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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Relaxation Versus Meditation: What's the Difference?

Yoga classes, mindfulness, relaxation . . . . Which are connected with Eastern religions, and which are okay? Is it easy to draw a line?

It can get complicated, but there’s a solution that isn’t too hard. Examine any technique for three concepts:
  1. Does it involve emptying your mind or mental suggestions?
  2. Do you need to concentrate on self (breathing, your body, “centering,” etc.)?
  3. Do you have to have a coach or guide?

If you need any one of these, you should reject the technique. Why? We’ll take them in order:
  • Being in Christ is about a renewed mind that is filled with Truth. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation (lifestyle) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24). And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). A renewed mind is filled with and controlled by the Word of God.
  • When you concentrate on your self, you are acting contrary to the biblical concept of thinking on what God wants you to think about. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8). Do you see self or your body in that list? Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24). Followers of Christ deny self and follow the Lord.
  • When you need a guide, he actually tells you what to think, how to breathe, and talks into your mind whatever thoughts he wants you to have. Physical disciplines such as yoga require a yogi—a guide—for breathing, mind emptying, and they lead the person into a state of “mindfulness.” For a Christian, while there’s nothing wrong with stretching one’s body, there’s something very dangerous in being led into mind practices not based on biblical Truth. The Bible says, What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20). You can’t have an empty mind and be centering on your body and breathing while, at the same time, you're singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in your heart and thanking God. It just doesn’t work!

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with relaxation techniques that don’t include those elements. There’s nothing wrong with simple calming down techniques—slowing your breathing when you have a panic attack, for instance. The Bible says, Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). In my experience—I have stress issues and panic attacks once in a while—this whole process works for me! Let’s list the steps:
  1. Don’t be anxious. Calm down.
  2. Pray. Tell the Lord about it.
  3. Ask. Let God know what you want from Him.
  4. Give thanks. End your prayer with a session of praise. That means you spend time in adoration of God and thanking Him for whatever He does on your behalf.

Look at the next thing in these verses: God promises peace . . . and not just any peace! He promises peace that passes understanding. And, that’s not all! It will keep your heart and mind. Wow! What a beautiful promise!

I find that it helps to read Scripture. Just read. At times of anxiety and stress, I like the Psalms, because many times the psalmist is pouring his heart out to God. He may be in a battle, or have enemies, or be persecuted, or afraid. By the end of the Psalm, he’s praising God. I let the Scripture wash over me and minister to my heart.

Do you feel stressed? Try the four steps above.

How about exercises? Is yoga okay? So many people differ on this. From what I have read, some yoga positions are impossible to achieve without Eastern religious meditation. Other positions are merely stretching and don’t require “mindfulness.” If you only stretch, there’s not a problem. If the practice involves the three concepts I mentioned in the beginning of this post, be wary!

The Bible says,
Thou (God) wilt keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed (focused) on thee:
because he trusteth in thee.

(Isaiah 26:3)

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