Archive | August 2017

(468) BETH MOORE – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

“MOORE ON” CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist who has been a staple in Bible studies for quite some time now among Christian groups.  This is especially true

51CTF4ZG5GLWith Evangelical women’s groups that have met to review her many books on prayer, Bible study…..etc.  So, I want to respect that and not paint a broad stroke that questions her motives or tears down what may have been beneficial to many people over the years.

The purpose of this posting is to look at specific issues where she crossed a very obvious line by combining practices not found in the Bible and instead having more similarities to other religions.  This type of syncretic characteristic may be detrimental if followers are taking their mind off of God’s word and His teaching and instead following after influences not from God. This is true whether they realize they are doing this or not.

In April 2008, she joined up with RICHARD FOSTER, DALLAS WILLARD and other CONTEMPLATIVES on the Be Still DVD.  Because of the questions raised regarding her association with the contemplative and mystical nature of the DVD, she issued a retraction.  However, soon afterward, she issued a retraction of a retraction. In a statement published on May 26, 2008, Moore’s Living Proof Ministries said: “We believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth”

 

However, that was quickly discounted since the DVD features RICHARD FOSTER and DALLAS WILLARD.  One review stated –

“In the DVD, there are countless enticements, references and comments that clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and become a ‘portable sanctuary’ for God. This PANENTHEISTIC VIEW of God is very typical for contemplatives. … The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of SILENCE that it produces. While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase REPETITION (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is really quite misleading. 

What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of STILLNESS or SILENCE is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. THE PURPOSE OF THE DVD, IN ESSENCE, IS NOT TO INSTRUCT YOU IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BUT RATHER TO MAKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNGRY FOR IT. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. … THIS PROJECT IS AN INFOMERCIAL FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world. (LHT)

“[On the DVD Moore says], ‘… if we are not STILL before Him [God], we will NEVER truly know to the DEPTHS of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s GOT to be a STILLNESS.’ … [But is] it not true that as believers we come to Him by grace, boldly to His throne, and we call Him our friend? No stillness, no mantra, no breath prayer, no rituals. Our personal relationship with Him is based on His faithfulness and His love and His offer that we have access to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of entering an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS or state of bliss or ecstasy as some call it” (“Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD,”http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorethumbsup.htm).

 

Beth Moore in her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (2002), recommends contemplative Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence and Brennan Manning

Of Manning she says that his contribution to our generation “may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and calls Ragamuffin Gospel “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290). But, there is no warning given to the readers of what is salvation as outlined in the Bible – no clear Gospel message.  Manning attends Mass regularly, has questionable views on homosexuality, promotes the use of mantras to create a thoughtless state of silent meditation, he spent six months in ISOLATION in a CAVE and spends eight days each year in silent retreat under the direction of a Dominican nun that he promotes the dangerous practice of VISUALIZATION that he quotes very approvingly from the New Agers such as Beatrice Bruteau and Matthew Fox

Much of these characteristics come from Eastern Mysticism, New Age, and ancient Roman Catholic mysticism. 

=> Contemplative prayer has been around for centuries and it is rooted firmly in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Centuries ago, Christians in the Eastern hemisphere began to pick up these practices and incorporate them. Contemplative practices, or “disciplines” as they are called, include centering prayers and mantra meditation.

=> “Contemplative prayer is the act of going into the “Silence”. (The term is often capitalized because this is the Silence in which God is supposedly encountered.) It requires shutting your mind down by the use of a favorite word or phrase repeated over and over to shut off your thinking processes. Proponents of this practice claim that once your mind is shut down you will encounter God in the spirit realm. Unlike the meditation referred to by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:15 where he writes, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways”, this contemplative meditation requires the mind to be shut down to the point of silence. Into this SILENCE God is supposed to speak. Rather than encounter God through His Word, Christians are now seeking something new and more “authentic” by using the Bible passages as mantras in an attempt to experience God in a whole new way. There is great danger here. A brief look at those who revived this practice in the 20th century will tell us why.” (D. Cloud)

