What About Meditation (Part 1)

By: Brian Robertson

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Part of the joy of this blog for me is that I get fantastic letters from people, some of which I don’t always have the time to answer.  I just got one from a reader and long time back and forth email friend asking some interesting questions. I thought I’d share my reply although, of course, it’s a bit hasty and may include what to others will be shorthand rather than a full blown reply.

Hope it’s of interest!

Anyhow, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about meditation.  I have been interested in meditation for the past couple of years.  I have not really settled on any particular method yet.  I have tried passage meditation (similar to centering prayer), guided imagery, guided meditation, and mindfulness (in the Thicht Nhat Hahn tradition of Zen).  So far, none have really worked for me.  I suppose I had the most consistency with mindfulness, but I find that my mind requires something to grab onto when I’m meditating.  So, that’s where I’m at lately.  I’m still searching for a meditation practice that is a good fit for me.  My next try will be Primordial Sound Meditation, which is similar to Transcendental Meditation.

I’ll do the very best I can to tell you — and probably I’ll babble a lot as usual — so take it as you like:

Anyway, my questions for you are the following:

-Do you have a daily meditation practice? If so, what method of meditation do you use?  For how long now?

I also jumped around between various types of meditation as I was thinking I’d find the one that would work like a magic bullet or something. I remember reading Ramakrishna’s wonderful comment that doing various practices/paths was like drilling many, many water wells a few feet deep and then complaining one never could find water when, obviously, a single, deep and penetrating shaft would be better! (He said it nicer, I’m paraphrasing.)

Now. somewhere in the distant past I read a wonderful book by Eknath Easwaran that literally fell into my hands out of the blue. He was an English professor out in California who practiced meditation for years and well worth discovering. Originally from India, he had a really fresh look at things from a multiple point of view, with wonderful books here and there on Christian texts as well as Buddhist and Hindu.

I’d suggest you look him up at where the lower left talks about what they are now calling Passage Meditation. I found my poor brain would wander off into the fields when I tried to meditate, but this helped build a little structure to hang on. I liked the fact that I could pick the positive, spiritual quotes that appealed to me for using, and that the whole idea of having a bit of discipline and a lot of freedom appealed to me — not to mention the concept that you have to sort of sneak up on your brain, lol, and get it to behave as you infuse yourself with spiritual thoughts (but not, underscore, fluffy positive motivation).

I’d love to see what you think about it.  I started that some twenty-five years ago.  I do it daily for between 15 and 30 minutes, although I’m become a huge fan of Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness meditation and breathing because it works when I feel the need to get centered (which is often, alas). I also like the fact that once you figure out how to do things that way you can begin to work on your own needs — anger this moment, jealousy the next, fear, etc.  I see that more as a tool but less helpful in the beginning than what Easwaran talks about.

-What form of meditation did the Christian mystics use?

The best I can point to is The Cloud of Unknowing as one way that what we would think of as meditation is employed in certain areas in Christianity. Keep in mind, in the East meditation means, and this is wildly general, a way in which an individual stills the mind and experiences while contemplation means to go through verses or thoughts and thinks about them and how the words apply to one’s self, tries to look very deeply and ponder it all. In Christianity, for some reason, the terms are completely reversed. One Meditates upon something while one Contemplates in great silence. Don’t know how those got turned around, but, well, there you are.

-Do you put any stock into conservative Christians say about meditation, that it can be harmful and is essentially unholy?

No. Absolutely none. It seems to me they have a very wrong understanding of what meditation is, and apparently have some problems involving trying to limit God’s qualities of compassion and outreach. In a nutshell, conservative Christians see humans as debased and taunted by evil and that such Christians can only find shelter in the Church’s authority and all else is false — as in of the devil.  This is completely 180 degrees opposite to Jesus’ teaching who had little more than impatience and scorn for such organizations and their thoughts in his own time.

-Do you find great value in having a meditation practice?

Yes, it is a tool that I find very useful. What danger I think there may be is that one can arrive at the conclusion that he or she can DO something that will lead to God on a foolproof basis. I think the best analogy is a garden — one can tend the garden, plant the seeds, cultivate the ground and make it ready — but there is, to sort of quote the Chinese — respect for the kind of intelligence that allows cherry stones to make cherries and grass seeds to make grass.




[Nice site here… I must confess I don’t meditate at all, at least not in a purposeful manner where I sit down for some time in order to practice meditation. Maybe I will try it some time.

My suggestion for Barry: Have you tried A Course In Miracles? Maybe it’s not strictly “Christian mysticism”, but it seems to fit your needs and I’m sure points to the same Truth as other works on mysticism. Jesus is portrayed as a sort of friend or brother who speaks to you in the book. There is a philosophical part where Jesus explains to the reader how Christianity (something like what you’ve been raised in I guess) has been distorting the truth about Him and He sets out to rectify that in the first part of the Course. He also explains how we’re really one with God and that the world we see is a dream. The second part is a workbook with lots of different exercises (aka meditation) designed to make you see the Truth.

By the way, when I can’t fall asleep because of some nagging thoughts, I find reading Meister Eckhart is often helpful to relax, more so than Evelyn Underhill who is sometimes a bit technical as you say. Reading his Book of Divine Comfort, Talks of Instruction or numerous sermons, Meister Eckhart becomes your friend and guide. In my view, that’s no worse than Jesus as a friend, if you can trust Eckhart, and why shouldn’t you. In the end, of course, Jesus isn’t your friend but who you are, as far as I understand it. And Meister Eckhart never tells you to “worship Jesus” but rather to surrender your will to God.]



