Thursday, July 30, 2009

Defining "Christian Mindfulness"

The Eloquent Light

Image by TW Collins via Flickr

"... he who is spiritual appraises all things..." 1 Cor 2:15 (NASB)

Imagine that I invited you to worship and told you that I was going to pick you up in my car.  You would not necessarily care what the make and model of my car was, but rather where we were going to worship.  Using this analogy mindfulness is the vehicle that takes us to greater awareness and connection to the object of our worship and the world around us.  There are some distinctions between eastern mindfulness and Christian mindfulness which I will do my best to point out.  Just as prayer and meditation are a part of other world religions, I believe mindfulness legitimately holds a place as a mode of worship within the Christian faith.

Christian Mindfulness at its core is contemplative awareness by the Spirit (note: links to Scripture references).   This is contrasted with Eastern mindfulness which is non-judgmental awareness.  Contemplation is an act of the will which requires that we be fully engaged in the present moment and dependent on God's Holy Spirit, not passively experiencing the moment as eastern thought would suggest.  Contemplation is where what we know meets what we experience.  It is the process of wisdom. 

Mindfulness for the Christian necessarily involves some level understanding of the scriptures.  Without scripture our knowingness is based on experience and feelings which can lead to all sort of problems.  In order to grow in Christian mindfulness a person must develop a habit of regular meditative study of God's Holy Word.  It is His Word that makes mindfulness "Christian."  Mindfulness is a type of worship  and His Word will lead you to worship Him.  Absent of this your worship and mind will be directed at some other object (this can easily become idolatry).  Perhaps this is why we see many objects of worship (Idols) in the eastern traditions. 

Mindfulness as we already mentioned is awareness.  This is an awareness of God, others, and surroundings.  This awareness is much deeper than knowing these objects exist or are there.  This mindful awareness occurs when there is a deeper connection to the thing that one is becoming aware of.  There is a danger (especially with awareness of God) of knowing about something without knowing it.  This level of awareness is knowing the thing that you are being mindful of (intimacy).  When we know about God we are studying some theological truth;  on the other hand when we know God we experience the riches of His wisdom and the Glory of his presence.  It is the deeper sense of knowing that is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is acting out of intention rather that reaction to the world around you.  We have integrity in what we know, say, and do.  It is an acting out of God's love for you and others.  It is fulfilling moment by moment the purpose that God has for you.  It is acting without ulterior motives, but out of sincerity of heart.

Mindfulness is being filled.  This is a sharp contrast from eastern mindfulness which teaches emptying.  Emptiness is not a virtue in the Bible.  Emptiness is consistently pointed out as a danger.  So then for the Christian mindfulness is being filled with the things of God as you go through your day.  First and foremost it is being filled with the Spirit.  Then God's love and grace.  The list goes on and on as to what can fill you.  This filling comes from the Word of God and the things that he reveals to you through study, prayer, and meditation, so that is a good place to start.  Note: any meditative practice that teaches you to empty should be a red flag.  This is not Christian and can be quite dangerous in light of God's Word.

Mindfulness is the peace and contentment of God.  It is a quietness of soul that allows you to face uncertain circumstances.  It is the time when you stop wrestling with life and quietly accept the peace that God desires to give you.  It is a joy that is present regardless of external circumstances. 

Mindfulness is unreservedly giving yourself to the will of God.  Most people think of God's will as something that He wants them to do some day.  Mindfulness is accomplishing the will of God in this moment.  It is forgetting what is behind, it is letting go of future worries, and living for God in the present.  Often we imagine ourselves doing some great thing for God.  We plan on doing it "someday."  Unfortunately someday never comes for most of us and the ideas of fancy never become reality.  Mindfulness allows us to accomplish the will of God in the present moment.  At this moment you are accomplishing the will of God if you are willing.

Christian Mindfulness necessarily involves knowing Christ.  It is hearing His voice.  It is being identified with Him, His power, His ministry, and His purpose.  It is placing your faith in Him and understanding the power of His resurrection.  Interestingly it is actively striving to take hold of what God has given you.  This striving continues as long as you continue to live.  Striving is contrasted with "letting go" concept in eastern thought. 

Christian Mindfulness is Spirit Mindedness.  Romans 8 has the best description of this that I have found.  Understanding this passage of the Bible will help you grow in this area if you study it and meditate on it day by day.  Essentially Spirit mindedness is setting the mind on the Holy Spirit of God.   Contrasted with eastern thought on mindfulness which involves emptying the mind with the goal of unconditioned perfection and transcendent happiness, Christian mindfulness finds joy when the mind is set on (and dependent on) the Spirit and puts to death the things of the flesh. When cultivated this Spirit mindedness becomes moment by moment awareness of God's Holy presence and acting out of faith.  In this way Christian mindfulness comes full circle with greater (spiritual) awareness leading to increased awareness of God's Holy Spirit, leading to stronger faith, leading to increased action based on this faith, leading to greater awareness.  This process is ever growing and will become a completed work in heaven. 

Christian Mindfulness is deeper awareness of the world around you and what God is doing in you and in your surroundings;  then you taking intentional action based on faith in God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. 


Next Topic "Being Unmindful"