These days, we love to worry, admit it or not. We often spend our time worrying about things dear to us: our children, our health, our finances, and our work, among many others – and “dear” to us: the price of the next top-level smartphone, whether we look perfect or not, and the calorie count of a certain foodstuff, among many others. I myself am worrying as I type this – worried about my future, worried about my planet’s climate, worried about my country, worried about my financial security (or lack thereof).
Notice that when one worries, one tends to think about the subject of worry all the time, and continuous thinking on it leads to our favorite word for adults: stress. The Oxford dictionary’s first definition of “worry” is “[to] feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems”. Worrying is thinking about something negative that leads to a negative feeling. It doesn’t cause happiness or lightness, it causes anxiety or a troubled feeling.
In Day 11 (Becoming Best Friends with God) of The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren defines meditation as “simply focused thinking” and “when you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind”. He goes on to contrast meditation with worrying, defining the latter as thinking of a certain problem over and over. Meditation, on the other hand, is thinking about something good over and over – in Pastor Rick’s case, the highest good, which is the Word of the Lord. He explains that if one knows how to worry, one also knows how to meditate, since the thought process is the same, only that the object of focused thinking shifts from something negative – a problem – to something positive – the Word of the Lord, He who is Love.
The same dictionary defines “meditate” as “to focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.” Now, if we were to take Pastor Rick’s thoughts on meditation and reword the Oxford definition of “worry” to accommodate the former, it would probably read as follows:
“[To] feel or cause to feel tranquil or happy about actual or potential blessings.”
No longer do we feel anxious or troubled in focused thinking on a problem, real or imaginary, but we will feel peaceful or happy because we focus our thoughts on good things. This is what we are invited to do: to stop worrying about problems and to start meditating on the good, the highest form of which is the Word of God. And since the Word is God (John 1:1), then to think about God is to think about His Word.
Now, even if you weren’t a devout Christian, it would still be possible to practice meditation. The thought process is very simple: why focus your thinking on negative things when you can focus your thinking on positive things instead? As mentioned, continual focus on problems actual or potential will lead to troubled or anxious feelings, which lead to a body that does not respond well to stress. Furthermore, sustained periods in that state can lead to sicknesses one after the other, one way or another, such as what’s described in articles here, here, and here.
Meditation as practiced by those wading into New Age schools of thought leads to calmness and relaxation because they focus on things that bring calm and relaxation. We can learn from this and meditate on things that bring us peace and tranquility, such as a visualized walk through nature (something that Kevin Kern’s 2003 concept album The Winding Path maximized in its concept) or reflection about a good day. But we, as Christians, are also invited to meditate on something that is much more worth thinking on: the eternal Word of the Lord.
“…and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things [things to eat, drink, and wear]. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:32b-33 (NRSV-CE)
Thus, I invite you to initiate a simple practice: Each day, worry on one less problem, and meditate on one more good thing. Little by little, shift your overall focus from negative things to positive things. Trust in the Lord that He will take care of your problems, or even show you that your problems are not worth worrying over.
Have a blessed weekend!