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Meditation vs. Mindfulness

By Kristin Muntzing

 

This was a simple quest… I wanted to understand more about meditation and mindfulness since I am trying to commit to a daily meditation practice.The studies are incredible on the benefits, but I’m a Christian so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting into anything I shouldn’t be. The difference between meditation and mindfulness can be a highly debated topic, but after quite a bit of research here’s what I can tell you…

I believed meditation and mindfulness were two separate ideas.

Well, yes…and no… It turns out there are at least 23 different techniques of meditation. Yes, you read that right. For simplicity, these 23 different types can be loosely grouped into 3 main categories:

 

  • Focused attention meditation uses breath, visualization, a candle, a prayer or a mantra to focus our attention and stop the “monkey mind” from bouncing all over the place.

 

  • Effortless presence meditation is practiced through movement like a walking or tai-chi, or by focusing on some positive attribute that brings joy to ourselves and others like loving kindness. The mind rests on focusing all attention to the movements and actions of the body and how that feels.

 

  • Open monitoring meditation teaches us to monitor all aspects of our present experiences and emotions without judgement. It calls us to be fully aware in the present moment thinking of nothing else. This is actually where mindfulness comes in. Simply put, mindfulness is what many of us are practicing as a form of meditation. But all forms of meditation require mindfulness.

 

All types of meditation require practice, some even require a guide or teacher with many years of experience.

 

The good news for all of us is that even a few minutes of quiet meditation every day has numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, better sleep, and improved immune function.

 

So how does this apply to my life as a Christian? The Bible teaches us to “meditate on the teachings and laws of God”. This would fall into the category of focused attention meditation.

 

“Keeping Prayerful Silence” as we talk about at Holistic Christian Life, is invaluable in aligning us with God’s will, as we sit in peace and listen for His voice.

 

It should foster a deeper understanding of Scripture and draw us into a more intimate relationship, while teaching our brains to slow down and focus.

How can we practice Christian meditation?

  • Through contemplative prayer: This is a repetition of sacred words in prayer focusing on their meaning. It can include the ancient Jesus Prayer as monastics use.
  • Through contemplative readings: Listening to or reading the Bible and leaving space for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for application of the teachings in our daily lives.
  • Sitting with God: Silently sit with God. This is usually proceeded by a contemplative reading. Focus only on God’s presence surrounding us.

As for mindfulness, we should actually practice mindful living throughout all of our days. By practicing meditation for a few minutes each day we can begin to apply the benefits to our lives. For instance, in a stressful situation just a deep breath can bring our minds back to our meditation practice, calm our racing thoughts, and help us think through the situation more clearly and with love.

 

Being mindfully present throughout our day will open our eyes up to opportunities to be the hands and feet of God and to bring His love to others in our hurting world.

 

May you experience God’s peace every day and allow your mind to rest continually in his eternal goodness and love!

 

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