Meditation in the Christian tradition is not really easy to understand and it can be difficult to adopt into a person’s spiritual life. Still, when meditation is understood properly, it is something we already do quite often during prayer, but it differs excellently from the ordinary activity of our mind.
St. Francis de Sales in his Treatise on the Love of God said that, “Every meditation is a thought, but not every thought is a meditation.” In that case, we might believe that we are in the depths of meditation, when in fact we are simply thinking “thoughts” and nowhere near meditation.
St. Francis de Sales went further to give some examples and explaining the differences in a more concrete way.
A times, we consider a thing so attentively in order to learn its causes, its effects, its qualities, and this thought is named study; in which the mind acts as locusts do, which fly promiscuously upon flowers and leaves, just to eat them and nourish themselves therewith.
But when we come to think of divine things, not just to learn, but to make ourselves love them, this is called meditating, and this exercise, Meditation is that in which our spirit, not as a fly for simple amusement, nor as a locust to eat and be filled, but as a sacred bee, who moves over the flowers of holy mysteries, just to extract from them the honey of divine love.
According to St. Francis de Sales, meditation is a turning and doubling of our thoughts within our heart by an attentive consideration, to excite ourselves to bless and praise the sovereign mercy of our God, who has brought us back from the gate of death, taking compassion on our misery.” Or in other words, “Meditation is a mystical rumination.”
Consequently, meditation is different from ordinary thoughts because it is a deliberate use of the mind to think about a particular divine subject. However, it requires an ability to think over and over again about God or his Church.
This means, that meditation is much more focused and it allows a soul the opportunity to dig deeper than it would if it were simply thinking about a several of topics.
The next time you would want to meditation, examine your experience and see if your thoughts are the meditations that lead you to a greater knowledge and love of God, or if they are only “thoughts” that just fly “from one flower to another, without drawing anything from them.”