Mindfulness is a form of meditation to attain peace and just about everything else. It promises the world, as a "Christianity Today" article suggests:
· . . . "mindfulness has come to comprise a dizzying range of meanings for popular audiences. It’s an intimately attentive frame of mind. It’s a relaxed-alert frame of mind. It’s equanimity. It’s a form of the rigorous Buddhist meditation called vipassana(“insight”), or a form of another kind of Buddhist meditation known asanapanasmrti (“awareness of the breath”). It’s M.B.S.R. therapy (mindfulness-based stress reduction). It’s just kind of stopping to smell the roses. And last, it’s a lifestyle trend, a social movement and — as a Time magazine cover had it last year — a revolution."
However, can their techniques of clearing the mind to attain peace and self-awareness be of use to the Christian?
First of all, the practice of mindfulness competes with the Bible, which has its own resources to produce these fruits. Instead of meditating on one's inner states, Scripture would have us meditate on God's very words:
· “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3)
Our thoughts, hopes, and worldviews are to be set on the things above:
· “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Life is filled with pain and disappointment. Our pains and failures tend to make us feel that we are missing out on something - some technique or spiritual therapy. However, it is when we focus on Jesus, and not on ourselves, that we find the necessary peace, endurance, and hope:
· “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)
If our meditations/mindfulness are on Scripture and our Lord, no problem! But if they represent placing our hope in something else to deal with our spiritual/emotional problems, then we are wrongly placing our trust (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Gal. 5:1-4; Provide. 3:5-6).
Scripture assures us that it is able to give us everything we need for our spirituality, growth, and service:
· “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
One respondent lamented that her husband was spending less time praying with the family in favor of mindfulness meditation. He was placing his hope in the wrong thing.
Christ has given us the necessary resources for life. To go beyond Him in spiritual matters, is to place our hope in the wrong thing, as another respondent wrote to a Christian therapist and advocate of mindfulness:
· "I have used mindfulness-based techniques for a number of years in seeking to combat depression and anxiety. I found the techniques to be quite powerful for that time. I am a discerning, theologically trained evangelical Christian and felt that I approached all psychological treatment with due caution and thought (or so I have judged myself!).
· Ultimately, however, I have come to reject this approach to mental health. In recent months I have received healing from my mental and emotional torture in a far more complete way. This has come from a 'renewing of my mind' through the Scriptures, and particularly a proper understanding of spiritual warfare and the role that Satan plays in trying to deceive, accuse and bring fear to those who belong to Christ. This has not been a type of 'super spiritual power encounter' or exorcism or something dramatic, but rather a 'truth encounter'. I have had to repent of many false beliefs about God, about the world and about myself. Many of these beliefs were deep-seated and at the root of my depression and anxiety.
· When I practiced Mindfulness, I believe I actually allowed myself to be opened further to deceiving and accusing thoughts (see 1 Tim 4:1). In fact, I can now see how dramatically I had shifted in my theology, in my morality and in my worldview during its use. I have repented of using it, and instead am seeking to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Previously, I didn't really take seriously the spiritual realm, and the way the enemy seeks to render Christians weak and unfruitful. This was to my peril. Now I have become aware of Satan's schemes and can resist them. My mind is at peace."
Peace and self-acceptance are the gifts of our God. Although, self examination is important, even necessary (Prov. 20:5; 1 Cor. 11:31), it is important as the needle and thread are to the jacket. They merely restore to us the use of the jacket. Self-examination - and its byproduct, confession of sin - is merely a tool to restore us to our Source and all-sufficient Provider.