Spirituality as Meditation and Inner Peace

In the last few years, Christianity has re-discovered the wisdom (or spirituality) of the Desert Fathers and their practices.  Those who are unfamiliar with the Desert Fathers probably see these practices as being “Eastern.”  Christians have a long tradition of silent prayer, centering prayer, meditation, and the like, though many people don’t know that and tend to call these practices “buddhism.”  Buddhism does, of course, practice similar techniques, though with a different emphasis.  These practices are known to have calming effects, among many other things.  There are a couple key differences between this view and the “Spirituality as Privacy” view.  One is that the “privacy” view is pretty much limited to scripture reading and explicit, spoken requests to God.  In fact, the privacy view would probably be skeptical of people who practiced prayer techniques that emphasized silence, nature, and a mere “resting” in God’s presence.   The second as that the more meditative group tend to speak about spirituality as if it's about finding a piece of yourself that has been lost.  

There are a couple of dangers here.  One is that spirituality isn't necessarily about finding something we've lost, it's about gaining something new.  Spirituality is about receiving a new version of yourself through participating in God's spirit- which is transformative.  Second- any retreat into solitude has the potential to be a retreat from the world; it can be (though it doesn't have to be) a desire to remain unaffected.   The other danger comes in seeking internal peace for its own sake.  Living faithfully in a world that does not typically value faith’s values means living with a great deal of tension both internally and externally.  Seeking internal peace for the sake of internal peace is a way of denying the reality of what is.  It is escaping difficulty simply because we do not feel up to the challenge.  

However, earnestly seeking God through a certain discipline and finding some peace in that process is a beautiful thing.  This is one of the great benefits of meditative practices, including physiological benefits such as stress reduction.  Yet, these practices must be grounded in a deep engagement with all aspects of life (and community) or else they are comfort and little more. 

If we are not deeply engaged with life, then meditation becomes entertainment.