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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

meditation and life

I don't know about you - but I need times in my life where I have to slow down and pause and think and focus on God.

It's called meditation.

I was reading today of Walter Zimmerman who has what can be described as a high-pressure job. He predicts the direction of movement on the world energies market for institutions such as airlines and oil companies.

He's well paid -- as in earning about $500,000 per month -- but his clients expect him to be right. A few bad calls could destroy him professionally and financially.

It's not a job for the faint of heart, and Zimmerman has watched most of his peers burn out long ago. But Zimmerman has a secret weapon that enables him to remain calm and keeps his mind sharp and focused.

It's called meditation.

He says that forty minutes of meditation in the morning and at night helps give him the clarity he needs to make quick, insightful (and accurate) analysis of the market.

There's a reason why the Bible tells us again and again to meditate. It's good for you.

One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory.

The study was based on a type of meditation in which one focuses on a single image or sound, or simply focuses on one's breathing. The result of this simple type of meditation is better health and mental acuity.

Can you imagine, then, what would be the result of a more spiritual type of meditation -- focusing your thoughts on any aspect of God: his word, his promises, his presence, his power, his law, his love - What would be the result?

The time an average American spends per day in religious and spiritual activities is 9 minutes (Average includes those who spend no time at all).  Nine minutes.

No wonder we are so stressed.

John Ortberg writes, "Stillness is always a prerequisite for receptivity. Telephones and television sets cannot receive messages when they are too filled with static and noise. Stillness first, then listening. The order cannot be reversed. "Be still, and know that I am God," quotes the psalmist.

One of the most powerful expressions of this is found in Psalm 131:

"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me."

He goes on to write, "An unweaned child is a noisy child. The unweaned child has learned that eventually noise leads to the satisfaction of its desires. Even if it doesn't, the noise itself appears to bring some relief. Or at least it makes others as miserable as the unweaned one.

The weaned child, however, has learned that the presence of the mother is about more than the immediate gratification of desire. The weaned child has become capable of stillness. The weaned child can have a whole new form of communication with the mother. The weaned child has entered into a whole new relationship with its mother. Now the mother is more than simply one who exists to satisfy need, to take away hunger. The mother can become a person, not just a need-meeter.

There is a catch, of course. Weaning is not a popular process. At least, not for the [one being weaned]. Children rarely volunteer for it because it is both costly and painful. Weaning means learning to live in stillness with unfulfilled desires. It is the mark of maturity.

The psalmist says this is a picture of my soul. I have learned to still my heart. There has been a spiritual weaning process so that I am no longer at the mercy of my desires and reflexes and demands. God is becoming more than just the Meeter of My Needs. I am entering into a new era listening. I have stilled my soul.

The Psalmist writes, in Psalms 119:97-99, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes."

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