Joseph G. Sandman writes in America Magazine,

“Who could have predicted 25 years ago, when three Trappist monks from a monastery in Massachusetts introduced contemplative prayer to a group of “non­contemplatives,” that its popularity would grow so dramatically? Today, thousands of believers from a variety of Christian denominations in every state and in dozens of countries practice contemplative prayer daily. In addition, an international network of dedicated volunteers teaches it around the world.” (America Magazine, 9/9/00)

 

BIBLICAL MEDIATION versus THE SILENCE:
It is important to understand that Biblical meditation involves reflective thinking on a biblical truth found in God’s word.  CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER doesn’t involve thinking – contrary to its title. Rather, an altered state of consciousness is achieved by allowing your mind to go into a state of SILENCE where thoughts are minimized.  This is done by repeating MANTRAs that focuses your mind on a word or phrase.  Once your mind is not focused on anything else, you begin to open yourself up to whatever enters your mind next.  The problem is that you are opening yourself up to any outside influence while mistakenly thinking that you are hearing from God. 

So, clearly, Beth Moore is promoting these types of mystical and contemplative practices by associating with modern day mystics and contemplatives such as RICHARD FOSTER, and DALLAS WILLARD along  with promoting teachings that include mystical practices such as STILLNESS and THE SILENCE under a category called CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER – all of which are not based on God’s word.  While much of her teaching may be beneficial, when one is teaching practices that share more with other religions, it becomes important to not only warn others but to educate them on these specific differences. This was a brief overview of some of the issues involved with Beth Moore’s teachings.  We will continue to look at Beth Moore’s teachings in upcoming postings. Also, keep in mind, there is a great deal of background information on other topics discussed in this posting in the archives of this blog (e.g. “the silence”).  These can be obtained by doing a search on this site.

 

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(467) LABYRINTHS – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

LABYRINTHS

Some good news – BETH MOORE’s Facebook page removed the labyrinth that they had posted.  I was told that there was a one in a million chance that she read my blog and soon afterward removed the labyrinth……… 

Speaking of labyrinths, I have found that in my local community, there are a couple of churches offering prayer and meditation experiences using their own labyrinths.

One site offers this as their description:
1-labyrinthThe labyrinth is an ancient, sacred symbol found in MANY RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS throughout the world. Today, modern pilgrims walk the labyrinth as one of many ways to pray and meditate. The winding path into the center and back out again is a metaphor for the journeys of life and faith. Unlike a maze, which has many paths and is a puzzle to solve, the labyrinth is a single path in and a single path out, and is designed to QUIET the MIND for prayer and MEDITATION

Labyrinths predate Christianity by over 1,000 years.  Let Us Reason ministries makes the following statements:

The labyrinth has its origins in ancient pagan rituals, most famously at Knossos in ancient Crete, where one was located in the basement of a palace where the mythic man-eating Minotaur was said to roam. According to ancient lore, the hero Theseus journeyed through the labyrinth to slay the evil Minotaur. Theseus’ doubled-headed ax was called a ‘labrys,’ from which the word labyrinth was derived. Ceremonies re-enacting this myth as a ritual labyrinth walk are still performed today. Other labyrinths have been tied to fertility rites and goddess worship (M. Tooley, September 2000). Modern disciples of the labyrinth propose that ancient Christians used the labyrinth as a means of spiritual meditation. Scholars insist there is absolutely no evidence of labyrinth walking by Christians (M. Tooley, September 2000, Maze Craze. http://www.touchstonemag.com ).

So if these were practiced by other religions and cultures that are of a non Christian origin, what kind of value would they have to offer a Christian who is supposed to have all that he needs in Jesus Christ according to the Scripture?

We find the use of this design is put to smaller patterns that are a non-walk though spiritual practice. The patterns of the labyrinth are similar in design and conception to the mandalas of South Asian Buddhism, that are supposed to be physical representations of the spiritual realm designed to aid in meditation. Mandala means – circle: it is a circular design, which is used to focus in on and bring one into a meditative state. We are told that true meditation occurs when the physical brain has been calmed or neutralized, a mantra or a mandala is used to bring calmness so the mind is then freed and can then discover new truths it normally was not open to find.”

