Archive for the ‘ego’ Tag

The Value of Stillness

Exif_JPEG_PICTURESpiritual disciplines are often the topic of many books or articles.  These disciplines can encompass the familiar, such as prayer, Bible study, or giving, while others occasionally  foray into new territories, like simplicity, social justice, or meditation.

The practice of meditation for Christians is one that is sometimes hotly debated.  Some say the idea of being still and quieting the mind is “New Age,” or a way for Satan to control a person’s mind.  Others have compared the practice to allowing a shaken glass of dirty water to settle and become clear.  For me, the practice of meditation is a way of becoming more aware of thoughts that come from the “old man” or the false self and more attuned to the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit.

The idea of controlling the mind, with its random thoughts often focused on the future or the past, is not new.  In fact, believers are encouraged to pay attention to what they are thinking about and to strive to make those thoughts positive:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phillipians 4:8, NIV)

By paying attention to those thoughts rolling around in our heads, we soon can recognize untruths (“I can’t do anything right” or “I’m such a loser”) that conflict with who we know we are in Jesus Christ. More importantly, we can recognize that the evil one often takes advantage of our unmanaged thoughts to promote the untrue beliefs of unworthiness and separation between us and God. Taking a few minutes each day to sit in stillness creates the spiritual “muscles” we need to deal with such negative thinking.

In addition, observing our thoughts while interacting with others can also reveal old patterns that are sometimes based on fear and the need to control.  By creating mental space through stillness, we are better able to see why we respond as we do in some situations.  We can unpack the emotions that generate our response and see how to react more lovingly.

This self-analysis is closely tied to our ability to “hear” the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  When we better understand why we think the way we do and cultivate the ability to choose differently than our typical emotional knee-jerk response, we make room for the Holy Spirit to have more influence in our thoughts and actions. We can see more clearly how the “old man,” the false self or ego, is responsible for much of our suffering and stress, and we are more receptive and aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  Our participation in the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit takes on new vibrancy.

It is important to see that our meditation can take different forms.  Some may prefer sitting quietly, while others need repetitive movement, such as walking, to still the mind.  Focusing on our breath or what’s happening in the present moment can help, too.  Some helpful practices come from Eastern religious philosophies, but unfortunately, Christians discount them, thinking that they could not apply to a believer’s meditation practice.  However, the ideas of “breath prayers” or repeating a word or phrase (a mantra) have proven useful to Christians and non-Christians alike. These are simply tools that enable us to still the murky waters of our minds and allow the clarity of the Holy Spirit to rise to the forefront.

Meditation is not a New Age practice or Eastern religious philosophy to be feared.  It is an opportunity to grapple with the false self and allow the new self in Christ to grow in a believer’s mind.  Through calmness and stillness, we make ourselves more available to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, participating more fully in the work of God on earth.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of flickr.com

 

 

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