January 12, 2024

Evangelization Outreach / Ken Ogorek

New year’s resolution: don’t meditate! Let me explain

Ken OgorekYou might have noticed that in various secular health-related articles the topic of meditation comes up frequently.

“Meditate,” we’re advised. “It’s good for you.”

At least two ways of meditating, though, are available to you; one of them you should embrace. The other? Avoid!

“My mind is so open, the good stuff falls out!”

An undesirable understanding of meditation goes something like this: “Empty your mind of everything. Use a word or brief phrase to help do this if you must. But eventually every person, place and thing should vacate your mind, leaving nothing but nothingness. Then and only then will you feel peace, tranquility, serenity.”

Jesus touched on this concept, at least indirectly.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first” (Mt 12:43-45).

What, then, is a Christian view of meditation?

“Don’t lose your focus.”

While meditative prayer might seem the same as nothingness meditation at first glance, here’s a key difference:

Christian meditation encourages you to clear your mind of all distraction, even using a word or brief phrase to help. With all that competes for your attention vanquished for a time, you can focus on the one person who really matters. Or maybe one of the three divine persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or perhaps just one aspect of the unfathomable, inexhaustible riches of who God and his creation are and will remain.

Instead of leaving the house of your mind unguarded and vulnerable to those who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls, you’re remaining restfully vigilant—or vigilantly restful—focusing on the personal Being without whom your heart remains restless. To paraphrase St. Augustine, our hearts find rest not in nothingness, but rather in resting with—in a focused way—God almighty.

“Hey, baldie. You’re splitting hairs.”

You might be thinking, “C’mon, Ken. Aren’t you overthinking this? Aren’t mindfulness, meditation, yoga’s mental practices and Christian meditative prayer all the same thing?”

(Sidenote: I’ll leave it to you to figure out why secular, corporate newsletters can recommend mindfulness, meditation and closely related practices till they’re anthem-blue in the face while one mention of Judeo-Christian meditative prayer would send shockwaves through shareholder ranks.)

Simply put, no. All meditative practices are not created equal. Some of them will help you grow closer to God. Others might lower your heart rate and blood pressure, but leave you vulnerable to forces who want you to believe they don’t exist.


I’ve been known to stir the pot with my columns occasionally. And I’d welcome any rebuttal that tries equating Christian meditative prayer to the nothingness approach that underlies (if you’re aware of it) the meditation commonly mentioned in secular sources of various sorts.

Meanwhile I encourage you to start here: lnkiy.in/USCCB-Meditation, then branch out with the search engine of your choosing, using phrases like “Catholic meditative prayer.”

You might still find this feisty, bald guy annoying. But at least you’ll avoid new year’s resolutions that leave you feeling … empty.

(Ken Ogorek is executive director within the archdiocesan Secretariat for Evangelizing Catechesis. He can be reached at kogorek@archindy.org.)

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