Biblical meditation is the act of pondering and deeply thinking over the truths of Scripture and the teachings of the Bible. As Psalm 1:2 reads, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (NKJV). God encourages believers to ponder his character and his word as a means of sanctification and spiritual growth.
Rachel Stratton, senior Christian studies major, explained Christian meditation as having many similarities and differences from meditation practices in other religions and belief systems.
“The method and practice of Christian meditation can often look and function in very similar ways as secular or other religions’ meditation,” Stratton said. “The motivation and focus of the Christian’s meditation are different.”
Stratton explained that this practice is commanded throughout Scripture and is essential to the Christian walk.
“The practice and command to meditate is all over the Bible, especially in the psalms, notably Psalm 119,” Stratton said. “The focus of a Christian’s meditation is God and his works, promises and word. It is meant to focus our minds on the one who deserves all of our attention, worship and dedication as well as away from what is, at best, not very important and, at worst, sinful.”
Stratton shared some of the key differences and similarities between Christian meditation and other mediation practices, both religious and secular.
“The secular world also meditates to calm their minds and focus on good things, but it serves the purpose to build themselves into what they want to be or what the world tells them to be,” said Stratton. “Christians practice meditation with the goal to be shaped into the likeness of Christ and fulfill our purpose as image bearers as joyful bondservants.”
Stratton explained that similarly to Christians, “other religions meditate in their devotion to their god(s).”
However, this is where the similarity stops. Stratton shares some of the main goals of other meditation practices include “personal enlightenment” or to “ascend to a greater level of humanity,” two aspirations coveted by Eve in Genesis 3.
Stratton said meditation is something we do unknowingly throughout the day.
“We all know how to meditate,” Stratton said. “It is what we do with our anxieties, worries and things that excite us. We put our attention on them, we think about them throughout the day, get emotional over them and talk to others about them. The hard part about Christian meditation is to actually focus on God when everything else is so much louder. A good practice of meditation on God and his word is Scripture memorization, having Scripture ready to go at a moment’s notice and ingrained into your mind and heart.”
Stratton believes incorporating Eastern religious practices may be beneficial to Christians if done properly.
“Incorporating Eastern meditation practices can be positive if they do not detract or distract from the purpose of biblical meditation,” said Stratton. “We are able to utilize other cultures’ practices because of general revelation. Non-believers can pick up on spiritual truths because humans were built to do so, yet everything must be tested by the Bible because of our depraved minds (as seen in) Romans 1:18-32.”
Breanna Wilson, masters of counseling psychology student, explained the psychological benefits of meditation as a practice from a secular viewpoint.
“Meditation is believed to reduce stress and promote calmness,” Wilson said. “I personally meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, usually to help me fall asleep. Meditating helps me relax and decompress at the end of the day.”
Wilson shared how secular meditation can be used within psychology as a coping strategy for individuals struggling with emotional regulation.
“Meditation can be used as a coping strategy for individuals who struggle with emotional regulation and reactivity,” Wilson said. “Meditation can help individuals self-soothe and focus their minds on positive thoughts.”
Meditation can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the goal. Wilson weighed the best approach to meditation from a mental health standpoint.
“Some psychologists may suggest mindfulness meditation,” Wilson said. “Mindfulness meditation is when you focus on a single thought or action. For example, focusing on your breathing or going to a happy place in your mind. This technique is meant to promote relaxation and avoid negative rumination.”
According to an article by Science Daily, which shares Dr. Halvor Eifring’s expertise on the topic, meditation is a practice that has existed for several thousand years across different cultures and religions.
The article explained the main difference between Western and Eastern meditation as being content-focused rather than technique-focused.
“The Western form of meditation has traditionally been based on content, technical forms of meditation are far more widespread in Asia,” Eifring said to Science Daily.
Eifring attributes this difference to religious approach. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all place a high emphasis on a relationship with God, leading them to a more content approach. He explained that Eastern religions do not prioritize their personal relationship with God in this manner, leading them to practice more technique-based meditation.
Ultimately, meditation can take different forms, depending on the individual’s goal.