A Personal Reflection: Practicing the gift of prayerful meditation
By B. Austin Moore
Many people associate meditation with Buddhism and other Eastern religions. Indeed, it was in these traditions that we first were introduced to meditation practice in the West. This scares off many Christians from the practice, but the truth is that meditation is simply a way to quiet the mind and become aware of the world around us. It is in this state that I came to renew my relationship with Jesus Christ.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking.” (2705)
Our minds are constantly barraged by thoughts, sensations and emotions. As I continue to grow and mature, I find that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a clear head. In my junior year of college, I fell into the worst bout of depression I have yet to experience. Thoughts about the past, stress about current conditions and fears about the future all plagued my inner consciousness. I felt lost, hopeless, and frustrated about what was happening in my life at this point.
I had heard several accounts about the benefits of meditation for enhancing focus and combating anxiety. Curious, I began to research the subject and found that it was a lot simpler than I thought. I began to meditate daily and saw instant results. I felt calmer, more in control and more clear-headed.
As I became more lucid, I realized why so many other religions had adopted this practice. It is a lot easier to feel a connection to God when my mind is not overflowing with worldly thoughts. I also realized my relationship with God had become shallow. I prayed out of habit each night, usually in a hurry and without fully engaging in the activity. I rarely attended Mass and found it difficult to pay attention when I did. Prayer for me was no longer a source of strength and clarity, but a chore to be done so that my eternal soul might be saved. Therefore, I began to pray during meditation, which helped me deepen my relationship with the Lord.
One basic way to enter a meditative state is simply being observant of the breath. The gift of life we have received from our Lord is most observable to us through the constant inhalation and exhalation of our breath. But since it is so automatic, we often overlook this precious gift.
By concentrating on the breath, I can clear my mind and open my heart to Jesus. It really is easy to do. To begin, I sit cross-legged on a pillow, with my spine as erect as possible. I either fold my hands in my lap or place them palms-up on my knees. Closing my eyes, I feel the air as it enters my nose, moves its way down my windpipe and fills my lungs to capacity. I feel my belly expand and contract with each breath, visualizing it as balloon slowly inflating and deflating. I count each breath in my head, trying to make it to 10 without an extraneous thought coming to mind.
At first this is difficult and I can barely make it to three without a mental intrusion. But as I start to relax and enter a meditative state, I can count higher and higher. When I can make it to 10, and feel adequately relaxed both mentally and physically, I begin my conversation with God. With my mind cleared, it is then much easier to hear what he has to say. The conversation becomes much more two-sided.
This simple practice has increased my confidence and happiness, and most importantly it has renewed my relationship with the Holy Trinity. As humans, we all share the experiences of life and many of us may fall victim to our often negative inner voice. But by using meditation to enhance my prayer life, I have learned to control my thoughts and feelings and thus I am more able to glorify God in everything that I do. What a gift!
Brett Moore is a senior psychology major at Texas A&M University and attends St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station. He writes what is in his heart and hopes someday to make a living off of it.