Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
~Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)
I recall the first time I had a profound meditation experience. I was living in Utah and attending massage therapy school back in 2003. As part of our curriculum we took Tai Chi, and our teacher for that class taught us how to do a transcendental type meditation. After that class I wanted to try meditating on my own so I put on some relaxing instrumental music in my head phones, laid in bed, and did as my instructor taught us... I withdrew my senses from the world and went deep within, being totally present with the moment, taking my attention away from any thoughts, and relaxed as much as I could by following my breath and melting my body away from any tensing or holding. Within minutes it was blissful and intriguing! I saw colors, I saw images in my mind of different eyes looking at me, of silhouettes of trees, of my deceased grandmother, and I felt like I was dissolved and floating. It was addictive and I wanted to experience it again, and although I would try over and over to get back to that same feeling, it would take me years to get close to the meditation experience I had that day.
Since then I have participated in many meditations of all varieties. These were guided meditations, group meditations, meditations involving lighting candles and other rituals, and silent meditations. The settings of these meditations were everywhere from living room floors to the banks of the Ganges River. Along with yoga, meditation was an important part of my self-care and spiritual practice. It was how I managed stress, kept myself clear, received guidance from "the Universe" and my "Higher-Self", and worked toward awakening and enlightenment. The common themes that ran through most of the meditations were themes of letting go, aligning my energies, connecting with the spiritual realm, and gaining liberation from this play of life we are in. For me there was an overall sense of being empty and at times dissolved; feeling completely at one with the world, and other times feeling as if I did not exist. A feeling that there was no boundary between where I ended and where my surroundings began.
Fortunately, by God's mercy, most of my meditation experiences were pleasant and encouraging, but in contrast to my experience, I personally knew of people and heard of people experiencing evil attacks and increased anxiety from their meditation practices. I practiced this type of meditation during a long period in my life when I did not believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Without His firm foundation at the center of my meditation practice, I now realize how I was opening myself up to the influence of all manner of forces and energies including dark and demonic ones. Through this very open way I was meditating, it was not clear in my life that I was on God's team and obedient to Him alone.
Since my salvation experience in June, I no longer meditate like I did when I was living without Christ. Previously, the transcendental and enlightenment type meditations helped me manage life and satisfy a yearning I had for spiritual connections with Creation and eternity. Now with Christ, meditation has further become a way to support and strengthen my relationship with God, our Creator, in a focused and sustainable way. It has allowed a space to ponder over and fill my mind with God's word and pray to Him. By reading the Bible we find in scripture that we can: meditate on His law day and night, keep our mind stayed on Him, keep our eyes fixed on His ways, meditate on His promise, meditate on all that He has done, and ensure that the meditations of our heart are pleasing and acceptable to Him. We are keeping our focus on Him.
Now looking back at the way I was meditating prior to Christ, I see that the emptying of myself and blissing out I was doing during meditation was leaving me open to all that is out there in the spiritual realm, including the demonic influences. By not keeping my focus and attention on God, I was leaving the door of my heart and soul opened to all varieties of spiritual beings, including the fallen and deceitfully motivated ones. I love the way one pastor put it by saying that if you leave the throne empty it will not stay empty for long and something will fill it, and that could very well be Satan. We must be clear in who is sitting on our Throne. I want only God on my throne, and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior and placing my faith in Him grants me that.
We are fighting a spiritual battle here... "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12). Satan and the dark energies cannot attack God directly, so how do they try and win... by trying to lead God's people astray. The way many people are meditating these days, with the transcendental and enlightening type meditation, can open one up in such a way that is conducive to being led astray and for the dark energies to keep a hold on them. We must turn toward God in all we do, including meditation, repent for our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11) And we must keep this armor on. If we are not keeping our focus on God during meditation (as in any other area or activity of our life), this can open up a spot in the armor that makes us susceptible to the evil one. God has everlasting love for us and wants a relationship with us. Meditation, which can be practiced day and night, is a beautiful opportunity to focus on God in all His glory, and to honor what Christ has done for us.
The Whole Armor of God: Belt of truth, Breastplate of righteousness, Shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace, Shield of faith, Helmet of salvation, Sword of Spirit which is the word of God
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ~Ephesians 6: 13-20 (ESV)
Other Scriptures with instruction for meditation:
(All from ESV translation)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
... and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Psalm 119: 148
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
"You shall have no other gods before me.
