I meet with people quite a bit, and I hear often that people struggle with anxiety and depression. I have experienced my share of anxiety over the past few years, so it’s no surprise an article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye yesterday. Entitled “A Daily Workout for Your Brain,” by Elizabeth Bernstein, the article was an edited excerpt from an interview with psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence.” And in that interview he tells of how looking at over 6,000 academic studies on meditation shows “meditation can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.” Tell me more, I thought.
As I read on I noticed an emphasis on focused breathing, bringing discipline to our wandering minds, focusing on one thing, and redirecting our minds to that one thing in order to strengthen our “neural circuitry” in our brains — much like 20 reps of a leg press strengthens leg muscles.
Then it occurred to me: these are all things integral to Christian daily prayer especially as expressed in our Anglican tradition of morning and evening prayer. When I pray alone or lead our Wednesday morning Advent or Lent groups, or in our weekly staff meetings, I encourage those gathered to be still, breathe slowly and deliberately, and focus on God and his word. And as if this wasn’t coincidence enough, we prayed the following appointed psalm this morning:
“I will meditate on your commandments; and give attention to your ways.
My delight is in your statutes. I will not forget your word” (Ps 119:15-16).
So reminding myself of these benefits of meditation in addition to the spiritual nourishment of being in the presence of Jesus with his people, I led Morning Prayer with a new peace and excitement. And, I’ve noticed what might have been a harried, frantic morning, became a space where I could see God’s providence, the serendipities of the Spirit, and the solidness of the Word, Christ Jesus, all around me.
If you struggle with anxiety and depression, come to morning prayer on Wednesdays in Advent. Learn to pray with the Church, and bring that healing rhythm into your daily life.