The How to Meditate Guide is presented with permission (and minor adaptation) from my friend, Jean Gendreau. You can find the original on her website Christian Meditation: Opening to God in a New Way. Jean teaches Christian meditation in northern Minnesota. She is a beautiful writer and has quite a library of blogs. I encourage you to take a look.
Six Lessons on How To Meditate
Lesson 1. What is Meditation?
Lesson 2. Thought and Non-Thought – Are thoughts reality?
Lesson 3. Christian Meditations – Love one another as I have loved you.
Lesson 4. Surrender Meditations – Life happens when you’re making plans.
Lesson 5. Meditation and Oneness
Lesson 6. Trusting the Practice: Stress, Illness and Death
Different Types of Contemplative Prayers
The history of the contemplative tradition in Christianity is rich and varied, dating back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Celtic Christianity and the Eastern Church.
In his book, Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton writes meditation and contemplative prayer are not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to him. The question then is — how do we find God? Merton explains we find God in reading scriptures, in meditation, in conversation with God or prayer and contemplation – each necessary parts of a continuous whole.
Merton continues … in meditation we should not look for a ‘method’ or ‘system’ but cultivate an ‘attitude’ — faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, joy. All of these finally permeate our being with love in so far as our living faith tells us we are in the presence of God, that we live in Christ, that in the spirit of God we ‘see’ God our Father without ‘seeing.’ We know him in unknowing. Faith is the bond that unites us to the Spirit who gives us light and love.
There is a nuanced difference between meditation and contemplation in the Christian literature. A brief description of some of the many ancient and contemporary contemplative traditions can be found below. Instructions and guided meditations can be found in the six lessons listed above.
Jesus Prayer, This Eastern Orthodox practice is based on the very simple prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” However, do not be deceived by its simplicity. Active repetition of the Jesus Prayer with humility is a challenging and transforming way of preparing to receive the gift of God’s presence. Learn how the Jesus Prayer becomes the prayer of the heart.
Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. The practitioner listens to the text with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. It has four stages: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. Learn more on our practice page.
Mental Prayer. Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila explains the ancient participatory practice: “Mental prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved.”Read more of St Teresa of Avila’s writing on Mental Prayer.
Centering Prayer. Fr. Thomas Keating and others developed and teach Centering Prayer, a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, in which we experience God’s presence within us. Centering Prayer is rooted in Christian teachers from the Desert Fathers and Mothers to St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross to Thomas Merton. Learn more.
Christian Meditation. John Main developed and teaches what he calls Christian Meditation. This contemporary meditation uses a spiritual word or short Bible verse to focus the mind. According to 4th century theologian, John Cassian, “The mind thus casts out and renounces the rich and ample matter of all thoughts and restricts itself to the poverty of a single verse” Learn more about John Cassian’s writings.
Welcoming Prayer, The Welcoming Prayer is a contemporary method of actively letting go of thoughts and emotions that support the false-self system and to heal emotional wounds stored in the body.