When I had my salvation experience with Christ, many things were removed from my life and yoga was one of them. The term "yoga" can mean a variety of things to different people. To some it just means stretching, while to others it is a spiritual practice and way of life. For me, it started as stretching and a fitness routine and over the course of 20 years became something I was deeply studying and dedicating my life to. Some of you may read this and think, "What is wrong with yoga? It's just some stretching that is good for the body." While others may read this and understand the depth of yoga and all it encompasses, but maybe never realized how when practiced in it's traditional way can go against the word of God and how He wants us to live our lives with Him.
Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word that means 'to yoke' or 'to unite', and there are two definitions of yoga found in Merriam-Webster's dictionary:
1. a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.
2. a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga (see definition 1) but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being.
I experienced how easy it was to start with definition 2 mentioned above and bit by bit fully be immersed in definition 1. And because of that, I want to share some of my story with yoga to bring awareness to a practice that could unknowingly be sabotaging your relationship with Christ and opening you up to the works of the enemy.
I first started doing yoga in college through attending an occasional yoga class at the gym or following along with a yoga video I would play on my TV. I grew up as a gymnast, cheerleader, and athlete and my body loved the yoga practices. Since I was no longer participating in the activities of my youth, the yoga was fulfilling and nourishing for me. I felt great doing yoga; it was a great stress reliever, it got me in touch with my body, and kept me aligned and balanced. Yoga came and went from my life over the years. At times it was a big part of my life, with a very regular practice. And other times it was something that was just there, that I knew I could jump back into at any point. I found the most benefit from yoga when it was a daily practice of about 15-30 minutes of postures and breathwork every morning, and towards the end of my time in yoga I was doing around 2 hours a day. Throughout my years in yoga, I went through 3 different yoga teacher training programs at varying degrees, and interestingly I did not complete any of the trainings. I would be hard on myself for not finishing the trainings, proclaiming myself to be non-committal and not able to see things through to the end. Now I see that not completing any of the yoga teacher trainings as another way God was guiding me and working in my life even when I was astray.
Yoga eventually became a spiritual practice for me. As I studied and practiced the ancient roots and traditions of yoga, it was no longer just something I did for my body. Yoga became something I did for my mind, body, and soul. I was no longer just doing poses that would stretch and align my body; I was doing poses that would awaken energies in my body. As I continued to work to balance and fine tune these energies it would lead me to self-realization and enlightenment. I was working through my yoga practice to become all I could be and attain some higher spiritual goal that was beyond this physical realm; something that could be experienced in this world and take me beyond this world. In my head this involved realizing and awakening to a god-like divineness, surrendering and allowing my 'higher self' to become fully embodied. I saw God as a being I could be on the same level as. At that time I did not see God as our creator and our Lord as I do now. At that time I did not know the one true God that is all-loving and all-knowing, but also to be feared and honored above all else.
Eventually my yoga practice started regularly involving not only the physical postures, called asanas, but also breathwork, chanting mantras, meditations, studying spiritual texts, and participating in pujas (ritual of worship). As I got more into yoga, I discovered that it is not ultimately about the physical postures, but that the postures were meant to prepare me for meditation. That the ultimate goal of yoga is not to twist this way and that, to bend and stretch because you can, but rather to prepare you to go into a deep meditative state to lead to moksha (ultimate freedom and liberation).
And as I went deeper into yoga I also started worshipping and idolizing lesser gods and spirits such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesh, Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Surya, Ram, Sita and many others (there are thousands). Not because I set out to do this, but rather because this is naturally found in most of the chants, mantras, meditations, postures, and pujas associated with many yoga practices. It started with the mantras I would chant, then became a practice of lighting candles, offering flowers, and burning incense to pictures and statues of these deities. It became blatant idol worship. At that time I was not a believer in Christ and was not convicted by this sinful practice, though the repercussions of it were evident in my life. Worshipping these lesser gods, idols, and spirits placed me in their domain and opened me up to their influence and control.
Yoga is believed to have started over 5,000 years ago, well before the time Jesus lived on Earth. The people of that region practiced yoga as part of their culture, and they called on and worshipped the gods of their regions in the way they knew how. But when Jesus came 2,000 years ago He paid the debt for our sins and restored our relationship with God so we all can truly walk with Him and have eternal life in His Kingdom. The price was paid, the option was given for all to turn from deception and worshipping lesser or false gods, to worshipping, honoring and living for the highest and one true God that is our creator. Through Jesus we are able to live with God in our hearts, but we must repent, turn from our sin, and believe in Him.
