“What the mind repeats, it retains.”

Written by on November 3, 2011

Meditating is a very human process. We meditate all the time. We each have a capacity to pay deep attention to things and people. The critical question is not whether or not we meditate, but rather what are we meditating upon?Keri Wyatt puts it this way,

If we spend time listening to MTV or reading People magazine, that’s what we are meditating on, even if we don’t think of it as meditating. If we repeatedly hear something, our mind will retain it. Think of how many song lyrics you’ve memorized, simply by hearing songs on the radio. Meditation begins with repetition, to think about something, even on a subconscious level. And that is what will shape our souls and thoughts, even actions.What we focus on and think about, even passively, affects us. Ultimately, it forms us. [1]

Our minds and memories are designed to hold onto the things we pay attention to. As the saying goes, “What the mind repeats, it retains.”[2]  And it is these things we hold onto that form us and shape us. Meditating upon the Scriptures is not a fast food, quick fix, immediately satisfying sort of practice. It requires patience and repetition. We ponder and imagine, we muse and pray, we speak and listen our way through the passage.  Bringing the passage up again and again in our minds alwaysinvolves more than getting the right information from the passage. It requires engaging and re-engaging the words or stories that continue to grab us and address us.  And, as Joyce Huggett puts, we thereby

… give God’s words the opportunity to penetrate, not just our minds, but our emotions—the places where we hurt—and our will—the place where we make choices and decisions. We meditate to encounter the Living Word, Jesus himself.[3]

Throughout biblical and church history this has been a central way of training one’s mind and heart to pay deep attention to God. We each must learn to slow down and pay deep attention to Scripture in our apprenticeship with Jesus.

[1] Keri Wyatt Kent, Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 147.
[2] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 185-186.
[3] Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin, editors Spiritual Classics, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 10-11.

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  1. John Fernstrum   On   November 4, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Thanks for the reflection. I think often about what I spend myself meditating on in a given day. As I have taken and now facilitate the Emerging Journey, I find that my mind meditates on things of God. God is glorified when we meditate upon Him.


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