Emptying Meditation -or- In the Still of the Mind

Okay.  I get it.  The idea of meditation that empties the mind is a little disturbing.  I mean, nothing inside your mind?  That’s creepy.  I could give all sorts of potential psychological explanations for why it feels creepy, but that’s really not what I’m after here.

Instead, I want to offer an alternative.  What if the purpose of such meditation is not to empty the mind, but rather to still it?  We’ve all had minds that aren’t still.  In fact, we’ve all had minds that you could qualify as crazed.  Songs that go through our heads for hours on end…  Can’t sleep because our minds are racing with thoughts from the last day or perhaps of what’s to come…  Unable to focus because we keep jumping from thought to thought to thought…  If this is what’s going on in your head, you can’t pray, you can’t study, you sometimes can’t even hold a conversation.  This is not an ideal state of mind.

And if this is what’s going on in your head, what are your chances of ever being able to hear anything if the Holy Spirit did want to say something?

When you’re in a conversation with someone and you’re chattering at them nonstop, you can’t hear anything from them.  And sometimes, if that person is a little shy or if she’s terribly thoughtful, you have to wait a bit for her to say something.  And if you’re not paying attention, if your mind is somewhere else, not only is it just rude, you might miss something.  And if this person is important, you might miss something valuable.

Likewise, if our minds are distracted, running about, and unable to concentrate, if we’re not waiting and listening, we may miss what God is trying to say to us.  You wouldn’t call waiting and listening to a friend emptying your mind for him.  Likewise, maybe it’s a little misleading to say that meditation that’s calming and leads one into quiet is an attempt to empty the mind.  Instead, it’s trying to keep it still and available.  You’re trying to gently set aside distractions and keep things calm and focused so that you can hear.  And maybe you won’t hear anything.  And maybe you will.  But in a place of mental chaos, there’s no chance.  But in a place of stillness, there is the possibility of hearing that quiet whisper of the Lord.

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6 responses

  1. Terry

    How do you keep your mind still?

    Many spiritual leaders told me to sit still and listen for God’s voice. So I had tried that but it doesn’t work. I sit there and be quiet and listen what God wants to tell me. I focus really hard on God to hear his voice. The problem is the only thing can hear is my thought thinking what God might tell me.

    So basically I’m asking, how would you recognize God’s voice? Does He disguise his voice as your thought/conscience? And if he does, when should you listen to your thought? Because it could be your thought or sometime it could be God’s voice disguise as your thought.

    November 9, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    • You say, “it doesn’t work.” How would you know that it had worked? It sounds like you’re wanting something specific to happen. That expectation may be clouding your ability to hear.

      Hearing what God’s voice sounds like is a complicated issue. It’s often referred to as discernment, and there have been countless books written on the subject. To answer your questions in a exceedingly short primer:
      The Holy Spirit sometimes does use our own thoughts as means of communicating things to us. How do you know the difference? Well, first of all, you always know that God’s voice will never conflict with Scripture. Second, when thoughts jump out that seem very unusual, things that you wouldn’t have thought yourself, that may be a clue (though not proof) that the Holy Spirit is saying something. Third, while you can’t tell at first, pay attention to thoughts that you think might be the Spirit and see where they lead over the long run (weeks, months, etc.). As such thoughts lead you away from God, you know they weren’t from Him. As they lead you towards God, that’s a sign they may likely be from the Spirit. As you start to listen over the years and hear more and more things that lead you towards God, you’ll likely start to recognize and learn to distinguish when the Spirit is working through your thoughts.

      Bear in mind also, though, that the Spirit may not necessarily desire to speak in a verbal fashion. He may wish to communicate messages simply through impressions or images, and He may desire to communicate things that aren’t really messages at all. We are more than intellectual creatures, and He often does want to offer things that we take in via other faculties. For example, He may simply want to offer love similar to a child resting on Dad’s chest (see Ps. 131).

      And He may withhold communication for some reason. He sometimes uses a sense of His absence to accomplish various things. (c.f., Song of Solomon)

      November 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    • mike

      …a great book that has helped me immensely on learning to dis-engage from the incessant thoughts is titled “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer..

      February 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      • Given some of the material that the author covers and the stated desire to avoid “dogma and religious reference”, I’m rather wary of this book. While I’ll not completely deny that it may have some good information, it may also have some seriously questionable practices that aren’t grounded in the cross. I very much lean more towards Willard’s “Hearing God” or Huggett’s “The Joy of Listening to God”.

        February 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

    • mike

      …2 years ago i found a guy on the radio and internet(FHU.com)who teaches a meditation exercise called “be still and know”..it changed my life..

      February 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      • Again, very wary of this web site. The possibility of exceeding theological boundaries is too likely.

        February 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

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