This is where the potential for influence can happen!

(466) BETH MOORE & LABYRINTHS (Part 2)- Emerging Trends in the Church Today

LABYRINTHS

Does your church have a LABYRINTH yet?  

No?  Well, it is the latest thing that is seeping into the Christian Church across the country.  Mostly more liberal mainline churches but Evangelicals are eager to dip their toes in as BETH MOORE recently illustrated on her facebook page.Beth More FB

So, why are LABYRINTHS popping up?  

Some would say that times are changing.  Others would say that what was once old is new again.  I would like to say that at times Christians get easily distracted and can get caught up with the latest trends coming down the pike.  Let’s face it, in my hometown, we have a Christian radio station whose lineup on the weekend consists of SNAKE-OIL salesmen that all have a similar sounding tag line – “Are you feeling more tired than before?” followed by “then you need to start taking our pills……just 24 pills a day…..call now and we will include a free bottle of these special pills just because we are concerned about your health….etc.”

While some Christians are not lured into these infomercials, others are gullible enough to quickly be swept away believing what they just heard on the radio is right for them.  After all, if it is on a Christian radio station, it must be ok. Right?

Well, Labyrinths feel like this as we are increasingly seeing their use catch on within Christianity.  At times the line “everybody is doing it” seems appropriate. Others attempt to be out ahead of the latest “religious” trend for whatever reason – I don’t know their heart so I will just leave it up to them.

The history of labyrinths is murky at best.  Church history shows them to be popping up sometime during the Middle Ages within Roman Catholicism serving as a substitute for not being able to travel to the Jerusalem during the Crusades.  

LABYRINTHS

What Is a Prayer Labyrinth? 

A labyrinth is a path which leads, via a circuitous route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. A labyrinth’s route is unicursal; that is, it has only a single path. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is designed for ease of navigation, and it is impossible to get lost within one. (Got Questions Ministries)

Specifically, a prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, spiritual transformation, and/or global unity. The most famous prayer labyrinths today include:

  • an ancient one in the cathedral of Chartres, France,
  • another in the cathedral of Duomo di Siena, Tuscany; and
  • two maintained by Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco (picture) – TP-labyrinth-6_smaller-768x517

As stated above, the history of labyrinths is very sketchy and it is difficult to put together a definitive historical path.  The Cathedral at Chartres originated in the Middle Ages. 

While prayer labyrinths have been used in CATHOLIC cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen a resurgence in their popularity, especially within the EMERGENT CHURCH, among NEW AGE groups and NEO-PAGANS. 

In some cases, it is believed that some labyrinths existed for over 3,500 years in various forms and various areas that included Crete, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia and North America.  Many of these were decidedly PAGAN in function – many were dedicated to a GODDESS and functioned in a PAGAN manner.  Let me say again, many of these were PAGAN in origin.

Other examples include the Hopi Indians who saw the labyrinth as a symbol of MOTHER EARTH, and the hundreds of stone labyrinths along the Scandinavian shoreline were used as magic TRAPS for trolls and evil winds to ensure safe fishing.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church used the labyrinth for its own purposes within its cathedrals. Within Catholicism, the labyrinth could symbolize several things: the hard and winding road to God, a MYSTICAL ascension to salvation and enlightenment, or even a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those who could not make the actual journey. (Got Questions Ministries)

There has been a MODERN “rediscovery” of the labyrinth.  Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, is widely credited with initiating the labyrinth movement in the United States in the 1990s.  Marcia Montenegro, The Labyrinth: A Walk by Faith?  (http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Labyrinth.html)

Today,  there are groups that use them in their churches – such as The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, The World-Wide Labyrinth Project. According to these groups, the labyrinth is a “divine imprint,” a “MYSTICAL TRADITION,” a “SACRED PATH,” and a “sacred gateway.” The stated purpose of Veriditas is “to transform the Human Spirit,” using “the Labyrinth EXPERIENCE  as a personal practice for healing and growth, a tool for community building, an agent for global peace and a metaphor for the blossoming of the Spirit in our lives” (from the official Veriditas website). 

