Looking at Early Judeo-Chrsitian Meditation Practice
An early description of enlightened liberation in Buddhist meditation practice reads like this: Birth is destroyed, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done. There is no more coming back to any state of being. Ignorance was banished and true knowledge arose, darkness was banished and light arose, as happens in one who dwells diligent, ardent, and resolute.” From the Mahasaccaka Sutra.
In Gnosticism (considered by some the first roots of Christianity), but which predates formal Christianity, core spiritual and religious beliefs shifted from having knowledge of god and Jesus to a mystical oneness with god. This was a significant change in one’s relationship to divinity. With sitting in prayer and meditation one of the earliest known forms of formal meditation is the Judeo-Christian practice of Hesychast. This meditation method implied great grace and personal commitment to practice. Some of the key characteristics of Hesychast meditation are as follows.
- Your correct posture represents your correct attitude.
- Emphasis on the body implies it is the temple of your spirit.
- “Sit down like a mountain” and synchronize your breath as if a flowing ocean. Remain focused on your breath – breathing in, and breathing out. Continue to focus on the flow of your breath.
- Recognize that the deeper sea is more calm than the surface waves. Breathe with “oceanic respiration.”
- Listen carefully to your breath. Be at peace with the inhalation, the source of inspiration. Notice the end of the exhalation – more pure peace again.
- According to scripture, the Samaritan woman was told to become one with the breath of her spirit and the spirit of the breath.
- Be like a mountain, a bird, a flower, an ocean when you meditate. The Old Testament meditations included the Jewish “haga” and the Latin “Meditatio.” These are roots of future meditation practices.
- Meditate from the throat as you are murmuring the “name” of who you believe in. Allow the murmuring to vibrate in the body. Meditating on the “name” was common in various forms of Hindu, Buddhist and early Christian practices. Repeat, be virtuous, and note the sacred name again and again.
- Now as you breathe, invoke the name, and make an image of the face of who you believe in – allow the sacred presence to enter your heart. This is a form of heart-centering spirituality.
- Practice using your inner chant of the name to awaken your heart – BE in the light and BE in the peace!
- Work on meditating via a constant presence – peace, light, love, non-judgmental, non-attachment, compassion, and awaken your heart’s vital center of the divine. Become one!
- Stay steady and deep as you meditate in transcendence of the universe and all the 10,000 things.
- It is only YOU here now. Just ONE!
- Now end your meditation and simply reflect and contemplate on your experience.
For more information refer to Leloup, J-Y (2000, 2009 Edn.). Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic Between Buddhism and Christianity. Translated by J. Rowe. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, pp. 21-36.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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