Why I, being a Christian, practice Buddhist meditation

The first time that I heard something about Buddhism was when I studied psychotherapy. A teacher said that the client centred therapy, founded by Carl Rogers, has a lot in common with Buddhism, even Rogers didn’t base his ideas on Buddhism. But he came spontaneously to the same insights. I had a huge confidence in Carl Rogers and his psychotherapy. That fitted me and I was very enthusiast about it.

Later I felt like reading something about all important religions in the world. I wanted to know how other people thought about religion, God, life and community. I went to a bookshop, and the first book that I found was an introduction to Buddhism. I was very interested in it and I continued reading sometimes books about Buddhism. In these books I also read about meditations, but I didn’t start meditating immediately.

One day, in the hospital where I worked as a psychiatric nurse, a catholic monk who practiced zen Buddhism came to talk about it. Halfway his speech we did a meditation of five minutes as introduction. I was very surprised that I felt so restless and excited inside. I was the first time that I came in touch with it. And I was even more surprised that meditating seemed to give me rest.

I continued regularly meditating and I liked it very much. I tried to do it like I read it in books, but it didn’t work so well. Meditating was difficult and I didn’t make any progress. I read in some books that while meditating you have to stop thinking. I tried to do that but it made me stressed. Until I read in a book written by a Tibetan monk that not thinking is not natural. You have always thoughts. But what you have to do is each time that you are aware of being thinking, you let go your thought and you return with your attention into your breath. That helped me and I didn’t become stressed anymore. But I started longing after personal talks with a Buddhist monk.

After many years, I looked for Buddhist organisations in my region on the internet. And yes, I found one leaded by a teacher who was officially acknowledged by zen Buddhism. I go meditate there nowadays regularly and have personal talks with the teacher. And it helps me enormously. Now I make really progress and grow spiritually. And the rest which I in the beginning, many years ago now, experienced during meditation, I experience now all day long. I become totally calm and quite inside.

I start also living more here and now. When you are during meditation distracted by any thoughts, these thoughts are mostly about the past or the future. I let these thoughts go now and I concentrate on my breath, which is here and now. It is reality. And I experience this reality now more and more all day long.

Relatives tell me that I am changing. They say that I am more positive and cheerful. And that is partly because of zen meditation. I am very enthusiast about meditation. It becomes easier and it becomes fun. Each day I long to my meditation sessions in the morning and the evening. It is changing my life. I also become more myself, more authentic and it feels so normal.

Meditation is not only practiced in Buddhism. There also exists Christian meditation. Monks sometimes practice meditation in their monastery. I also read books about these monks and one day I longed to find a Christian organisation where I can practice meditation. But where I go now I receive excellent guidance by a teacher who knows everything about it, and so I stayed there. I will never become a real Buddhist, I am a convinced and practicing Christian. But Buddhist meditations is a very good addition to the Christian faith.

 

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Women’s rights, also in your church?

Last year I attended a divine service which was led by a young woman. She did it so good! She was modest and creative and brought a fresh wind in the church. A wind of renewal. Because it was the first time in that church that a service was led by a woman. Why does it not happen more and even everywhere? In some churches they are used to do it, but in Belgium that is the minority.

In connection with the position of the woman in the church, many Christians refer to a bible verse written by Paul: Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34. We can see that Israel in the time of the old and new testament was a patriarchal society. Men decided everything. They were important, the women were oppressed. We can also see in the genealogies in the bible that women were most times even not mentioned. And Paulus continued that system. He lived and preached like it was used in his era. What he said was based on the Jewish culture of his time.

But when this bible verse is mentioned, some people mention another expression of that same Paul: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.” 1 Corinthians 11:5. The first conclusion is that a woman has to cover her head in the church. But another conclusion is also possible. If it is a shame for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered, it is maybe not a shame if she prays or prophesies with her head covered. And what is to prophesy? “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” 1 Corinthians 14:3. Than a woman is maybe allowed by Paul to do that if she covers her head. Not everyone has thought about that conclusion.

But why follow so strictly what Paul wrote to the Corinthians? Some people call that the Word of God, and that should be unchangeable in eternity. Personally I see it more as something that has to do with culture like I previously wrote. And cultures do change. We do live in a whole different country and culture and era than Paul.

Also in our country women where oppressed for thousands of years. Also here they came only at the second place. Fortunately that started to change during the previous century. Since emancipation started, women begin to have the same position as men, and I think that that is really necessary. But a lot of work still has to be done, that no women will deny. And mostly in the Christian churches much progression has to be made.

I will be very happy when one day women in the church will be equal to men. I long to see that they will lead services and preach. Women have a lot to offer, as much as men do. We need them. Without women the church is biased and poor. With the input of women we will have a healthy and well balanced church.

How authentic is our Christian life?

I studied two years psychotherapy based on the ideas of the American psychologist Carl Rogers. For him, authenticity was one of the important characteristics of mental health. Authenticity means that the outside is the same as the inside. Just like I feel and think, I behave and speak. It is a quality which I like a lot.

Can we apply the same idea on our Christian life?

Jesus reproached the Pharisees and scribes that they were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. The outside looked fine and glittered in the sun, but the inside, o woe. He reproached them also that they cleansed the outside of the cup but that the inside was full of extortion and self-indulgence. Apparently they were totally not authentic. There was a great difference between the inside and the outside. The outside was brushed up and was meant to be beautiful in the eyes of other people, but the inside was unclean. Jesus often warned people against their hypocrisy.

But it can be different. Jesus himself came with the solution: “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Matthew 23:26. We shouldn’t brush the outside, but the inside. It is there the work has to be done. And then the outside will become clean automatically. Our outward behavior is a result of our inner life. It is a result of what is in our heart. If my heart is clean, then my behavior will also become clean. But when I try to appear outward clean, then my heart will not become clean.

In the same way it happens in the psychotherapy which I studied. In that therapy the therapist works with the thoughts and feelings of people. If they develop and improve, then later the behavior will also improve.

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23. Our heart is the source of our life. Let us cleanse our heart en keep it clean all our life. Let us stay in contact with God, and let us pray Him that He will show us what lives in our heart, and what is still hidden in our heart. Let us cleanse our heart more and more from all sin that is maybe hidden inside it, so our heart will become pure as gold.

Does this mean that the outside isn’t important? No, the outside can sometimes show us a little bit of the inside. The outside can sometimes be like a thermometer for the temperature inside. Or like Jesus said it in Matthew 7:16-18: “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”

What is important for me is written in 1 Samuel 16:7: “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Let us live to satisfy God, and not people. Because at the end of our lifes, it will be God who will reward us.