According to Veriditas, walking a prayer labyrinth involves 3 stages: purgation (releasing), illumination (receiving), and union (returning).

  1. Purgation occurs as one moves toward the center of the labyrinth. During this stage, one sheds the cares and distractions of life and opens his heart and mind.
  2. Illumination occurs at the center of the labyrinth; this is the time to “receive what is there for you” through prayer and meditation.
  3. Union occurs as one exits the labyrinth and involves “joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world.”

The labyrinth developed in use as a spiritual and psychological tool.  The common themes included the labyrinth were promoted as

  • a way to APPROACH GOD
  • a way to feel close to God
  • to journey into the self
  • BOTH Christians and non-Christians can use it
  • New Age beliefs get mixed in with Christian beliefs

Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of using the labyrinth to become enlightened, realigned with the universe, and increasingly empowered to know one’s Self and to accomplish the work of the soul.

Some, such as Dr. Lauren Artress, president of Veriditas, also speak of the “many levels of consciousness” which touch the worshiper in a labyrinth, including the consciousness that he is “one of those pilgrims walking in the early times. It feels like it’s from another time; it doesn’t feel like it’s in this life” (from an interview with Dr. Lauren Artress on the official Veriditas website).

Perhaps as a throwback to the old goddess worship, many prayer labyrinths contain feminine symbols in the center. Dr. Artress recognizes the symbolism and speaks freely of connecting with the “sacred feminine” in a labyrinth and of the need to view God as both a “he” and a “she.”

Are prayer labyrinths biblical?   NO, they are not.

Not only are labyrinths never mentioned in the Bible, but they also conflict with several biblical principles of worship and prayer.

Items 1 – 5 are taken from – Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. – 

1) God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3; Psalm 29:2). Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of “body worship” and the goal to employ all five senses in worship. But body worship is not a biblical concept. We live by faith, not by sight, and worship is not a sensuous, physical activity; worship is a matter of the heart, expressed in praise and service to God. For the New Testament believer, worship has nothing to do with external trappings such as lighting candles, kneeling at an altar, or walking in circles.

2) Prayer is not to become ritualistic (Matthew 6:5–8). Dr. Artress says that “ritual feeds the soul” and recommends repeated, regular trips through the labyrinth. If ritual were truly food for the soul, then the Pharisees of Jesus’ day should have been the best-fed souls alive—after all, their religious system abounded in ritual and tradition. Yet Jesus rebuked them on more than one occasion for the deadness and hypocrisy of their religion (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6–13).

3) Every believer has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Many who walk prayer labyrinths are seeking special insight, new revelation, or a discovery of “the God who’s within.” Such an emphasis on mysticism and esoteric knowledge comes dangerously close to Gnosticism and New Age thinking. The Christian has no need of mystical experience or extra-biblical revelation: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20).

4) God is near to all those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; Acts 17:27). No ritual, including walking a labyrinth, can bring anyone any closer to God. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Repentance and faith are what is required (Acts 20:21).

5) The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian holy, wise, and completely proficient for his work in this world (2 Timothy 3:15–17). To say that, in order to find real power, we must add mysticism or tradition to the Bible is to denigrate God’s Word and the Spirit’s work through it.

Historically, labyrinths were ROOTED in PAGANISM and incorporated by Catholicism. Now they are promoted by the Emergent Church and others who seek an open spirituality apart from the Bible. Paul’s warning to the church should suffice to keep us focused on Jesus and avoid empty ritual: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). 

So, BETH MOORE, using LABYRINTHS that are not discussed in the Bible and have PAGAN origins followed by an introduction in the church from ROMAN CATHOLICISM.

  • Why are you doing this?  
  • What does this say about your view of the Bible and its authority over your spiritual life?
  • Doesn’t God hold spiritual leaders, especially those in a teaching role, up to a higher standard in responsibility in what you teach others?
  • What effect do your MYSTICAL teachings have on those who follow you?

