A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

A Beginner's Guide to Meditation

Mentor Mama:

Today we are going to be talking about “meditation.” What is it? Is it Christian-based? Who should do it? Why should we do it? Where should we do it? And most importantly, how do we do it? So what does meditation look like in your life today? Is it a practice that you are wholeheartedly embracing and are you actively meditating or is it something that you avoid or don’t know much about? I know for me, meditation is not something that I quite frankly have given a lot of thought to in a formal sense, but I’m kind of doing it without labeling it as such or at least I think I am, for example, I enjoy Scripture memorization, so in the process of memorizing a Scripture, I’m thinking about the meaning of the passage and how it applies to my life. I’m analyzing the verse to see what I can learn from it and how God wants me to respond. And, I’m also thinking of situations where I’ll be able to use that verse to help someone in need. So, we’re going to find out if any of these things at all fall into the realm of the real definition of meditation, and if you’re not sure what meditation is, or you would like some tips to improve your current meditation practice, stay tuned for an in-depth guide to building your meditation skills, but first a word from our sponsor.

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Mentor Mama:

Well, everyone, I’m so excited because my daughter, Ashley from Coffee and Bible Time is joining me today to give us a beginner’s guide to Christian meditation. Ashley is a senior at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, majoring in Biblical Studies. Welcome Ashley.

Ashley:

Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to talk about something that I’m very passionate about today.

Mentor Mama:

I’m so glad you’re here. Ashley, why don’t you just start out with telling us point blank: What is meditation?

Ashley:

This past semester at Moody, I had many different spiritual disciplines classes, spiritual formation classes, which pretty much teach you about different ways that we can grow to become more Christlike. And so one of those, areas that I studied for weeks was meditation. And so I’ve learned a lot and I’ve studied this a lot in the Bible. And I actually wrote this little write-up, which I think might be encouraging to our audience. It says in today’s society, the mold for daily life is comprised of speed, multitasking, TikToks, drive throughs, microwaves, and instant coffee. We have been trained since childhood to avoid long lines and to skip every commercial. We get antsy sitting in traffic and switch lanes every few minutes to get to our destination faster, which doesn’t usually end up working out, we get there at the same time. If society, as a whole, was analyzed by a doctor, I’m sure our diagnosis for this issue would be a severe case of impatience. When it comes to information and reading, we don’t get much better. The Internet has made access to information quick and easy. We no longer need to memorize information because it is at the tip of our fingertips, whenever we want it. Many also struggle to read due to the high volume of social media and videos that keep our short attention spans happy, rather than sitting down to challenge our brain with a good book, speed reading and skimming have become the new normal. Therefore meditation has become a lost art. In our society today, meditation is seen as emptying the brain, but Christian and Jewish tradition emphasize the opposite. Meditation is filling the brain with who God is and His words and works. It’s sad that many have lost or have never found this beautiful practice of meditation because there are many benefits to it.

Ashley:

Now a Biblical definition of meditation has to do with actually speaking, uttering, saying something over and over and over again, out loud, especially the Old Testament. The word meditate has many correlations to muttering, to uttering, to speaking over and over again, out loud. So that is a big definition for meditation, but I believe that it has become something just a little different in Christian culture today, we view meditation more as something that happens in our brains. We read something and we focus on it and focus and on it and focus on it. I think both of those things are great, but I think that we should come back to the Biblical way of speaking God’s word out loud, like uttering it and reading it to ourselves and saying it over and over again. But that is just a simple definition. Okay, I guess that wasn’t simple definition. It’s hard to say what meditation is in one sentence, but essentially it’s storing God’s word in our heart through focusing intentionally on Scripture, saying it over and over again, thinking it over and over in our brains, letting it consume our thoughts, memorizing Scripture, thinking about it. It’s the opposite of what the world says. Rather than emptying our brain to meditate, we are filling our brain with God’s word, who God is, what He has done in our lives. So it’s the opposite of what the world is doing.

Mentor Mama:

That’s very interesting. So would you say meditation then is a Christian practice like from historical perspective?

Ashley:

Absolutely. Well, I think that more than Christian, it’s a Jewish, it’s a Hebrew tradition that started off as a Jewish practice. We see in the Old Testament as early as Joshua 1:8, we see that this passage says, keep this book of the law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous. Again in Psalm 1, blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. The Psalms are filled with meditation; meditating on God’s Scripture. Psalm 1:19 has this verse in there multiple times about meditating on God’s Word. So it goes back far in history as a Jewish tradition and Christians have of course inherited that tradition as well. So, I know that other religions practice meditation in different ways, I don’t know what the history of that is, but I know within Judaism and Christianity, meditation has been here for a long time.

