"....I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." ~James 10:10~

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

{My Christian Perspective on Yoga and Meditation}

A friend, one I know has nothing but my best interests at heart :), had some concerns about the possible spiritual implications for Christian believers and meditation practices. Here's part of her comment (which was welcomed lovingly):

"I would also add a word of caution with experimenting with anything that has its roots in something other than Jesus Christ! Here's why - I had a couple of roommates who were from India (and of Hindu belief). For me it began as a ministry and honestly, it was an incredible experience (not to mention the food! YUMMY!) But, after several months I realized that by inviting them into my home, I also left the door open for a HUGE spiritual battle to begin that I never knew was happening. I can tell you stories of things happening that would blow you away (spiritual warfare speaking - but many physical things as well.) After I began to realize what has happening, I did a TON of research on spiritual warfare. Let me say, I had NO idea! The things that we do to open the door to Satan and his demons is mind boggling! Things that we might think are harmless, can really be an open door for Satan to wreak havoc in our lives. As someone who lives in the good ol' USA, it wasn't on my radar, but now it completely is!

So, I'm not here to criticize, please don't hear that! But I do, from personal experience, want to say please be cautious and know your stuff!!! The battle we face is not against flesh and blood and the enemy we face will use anything to destroy us! Even the things we think are harmless and even the things we can often use as ministry!"

After reading that, and considering much of these same concerns even as I began this practice, I came across a good article that I'd like to share. I was able to think for myself, interperet Scripture, and come to the conclusion that for me, Meditation and Yoga are not a path to any type of new spiritual enlightenment, pantheistic world view, or suspension of rational thinking patterns. I'll inject my thoughts throughout the article in bold italicized type:) Let me explain....:)
Dangerous Meditations
What harm is there in achieving a higher state of consciousness through meditation?

Many Eastern religions teach that the source of salvation is found within, (I long ago decided that MY salvation is in CHRIST ALONE) and that the fundamental human problem is not sin (it is in my opinion)against a holy God but ignorance of our true condition (not me, I'm totally aware that I need a savior!). These worldviews advocate meditation and "higher forms of consciousness" as a way to discover a secret inner divinity. (I know that NOTHING in and of myself is holy or worthy---I give all the credit to God!)
Yoga, deeply rooted in Hinduism, essentially means to be "yoked" with the divine. (Is there something WRONG with being yoked to the Divine? I like to think of myself as yoked with Jesus!) Yogic postures, breathing, and chanting were originally designed (hint hint---originally!) not to bring better physical health and well-being (Western marketing to the contrary), but a sense of oneness with Brahman—the Hindu word for the absolute being that pervades all things. This is pantheism (all is divine), not Christianity.
Transcendental Meditation is a veiled form of Hindu yoga, though it claims to be a religiously neutral method of relaxation and rejuvenation. Initiates to TM receive a mantra (Hindu holy word) (I don't do this part and do not practice it in a group where others are) to repeat while sitting in yogic postures and engaging in yogic breathing. The goal is to find God within their own beings, (my goal is to CHILL OUT!)since God (Brahman) and the self (Atman) are really one.
Differences in various forms of Eastern meditation aside, they all aim at a supposedly "higher" or "altered" state of consciousness. (Well, if that means feeling emotionally WELL, having more energy, and feeling more connected with myself in ALL areas of my being then I'm all for it!)Meditation guides claim that normal consciousness obscures sacred realities. Therefore, meditation is practiced in order to suspend rational patterns of thought. (Nope, for myself, it's to suspend irrational thinking such as excessive worry, stress, and anxiety)
This helps explain why so many Eastern mystics claim that divine realities are utterly beyond words, thought, and personality. In order to find "enlightenment," one must extinguish one's critical capacities—something the Bible never calls us to do (Rom. 12:1-2). (Let's pause here. Romans 12: 1-2 says "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.(ok, yes that sounds good to me!) Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will."This verse seems to support Christian Meditation if done to help renew the mind and offer the body as worship) In fact, suspending our critical capacities through meditation opens the soul to deception and even to spiritual bondage.(I'm going to have to do more research into this)
The biblical worldview is completely at odds with the pantheistic concepts driving Eastern meditation. (agreed) We are not one with an impersonal absolute being that is called "God." Rather, we are estranged from the true personal God because of our "true moral guilt," as Francis Schaeffer says. (Yes, I believe my sin separates me from God and nothing but the blood of Jesus can correct that) 
No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however "peaceful" these practices may feel. (I'm not "melting away sin" when I practice mindfulness, I'm melting away STRESS!) Moreover, Paul warns that "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). "Pleasant" experiences may be portals to peril. Even yoga teachers warn that yoga may open one up to spiritual and physical maladies. (I think anything can open one up to spiritual and physical maladies---not just Yoga. That's why we have to be cautious and resist the enemy.)
The answer to our plight is not found in some "higher level of consciousness" (really a deceptive state of mind), but in placing our faith in the unmatched achievements of Jesus Christ on our behalf. If it were possible to find enlightenment within, God would not have sent "his one and only Son" (John 3:16) to die on the Cross for our sins in order to give us new life and hope for eternity through Christ's resurrection. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead. (Amen!)

The biblical concept of prayer assumes that rational and meaningful communication between God and humans is possible. There is no summons to suspend rational judgment even when prayer through the Holy Spirit is "with groans that words cannot express" (Rom. 8:26). (Let's pause again. Romans 8:26 states
"26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." Should we limit the Spirit to interceed for us during wordless sessions of quiet meditation? I think not.) Nor should we repeat words meaninglessly to induce a trance (Matt. 6:7). (Pause again! Matthew 6:7 states " And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." One commentary on this verse states " Use not vain repetitions - To repeat any words without meaning them, is certainly a vain repetition. Therefore we should be extremely careful in all our prayers to mean what we say; and to say only what we mean from the bottom of our hearts. The vain and heathenish repetitions which we are here warned against, are most dangerous, and yet very common; which is a principal cause why so many, who still profess religion, are a disgrace to it. Indeed all the words in the world are not equivalent to one holy desire. And the very best prayers are but vain repetitions, if they are not the language of the heart. ")
 With all that said, (and there was lots of it:) I think the decision to practice meditation and/or yoga is a personal choice based on personal convictions. Who I am to say that a Christian is wrong to believe that meditation, or anything that has even anceint roots in another religion, is inately harmful and should be avoided? That is their opinion and their choice. Also, who is to say that a Christian who practices yoga/meditation is, in fact, not searching for solitude and stress relief but instead for a new or different spiritual experience? I believe the scripture confirms my thoughts---

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord"
~Romans 8:38-39~

I am His and He is mine. Nothing, not a sitting loctus nor a sun salutation---not the devil and all his evil schemes of destruction and separation. Nothing---absolutely nothing---can separate me from the love of God.



MJ Goodwin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MJ Goodwin said...

As always you make me think. I was not aware of yoga controversy. I agree with you. Only oneself by one's own choice can separate one from God.

Laura said...

MJ, I'm so glad you read my post! :) I love our perspective, too. Very true indeed!

Laura said...

FYI---First comment was removed only because it was a duplicate:)

Randi said...

Can I just say, that just because something comes from a different culture or may be born of another religion, it does not automatically have negative impact on Christianity. Your relationship with God is just that, Yours. As long as you feel good in your heart then you'll be fine. I dont understand the fear of other practices. Then again, I'm a christian with a muslim proverb tattooed on my body ;)

Anonymous said...

Someone told me that where God places you is your ministry. If that's on the yoga mat with a bunch of ladies, then you best believe there's a reason for that. God will use you wherever you are - if you let Him.