Some of the information used in this article along with additional information about labyrinths can be found at the following web sites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

:

 

(465) BETH MOORE & LABYRINTHS (Part 1)- Emerging Trends in the Church Today

MORE ON BETH MOORE MYSTICISM

Beth More FB

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

I’ve refrained from talking about Beth Moore because many people that I know are in Bible Studies using her material and I have felt there were bigger fish to go after like those who cross over into another religion and attempt to syncretic-ally mix it with Christian practices.  But, Beth Moore has been making leaps into a theology that is more ecumenical with Roman Catholicism and recommending practices that are at least questionable from a Biblical perspective. As always, I am not judging her heart, but her teaching now includes these practices that may have crossed the line and it is important that we, as Christians, understand departures from Scripture.

This posting will only cover the surface of the issues that are concerning.  Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist who is influential with a wide range of evangelical women, has moved into the CONTEMPLATIVE and MYSTICAL side not only over the last several years but specifically now with her posting of a labyrinth on her Facebook page.

She is in well-known company with the likes of RICHARD FOSTER (Celebration of Discipline), DALLAS WILLARD, plus several others.  In 2008, Fox Home Entertainment published her Be Still DVD.  Shortly after its release, she had to address some concerns over its content and she actually issued a retraction dealing with issues relating to her DVD. But that was short-lived when followed up with a retraction of her retraction.

In a statement published on May 26, 2008, Moore’s Living Proof Ministries said: “We believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorestatement.htm).

Lighthouse Trails issued the following discerning warning:

 

“In the DVD, there are countless enticements, references and comments that clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice contemplative prayer and become a ‘portable sanctuary’ for God. This panentheistic view of God is very typical for contemplatives. … The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of silence that it produces.

 

While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase repetition (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is really quite misleading. What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of stillness or silence is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. THE PURPOSE OF THE DVD, IN ESSENCE, IS NOT TO INSTRUCT YOU IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BUT RATHER TO MAKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNGRY FOR IT. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. … THIS PROJECT IS AN INFOMERCIAL FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world.

“[On the DVD Moore says], ‘… if we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.’ … [But is] it not true that as believers we come to Him by grace, boldly to His throne, and we call Him our friend? No stillness, no mantra, no breath prayer, no rituals. Our personal relationship with Him is based on His faithfulness and His love and His offer that we have access to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of entering an altered state of consciousness or state of bliss or ecstasy as some call it” (“Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD,” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorethumbsup.htm).

 

Contemplative Roman Catholics are becoming popular today especially among Evangelical youth.  In Moore’s book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (2002), Moore recommends contemplative Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence and Brennan Manning (died in 2013).

Beth Moore states that Manning’s contribution to our generation “may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and calls Ragamuffin Gospel “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290). But, Manning theology is aberrant at best:

  • She does not warn her readers that Manning never gives a clear testimony of salvation or a clear gospel in his writings,
  • that he attends MASS regularly,
  • that he believes it is wrong for churches to require that HOMOSEXUALS repent before they can be members,
  • that he promotes the use of MANTRAS to create a THOUGHTLESS state of SILENT meditation,
  • that he spent SIX months in ISOLATION in a CAVE and spends eight days each year in silent retreat under the direction of a Dominican nun,
  • that he promotes the dangerous practice of VISUALIZATION,
  • that he quotes very approvingly from NEW AGERS such as Beatrice Bruteau (who says, “We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM … unlimited, absolute I AM”) and Matthew Fox (who says all religions lead to the same God), and
  • that he believes in UNIVERSAL salvation, that everyone including Hitler will go to heaven. (For documentation see “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” in our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Glue.)

Instead of issuing retraction after retraction, if Moore wants to not be associated with the contemplative movement,  she could issue a statement renouncing Richard Foster and Brennan Manning along with other contemplatives they associate with. 

Moore’s ecumenical meetings are attended by folks from many different denominations. Some believe it is because she “doesn’t get caught up in divisive doctrinal issues” and “steers clear of topics that could widen existing rifts between different streams in the body of Christ” (Charisma magazine, June 2003). This is the popular but unscriptural “positive-only” ecumenical philosophy that is so helpful to the furthering of end time apostasy.” 

