A set of common meditations has guided mindfulness practitioners over the years as a method of fostering nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. Links to a variety of audio guides, as well as a guide to the physical postures of meditation, can be found in the sub-pages of this section (see under Guides for Practice). Below, you can find descriptions of various meditation types, including explorations of the Christian significance of each.
Body scan meditation allows you the opportunity to connect with yourself in the present moment through awareness of your body—to stop and listen to what your body is communicating to you. God made us as physical beings, not just mental and emotional beings. We can assume that this was intentional—that there is value in paying attention to this part of God’s creation that is the body. Your body, along with the rest of you, reflects God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). You look like God and God lives within you. If you want to experience God, experiencing your body is an excellent place to begin.
The body scan has been shown to be a powerful tool in improving health and facilitating relaxation, both physical and mental. It also enhances your ability to focus your attention at will. You may find this exercise to be relaxing, frustrating, confusing, or boring—whatever your experience, you can congratulate yourself on taking this step into a deeper and richer life. The benefits of mindfulness meditation will come with practice over time.
Sitting practice almost invariably brings attention to the breath--the physical sensations of the in-breath and the out-breath. The breath is a powerful anchor for the attention and can serve as an intimate metaphor for God's presence in the moment. With each breath, we are reminded that our moment-to-moment existence rests entirely in God's hands--that each moment of our life is a gift, not of our own making. We have no control over whether the next breath will come. Each breath also can remind us of the creation Breath that God breathed into dust..."In the beginning"... to give us life. This Breath of the Holy Spirit continues to breath in us and transform us. When we experience the breath, we have the opportunity to remember that God is present, that God's Spirit dwells in us, that we receive each moment as a gift from Him.
Sitting practices also direct attention to a wide variety of other experiential elements. This might include physical sensations (such as contact with the surface that you are sitting on), thoughts, feelings, sounds, or visual stimuli (such as colors and shapes). When we sit in silence, we choose to lay aside any false sense of urgency and importance and spend time being. We take the stance of Mary sitting at Jesus' feet--not denying the importance of Martha's work in preparing the feast, but acknowledging the deep goodness in God's unhurried presence (Luke 10:30-42). Sitting in this way also tunes our attention to the rising and falling of experience. We begin to notice the brevity of all experience, even the brevity of our own lives, and we experience a foundation in that which is eternal--we find that the life details causing the mind stress are also passing, and that it is only the eternal God who will never change. This allows the opportunity to put the details of our lives in perspective and to find our worth and value in the connection with our everlasting Creator.
Mindful sitting practices sometimes use imagery to support a shifting of perspective from habitual and anxious ways of thought. For example, the Mountain Meditation supports a view of ourselves as both ever-changing (like the weather and habitat on a mountain) and also grounded and solid (like the dignified and unmoving height of a mountain). Such visual comparisons bring to mind the type of imagery used throughout the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word. In everything from the Psalms to the parables of Jesus, we find imagery of the natural world used as metaphor for who we are as disciples of God. Practices such as the Mountain Meditation are in line with this spiritual practices of meditating on images from God's creation.
Lovingkindness is a form of meditation that can be practiced as prayer for self and others--a discipline of wishing well. This meditation is most typically a repetition of four different phrases (or variations thereof): "May I/you be safe. May I/you be happy. May I/you be healthy. May I/you live with ease." These phrases, or prayers, are typically lifted for oneself, for a loved one, for an acquaintance, for a difficult person, and for the entire world.
Practicing lovingkindness has compelling research backing showing that it increases shared feelings of love with others as well as personal feelings of happiness. It is also a highly flexible practice, and can be modified to be a more direct prayer or a more literal expression of Christian theology. One option is to use the phrases "May I/you know God's love. May I/you know God's joy. May I/you know God's peace. May I/you know God's rest." I also sometimes use traditional blessings of the church and of Scripture in these meditations, or even informally when I am interacting with others or observing strangers. For example, a typical blessing that I might recite in my mind is "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace." Saying these prayers for myself and others brings a noticeable openness within me to God's love for me and for others. These prayers are also powerful tools in forgiving those who have brought hurt--removing these difficult relationships from my cycling mind and placing them in God's hands.
While meditation is most typically practiced in stillness, bringing mindfulness into movement is also powerful in honing present-moment awareness. This is often practiced through yoga, a word in the Sanskrit language that means union or yoke. Mindful yoga brings union to body, mind, and spirit by cultivating awareness of experience in the moment. We can use the practice of yoga to notice the body in new ways, to notice how the mind interacts with the body, and to notice God's gifts to us through physical movement. We can also use mindful yoga as a practice of caring for our bodies, nurturing the temple within which God's presence dwells. In doing this, we open our entire selves up to God's love and care. We offer our bodies and our hearts to God as a way of seeking the union with Him to which we are called (John 15:4), a way of tending to weariness and receiving instead his light yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).
Another common form of mindful movement is walking meditation. Walking is something that many of us do every day with minimal awareness. Those of us without the ability to walk are especially aware of the miracle involved in this basic human action. Each step that we take is a display of God's amazing engineering--a stunning demonstration that goes largely unnoticed. Walking meditation gives us the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to this amazing feat of the human body. This type of attentiveness can be practiced through any other form of movement or daily activity as well, such as eating, washing dishes, or brushing teeth. Paying attention to these experiences opens our eyes to God's presence and the powers of his creation that are manifest in everything that we do. This type of movement meditation also allows us to detach our sense of identity from thoughts (in the head), instead rooting our sense of identity in a more holistic sense of ourselves and the world at large. We become less controlled by habitual thoughts because we have created some space from them, moving our sense of self away from the head and, in the process, becoming less self-focused.