I stopped doing yoga because the level I had come to practice it at involved idol worship and putting my faith and trust in something other than God. I had placed yoga above God. I had to sever my connection to it as part of my own repentance and turning from sin. There were moments in the weeks following my salvation experience that I thought maybe I could still do yoga but without all the spiritual parts; a yoga with no chanting, no meditation, no deities. Maybe I could practice it with worship music playing and prayer involved (as I knew there were yoga classes out there that were doing a more Christian, holy type of yoga). But I personally could not separate it out. Getting on the mat and doing poses were so intertwined with the deities and their spiritual realm that my new Christ filled heart could not continue to practice it.
I am grateful for the love, grace, and forgiveness from God for all the years I did not honor Him in the highest. I am grateful for being given this opportunity to live with Christ in my heart. I am grateful for my eyes being opened to see the Way in God. Yoga was an important and helpful part of my life for many years, but it does not even compare to how important and helpful God is in my life now and the relationship that became available to me when I accepted Christ as my savior, repented, and turned from sinful behaviors.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
~1 John 4:1-6
Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
In my arrogance, ignorance, and pride prior to my salvation, I would look down on believers in Christ. I thought somehow I was more elevated, more enlightened, more aware; that I had made it further in this game of life (uggghhh, makes me nauseous to write that now). I thought that they had become complacent, were being juvenile, and at some point would maybe wake up to it.
HOW VERY VERY WRONG I WAS!!!!
I now see the light of Christ they exemplify, and I am humbled, sorrowful, embarrassed by my prior judgements. I am in awe and grateful for the lives they live seeking and glorifying the Lord and sharing the love of Christ. After my own salvation experience, what I had previously witnessed in my believing family and friends throughout my life was now making so much more sense in beautiful ways with lots of dots connecting and lightbulbs going off. Believers don't live perfect lives, they may still fall down, suffer, face trials, fall into sin, etc. And through it all they aim to keep their faith and trust in God, turning towards Him, living with Christ in their hearts.
I recall a few years ago when I heard the news that Doreen Virtue, one of my mentors in the New Age community, turned from all that she had been doing and gave her life to Christ. For about 15 years I had read all her books, owned all her angel cards, and looked to her for inspiration. When I found out about her conversion, I was in shock and confused. At that time I thought she must be deluded. That she had gone backwards on her spiritual path. I wondered when she would realize her folly and pick back up again where she had left off. Then, when I was saved in June and experienced the salvation of Christ and truly believing in Him, she was one of the first persons I thought of. I felt remorse and could now understand what she went through. I wrote her a message and apologized for my misunderstanding and judgements, which she responded to with love and encouragement. This experience with Doreen has helped me stay in compassion and understanding as I now face similar judgements that I had once given her.
I am amazed and inspired by those that believe in Christ and keep their compass pointing towards Him. Living life for Christ is not the easiest path, there can be much suffering and trials, but because of the everlasting love God has for us and the relationship with God that has been restored through Jesus, we walk through the suffering and trials held and supported in the most powerful and fruitful ways.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~John 14:6
A message Jesus shared with the apostles to help them more fully grasp whom they were really walking with, and what is available to all who believe.
The messages found in Chapter 14 of John is something that I have recently come to know, believe, and experience. Several months ago as I went to the Bible and read, the words were there to help me understand the profound, life changing experience I was having as I fell at the feet of the Lord, gave my life to Christ, and was saved. What a profound feeling it was to truly experience the way, after seeking for almost 20 years. A seeking that led me to practice and study a variety of topics such as meditation, chakra balancing, yogic philosophy, tarot cards, angel and psychic readings, channeled information, Akashic records, past life readings, shamanism, plant medicines, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, energy healing, the Law of Attraction, and many other topics of New Age Spirituality.
It was like for all those years before believing in Jesus Christ as the way, I was walking down hundreds of bridges trying to get there. These were bridges of all sorts, some not so helpful and at times harmful, and others were very pleasant and seemed fruitful. And even with the helpful ones I still could not fully get across and sustainably live from that place. But that moment I stepped onto the bridge that Jesus Christ offered and fully trusted and let go, I got across that bridge so powerfully and completely in a straight unwavering line. I experienced what I had been seeking... it was communion with God, it was love, it was peace, it was freedom... and it was solid! None of the previous bridges could even compare to what the bridge of Jesus offered. What I had previously resisted, did not understand, did not trust, became in a flash what I place all my faith in. My focus went from many avenues of seeking to one avenue in Christ Alone.
Believer in Christ