Friday, October 23, 2009

Spirit Mindedness

The Holy Spirit Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr As I draw near to the end of this series of posts on the topic of Christian mindfulness, I am drawn to a distinction within the tradition of Christianity.  Christians believe (and experience) God's Holy Spirit indwelling them.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit though is not an automatic pathway to spiritual awareness.  I would say the possibility of spiritual awareness is there, but there is a specific discipline that is required in order to achieve what I would call "Spirit mindedness." 

If I were to draw a parallel with the eastern tradition I would say that Nirvana or higher Bodhi (the highest spiritual goals) are similar, but also very different from Spirit Mindedness.  The transcendence of lusts, desires, obsessions, fixations,  negative affective states, suffering and the like are the goal of Nirvana and end of delusion in Bodhi.  In eastern tradition there is a dilemma that no matter what there is a dualism that exist between the mind and reality.  The mind suffers from varying degrees of delusion in that an unenlightened mind can never perceive things as they really are.  The end of delusion is when a person is able to move beyond this dualism into a state where what is perceived and what is real are one (so called one with also called enlightenment).  These are similar to Christian Spirit mindedness in that death of lust desires, obsessions, fixations, negative affective states, suffering are the goal. 

There are some definite distinctions between Spirit Mindedness and eastern enlightenment that make Christian spirituality unique.  There is a dilemma of dualism in Christian tradition.  In this case though there is the reality of God's law and impossibility (because of sin) of the mind to will the person to behave in accordance to the Law.  In Christian tradition this dualism is resolved when the believer moves from desiring to keep the law in the flesh to setting oneself on the Spirit (i.e. setting the mind on the Spirit). There is a oneness as well in Spirit mindedness, but rather than one with reality the the Christian is one with God and fellow believers.  In the eastern thinking the individual is lost in the oneness with all things.  In Spirit Mindedness the individually is retained as a person takes their place in God's order of things.  In eastern tradition the goal is transcendence of will.  In Spirit mindedness the goal is setting the will. 

Consider a tree.  In Eastern tradition the goal is to become so intimately aware of the the tree that the leaf recognizes that it is the tree or that the tree is in it (i.e. one with).  In Christian tradition on the other hand the leaf is connected to the the tree and recognizes is dependence one the rest of the tree (branches, trunk roots) and accepts its very important role of producing the energy for growth and fruitfulness of the tree. 

Stated another way, enlightenment is a state of oneness will all things.  Christian Mindfulness is awareness of the unity of God and His people and accepting your part within the whole and according to God's plan.  In this way these concepts are very unique. 

I believe that Romans 6, 7, and 8 present the best description of Spirit Mindedness that I have found.  I would encourage you to read it.  My next few posts will deal with these chapters.  Generally 6 summarizes death to sin, 7 presents the dilemma of simply willing/desiring/working to do good without the Spirit, and Chapter 8 describes how one goes about setting the mind on the Spirit.