Volume 6 / Issue 1 SPRING 2020

4 8 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 6 - 1 S p r i n g 2 0 2 0 Effects of meditation described by neuroscience research are specifically different from that of contemplative reading, which involves cognitive functions and work with a text serv - ing as a basis for active meditation. When slow, contempla - tive reading overlaps with what occurs during the learning process, we can presuppose changes in the brain in terms of its neural plasticity. Reading slowly and repeatedly (Jamison 2006, 64) saves the text into our memory. If contemplative reading is coupled with attentiveness or memorizing of some passage, certain transformation occurs and can also have a therapeutic value. Neurotheology of neuropsychology of religion [4] is concerned with application of neuroscience research findings to the realm of spirituality. From a psychological perspective, reading sacred texts and employing imagination immerses the reader in the story on both intellectual and emotional levels. One may be confronted with more painful feelings, but these feelings are transformed into the positive ones during the contemplative reading exercise. For instance, anxiety-evoked experiences or memories are replaced by a Psalm prayer that is based on the trustful awareness of God’s joyful presence in the pres - ent moment of our lives. As if the recalled negative memory is replayed under the unbiased supervision of loving and merciful God. Experiencing God’s love releases tension and brings a new perspective into the present situation that can even provoke positive emotions such as joy. The memory remains, but it becomes neutral in its nature. It does no longer tie the person down. On the contrary, it gives one the strength to carry on with one’s life (Sládek and Kopecký 2017, 99). These positives overlap with the goals that theology aspires to reach. This is why meditative and contemplative prayer has become an indispensable part of Christian spirituality. The same can be said about the practice of Lectio Divina. When we feel restless and tired or when our mind is scattered, slow reading and pondering upon what has captured our attention can bring us back to concentration and being attentive in a prayer. By doing so, we become more con - scious of God’s presence in every place. When thinking about methodology, Lectio Divina is a relatively flexible exercise. With that in mind, we can speak of disposition of someone to engage in this practice, rather than just a technique. This practice of prayerful reading differs taking into account the personality of an individual, his/her needs and thinking methods as well as the time of the day. The Benedictine trativeness of meditation (Stenger 2014) could be instrumental in spreading the value of meditation practices in our culture (Burian 2010, 233–234). When assessing positive effects of meditation, we should distinguish between meditation as such and implementing elements of meditation in psychotherapy. What we have here, says Jan Benda, are the qualitatively different goals, different areas of application, different attitudes to experienced phenomena and different tools. Meditation is not about solving relationship or family problems. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, does not rid a person of all psychological shackles (Benda 2010, 224). 5 Positive Effect of Meditation and Contemplative Reading on the Development of Personal Spirituality With all that said, we can conclude that meditation training gives us an opportunity to escape from the stress of everyday life which we no longer experience as stress during meditation. This leads us to inner liberation from the stress that is often associated with exaggerated worries about our future. The practice of meditation affects the fear center in our brain and thus reduces stress. It helps to improve our physical and mental wellbeing. Through meditation, we can induce the alterations of consciousness and that can positively affect our responses to questions about the meaning of life. Meditation helps us understand the more profound context of our own life, or identity and freedom. For a person of faith, meditation can deepen and strengthen his or her personal relationship with God (Smékal 2017, 37) [3]. D’Aquili and Newberg conducted a research involving a group of Franciscan nuns whose meditation focused on phrases from the Scripture or prayers. Their observations revealed that such meditation can lead to spiritual or mystical experiences that inevitably leads to an experience of God or Buddhist emptiness. Other experiences involved feeling of union or fulfilment (D’Aquili 2004, 44–47).