God and Meditation
My experience with meditation has always been that the less you impose on people, the better. People are naturally religious, let them find their own way. Just start meditating and explore your being and the relationship of your inner life and your outer life.
In the realm of meditation, if you impose something on yourself, even if it is true, the act of imposition may block you from perceiving what is there. And religion points us to perceiving what is there and has always been there. Any false attitude of devotion, any falseness at all, will only stifle your relationship with listening.
There are several types of imposition that seem to block people's direct experience:
1. Thinking you have to be religious in order to meditate.
2. Thinking you have to be in one sappy mood of devotion or reverence to meditate.
3. Thinking you have to change religions in order to meditate.
What really helps is for you to be natural with yourself when you approach meditation. If you are exhausted, be exhausted, If you are angry, be angry and breathe with it. If you are excited, don't try to calm down. If you are intensely alive, savor it. If you are sleepy, fall asleep in meditation. If you are in awe, be in awe. Meditation accelerates time, there is a quickening, and you will often find your experience changing from second to second, with a tempo like music. If so, allow that also.
Meditation has been part of the religious traditions because it is the quiet aspect of prayer. There is a saying, "Prayer is talking to God, meditation is Listening to God." For better or worse, though, most of what we experience when we meditate is not the Silence of God. We usually get a few seconds here and there of divine peace, but primarily we hear our thoughts and to-do lists. This is one reason why the Psalms can be so useful for meditators – there is very little you can experience that David or Solomon did not sing about in the Psalms. Anger, persecution, worry, lust, longing, repose, gratitude, it's all there. So when you know the Psalms, you can accept your own experience of life as your mini-version of David's trials.
There is a lot to be said for letting meditation be meditation, and letting religion be religion. Meditation is so important and useful that it is unfair to hold it hostage to any particular religious orientation.
I think it is totally fair and appropriate for Christian ministers and preachers, Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests, and others to teach meditation as part of their mission, if they are so called. And I think it is fair for yoga teachers to teach meditation as long as they make it clear they are teaching Hindu-flavored meditation, if that is what they are doing. In the future, I hope that all these different kinds of ministers and teachers will become trained as meditation teachers and do great works.
What I think is unfair and unethical is to even imply that being a Hindu or Buddhist will make you a better meditator. And this idea is sort of lying around in the American psyche, mainly because in Asia, they did a better job of recording the technical knowledge of how to meditate, and made this part of their scriptures. This idea is propagated by association and because the Christian churches have not yet come forth with good clear meditation teachings.
If you are going to mix religion and meditation, then find the elements within your own tradition that support meditation. It's there in all religions. In the United States, household surveys indicate that about 54% identify themselves as Protestant Christian, 24% as Catholics, 2.2% Jewish, 2% Mormon, and the percentage Muslim is difficult to assess, between 1 and 2% by some estimates.
If you are religious, and if you feel like it, then you should definitely practice meditation within the essence of your religion, whether you be Protestant Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Native American, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. You do not need to meditate in a religious tone, but if you feel called to, it can be wonderful, because all the major religions have rich material and prayers within which to meditate.
For example, in Genesis, it is written, "And Jehovah Elohim formed Man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Man became a living soul." That is about all you ever need to know about meditation, right there. Just take that verse and meditate with it.
"In the West, I do not think it advisable to follow Buddhism.
Changing religions is not like changing professions.
Excitement lessens over the years, and soon you are not excited, and then where are you?
Homeless inside yourself."
– The Dalai Lama,
quoted in Tibet, Tibet by Patrick French.