First, What is Meditation?Since the meaning of meditation has become so muddied these days, let’s get back to the basics so we can start with a definition we all agree on: meditation is either turning your attention to your breath, to your body, or to a meaningless sound that you repeat in your mind called a mantra. By focusing our attention on the present moment, we become fully present and alert. We train our minds to be more focused. Our attention and awareness become sharpened and expanded. We become less impulsive and lost in thought, and more mindful of our intentions, thoughts, words, and deeds. Studies have shown that these benefits lead to a greater sense of peace and joy, love and gratitude, kindness and compassion, wisdom and understanding. We experience less stress and anxiety, depression and addiction, illness and pain.
What Meditation is NotMeditation is not emptying your mind and becoming mindless. It is about becoming mindful. Meditation is not passive, doing nothing, nor is it emptying the mind. Quite the opposite. It is about fully experiencing, observing, and appreciating the present moment – God’s creation. Meditation is not about focusing on ourselves or our bodies. It is about becoming aware of our own awareness. It is about turning our attention inward toward our eternal, infinite, formless, light of consciousness – or soul – within us. This is what Jesus called eternal life. In this way, we can connect more deeply with the presence of God. It’s exactly as Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Meditation is not a means to attaining fleshly desires like success or wealth, finding fame or love. Meditation is about letting go of ego and pride (a deadly sin). It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves so we can become the best people, neighbors, and Christians we can be. Meditation is not about desires, but rather letting go of desire and simply experiencing God’s miraculous creation with our full attention, awareness, and presence without external or mental distraction. Now that we can all agree on the definition of what meditation is and does, let’s dive into whether or not meditation is a sin.
Does the Bible Mention Meditation?In many places in the Bible, the word “meditate” is used to mean “ponder on” or “contemplate.” It says ponder on the word of the Lord, ponder on the majesty of God, and so on. Pondering and contemplation are essential aspects of our lives. They help us process what we’ve learned and experienced. Of course, as we established, when we say meditate in this article, we mean turning our attention and focus towards the present moment. Both types of meditation are equally important and play a vital role in our lives. However, nowhere in the Bible does it speak to or forbid the actual practice of Eastern meditation that we are referring to. Consider this when asking “can Christians meditate.” If Christianity was against Eastern meditation, one would expect it to be mentioned in the Bible since Jesus was visited by three wise men from the East when he was born.
Bible Quotes About Why Christians Can MeditateThroughout the Bible, passages speak to being fully present and alert, turning our attention inward, becoming humble and egoless, and observing and learning from nature. Here are just a few quotes that prove that in fact, Eastern meditation is very Christian. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but does not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Jesus was encouraging us to turn our attention inward and become mindful of ourselves and our nature, to focus less on the external physical world and more on the formless within. The Bible says, “Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But who do you think the devil preys on? The mindless wanderer lost in thought, or those who are fully present, aware, alert, and clear-eyed. “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Many Christian scholars have considered this phrase by Jesus to refer to the Christ within – our true nature – which can only be experienced when we turn our attention inward. It says Christians can meditate and turn inward to find the way. When Jesus said, “Deny thyself… and follow me,” he meant to deny the mind-made sense of identity and to realize your true inner light and essence within, beyond the mind, beyond thoughts and preconceived notions.
From Lilies and Beyond…
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not.” Jesus was literally telling us to sit in stillness and meditate on nature, to see how everything just exists and works without effort or struggle, like our breath or our heartbeat. The lilies just are. When they are in their being, the doing flows naturally. The lilies are always meditating.
“When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place… For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” To sit on the floor and let go of your ego and pride in meditation is the very humbling experience that Jesus was referring to.
“It is not I but the Father within me who does the works. And I can of my own self do nothing.” Jesus is referring to how only the mind can get in our way and block us from receiving God’s will through us.
Prayer and Whether Christians Can Meditate…
“Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Although visualization is a different kind of meditation than we are discussing, Jesus did encourage it in prayer.
“God blesses those who are humble (egoless), for they will inherit the whole earth.” To become humble and egoless is to let go of all pride and sense of self, to just be present as an instrument of the Lord.
In the Bible, God said: “I am that I am.” God is everywhere and God is eternal. To experience the timeless, infinite, true nature of our being in meditation is not self-conscious, it is God-conscious.
“Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Jesus wanted us to contemplate and live like the birds – free from worry, fully present without being lost in thought.
“Be in readiness, upright and faithful to your calling, be prepared to receive the coming Messiah.” This passage of the Bible means to be present and alert for whenever God or Jesus may call, as only a state of meditation can do.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eyesight is good, your whole body will be well lighted” Here, Jesus is referring to seeing clearly, unobstructed by thoughts and judgments, so that your light of consciousness will shine through you. Only meditation helps train our minds to see this way.
“Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there.” Jesus was literally saying one must be fully present to find him. Meditation is not just a short practice we do in the morning or evening. It is to help our minds become more fully present throughout the day and our lives.
Would Jesus Think Christians can Meditate?Based on what we know about Jesus, he most likely spent many hours a day sitting in meditation without even knowing it. Meditation is our natural state of being. It is how every baby and animal lives 24/7. I can see it now: Jesus sitting on a rock with his eyes closed, just being, appreciating, and observing all that life is. Before humans learned to farm, back when we still lived in the wilderness, being fully present and aware of our surroundings was essential to survival. We had to be constantly aware of our bodies, make sure we weren’t breathing too loud or giving off any fear. If a dangerous animal was nearby, we knew that we needed to make our bodies calm and remain fully alert. If we were distracted, if we acted unmindfully, if we were lost in our thoughts, we were dead. We humans lost our way of being once we developed cities filled with constant distractions. But Jesus understood this. This is why he went into the desert for 40 days. Surely much of that time, without realizing it, he was meditating. And when he returned from this journey as Christ, he was a totally different person. He was now ready to take on the Romans and lead the world into salvation. So, if Jesus meditated, can Christians meditate?
Salvation vs. Enlightenment
The word salvation, as Jesus called it, goes by another name in the East: enlightenment. While they go by different names, they point in the same direction.
In Christianity, salvation means saving someone from sin and separation from God.
Similar to salvation, enlightenment means liberation from unethical action (sin) and the fog of ignorance (separation from God).
So, is Meditation a Sin and Can Christians Meditate?Is it a sin to observe a flower? Is it a sin to notice a puppy sleeping and breathing in our arms? If not, how could it be a sin to simply observe our own breath? How could it be a sin to notice what is happening right under our very nose? Is it not a greater sin to spend most of our lives lost in thought, thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and missing God’s miraculous creation that is happening right in front of our eyes in the present moment? The fact is, meditation is like watching football or going on a hike. It’s just another thing to turn our attention to. Anyone can do it of any faith or no faith. It’s as simple and natural as paying attention to the food you’re eating or any other activity you do. In fact, Eating Meditation is another form of meditation where you simply observe with full focus and attention each bite of your food and the sensations of eating. This type of simple meditation adds a great richness to your life that Jesus would most definitely approve of.
Be Aware and Be Present…
Paying attention to what is happening in the present moment is certainly not a sin. It’s non-religious and is not excluded from the Bible. We do it all the time without realizing it, when we watch our favorite movie, see a beautiful sunset, or notice a shooting star.
For those brief moments, we put our full attention into the present moment. There are no thoughts or opinions, just total awareness. Meditation simply helps us live in this state of awe and wonder more often.
No one is suggesting you practice Eastern meditation and stop praying. Neither am I saying stop meditating on Jesus or the Bible. You can do both! Jesus would no doubt want us to. So, in the words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Christians can meditate.
Peace and love.
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