*This entry can also be found on my WordPress blog.
I’m going to start taking a careful look at various secular and non-Christian sources on exactly why we need to be concerned with Eastern/Occult/Mystical/New Age practices such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, reiki, chakra alignment, energy healing and other so called “alternative medicines”, therapies and healing techniques which are becoming increasingly mainstream and have even made their way into the Church.
Why secular and non-Christian sources? Because, for some odd reason I cannot fathom, Christians themselves often reject Christian sources as nothing more than “paranoid” and “superstitious”, even when the warnings contained therein come from individuals who have come out of Eastern mysticism, the occult or the New Age. Why professing Christians would do so is beyond me, as it seems quite clear that we shouldn’t be expecting the world to tell us the truth about spiritual deception. Although not all sources claiming to be Christian are actually trustworthy, this does not mean all Christian sources should simply be dismissed and disregarded. What is needed instead is careful and diligent research and study, most importantly, testing everything one sees, hears, reads or experiences by the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17)
I do believe, however, that secular and non-Christian sources can be helpful in understanding what is truly going on with these Eastern and New Age practices. By studying such sources carefully, we can learn “straight from the horse's mouth” the very real issues and concerns with these practices, which these sources themselves will often openly admit.
So, I will start with an article written by Sarah McLean of The McLean Meditation Institute. This article was published on July 15, 2017 and is titled, “Negative Side Effects of Meditation”. I will directly quote various portions of the article and express my concerns accordingly. At the end of this post I will leave another link to the article so that anyone who wishes to do so can read it in its entirety for themselves.
First of all, here is the mini-biography on Sarah McLean included on the website (relevant and key points in bold and underlined - all emphasis mine).
“Sarah McLean considers herself an American Transcendentalist. She’s dedicated her life to exploring meditation: living as a resident of both a Zen Buddhist monastery and a traditional ashram in India, as well as living and working in a Transcendental Meditation center. She headed up the education programs at Deepak Chopra’s center in California and Byron Katie’s School for the Work. Sarah is a best-selling Hay House author of the books Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation and The Power of Attention: Awaken to Love and its Unlimited Potential with Meditation. She's also a sought-after speaker who is determined to create more peace on this planet by helping people wake up to the wonder and beauty of their lives and the world around them through the practice of meditation.”
From that description alone the many concerns about what true meditation is and it’s underlying spirituality should be more than obvious. The concepts above are absolutely Eastern and New Age and have nothing to do with Biblical faith and practice or true, Biblical peace (found only in Jesus Christ and staying/anchoring our minds on HIM - Isaiah 26:3)
Now to the article (all emphasis mine):
“For thousands of years, meditation has been a cornerstone of spiritual development, not just stress release. People would meditate to become self-realized or expand their awareness, or become closer to the Divine. Along the path, they’d soon learn that the journey towards spiritual awakening is not always an easy or pleasant one. This means that one should take meditation and its effects seriously.”
Already we can see that, yes, meditation is indeed spiritual in nature. The beliefs and teachings on "self-realization", "becoming closer to the Divine", (which is not the God of the Bible by the way), and "spiritual awakening" are straight out of Eastern mysticism and the New Age.).
"In reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the “goal” of meditation (dhyana) is to create more self-awareness and an expanded experience of reality. As someone becomes more self-aware, all mental and emotional constructs are illuminated. And it’s the job of a meditator to face them. (This is yoga, the “union” of one’s awareness with all that is.) For some, this process can have some negative effects.)"
Indeed, "this is yoga", which means "yoke" or "union." So, as the Bible plainly tells us not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers" or to have fellowship with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14-17), Christians must necessarily ask themselves just what they are yoking with in practicing these things. As already seen above, what one is uniting or yoking with is not the God of the Bible or sound Biblical practices. Yet, it is spiritual in nature, that much is certain.
“...because the meditator’s attention is turned inward, there’s increased awareness of all the activity going on internally."
As Christians we should not be self-focused and/or self-centred, nor is our true identity to be found in this way. We know that our true identity is in Christ and it is in His divinely inspired word that we find ultimate truth, not within ourselves through a mystical experience, or "awakening". Taking our focus off of God, His word and His guidance is a sure way to open ourselves up to deception. The truth is not within ourselves, rather, Scripture tells us plainly that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." (John 14:6)
“Physically, one can feel twitchy, dizzy, hot, cold, tingly, or swaying.”
