Mindfulness


Over the last decade there has been increasing research on the beneficial effects of mindfulness on one’s mental state. Marsha Linehan’s research with a Borderline Personality Disorder population probably serves as the catalyst for much of today’s work. Today, you can read about mindfulness as an intervention with depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. Wikipedia describes mindfulness as: Mindfulness is the practice whereby a person is intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is applied to both bodily actions and the mind’s own thoughts and feelings. I would define mindfulness as one part cognitive control, one part attitude, one part observation, and one part meditation. While Buddhists have probably claimed mindfulness as an essential part of their religious practice, mindfulness is essential to Christianity. 

When you think about it, we are constantly making assessments of what we feel, what we like, what we are experiencing. These judgments provide a constant feedback as to how we think about ourselves and our place in the world. But when we struggle with anxiety or depression, our feedback loops focus on certain kinds of “data” and overplay them. Then judgments become repetitions of what we already “know.” Example: my leg hurts today. I have a hard time focusing on other things because of the shooting pain. It is true that my leg hurts, but if I focus on other things (as well as the pain I notice) in an intentional way, my perception of pain is balanced with perceptions of other things around me. When we are able to practice this kind of attitude and cognitive control, we have the possibility of choosing, to some degree, what will be the center of our observations. And thus, mindfulness becomes a form of meditation.

Why does this work? It works because we take back control of our mind and have the possibility of thinking things other than our instant reactions. Is it any different from the Israelites hearing their history of being brought out of slavery while observing the difficulties of living in the desert and avoiding giving in to quick judgments that it would be better to go back to Egypt for the Leeks and Garlic?

5 Comments

Filed under Mindfulness

5 responses to “Mindfulness

  1. I’ve recently come into contact with Mindfulness via a Psychologist who is not a Christian. Do you know of any Christian resources that explore Mindfulness from a biblical perspective so I can evaluate better what I am being told?

  2. Mindfulness is a topic that is as varied as the beliefs of those who talk about it. Some talk about it from a Buddhist perspective, others from a cognitive perspective, and others from a “staying in the present” perspective. Unfortunately, there isn’t much good Christian writings on it. So, is it Christian? if mindfulness means taking every thought captive, to realize that we aren’t our thought but we can be in the present, observe our minds but not be carried off by them. Then, yes, mindfulness is distinctly Christian. It is a worshipful act.

    Your psychologist may mean something unchristian by it but you can choose to use mindfulness as a way of meditating on your union with Christ in every circumstance.

  3. Meditation is something Jesus used and since long has it been a Christian practice to use while praying. There’s in fact a name for it “apatheia” and it’s about finding a deep inner calmness where you let God be God and in control instead of yourself.

    Here’s a little something if you want to know more!

  4. Jenny

    how great to read a post considering this topic from a Christian perspective. I have been blessed by finding (quite by accident – but obviously by God’s direction!) a non-Christian psychologist who is actually both respectful of my views, and who knows enough about Christianity to ask me some very thought-provoking questions that have, I think, been used by God to help me grow and recover on my journey with depression. I, too, want to practice mindfulness within a Christian framework. I have tried to do this with all the exercises my psych has given me, eg. re-framing, I’ve been focussing on gratitude to God when I feel jealous of someone else. I found that I was getting similar direction from a Christian counsellor as I was from my psych – the former wasn’t surprised by this, as she said there is wisdom in some other religions, but emphasized Christ’s unique claims on our lives – and of course, God is the source of all wisdom in this world and beyond (which is not to say that everyone who is wise is following Him). Ooops, a long post, but loving your site!

  5. Jason

    Phil, are there any mindfulness programs (books/cd’s) that you recommend…that maybe aren’t TOO non-christian focused.

    Do you recommend the stuff by Jon Kabat-Zinn?

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.