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