There are in fact “manifestations”: involuntary, uncontrolled, spontaneous movements, or “kriyas” often associated with yoga, meditation, the chakras and kundalini awakenings. Interestingly and alarmingly, these same "manifestations can be found in many churches today, accredited to the "Holy Spirit." (I've written about some of these concerns already).
“As awareness expands, there is a lessening of the attachment to our self-image, our way of doing things, and our social hypnosis. In short, the ego becomes less dominant, as the spirit of who we truly are is enlivened."
This is all about having an "awakening" and realization of our true identity by looking within. Not by faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel and who Scripture tells us we are and where our identity is found. This mystical and very spiritual “self realization” comes straight out of the religions of the East and the New Age. It is contrary to true Christianity.
“The negative effects of meditation have been the source of news lately. That is because, for some, the memories, images, or emotional responses from prior abuse, and/or trauma can surface with meditation. These can be disturbing and seemingly unbearable—not only in the meditation but while one is living their life. Some people can suffer from mania, hallucinations, depression, and withdrawal from life. Others lose their appetite or suffer from insomnia. For those at risk of psychiatric disease, meditation can increase the issues, and for those already mentally ill, meditation can create psychosis.”
Note: this is from a secular source that promotes yoga, meditation, mindfulness and other such practices, not a “paranoid” or “superstitious “ Christian source. The belief that these things are “harmless” is false. Many practitioners of meditation and mindfulness have openly admitted that these techniques can be dangerous. Even though the mental health field is rife with such things, it is those already struggling that are often the most vulnerable, and yet this is still used as "treatment" or "therapy" for various mental disorders. When we also take into account the very real spiritual implications, as Christians, we should indeed be very concerned.
From my own personal experience, as someone who has an anxiety disorder and panic attacks and has struggled with these challenges throughout my life, I can attest to how these practices are indeed a part of various mental health "therapies." I myself went through CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) some years ago, and techniques such as these are very much in use throughout the "therapeutic process."
“Every one of us has a genetic predisposition to deal with – ours and those of our ancestors. Perhaps genetically based potentials of anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc., as well as their treatment, eventual acceptance, and transparency in sharing with others, are all a part of the evolution of human consciousness. Perhaps it’s part of the human evolution – the release of humanity as a whole from the attachment to ego, and what and how “perfect” should look.”
The above is not saying we deny ourselves and our self-centred pride, as Scripture describes, nor is it in reference to or in agreement with the Biblical account of how we are born again and made "new creations in Christ." Rather, this is the Eastern/New Age teaching of discovering our “true identity” by looking within and becoming detached from our personal, limited, earthly identity in favour of “enlightenment”, “higher consciousness”, “ascension” and “awakening.”) Meditation and mindfulness practices are means to accomplish such "enlightenment".
In contrast to these beliefs and practices, as Christians we do well to remember that our true identity is in Christ. Jesus never taught anything remotely like this, however, in the New Age many claim Jesus was nothing more than a "spiritual guru" or "ascended master" who had his own "spiritual awakening" and discovered his own true identity, specifically, that he was divine. While Jesus is of course God, we are not, and He did not become enlightened or awakened to some "inner truth" as a model we should follow. The Jesus presented in the New Age is most definitely "another Jesus." 2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
However, this is in fact the end goal and aim of practices like meditation in Eastern and New Age spirituality and thought, namely, discovery that god, (small "g" as this is not the God of the Bible), is in and through everyone and everything. (Pantheism and/or Panentheism). Contrary to this, Scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit, (Who is the third "Person" of the Trinity), is God, is distinct from us, (we are not divine), and only indwells true, born again, saved believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It is difficult to evaluate in advance who will or will not suffer these side effects, since those factors might often have drawn the person to learn to meditate in the first place. However, if a disturbance presents itself, it is not your job to diagnose or treat these students. Unless you have a counseling degree, it is above your level of training and expertise! Tell the student to cease their daily meditations, find a trustworthy therapist in their area whom they can call on for an objective opinion as to their next steps. Ideally, you can refer your student to a mental health care professional so they can to find the help they need to deal with their trauma.”
