Many Christians have discovered the benefits of yoga and meditation, but struggle with the Sanskrit chants and Hindu bhajans, or hymns. It is not surprising that many strictly monotheistic Christians may feel uncomfortable with references to different deities used in some yogic meditation practices.
However, many of these meditation practices are universal, and can be translated to fit the Christian perspective. Remember the goal of meditation is not worship, but to increase one’s connection with the Divine. During yogic meditation, the practitioner focuses on their “ishta-devata”, or chosen deity. In Christian terms, that is Jesus Christ.
The following Christian meditation practice is designed to help Christians feel the inner peace and tranquility enjoyed by those who meditate, while increasing spirituality and oneness with Jesus Christ.
STEP 1 – FIND A QUIET PLACE
Regardless of religious beliefs, it is important to begin your meditation in a quiet place, where you may practice undisturbed.
Turn off telephones, televisions, radios and any other electronic devices.
It is best to practice meditation either early in the morning before others awake, or in the evening after others have retired to ensure you will not be disturbed. If this is not practical, let your family or those in your household know that you are about to begin your meditation and do not wish to be disturbed for 20 or 30 minutes.
STEP 2 – RELAX
Sit up comfortably and close your eyes. You may want to either sit in a comfortable chair or upright on the floor, seated on a cushion or folded blanket. Do not try meditating lying down as this may cause you to fall asleep.
Begin to breathe deeply and allow your body to relax. Inhale and exhale slowly through your nose, allowing the exhalation to be twice as long as the inhalation. In the beginning you may try inhaling for the count of four, and exhaling for the count of eight. As your breathing progresses and your body relaxes more and more, try to inhale for the count of six and exhale for the count of 12.
Spend as much as five minutes breathing deeply, allowing the body and mind to relax completely.
STEP 3 – RELEASE TENSION
Once your breathing has slowed to an even, steady pace, start to relax each muscle in the body one at a time. Begin with your toes. Focus your attention there. Mentally let go of any tension or stress in the toes. Breathe and relax.
Repeat this process for each group of muscles from the feet, to the calves and legs, onto the hips and pelvis, up to the abdomen and torso, next moving to the upper back and chest, including the arms, hands and fingers, and lastly relaxing the neck, face and scalp muscles. Even relax the eyes, jaw and ears.
With each muscle, take a deep breath in, and relax the muscle as you exhale.Allow yourself up to five to 10 minutes to complete this exercise, giving each muscle time to relax.
STEP 4 – FOCUS YOUR MIND
Once you feel completely relaxed, begin to clear your mind of all distractions. Let go of all thoughts, stresses and worries. Assure yourself that all responsibilities can wait for a while. Truly dedicate this time to yourself.
Create a mental image of your Ishta-devata in your mind. This may be an image of Jesus Christ on the cross, a picture of Jesus with open arms, or another statue or image you are familiar with. Find an image that resonates with you and helps you feel closer to the Divine.
Give yourself up to 5 minutes to let go of all thoughts and completely clear your mind. Hold only the image of Jesus Christ. This may be difficult at first, but do not give up. If external thoughts begin to creep into your mind, try to redirect your focus back to your breath and your mental image.
STEP 5 – CHANT SOFTLY
Choose one of the following Christian verses to chant softly or focus on during the remainder of your meditation:
1. God is Love,
2. Peace I give unto you, (John 14:27)
3. Love one another (John 13:34)
In addition, you may simply choose to repeat the traditional sound “Om” quietly. Yogis teach that Om was the first sound ever heard. Repeating this sound or vibration helps to create a connection with the universe, and enhance inner peace.
Spend at least 10 minutes chanting softly to reach a state of deep meditation and relaxation.
STEP 6 – END YOUR MEDITATION
You may want to use a stop watch or meditation chime to set the time for your meditation. After completing the above steps, gently bring your attention back to the present. Wiggle your fingers and toes and begin to move the muscles in your limbs. Open your eyes gently and return your breathing to normal. Make Christian Meditation a part of your daily routine at least three to five times per week.