to “outside influences”?
What about focusing on the breath only. Is that dangerous? Is it only safe if I do it in conjunction with the Jesus Prayer?

Greetings,
Meditation on the breath can be done with a secular intent in my view. Meditation on the breath is not thinking of nothing-it is however helping to still the thought waves-helping us to settle down. Think of the breath as a tool for meditation just a prayer beads or a mantra. This is what I do anyway-the breath is simply a tool to help me be in the moment. If something spiritual comes of it so be it, but mostly I’m looking to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, etc… As an example fasting can be a secular experience as well. Most folks that fast do it for spiritual reasons while some are doing it for the physical benefits. Sometimes we may get more benefits from a particular activity than we had originally expected. Be well and stay safe.

There is a longer explanation of the Jesus prayer at: Saying the Jesus Prayer.

rossum

So, the type of meditation I described in my first post (which is not trying to be any sort of prayer) is it sinful or dangerous for a Cathokic to do?

Let me emphasise again. I am not teying to find a new way to pray. I will ask a dodferent question in a new thread if I want hekp on prayer. I am asking about meditation (without prayer) for the physical and mental benefits.

Is it a sin to do this? Is it spiritually dangerous to do this?

Is your intention to sin? Obviously not. You say you are not interested in making your meditation a prayer, so why would it be any more spiritually dangerous than exercising or stretching? We do these things to improve our overall wellbeing, and meditation also has proven health benefits, as you know.

You mentioned focusing on your breath, so in effect you are not “emptying your mind,” but practicing mindfulness. Your meditation is an attempt to let go of the swarm of peripheral thoughts for a time and focus on one thing, in this case your breathing. Mindfulness meditation is wholesome, not sinful.

Why would you ask such a question? Have you encountered the well meaning but often misinformed advice of naysayers? Perhaps it will help you to occasionally remember the Source of your life and the very breath upon which you focus. Let this remembrance fill you with gratitude, not fear. God bless you!

I have often wondered on this subject, and concluded that yes, the only danger is to to meditate on “nothing”, which is the door into the occult. Ideally, one should meditate on God, so repetition relaxes the mind while it rests in God. The rosary is a classic example, repetitive prayers, while focusing on the different mysteries of Christ’s life. Meditation should not be an emptying of consciousness and will power, like hypnosis, where anything can enter in and take control. One of the things I like to think about when I am stressed, is the gracious, maternally comforting words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, pushing all negativity and worry out of my mind, like she urged him to do, and focus instead on her maternal love and God’s providential care. (“Am I not your mother?..”)

Thank you for your straight answer.

The reason I ask, is because growing up I always associated meditation with bald headed (non Christian) monks sitting cross legged, with their hands in the OK position, and thus I thought meditation was an Eastern thing. Getting older I would hear about meditation for health reasons, but I always brushed it aside, because it seemed weird.

Then even now you hear about Yoga for health reasons, which is false, and we should not do yoga, because What we here in the West, call Yoga, is actually only a certain type of yoga which is designed to prepare our bodies, so that we can attain a supposed higher state of consciousness. (I believe it was Sharron Lee Giganti on Catholic answers Live who said that New Age gurus are using yoga as a way to bring New Age into the mainstream in America.)

Then you hear “meditation music” which sounds very eastern, and you ussually see accompanying visuals that deal with chakras and such.

Even from secular sources promoting meditation for health benefits, you sometimes see a few new age themes in some of the resources they provide.

Then when I try to do research on if it is OK for Catholics to meditate, I only find stuff on Prayer, and then I finally ask a question on a forum, because I can’t find the answers myself.

I’m happy I asked though, because this is the first time I ever heard that focusing on breathing is safe, but focusing on “nothing” is what makes it dangerous.

Thank you for bringing this up. I like the idea of praying the Jesus Prayer while meditating. I have been meditating with ‘Maranatha’ on the inhalation and ‘come Lord Jesus’ on the exhalation.
I hope this is all right too.

Then how is Christian meditation different from just thinking deeply about something (not trying to be aggressive; I’m just confused)?

Yes, the Catechism endorses meditative prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer, with these words, (CCC # 2667-2668):

**"This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos is the invocation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.” It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.

The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and “brings forth fruit with patience.” This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others, but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus." **

The anonymous writer of The Cloud of Unknowing from the 14th century tells us:

"If you want to gather all your desire into one simple word that the mind can easily retain, choose a short word rather than a long one. A one syllable word such a “God” or “love” is best. But choose one that is meaningful to you. Then, fix it in your mind so that it will remain there come what may. This word will be your defense in conflict and in peace."

The 20th century Benedictine John Main, in continuity with the teachings of Desert Fathers like St. John Cassian and later works like The Cloud, recommends the word Maranatha (Come, Lord Jesus), so you are in good company with your choice of word for your meditation :thumbsup:.

The OP, it seems, was not focusing on the prayerful aspects of meditation so much as the potential benefits for mind and body, but I see no reason not to combine the two. If we see our meditation as prayer (which I do), the other benefits will follow just as surely as if we only focus on our breathing.

The Foundation of Human Understanding (FHU.com) teaches an “Observation exercise” which some people call Meditation…read below:

A Simple Awareness Exercise for Overcoming Stress & Illness

If you could learn the secret of how to control your responses, how to find that God-given switch in your mind which would allow you to energize and motivate yourself, you would never again feel conflict, guilt, fear or depression.

If you are willing to be shown how, you can become the person you were created to be. Allow the Foundation of Human Understanding to introduce you to a simple procedure that will prove to you, through your own experience, that control over yourself without unbearable suppression is not only possible, but vital to your health, to your future happiness – and to your very existence. Read “How It Works”.

I have used this exercise with great results. The exercise is effective to the point that it is not necessary to continually use it once you find relief from what was bothering you.

The exercise is also used by returning service members that suffer from PTSD to great effect.

Would love to hear from anyone else about their experience with the observation/meditation exercise. Cheers!

Christian meditation is NOT yoga meditation.
Please, read this authorized document:
www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfmed.htm
Eastern meditation is part of eastern mysticism.
Eastern cultures must be respected. But, In my opinion,
a Christian should stay away from eastern meditation.
Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life. As a Christian, I do not need
other Ways.
God Bless you.

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