Meditation is an important spiritual tool for individuals. It is a form of deeper prayer for others and a source of handling stress and keeping a clear mind. While meditation has secular uses as well as spiritual, one can never truly divorce meditation from its religious and spiritual roots.
Many may utilize secular forms of meditation for business and stress reduction, or even for health purposes, but the spiritual roots of both Eastern and Western meditation always circle back to its spiritual roots. As a religious and spiritual tool, meditation hopes to clear the mind from temporal reality and help individuals find the divine. In the East, that type of divine union is absorption, but in the West, that type of union is relationship.
While the final ends of Eastern and Western meditation may differ, they both nonetheless share in a spiritual opening to the divine. Eastern forms of meditation utilize various techniques in meditation to free the mind from the body and open itself to the divine. Hindu and Buddhist meditation is centered on escaping the false reality of the world and discovering the true reality of the divine. The purpose is to again find union with the divine. (1)
In Hinduism, the soul is separated from the divine, like a spark from the fire. In this separation, the soul through meditation seeks to find closer union with God on earth. God is not so much seen as a being but more a sense of all being. Through a series of reincarnations, the soul finally is able to become re absorbed into the divine. In Buddhism, the state of nothingness is the ultimate goal, or Nirvana. In this, the soul escapes suffering. (2)
In all of these cases, meditation serves as a tool to better prepare the soul for the divine. Eastern meditation utilizes many physical exercises to remove one’s mind from the temporal reality. it is critical to escape the temporal reality when meditating. Disturbances or lack of focus on the divine, prevents this type of union. In Eastern Meditation, the soul is opened to another reality. Certain techniques are utilized to open the soul and allow it to attract the divine.
This type of Eastern Meditation is the primary type of meditation used in the Western secular world. Many of these practices, yoga, reiki, and forms of meditation are simply used for their physical and mental applications in the secular world. Businesses executives and those in bad health due to stress, look to these practices only for productivity and good health with little need for the spiritual overtones that accompany it.
As a Meditation Instructor, one may teach the spirituality behind meditation, but in many cases, Meditation Instructors utilize the practice to teach executives and those seeking better health. Ultimately whether meditation is a spiritual practice or simply a secular practice depends upon the individual and what they are seeking from it. Meditation Instructors can help either in the quest to utilize meditation in the spiritual life or the health field.
Christian meditation differs greatly. While, it seeks to find the divine, it seeks a relationship with a Being, not a state of being that one can be absorbed into. Christian meditation while it can reduce stress, however, does not have as much secular application as Eastern meditation. Christian meditation is always extremely spiritual and not something that one would find being conducted in a studio or in an executive business environment.
Christian meditation is more seen as only spiritual and connected to the religion of Christianity. Its aims are to unite one with God in a relationship. it is a deeper form of vocal prayer. Like Eastern meditation, Christian meditation seeks to escape the noise of the temporal world, but it is not totally necessary to find deep dialogue with God. Instead of utilizing breathing postures and trances, Christian meditation focuses on scripture and the life of Christ.
Meditation or communication with God starts with simply talking to God and gradually finding deeper communication. Some forms of meditation can lead one to deeper states of communication where God speaks to one’s heart, and in more extreme cases, union can become deeper through more extraordinary spiritual encounters.
St Teresa of Avila, speaks of deeper union with God through meditation. She speaks of various mansions one can enter into dialogue with God. Of the seven mansions she lists, the first four are the lowest, with the final three dealing with a deeper union. Many utilize meditation to find these deeper relationship with God. The first mansions acknowledge God and have relationship but the relationship is still tainted with the world. The final three are seen as engagement with God. Where the soul detaches more and more from the world and seeks God as its final end. (3)
Unlike Eastern religions, there is no reincarnation in Christianity and the seeking of a more perfect union on earth with God before the afterlife is crucial. Living a good life and becoming closer to God prepares the soul for Heaven. Hence meditation is very important for the more enlightened soul that sees beyond the temporal illusions.
Temporal illusion is a key theme in both traditions. In the East, temporal reality is an illusion or Maya, while in the West, reality is not an illusion, but the ideals offered are illusions. The false ideals that this world offers is the illusion that Christians must escape. This idea is similar in many ways. Meditation is the key to escape the lies of this world. It elevates the soul to a greater cause beyond the physical senses. It is a communication with a higher essence although the type of essence and the relationship with that essence differs.
Christians for the most part despite the similar theme and purpose of meditation find Eastern themes to be of a spiritual danger. Christians do not condone the methodology or attempts of divinization sought after in Eastern Meditation. It finds many of the practices also to be harmful to spiritual well being in how one opens one soul to the spiritual realms. Christian meditation is closed and focused only to one Being, not a collection that may exist within the state of being.
The Meditation Instructor Program at AIHCP is more designed towards Eastern applications of meditation. It aims more for health and well being but also incorporates the spiritual teaching. The program is not designed towards Christian meditation, but there are a few courses that are focused on Christian meditation. These courses on St Teresa of Avila and St Ignatius are excellent courses for anyone interested in Meditation or individuals within the Christian Counseling Program seeking additional coursework.
If you are interested in meditation and would like to become a certified Meditation Instructor, then please review the program and see if it meets your professional and academic goals.