A friend and I recently started a women’s circle in our town, inviting friends and fellow church-goers. We told everyone it would be a time of guided meditation, solitude, and spiritual connection with God. A time to be mindful and present. We knew this might be a new concept to some women so we explained it through written communication and face-to-face.
Very quickly we realized that a lot of confusion exists around meditation. Or at least in our little evangelical Christian corner of the western world. And I’m guessing we are not alone.
Some women thought we were planning to do yoga. Others were uncertain whether meditation is even appropriate for Christians.
Thankfully, we weren’t calling our sisters to do anything unbiblical. In fact, David, the “man after God’s own heart” wrote about his heart’s meditation in the Psalms.
So what is meditation?
More than those quick prayers we say while driving or just before a big meeting. Different than the times we spend in corporate prayer. Not quite the same as worship—although the two are related.
Meditation is about taking a dedicated time to stop, contemplate, and consider. It doesn’t happen on the fly.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, meditation is “the act of giving your attention to only one thing”.
Focus. Fixate. Concentrate.
Consider. Reflect. Contemplate.
Ponder. Ruminate. Deliberate. Speculate.
In an age where people are constantly busy and value is placed on activity or productivity, the idea of sitting still, thinking or pondering scripture seems foreign. But could this be the very reason that anxiety, stress, and chronic illness are so pervasive? Could it be that putting our lives on pause to meditate has the power to change things?
We are instructed by the author of Hebrews to “fix our eyes on Jesus”. (Heb 12:2)
As we fix our eyes and hearts on Jesus through meditation, we gain innumerable benefits. Of course, the spiritual benefits are obvious. Deepening our relationship with the Father. Keeping us in step with the Spirit.
Certainly, emotional benefits come from spending time communing with God. And these can extend into our personal relationships with family and friends.
But what about physical benefits? Is it possible that God created our bodies in a way that we are physically healthier when we spend time communing with him?
The answer is yes. Emphatically, yes.
Our brilliant Creator made our bodies to respond to meditation, contemplation, stillness and focus in a way that offers a myriad of benefits. And while scientists can’t quite understand why research shows that times of meditation are healthy for the human body.
While the details vary depending on the specific study, the basic concept remains the same. Research shows that, on the whole, people who meditate have better health in specific areas as well as overall.
Here are some of the ways studies have shown meditation benefits the health:
- Lowers Blood Pressure. Young people were found to have significantly lower blood pressure rates after mediation when compared to a control group.
- Reduced Heart Rate. When compared with people who were simply resting during the same amount of time, people who meditated had significant decreases in their heart rate and blood pressure levels. And the longer the meditation lasts, the lower the heart rate.
- Serotonin Levels. Critical in relationship to mood, bone health, digestion, and wound healing, people who meditate have higher levels of this critical neurotransmitter.
- Melatonin Levels. Vital for proper sleeping rhythms, people who meditate have higher levels of melatonin.
- Immune System. After eight weeks of meditation training, study participants were found to have much higher functioning immune system response than a control group.
- Reduced Chronic Illness Symptoms. In various studies, people who meditate have shown significant improvement in symptoms of chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, psoriasis, and even cancer.
- Overall Sense of Health and Well-Being. As extra dopamine is released during meditation, our overall feelings of pleasure and joy are triggered. Dopamine is useful in balancing blood pressure as well as fighting against depression and anxiety.
It is important to note that meditation can be physically beneficial whether practiced with or without religious beliefs. But, as Christians, we understand that the only true self-reflection and enlightenment we can find comes from the God of the Universe. As we commit to meditate and commune with God, we are rewarded with a deepening eternal relationship as well as health for our temporal bodies.
It seems that God has thought of everything.
If you aren’t sure how you feel about meditation, why not try it? Tell us about your experience.