How can Christian meditation help?
And who says so?
Research on meditation
Meditation is being studied in hospitals and universities across the country. A leader in this movement is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who began using mindfulness meditation as a method of relieving suffering in a chronic pain clinic he headed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He pioneered a secular form of mindfulness which has been extensively researched and adapted over the years.
Most of the research on meditation is done on secular (non-faith-based) forms of meditation. These meditation practices have in common:
A journal, The Mindfulness Research Monthly, tracks recently published studies on meditation. The results are impressive. Dozens of studies each month report that meditation does indeed significantly
It seems reasonable that Christian meditation that is practiced regularly and that consciously incorporates body-based methods for calming and focusing would have similar effects.
Christian meditation research...
is slim, frankly.
Andrew Newberg is one of the few scientists systematically studying Christian prayer and meditation. He has a series of books with titles like Why God Won't Go Away and How God Changes Your Brain. Dr. Newberg studies people from a range of spiritual traditions including Christianity. He has also authored textbooks on research methods and brings a fine combination of intellect and heart to his work.
Dr. Newberg's lab uses sophisticated brain imaging to track immediate and longterm changes in the brain as a result of prayer and meditation.
His studies confirm the positive effects of Christian meditation. When participants meditate to enhance their capacity to love as Jesus taught, their brains show evidence of greater calm, less reactivity to stress and an increased ability to love even under difficult circumstances. Christian meditation can transform our lives - if we really practice it.
Christian meditation carries the added power of cooperating with God's grace. We are not creating these benefits by ourselves alone.
When we break a bone we put a cast on it, keep our weight off it and trust in the amazing self-healing properties God has built into our bodies. At the same time we pray for God's help, especially if the injury is complicated.
Meditation is like putting a cast on a broken brain. We can benefit from the incredible advances in understanding how our brains and nervous systems work and use that information in our practice. We can choose to remove some obstacles to God's action in our hearts just like we choose to avoid re-injuring our broken leg. Ultimately, though, all healing happens as a result of God's action.