I’m sorry that you find the authoritative elements of Sarah Young’s portrayal of Jesus overwhelm the comforting aspects. I think your description of her approach is accurate, and I understand how this differs from what you’re looking for. If I come across any writings that seem more in line with the portrayal you describe, I’ll pass them along in another comment here.]


[Thank you for your kind comments and suggested reading.
I have looked up sarah young but found the text while serene and comforting still portrays Jesus as masterly and an authorative figure as I remember from my early church days. He is depicted as saying things like “…worship me in the early morning when the due is fresh with the new day…”
While I respect this I have recently read some mystical verses that depict Jesus putting himself forward as a friend to those he is teaching because they could communicate easier with a friend than someone in a position of power and authority.
I would be interested in your comments and if you could suggest other texts.
Best Wishes


[I’ve found the daily devotional “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young to be very useful. It isn’t a “classical” mystical text, but it is written in the language of direct experience, with Jesus speaking directly to you. It addresses one’s relationship with Jesus from many perspectives, touching on many aspects of daily life. I was raised a Southern Baptist and haven’t found this devotional to trigger negative associations.

To whet your appetite, here’s today’s devotional, which is representative of the tone and content:

“Meet me in the morning stillness, while the earth is fresh with the dew of My Presence. Worship Me in the beauty of holiness. Sing love songs to My Holy Name. As you give yourself to Me, My Spirit swells within you till you are flooded with divine Presence.

The world’s way of pursuing riches is grasping and hoarding. You attain My riches by letting go and giving. The more you give yourself to Me and My ways, the more I fill you with inexpressible, heavenly Joy.]


[I have an idea or two that might be helpful — but I wonder first if visitors might have some suggestions to pass on to Barry?

Thanks –



I have been reading the posts on meditation and the download of evelyn underhill with great interest and have been trying to get my head round christian mysticism.
I am a practicing yogi yet brought up traditional british protestant christian and cannot now work too well with the testaments.
I am currently working with the sutras of patajali and trying to work with karma jhana and bhakti yoga but find it hard with the bhakti as I cannot somehow be devotional towards jesus as I remember the teachings of my younger days. Hinduism is not right for me either nor buddhism.
I am beginning to get a good feeling for mysticism but so far find the reading deep and academic. Can you recommed a starting text other than underhills that can help me with my quest to fulfil bhakti yoga – I would prefer to devote to christ but need to find a more acceptable face of christianity if you get my meaning.


[Dear Rev Brian,
I have to agree with the email you shared about Christians fearing things that aren’t in the Bible.
To quote Thomas A. Kempis, ” We often judge a thing according to our preference and therefore our judgment is emotional rather than objective.” I understand that many Christians truly adhere to the content of the Bible. For many this is the safest way to experience God. It is an instruction book of sorts, it is right there in front of them a concrete visible thing. Many if not all humans desire that type of permanence of substance in a multitude things. If we can experience a thing with our five sense it becomes more real to us. ( I would like to interject here that I have a great deal of respect for many teachings within the Christian Bible, as it has directed me for years, but it, in my opinion does not hold exclusive truths about God. God is to large to be contained in 66 books alone! )
“Just as when we physically grab something, we need edges/borders to hold onto, so too when we mentally grasp a concept, we need to perceive the boundaries of the idea as points of reference. Thus, when we define something we give it parameters, and thereby we are able to comprehend it.”

by Rabbi Shimon Leiberman

So in the the mind of many Christians if experiencing God doesn’t fit into their perceived concept from the Bible than they will usually reject it. In the Christian mind I believe this system of thinking probably guides everything else that pertains to God including the practices of meditation. It is also interesting to note, that people are always more comfortable with things that are familiar to us. Our culture and upbringing can play a large part in just how free we are in the matters of beliefs and practices.
In my spiritual journey, which is still unfolding, I have had to reconcile to myself what I believe God is, what image am I am most comfortable with, what speaks to my spirit as to how to best connect with God. Personally I found that once the Spirit had helped me to clarify these things within my spirit I than had a focal point to center on. The great thing about the kingdom of God being within each one of us is, it makes it a personal connection with God. The Great Spirit of the universe speaks to us in ways we can understand, hence all the different beliefs. I do like the saying that there is one mountain of God but many paths. I think this can be applied to meditation as well whatever way we feel a connection with God is the way that is usually best for us, at least a good place to start. This in turn can be a spring board into freeing our spirits to be open to more of God that we are not familiar with.

Jesus said in John 4:24; “God is Spirit and those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and truth.” If our intentions towards God are true and from the heart I believe we will find what we are seeking. If we fear what we don’t understand, than seek to understand and fear will dissipate. Thanks for allowing me to ramble. I have so enjoyed your site. I believe it has helped me to see that maybe I am on the Christian mystic path and just never knew it had a name.

Go with God,


[I would like to offer a little bit of info that I have recently uncovered, thanks, in part, to Brian’s references to the Orthodox Church and the Jesus Prayer on this blog. I ran across the ‘Doctrine’ of Theosis in the Orthodox Church. While I am still new to this, and still doing a bit of research, I did happen across this great blog (link below). One of the entries speaks of the process by which God heals us through stillness…

“Hesychia, stillness, is essential for man’s purification and perfection, which means his salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically: “One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous a little away from those wandering in error”. Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains communion and union with God. This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God, also constitutes man’s salvation.]