In the last decade the practice of mindfulness has become part of the fabric of American culture. Many of us will find that our corporate bosses will have us take mindfulness training seminars and that mindfulness practices are popping up in schools and even churches. How does it fit into the Christian faith and Gospel?
Many of the ideas of mindfulness are taken from Buddhism and so many Christians will naturally view mindfulness with some wariness. Others will try, and have tried, to do what Evangelical culture has become so agile at… absorbing and Christianizing a cultural practice. We have seen Christian Techno, Christian Metal Music, Christian Yoga, Christian Tai Chi. The process seems easy enough. Search the Bible, find a few verses that seem to fit and then plug them in and presto … you’ve Christianized the activities. Of course this is already happening and will continue to happen to mindfulness as mindfulness becomes more commercialized and watered down.
Theologically, mindfulness shares some aspects of Christian spiritual practices — a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Those Christians who view mindfulness with a skeptical eye suddenly turn that same skepticism toward time honored practices, such as Lectio Divina and Christian Meditation. While those who look at mindfulness as being compatible with Christianity take those same Christian practices that have been with the church since its founding as proof that mindfulness can be incorporated as Christian discipline. Why are we not engaging in our own traditional practices like Christian mediation and chasing after others? We certainly can be in dialog with those in the mindfulness movement, and learn from each other, but we Christians also have a rich spiritual tradition to tap into.
Mindfulness and Christian spiritual practices do have a lot of points of contact. The importance of breath, the needing to be still (for Christians, we need to be still to find the Lord within us) and the idea of accepting our limitations. Though the differences between the two are just as stark as well. For Buddhism, one of the key ideas is impermanence and for Christians it is the providence of God. Importance teaches all things are in flux and we have to accept the nature of change. While Christian also see the fading that naturally occurs, our God in the Holy Trinity is steady and eternal. For what are we but grass in the field that will soon wither and blow away in the wind? We Christians will say that, but rather than leading to a detachment and stoic way of being, it leads the us to relationship with God.
Mindfulness does offer a lot of benefits as many studies have shown, and we Christians can enter into a conversation about the experience of mindfulness. I also don’t see mindfulness as a danger. My only thought is that there is no need to break into another house to enjoy a meal, when the church has offered since its beginning a place of calm and breath. We don’ have to practice mindfulness meditation when we have the ancient Lectio Divina and prayer. In the end, it is all about our relationship to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
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