I’ve been told prayer is when we talk to God and meditation is when we listen. While I don’t expect God to say “Hello, here’s the answer,” I believe in developing this listening channel with God, which guides us to take good and godly spiritual action. It gives us a feeling deep within our hearts to guide us between right and wrong in our daily lives.
I believe this ability to feel God is not just for Sundays and churches, but a practice we must take into our daily lives. It is the quieting of our heads so we may be less quick to react and cause harm. But, unlike prayer that many of us grew up with which is much more like talking that we are comfortable with it, the idea of meditation or quietness is often overwhelming. Most of us need to practice how to listen to God, not just talk at God.
I start simple because my life is chaotic and I have to push aside the tendency to attempt three hours of silent sitting so I can levitate over burning bushes and not meditate again for five years.
I try to only think about my breath, but because my brain always wants to DO SOMETHING I add a simple phrase to go with my breaths. I invite God in and invite the chaos to leave. I make space by saying this in my head:
I may only do this for a few minutes because often that is all I have, but in those few minutes I will go from plans of egging my neighbor’s house to loving my neighbor’s quirks. And that is my God answer.
Of course, some answers are not as obvious as “love thy neighbor” because every problem doesn’t have an immediately answer or the answers aren’t available yet, but the peacefulness I received into my heart and the kindness I’m able to extend to others after I spend a few minutes allowing God into the situation and letting go of my fear and frustration allow me to be the Christian I want to be. So even if I don’t have “the answer” to my specific problem, I’m not causing more problems. That’s good enough for me, and when it isn’t, I need to take a few more breaths.
An important caveat to beginning, and at any point in, meditation, is our “God epiphanies” particularly large ones like QUIT YOUR JOB or RUN NAKED DOWN THE STREET AND BE FREE should be run by trusted friends, pastors, and mentors. Sometimes our God-thoughts are actually our heads telling us what we want to hear. However, after discussions with friends, it is between us and God.
Also, this can be varied to include Jesus or favorite versus in the Bible or “I don’t really believe in you but I’m trying.”
About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from an undergraduate degree in political philosophy to a medical doctor to a stay-at-home mom, writer and Christian by 30. Four years later, she spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog, except when it’s serious, about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.