Prayer and Healing
MEDITATION AND HEALTH
Meditation is a type of prayer whose meaning is expanding in our times. Just as prayer is common to all the world's major religions, meditation is also represented in all traditions. Oddly, meditation is sometimes viewed suspiciously as a kind of New Age practice. Granted meditation is used in many religions, but there is a rich tradition of meditation in Christianity as well. Gregorian chant and all the monastic practices were expressions of meditation. Perhaps the Protestant emphasis on the written word may have diminished the role of meditation. The Renaissance "Enlightenment" and modern periods prioritized logic, science, and intellect over spirit, aesthetics, and intuition. Little room was left for insights of experiential meditation.
Roman Catholics have maintained the tradition of meditation over the centuries, and many Protestants are crossing ecumenical lines to experience the deep spiritual well of meditating on God. In addition, the gap between the world of intellect and the world of spirit is being bridged. The medical establishment has turned to meditation to enhance physical health. Science has noticed the spiritual world and found its own world of waves and particles far more mysterious than they ever expected.
Dr. Herbert Benson and colleagues at Harvard University have studied the effects of meditation for 30 years. They have found that meditation deeply relaxes the body and contributes to a person's health. High blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, depression, irritability, chronic pain, and side-effects of treatment can all be modified by meditation.
A basic form of meditation begins with focusing on a repeated short phrase such as "God is love,""Father forgive them," "Let the children come." or "I am created in the image of God." After you select a meaningful phrase, meditation requires getting comfortable in a place where there will be few disruptions. Begin breathing deeply and allowing the body to relax. Mentally relax each part of the body, thanking your body for all it does.
Focus on your phrase and begin to repeat it. Open your heart to God's love. When you get distracted, gently bring your thoughts back to repeating your phrase with God's love in your heart. The love comes, and like John Wesley's, your heart will be "strangely warmed."
Meditation can be used in daily devotions and in a retreat setting. Gentle music can be played in the background to help you focus. At some point during your meditation, move to inner silence. Imagine a tranquil lake or have a candle burning and gaze at the flame. Be aware of God's love for you at all times. If you have difficulty feeling that love, think of the one person or thing that inspires love in you. Imagine Jesus coming through that love and reaching out to you. Feel the love that is offered to you and draws you into the blessing God intends. Where there is love, there is no fear. Healing the heart heals the body and the soul. Be at peace.