Note the admission by McLean, who is a teacher and practitioner of meditation, that those using this technique are not qualified to deal with the many possible psychiatric, (and indeed spiritual), side effects unless they are a qualified mental health professional. The point; meditation is not harmless or without risks and it is not a safe or genuine treatment for mental illness. What meditation does is stir up specific issues and traumas the participant may have and already be struggling with, and then, rather than helping the practitioner, it can instead exacerbate those very issues and traumas. In this way meditation is very similar to hypnosis. One enters an altered state of consciousness in order to bring certain memories or experiences, (which may or may not be genuine), to the surface, under the guise of working through any challenges such memories or experiences may bring. These techniques are not scientific, however, and they are not without serious risks. (And let's not forget the spiritual component here, which both instructors and practitioners do indeed openly acknowledge.)
“So, if you are looking for a meditation teacher, I would like to invite you to do so with discernment (after all, they’ll be working with your mind, body, and spirit.) Be open to interviewing a potential meditation teacher to see if the fit is right for you.”
This is another very important point. Again, Eastern/New Age meditation is not Christian but it is spiritual in nature. It is not purely physical or scientific nor is it a proven medical technique and process, despite its increased acceptance in the mainstream medical field.
When considering the very real physical, mental, and, most importantly, spiritual implications, a Christian must ask themselves which spirituality meditation and mindfulness, as practiced through yoga, and in alternative medicine, actually comes from. The answer; it comes from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and it is very much part of New Age spirituality as well. So, it behooves us to study what those spiritualities are truly about. Who is god/the gods/the "divine"?, Who and what is man?, Does this spirituality agree with the Bible?, etc.
“There are some great teachers out there including secular and religious based ones: monks, mystics and more.”
As you can see, this form of meditation has infiltrated both secular and religious spheres, including Christianity and the Church. Despite the fact that the roots of meditation and mindfulness are deeply rooted in Eastern spirituality and mysticism and despite the fact that those spiritualities are in direct conflict with Biblical Christianity, they have been accepted in the practice of such things as yoga, meditation and mindfulness in the Church today. In this way many Christians have been led into another spirituality by something that often seems harmless or even beneficial on the surface, and despite the many serious warnings from proponents of these practices (many of whom are not Christian and so could care less about the many warnings given in Scripture.)
From the footnotes in this article:
“CRAVEN, J.L. (1989). Meditation and Psychotherapy, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 34, pp. 648-653) Some meditators report uncomfortable kinesthetic sensations, mild dissociation, feelings of guilt and, via anxiety-provoking phenomena, psychosis-like symptoms, grandiosity, elation, destructive behavior and suicidal feelings."
Again, I urge any professing Christian who believes that meditation is harmless or beneficial to do their research. Along with being potentially physically and/or mentally harmful, meditation cannot be separated from the spiritually it is tied to, and you can find direct statements from Hindu and Buddhist gurus and leaders saying just that. (Also worth mentioning is the fact that the potential side effects listed above are in large part exactly those that can be found in warnings for many prescription medications. Yet, for some reason, meditation continues to been seen as "safer" and more "natural.")
Also important to consider is the reality that many of the techniques practiced in actual Eastern religions are the same as what is done in the West during meditation and mindfulness exercises , though often under different names and terminology. So, why should we be surprised when these practices lead to the same results? Disassociation/detachment from self is in fact one of the goals of Eastern meditation, so the side effect of psychosis or disassociation that some experience is truly not surprising, and it is more common and dangerous than many realize.
Here is the link to the article, shared for research purposes only. Please prayerfully consider these issues in light of Scripture. Let us not forget that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and that we are in a very real and ongoing spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6:12).
McLean Meditation Institute: Negative Side Effects of Meditation
I will share more articles and resources in future posts in this series.
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- This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series The Truth About Eastern & New Age "Wellness" Practices.
Yoga, Meditation & Mindfulness - Spiritual Practices
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- This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series The Truth About Eastern & New Age "Wellness" Practices.