 

=> “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).

In Part 2, we will look deeper into Beth Moore and Labyrinths. 

 

(463) GOD IN MY EVERYTHING by KEN SHIGEMATSU (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

NEO-MONASTICISM

(Part 2) (I have not yet included all the references in 

Ken Shigematsu comes across in his writings as someone who not pushing an agenda for the sake of being controversial.  Rather, there seems to be a sincerity in his writings which I find very appealing and encouraging to read.  

499251_1_ftcBut, and it’s a big but, he inundates his writings with an appeal to mystics, monastics (Roman Catholicism), along with being critical of leaders such as Franklin Graham and his public stands on important social issues.   In essence, he ends up siding with those who not only disagree with someone like Franklin Graham, but disagrees with the biblical position on those issues.  No, he doesn’t come out and say that but rather he softens the implication by looking to not be viewed as disruptive to the community. Noble sounding but is it scriptural?  

Let’s investigate this in more detail. In his article titled – How Meditation and Monotasking Help Me Live More Mindfully (from Image for Psychology & Spiritual Formation Shortreads), several items quickly jump out.  Faithful followers of this blog will recognize several of these points including the use of words such as DEEP, CONTEMPLATIVE, MEDITATION, REPEATING YOUR WORDS (i.e. MANTRA), CONTROL YOUR BREATH, VISUALIZATION,…etc.  See if you can identify any of these terms in SHIGEMATSU’s writing:

For me, paying attention and living CONTEMPLATIVELY don’t come naturally. I need the grace of God. I also need practices which make me more receptive to the grace of God, more aware of Christ’s presence around and within me.

One of the practices that I have found especially helpful is MEDITATION.

At some point in the morning, I typically sit down and take some DEEP BREATHS.  Because I am easily distracted, I will often REPEAT a single word like “wait” or “Jesus” to help focus me.

=> MY NOTE:  Tibetan Buddhism, being a more esoteric and mystical form of Buddhism, utilizes breath control and visualization to train the mind where it can focus on Sunyata, “the essential emptiness of the phenomenal world,” and reach states where “the sense of experience ceases to exist.

Meditation, as taught and practiced today in the West, originates from practices and beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the goal of meditation is to realize that one’s personal identity is a barrier to the truth that the real self is part of the divine godhead, which is ultimate reality.1

The MIND in both Hinduism & Buddhism is seen as part of the material body and therefore a BARRIER to spiritual enlightenment.2 Meditation is designed to BYPASS the MIND, using special breathing techniques.3 The ultimate goal is samadhi with no cognition, or absorption into a state of pure consciousness through disengaging the MIND and a loss of self-awareness and subject-object awareness4: “The mind which for so long stood between us and our true nature has been overcome.”5 One of the most common ways this is done is through various forms of yoga, including the popular hatha yoga taught in the West.6 “Though their means may differ, all yogic paths seek to transcend duality in union” so that one’s “mistaken belief in himself as a separate, unique individual apart from God will be overcome.”7 Exhaling the BREATH is “the surrender of our ego” and the move from attachment to “non-attachment.”8

This imported meditation is usually packaged as a way to relax or reduce stress. But this was never the purpose of meditation in its HINDU or BUDDHIST form. Sometimes taught with VISUALIZATION and BREATHING exercises, this “relaxation” exercise has many hidden dangers. The mind often goes into an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, also known as a light TRANCE or HYPNOTIC state, during the meditation.9 The exercises are designed to bring this about. In such a state, rational judgment and discernment is suspended, and the mind is highly suggestible and open to any influences present. In one class the writer attended, a student who fell asleep was reprimanded because he would miss the “spiritual trip” intended by the exercise.