Mentor Mama:

Absolutely fascinating. So tell us about who should be doing this. Are there any limitations?

Ashley:

I think there are no limitations. I think even if you’re a mom and you have a baby in the womb, you could be reading Scripture or meditating on Scripture out loud. Obviously your baby at that point can’t fully understand what’s going on, but I’m just saying that I think there are no limitations. I think that any age can do this. Like You can, my mom and I were talking about this earlier, a mom can lead her children in doing this and you can do this any age. And I don’t think there should be any limitations. I think you might be listening to this right now thinking, what is meditation? It scares me. It sounds like a very worldly thing. It sounds like something secular. I don’t know if I should be participating in that, and I really want this podcast to be about getting rid of that stigma around meditation because there is a big stigma with it. And I even know sometimes for me, when I talk about it, I’m like, oh no, what are people going to think when I mention meditation? What are they going to think? And I think that is because of the way our secular culture has taken meditation. But I think that we need to have a renewal of it in the Christian world of just reminding each other of what it really is, in that we should be immersing ourselves in this daily. So anyone can do it.

Mentor Mama:

We should all get started on it then, that will be our encouragement to you who are listening, that we should all be doing this. So now I would love for you just to expand upon why we should be doing it. You mentioned that this is just one of many different spiritual practices that people can be doing. Why is meditation important and why should we be doing it?

Ashley:

Absolutely, so obviously meditation we see from Scripture that it is commanded and it is something that we’re not just saying to you, oh, this is something you should do if you want to, if you feel like. No, the Bible says in Psalm 1, blessed is this person who delights in God’s law, who meditates on it day and night. And again, we see it throughout Scripture. And so why should we be doing it? Because there are so many benefits: one, it helps us to store God’s Word in our hearts. When God’s word is stored in our hearts we can always have access to it through the hills and valleys of life. And what I’ve found in meditating is that when I meditate on Scripture, I memorize it because I focus on it so much, and then in different seasons of my life, when I’m going through hard trials or things, that verse comes to my mind, it’s stored in my heart. And God’s word tells us to store it in our heart, because God knows we need to hear that, we need to store it in our hearts. And so that is one amazing benefit to memorizing and meditating on Scripture. Another is that it draws us into deeper communion with God. When we slow down, we are able to truly taste and see that God is so good. Meditation provides a way for us to taste God’s goodness. It’s sometimes in those still moments of focusing and chewing on God’s word that we see a greater glimpse of who God is and we have better communion with Him. We’re talking with Him, we’re reading His words that are meant for us to be read. We’re repeating those back to him in prayer. It’s going to draw us deeper into our father’s arms. Three, it keeps us rooted and grounded. Psalm 1 talks about the person who delights and meditates in God’s law and how they are like a tree planted by streams of water. When we meditate on God’s word, we are rooting ourselves in truth, and this brings stability in life. We want to be like a tree. When the storms come, we have our roots deep in the ground. We have water and when the drought comes we’re okay, because we have God’s word stored in our hearts. We’re not promised perfect easy lives, but in God’s word, we are promised stability through that. So four, it teaches us patience and stillness. It helps us to slow down in a culture that is going way too fast. Like I said earlier, we struggle to slow down, all of us because that’s how we’re conditioned. I find that one of the hardest things in meditating for me is literally turning off my phone, going into my room and like I have FOMO because the whole world keeps going, but you’re stopping and no one else is doing that. So, it’s hard. It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be hard. You’re not going to want to do it. I can tell you that right now. You’re not going to want to, but it’s a discipline. That’s why it was in my Spiritual Discipline series. Disciplines don’t come easy, but they’re worth it. Number five, it helps us to treasure God’s word and God himself. We learn to value Him more as we closely commune with Him during meditation. So we get to learn more about God. We get to learn more about who He is, His character, what He does. That’s the purpose of our lives is to know Him, and sometimes when I’m meditating, I’m like, I forgot this about God and how amazing is it that I’m reminding my heart of this truth. That is so important to know or else I’m going to be believing the lies of this world. So those are just five reasons why we should meditate.

Mentor Mama:

I love those. Those are such great points. You know, one thing that came to my mind when you said, fear of missing out, because you’re taking time to do this. I’m thinking of another reason why I would be apprehensive to do it would just be because my ADHD brain is going off all over the place. But I think one thing that you said at the very beginning, which is going to be so helpful to me, and probably a lot of people, is just saying it out loud, because I think when I do that Scripture memorization, a lot of times it just is in my mind, I’m thinking and trying to learn it. But I think saying it out loud too, will help give me better focus.

