The practise of mindfulness is very much on the increase nowadays – especially amongst those living busy and stressful lives. I’m guessing that’s why I received so much reaction to my February article on ‘Compassionate Mindfulness.’
Many of you have been asking me about ‘Christian Mindfulness’ and wondering if ‘mindfulness’ is something Christians should be engaging with. My answer is a resounding yes!
Some people argue that Christian’s should avoid practising mindfulness because it is based on Eastern Mysticism. That’s simply not the case. Christian Mindfulness is deeply grounded in the contemplative Christian tradition.
Jesus engaged in regular times of solitary reflection during his ministry and similar contemplative practices flourished among the early Christian Church and Christian monks (often referred to as ‘The Desert Fathers’) and continued to thrive within several Christian traditions down the centuries, including the Benedictines and Carmelites and Eastern Orthodoxy as well as through the teachings of Christian mystics such as Saint Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence and Saint John of the Cross.
The practise of Christian Mindfulness saw a revival in the 20th century through the likes of Anthony De Mello, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, alongside the increasing popularity of Taizé, Lectio Divina and the onset of what is termed ‘New Monasticism.’
We all know wandering minds can miss a great deal, such as: the richness of life’s experiences; the beauty of creation; the cry of someone in pain. Even the voice of God can get lost in the noise of our unfocused thoughts. We need the right circumstances and conditions to reflect and think clearly. Mindfulness helps us to find that place.
Anthony de Mello in his book ‘Walking on Water’ suggests that all communication with God begins with silence – not an easy thing for many of us to find or to enjoy. Silence is crucial in any relationship as it enables us to hear what the other person is saying. In the same way, silence with God is crucial to our relationship with him.
We can easily ‘drown’ God out by the ritual busyness of life and miss out on life ‘in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). But when we give God space and time and welcome Him into our lives He heals our soul with His presence and allows us to flourish and grow in faith.
Jesus was both the most mindful, and the most single-minded person:
- He was completely aware of the flow of life in his own body: noticing it go out to the woman in the crowd who touched his cloak to be healed.
- He recognized the hunger and aimlessness of the crowds.
- He appreciated the gratitude of the woman who anointed him with perfume.
- He knew the voice of his Father so intimately they were one in spirit, thought, desire and action.
If Jesus were, as he is sometimes portrayed, some kind of otherworldly guru, he wouldn’t have been able to respond to his disciples, his community, or His Father.
Jesus was focused on one thing: the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). That focus shut out petty distractions and worries and this allowed him to be aware of everything that was happening around him at that moment. Frederick Beuchner writes:
Morning, afternoon, evening – the hours of the day, of any day, of your day and my day. If there is a God who speaks anywhere, surely he speaks: through waking up and working, through going away and coming back again, through people you meet and books you read, through falling asleep in the dark.
Mindfulness is noticing what you are doing, feeling and thinking at the time you are actually doing, feeling and thinking it! The writer Jean Pierre de Caussade suggests that each moment of our lives can be a vehicle for God’s presence:
The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams, but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love … to discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith.
So … why not take time to find a quite place away from all distractions and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Appreciate your surroundings and enjoy the peace and quietness around you. Take a Bible with you and read Psalm 23; Matthew 6:24-27 or Philippians 4:6-7. Offer prayers of thankfulness and ask Jesus to make himself known to you through the busyness of life.
This is a copy of my article for the May 2018 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’