This state of mind is not the same as spontaneous daydreaming, quiet contemplation, or conscious, rational concentration. The euphoria or peace experienced by many at first is short-lived and deceptive. Instructors of these techniques who teach them as a spiritual discipline often warn students that psychic experiences and supernatural encounters are common, some of them frightening, and that the breathing techniques can be dangerous10. The effect for some people is similar to a drug trip. It is this state of mind during which one is supposed to contact guides from the spirit world.11

Ken Shigematsu goes on in the same article –

I set a timer on my watch (usually 12 minutes) so I am not thinking about the time (if the time starts to feel too short, I’ll add time or if it begins to feel too long, I will decrease the time). After I have meditated, I feel more relaxed, a little more focused and a little more aware of Jesus throughout the day.

Meditation to some people may seem like a weird waste of time, but it can help us become more aware of God and more mindful of our choices.

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who teaches at Stanford, describes how meditation actually changes our brain—and it doesn’t take a lifetime for our brain to experience this transformation. Dr. McGonigal cites a study which found that just three accumulated hours of meditation practice—or about 10 minutes a day for two to three weeks—led to improved attention and self-control. After 11 accumulated hours of meditation—about 10 minutes a day for just over two months—researchers could actually see increased neural connections in the regions of the brain important for avoiding distractions and controlling impulses. Magnetic resonance (MR) scans have shown that when people meditate, the gray matter in the brain associated with stress, anxiety, and depression shrinks.

There is a person named Andrew, who like me was easily distracted and also felt like a terrible meditator. An electrical engineer, he was convinced that the goal of meditation was to get rid of all thoughts and empty the mind. But even when he was trying to focus on his breathing, other thoughts leaked in. He was ready to give up on the practice because he wasn’t making progress as quickly as he expected, and felt he was wasting his time. But as he reflected on his experience, Andrew realized that even when he felt distracted during his 5 or 10 minutes of meditation, he was more focused on days he meditated than on days when he skipped it. He also realized that on the days he meditated, when he was just about to order something salty and deep-fried for lunch (he was trying to improve his diet), he was more likely to order something healthier. When he had a sarcastic comment on his lips and needed to pause and hold his tongue, on the days he meditated he found he was more likely to bite his tongue. And when he was distracted at work—which was often—he realized that on the days he meditated he was better able to refocus on his work and get back on track.

These changes may seem superficial, but if our goal is to experience God in our everything, then our eating choices, how we talk to other people, how we work really matter.

A simple practice of meditation helps me become more present to God in each part of my life.

Meditation not only helps improve my ability to concentrate, it helps me live a more focused life. Rather than serving as an antidote to multitasking, it can helps me monotask—to focus on just one thing at a time.

I have been inspired by the wisdom of the ZEN tradition to aim to do just one thing at a time. The Vietnamese ZEN master, Thich Nhat Hanh, says: “While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterward and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes.”

When I monotask, I aim not to just hurry through something to check it off my “to-do” list, but to actually be mindful and present while doing it, and then move on to the next thing. Walk from here to there. Type an email. Work on a budget. Eat an oat bar. Read. Talk to a friend. Cut the grass. Wash the dishes. Change a water filter. Read a story. Bathe our son.

Most of the time, I don’t live this way (I recently got a well-deserved ticket for talking on my smart phone while driving), but from time to time, when I consciously do just one thing at a time, it helps me be more fully present and aware of God. I start to feel like I am not merely a person who says my prayers but that my life itself is becoming a kind of prayer. Ultimately, meditation and the contemplative life is not about removing oneself from the world, but empowering us to become more fully present and responsive to it.

Truly, there are a number of words, phrases, sentence…etc.,(many are listed above) used by Ken Shigematsu that cause concern.  The concern stems from the fact that these words and phrases come either directly from Eastern Mystical practices or at a minimum are not taught as normative in the Bible.  When was the last time you practiced your breathing?  Lived Contemplatively?

When altered states of conscientious are achieved, it leaves the participant highly susceptible to whatever thought comes to into the mind at this point.  That is dangerous on many different levels.

More could be said.  Simply stated, one has to question why a Pastor who has been trained in God’s word would combine practices from other religions in with Christianity.  To me, that is a serious problem that conflicts with many passages of scripture.  It can leave one open to influence from sources other than God when in these types of altered states.