Ashley:

Yeah. And even with that, there’s more tips that can help me with that. And that is like, let’s say you’re focusing on one verse. You can read that verse. You can do a video on your phone of you reading that verse and then you can play it over and over again. And you can say it with yourself as you’re playing that verse. So there’s that you can do. You can also, sometimes I go on the Bible app and, let’s say, I want to focus on James 1, just play James 1 over and over again, to think about it. That’s another way to meditate. You can also say it out loud with with the Bible app as it’s reading it. And another thing that you can do is, there’s music out there that actually repeats Scripture. I know that Shane and Shane has a lot of the Psalms. They sing the Psalms. People out there sing the Psalms so you can find even songs. I think that’s one of the ways we actually meditate without knowing it, is that we listen to a song over and over again, we memorize it, and then we sing it out loud through the day as we walk around the house, that’s meditation. We’re just meditating on music, a song, a secular song or even a Christian song. But I think that we could be doing that with Scripture and how much more amazing that we would be storing literally God’s word in our heart.

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Mentor Mama:

So now that we kind of have the why we should be doing it, do you have any suggestions about where we should be doing it?

Ashley:

This is actually a great question, because you would think the typical place would be going into your room, shut the door, make sure it’s really quiet, and actually that is what I do. I will be in my room either right before I go to bed or in the morning and shut my door, put on the fan, which is kind of white noise, which blocks out other noises and then I focus on Scripture. But, I’ve found that there are other times where I’m doing tasks that don’t require my mind. Let’s say I’m doing the laundry or I’m doing the dishes, I can meditate on a verse there. I can write it on a sticky note and put it in front of me. Another time that I’ve had probably the best times of focusing on Scripture, memorizing scripture, meditating, is actually during exercise. So going on long walks outside, even when I was biking during COVID for that whole hour time, I’d bring one verse with me. That’s how I memorized James 1. And remember Beth Moore said that she memorized Scripture on her bike, because when you’re exercising or running, your mind needs something to do usually. And so when I was running, I noticed that I’m listening to secular music and it’s influencing the way I’m thinking, why don’t I just replace that with Scripture? So really you can meditate anywhere, but I would suggest also setting aside those quality times of just being in your room alone, I think that’s important too.

Mentor Mama:

Well, that explains why I see sticky notes all over the house with Scripture versus on it, probably because you’ve been meditating on one here and there. Well how would you suggest we go about doing this? I know you’ve given us a few ideas there, but was there anything else that you want to add?

Ashley:

I want to give you guys great tools, so you can do this at home. The goal is that you would be able to meditate everyday. So some of the ways that we can be meditating, like I said, Hebrew tradition, Jewish tradition, is literally speaking it. So you can get one verse and just say it out loud, over and over again. Here are just a few things that you could be doing; you could get a verse and you can write it out in other translations. So if I’m studying it in ESV, I can also write it down in NLT and NIV and NASB, The Message, different translations. You can write them down, ask yourself questions. What stood out to you that hadn’t before? Note words that are similar words to those that are different. Then another thing that you can do is you can think on the action words within the verse. Honestly just think on the verse, as the verse in whole, just think about it. What’s standing out to you? What are you learning about God? What are you learning about His attributes, His characteristics? Just think about it, ponder in your brain, store it in your heart. I actually wanted to mention something about the heart. This is in Bonhoeffer’s book, “Meditating on the Word,” and he says, “I do not treasure God’s promise in my understanding, but in my heart. It is not to be analyzed by my intellect, but to be pondered in my heart, therefore it is never sufficient simply to have read God’s word. It must penetrate deep within us, dwell in us like the Holy of Holys in the sanctuary so that we do not sin in thought word or deed.” And I just like that, because the goal is really to store God’s word in our hearts. Sorry if that was a little off track. Another way we can do this is to think on certain words, just pondering those words, writing the verse out in your journal multiple times, things like that. I know for me, what I do personally, is I’ve been going through the Psalms and so what I’ll do is I’ll read if the Psalm is short enough, I’ll read the Psalm and then I will just say what stood out to me out of that whole Psalm, which verse stood out to me and then I’ll pick just that verse and then just focus on that verse. I’ll write it down in my journal and then like, just think on it, think on it, think on it, shut my eyes, think on it. And then I’ll pray about it, write a journal entry on it, just think about it, write it down, ponder my thoughts and pray about it. That’s what I do. So if you’re wondering, where should I start in the Bible because it’s so big? I would say start in the Book of Psalm. I just started Psalm 1 and now I’m on Psalm 10.

