Meditation & Mental Health
Christian Meditation is a spiritual practice, a way of prayer. It is a discipline rather than a a technique. This means it is not a quick fix for stress, anxiety, depression or addiction or any of the conditions which research shows it can strongly influence for the better. In many cases meditation may be better than medication which is often prescribed too readily. However, it is not always a replacement for the skill of wise professional treatment.
Research shows that a regular practice of meditation brings many health benefits: reduced stress and anxiety, improvement in harmful habits and sleep, greater resilience and hope and self-control. The real question though is ‘why’? Brain or neurological research doesn’t answer this question. It can answer how or show the evidence for undeniable influence. But why? This points to more humane questions of meaning, transcendence and selfless attention. What is the power of other-centredness, of love?
When we begin to meditate the motivation is an often urgent desire to feel better, to be relieved of dark emotional or mental states, to feel alive with hope again.
But as we persevere with the practice, we discover to our surprise that we are experiencing an unexpected healing, a liberating self-knowledge, and a new capacity for relationship. All this runs deeper than the reduction of the symptoms that we looked for initially. In the silence of meditation, we encounter the unlooked-for experience of being loved and accepted, by ourselves and by something else. In feeling (at first at a subtle level) that we are touching a presence that transcends fear we begin to sense a deeper identity in who we are and what our meaning might be.
Learning to meditate is not just a matter of mastering a technique. It is much more learnin to appreciate and respond directly to the depths of your own nature, not human nature in general, but your own in particular.
- John Main, OSB
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