Meditation – learning to master stillness
Meditation is one of the buzz words in the field of personal wholeness and wellbeing. And while it is associated with all sorts of religions and religious practices in that context, meditation plays an important role in the devotional life of a Christian.
The following thoughts by Dr. Matthew Del Nevo, Associate Professor at Alphacrucis College, will be a great starting point for you to explore mediation in the context of scripture:
Meditation is a Latin word. Meditation in Christianity is a form of mental prayer that quiets the heart, which is to say the whole being. Meditation in the Hebrew Bible is hitbodut, from the verb hitboded. Boded means to be alone – monos, from which we get “monk”. The Bible distinguishes the power of the Spirit (the biblical ruah ha-kodesh) from the presence of the Spirit (shekhina). Alone, holed up in his cave, Elijah disregarded the storms of inspiration, and great gusts of the Spirit that came his way and waited for the still small voice of calm. This is sometimes what we need to hear in our spiritual life; to, “be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10).
Meditation belongs less to the tradition of the power of the Spirit, of vision and action, and temporal mission concerns, than to the contemplative tradition: Martha was busy for Jesus, but Mary, who did nothing, had the better part. Meditation is about abiding “in” or “before” the presence of God (shekhina).
Stillness is easier said than done. The body can “sit still”, but not the mind. The mind is caught up with thoughts and images and cannot stop. To be still is to be receptive. To be receptive one must be empty, in the sense of the German Gelassenheit, of having let-go; what Heidegger calls, “the spirit of disponibilité [availability] before What-Is which permits us simply to let things be in whatever may be their uncertainty and their mystery.(a)” To do this is hesychia (Greek) or quies (Latin), which names a way of prayer that does not use words or thoughts or ideas. Only a mind so prepared can hear the still small voice.
Meditation is the practice of contemplative prayer, by which we not only find God’s silence, but our own nature in His.
(a): Li Ou, Keats and Negative Capability, Continuum, 2009, p.21.
Author: Dr. Matthew Del Nevo, Associate Professor at Alphacrucis College