Meditation: ‘a Natural Way, in the Christian Sense, that We Quiet Ourselves’
The gospel story of Jesus at Gethsemane is one many of us know well: Jesus left Peter, James and John and went off to pray by himself, but when he returned the apostles were asleep. This happened three times in total before he was arrested.
When Jane Ehrman reads or hears that gospel story, she recognizes something familiar. Ehrman, who recently retired from the Cleveland Clinic after 16 years as a behavioral health specialist, believes Jesus wasn’t just praying, but he also was engaged in spiritual meditation.
“He was there by himself, praying and connecting with God the Father before they were going to take him,” said Ehrman, who now is a private practitioner who uses meditation to help people improve their health, well-being and performance. She added that meditation is “a natural way, in the Christian sense, that we quiet ourselves.”
Meditation can have both powerful and wide-ranging effects. Meditation can help relieve stress. According to the Cleveland Clinic, treatment programs that include regular meditation can help reduce depression and people can “improve sleep, improve pain management, quit smoking, improve self-esteem, improve concentration, decrease menopausal symptoms and reduce the severity of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.”
There are many types of meditation. Here is a little bit of information about four forms:
- Spiritual meditation—Prayer is a form of meditation. “It’s centering on your connection with source, God, whatever you want to call it,” Ehrman said. “We know that connection enables people to feel a sense of strength or comfort, guidance, that connection of just feeling as though they are not alone.”
- Mindfulness—This takes place when you focus on one thing, such as breathing. Ehrman said this is both a meditative practice and a skill. “Mindfulness is so important because it’s actually teaching you to focus and concentrate better and longer,” Ehrman said.
- Gratitude meditation—Good things happen in your life and it pays to think about them. “It is a powerful, healthy perspective changer,” Ehrman said. “It’s an energizer, can motivate you and help you feel the connection with other people.”
- Guided imagery—Some people refer to this as visualization. This form of meditation can help relieve stress and reduce anxiety. It also can improve performance, including athletic, academic and musical performances. “When you imagine yourself in that wonderful woodlands or at the beach or in your backyard, your whole system believes that’s what’s happening and it calms itself down and you have stress relief,” Ehrman said.
If you are interested in trying meditation, Ehrman offered the following tips:
- Choose a quiet place where it’s not likely you will be interrupted by family members, pets and electronic devices. Silence your phone.
- You can sit, lie on the ground or walk. “Be in a body position that is comfortable … and where you can breathe comfortably,” Ehrman said.
- If you would like, play soft instrumental music.
- Set a timer for five minutes. Your mind will inevitably ask, “How much longer am I going to do this?” The timer provides the answer.
- Guided meditations can be helpful. Ehrman has some on her website and on YouTube. Several apps also provide guided meditations, including Calm, Insight Timer and Headspace.
- Go easy on yourself and have a sense of humor. “Your mind is going to wander,” Ehrman said. “It’s like a three-year-old. When you get upset with it, it gets upset right back at you. So just allow for it to be. The more you realize, ‘Oh, I’ve gone off into thinking,’ and bring yourself back, the better you are at focusing and concentrating.”