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Mentor Mama:

That’s awesome. So would you say, to some extent, the practice of Scripture memorization kind of does fall into this category of meditation? And so you could also use like any type of Scripture memory tools that are available on Scripture Typer or something like that.

Ashley:

Absolutely. I remember my teacher, because at Moody, I had a class that was on spiritual disciplines and she told us that meditating on Scripture has two other key disciplines involved in that. And that is prayer and memorization, because when you’re meditating you’re just automatically going to memorize it. Or if you’re memorizing, you’re meditating, and prayer is involved in both meditating and memorizing because you just be compelled to pray. And that is what a lot of different people in church history have found, is that their prayers are usually always guided by Scripture because Scripture automatically ignites your heart to pray. So you’ll notice that when you’re meditating on Scripture, you’re going to be pushed to pray without even thinking about it, you’re going to be reading about who God is, about God’s steadfast love, about God’s actions, His deeds, or even like I was meditating on Psalm 10 today, and it was talking about God. It says, why Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? And then later it says, arise, Oh Lord lift up your hand, oh God, do not forget the helpless. And it just keeps going. And it says, but you God see the trouble of the afflicted. He does hear. And it keeps going, the Lord is king forever and ever. The nations will perish from his land. You Lord hear the desire of the afflicted. And so during that time of meditating, I read the whole Psalm, but I chose verse 12: Arise, Lord, lift up your hand, Oh, God, do not forget the helpless. And I focused my meditation on Ukraine and praying for Ukraine because focusing on this verse automatically led me to pray. So, in this whole Psalm, I was like, I want to meditate on the whole thing, but I don’t have time right now.

Mentor Mama:

That’s a beautiful example of, as you begin this process of meditation, tie it into your prayer life, right? Tie it into memorization. Well, Ashley, before we wrap this up, do you know of any good resources that people could use to further expand their knowledge of meditation?

Ashley:

I have two good books that I have been reading that I think will really encourage you. The first one is called, “Meditating on the Word,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, amazing book so far. I’m already so enthralled by it and I just started it. And then the next one is called, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” This book, my mom will have these linked in the show notes, but this book actually has multiple disciplines within it, but he focuses on meditation in the prayer section, along with there’s a meditation section. So there’s a lot on meditation in this book. Also the whole book is phenomenal. So I would suggest those two books and getting a journal to write down your thoughts, making sure you carve out 15 minutes of your day, put your phone on silent mode. I put my phone outside of my room so I know it’s not in there to distract me. And that’s all. You need the Bible too, obviously.

Mentor Mama:

Yes, the Bible. Well actually that’s a good segue. I like to wrap up just asking a few of my favorite questions. What Bible do you use and what translation is it?

Ashley:

I use the ESV Bible, and my Bible specifically is the Jonathan Edwards Bible. It’s like huge, every other page is blank page so I can write tons of notes, meditate, everything. It’s my favorite Bible.

Mentor Mama:

Awesome, and how about, do you have any favorite journaling supplies that you like to use to enhance your Bible study experience?

Ashley:

I use the Coffee and Bible Time Tote Bag, the Coffee and Bible Time Pouch. I actually love those so much, I use them all the time, everyday. The Zebra highlighters are great. Nothing special, honestly. You really just need God’s word and a good journal. We have our Prayer Journal that is phenomenal and some highlighters.

Mentor Mama:

Awesome, okay, last thing. What is your favorite app or website for Bible study tools?

Ashley:

Recently it’s probably been Blue Letter Bible because they have commentaries on there that I like using, but also the language resources, like studying the language or studylight.org. I really like using those.

Mentor Mama:

The original languages like Greek and Hebrew?

Ashley:

Yes, you’re able to do word studies. Word studies are huge. One of my teachers emphasize that everyday about word studies. So those apps are a great helping tool because you can do word studies in both of those.

Mentor Mama:

How exciting. Lots of resources for everyone.

Ashley:

I just wanted to say one more thing. This week’s video on YouTube is going to be on meditating. So we’re going to tie these two in together so go check that video out.

Mentor Mama:

Excellent. Well Ashley, thank you so much for being here today to share these tips on meditation, and for our readers, I just want to encourage you to give meditation a try if you haven’t started yet now is a great time. Challenge yourself, push yourself. And for those of you who have been doing it, I hope some of these other tips will just give you encouragement. Maybe check out one of those books that Ashley mentioned, and that might spur you on to want to do it more. This blog post is also available as a podcast. Lastly, head over to the Coffee and Bible Time website for our Prayer Journals that will help guide and document your prayer life at coffeeandbibletime.com. Thank you so much for joining us on our blog today. We love you all and have a blessed day.

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