If your audience is predominantly Christian but from various denominations, these are the type of questions they may well raise:
Isn’t this Buddhist?
Quite mistakenly, meditation can very easily be identified as the preserve only of the Eastern traditions, especially Buddhism. We have come through the teaching of Fr John Main and others in the 20th century to appreciate afresh the place of meditation in the Christian tradition.
What makes meditation Christian?
It is our faith and love that makes meditation Christian. There are also historical, theological, scriptural and communal aspects to the Christian identity of meditation.
With reference to St Paul, Rom 8:26, the Spirit is pleading for us (in our inmost being beyond words, beyond thoughts, beyond images) with sighs too deep for words. The Spirit is with us in our prayer, praying within us, and as Fr John Main tells us in Word into Silence, “Prayer then, is the life of the Spirit of Jesus within our human heart.”
Attentiveness and receptivity are the qualities that enable us to become more completely incorporated with the Word within us, who is the Son, spoken by and returning to the Father.
Can the Devil enter the mind if we "blank it out"?
Meditation does not "blank" the mind. It leads to poverty of spirit.
In Christian meditation the work is to bring the mind and one’s whole being to stillness and silence. Jesus refers to the primacy of ‘poverty of spirit’ as the condition for entering the Kingdom of God.
The stillness of both mind and body to which the mantra guides us is a preparation for entering into our own silence, and for our progression through the spheres of silence.
Where is it mentioned in Scripture?
Scripture reveals the inspiration and purpose of all prayer. A study of the history and the tradition of the early Church will show that this way of prayer was indeed familiar to the Jewish Christians of this period. The teaching of Jesus on prayer (Mt 5-7) and his parables also set the criteria for all Christian prayer and by which Christian meditation can be more deeply understood.
We recall that John Cassian draws us back to the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-11) arising from ‘the poverty of the single verse’. He says this poverty will bring us with ready ease to the first of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” In addition, the goal Cassian proposes throughout his Conferences is purity of heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Isn’t it self-centred?
No, just the opposite. It is all about leaving self behind and turning to the Other. John Main says "in meditation we take the searchlight of consciousness off ourselves."
Isn’t it just self-hypnosis?
The mind is alert, and engaged in the art of attention. The conscious mind is never shut down but expanded beyond its habitual self-fixation.
If I concentrate on the mantra am I locking out the Holy Spirit?
Meditation brings us to a state of open-hearted receptivity to the Spirit of Jesus who dwells in our hearts. The mantra keeps us open to the Spirit in poverty and simplicity.
Isn’t this just Catholic?
It is catholic in the most ancient sense of this word - universal. Meditation becomes an expression of unity, and in a particular way for Christians. People of Christian faith can freely discover a shared faith heritage as something ancient, yet ready to come alive.
Is this the same as Centering Prayer?
There is an essential harmony in these two approaches to meditation. Centering Prayer places a different emphasis on the mantra.