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There are many different kinds of meditation or prayer, Christian and non-Christian. However, I am confused regarding actual difference because these varieties, both Christian and non-Christian, seem largely to be arbitrarily constructed.

This question asks specifically about the rosary vs a mantra while I am interested in all methods generally. This one asks about sharing Bible references on the correct way to meditate but I think falls short as I do not believe the Bible is a meditation textbook. I also think none of the answers address my question as they seem to straw-man eastern meditation as harmful, demonic, or dulling.

That said, what are the qualitative differences between, for example, practicing the exercise outlined in The Cloud of Unknowing and counting your breaths? The author of The Cloud of Unknowing suggests repeating short, single-syllable words such as 'God' or 'sin' for the purpose of removing all thoughts and imaginings in order to be as receptive to God's grace as possible.

On the other hand, counting your breath seems to me to be an excellent way to remove all thoughts and images and, for the Christian, increase personal receptivity to the Lord's grace. Worth noting is that I am considering long-lived meditative traditions from mature non-Christian spiritual systems which have been providing benefit for at least a thousand years. I will not argue that the majority of new age spirituality is, at best, useless.

Is there a clear, defining line between meditations that are acceptable for Christians and those that aren't? If so, what is it? If I don't yet have the opportunity to learn from a Catholic priest, should I learn eastern meditation from a righteous man who believes it will lead Christians toward God? As far as I can tell, the answer is yes because it is the intention, correctness of practice, and unending goodness of our Lord that determines results.

However, I would much rather admit my own fault than attempt to outsmart two-thousand years of great saints. Answers should reference official statements from authority figures in the Catholic church. Thank you very much!

closed as too broad by Flimzy, Mr. Bultitude, 3961, curiousdannii, Dick Harfield Jun 29 '15 at 23:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Cf. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation | CDF and definition of meditation from Prayer | New Advent and CCC 2705-2708. – user13992 Jun 29 '15 at 19:57
  • I'm not sure what to think of this question's on-topic-ness. I think perhaps, there's probably a great deal of opinions on meditation, both within and without Christianity. That makes this too broad. – 3961 Jun 29 '15 at 20:49
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    @fredsbend and others who think this is too broad. I agree there are many opinions. However, I believe I specified that I'd like established church teaching by prominent authority figures. I imagine there are not many of those. – sirdank Jun 30 '15 at 18:36
  • @FMS Thanks for those links, they are excellent. If you would write a little about how no one technique is the 'set in stone' Christian prayer but all techniques should fulfill the requirements of being communicative, personal, and focused on Christ, I would accept that as an answer. – sirdank Jun 30 '15 at 18:39
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    Absolutely. Both questions might still need more focus (I'm not sure) but asking two questions -- one for each -- would definitely be acceptable. – Mr. Bultitude Jun 30 '15 at 22:52
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I think the Biblical model of meditation is not to do with emptying your mind, but on filling your mind with the good things of God.

There are plenty examples in Psalms:

Ps 119: 15 I meditate on your precepts . . .
Ps 119: 97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

Ps 77: 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

There are more.

  • I disagree with this answer as I feel it creates a false dichotomy. Plenty of christian masters say we must empty ourselves in order to be filled with the good things of God. Andrew Murray and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing are two examples that spring to mind immediately. – sirdank Jun 30 '15 at 18:31
  • I take your point, @sirdank, but your comment reflects what I was saying - "in order to be filled with the good things of God". Which is pretty much what I was saying is the model for Christian/Biblical meditation. It is not being emptied and left emptied. – Michael Vincent Jul 1 '15 at 10:09

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