Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Christian Mindfulness

I am going to start a series of posts on the subject of Mindfulness. This started nearly a decade ago when I was at a training for Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment approach dealing with people who have identities that are forever seeking validation in unhealthy ways. The core of DBT has the concept of mindfulness. This mindfulness is steeped in eastern thought and religion. This is not explicit to the therapy itself, but is readily recognized in the referenced and supporting literature. For the Christian adhering traditional faith this presents some problems. As it did for me as I went through the training. I came to a place where I accepted the technology of DBT, but kept its spiritual underpinnings at an arms distance.

This seemed to work for a few years. DBT has proven to be very useful in treating some fairly serious emotional and behavioral issues for clients that I have met with. In fact there is a growing body of literature that indicates that mindfulness is a powerful tool in addressing the dividedness of mind and emotional reactivity that tends to plague those suffering from mental illness.

Every time I come to this issue of mindfulness I felt deeper conviction against the philosophical and religious underpinnings. So there I was stuck between something that works and conviction that it was unchristian at best and antichristian at worst. I shared this dilemma with some trusted colleagues. One said, "BJ I think that was has happened is that Buddhists have tapped into something that is built into the way that God has made us." This interesting insight along with some encouragement from others led me to keep pressing on.

I did some research into the concept of "Christian Mindfulness" and became disappointed. There are many interesting ideas about Christian Mindfulness, but it seems that whenever I dug deeper that I ended up with "baptized Buddhism" or Christianized eastern meditations. Frankly this was very unsatisfying to me. I also was not interested in blending. This concept of blending is abhorrent to Yahweh (Lord God). So I was faced with the very real possibility of throwing it all away.

I recall praying to God asking Him (in earnest) "God if there is a Christian mindfulness please show me." Immediately several Psalms came to mind.

I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. Psalms 139:14 (HCSB)

Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars. Praise Him, highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens. Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for He commanded, and they were created. Psalms 148:3-5 (HCSB)

Praise the Lord from the earth, all sea monsters and ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind that executes His command, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, creatures that crawl and flying birds, Psalms 148:7-10 (HCSB)

The trees of the Lord flourish, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork makes its home in the pine trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for hyraxes.
He made the
moon to mark the festivals; the sun knows when to set. You bring darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals stir. The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises; they go back and lie down in their dens. Psalms 104:16-22 (HCSB)

In that moment I knew that God had shown me several things. First there is "Christian Mindfulness." Second, many of the Psalms are personal mindful reflections of a spiritually minded person inspired by God. Third, this type of thinking leads us into worship and appreciation of God and His divine attributes. Forth, mindfulness (in Biblical form) is far from being ungodly, but can actually deepen our connection with God.

In response to what God had shown me I dutifully thanked Him for what He had given to me. Yet He was not yet done. I packed up my stuff and walked to my car. As got near to my car I noticed a small tree. This may seem insignificant, but I had been parking by that tree for several months now and I had never noticed it before. Interesting to me I had used mindfulness as a technology for helping people and all the while lacking mindfulness in the simple activity of walking from my car to my office for months. Yet when I approached God and asked Him to show me mindfulness for the Christian He gave me the knowledge and then proceeded to give me the experience of mindfulness. At that moment I wondered how many other things I had missed along the way, but not wanting to live in the past I thanked God for that moment and committed to better understand "Christian Mindfulness."

In the next posts I will share with you what I have learned and more importantly what God has shown me over the last several months.

Next Post Defining "Christian Mindfulness"