Mindfulness and meditation


In my own reading I’ve been exploring the concept of mindfulness and its similarity to meditation, being present, etc. There are biblical corollaries that make this an important topic as so frequently we react to life rather than observe it without giving in to impulsive reactions. Mindfulness and meditation are different but may share some commonalities. For example, healthy biblical meditation includes focusing on the character of God, his word, his creation, etc. It includes being aware of these things rather than judging experience or anxiously running after a feeling. Mindfulness also includes this focus and being present. Consider the opening words in Erica Tan’s recent essay,

According to Germer (2005, p. 7) in Mindfulness and psychotherapy, mindfulness is “the awareness of present experience with acceptance.” Mindfulness is a skill that enables an individual to be aware of the present–feelings, thoughts, situation, other people., and so on–without being reactive.

She goes on to quote Germer again about the opposite of mindfulness,

To be mindful is to wake up, to recognize what is happening in the moment. We are rarely mindful. We are usually caught up in the distracting thoughts or in opinions about what is happening in the moment. (p. 4-5).

In this way, mindfulness is similar to meditation in that both are focused on “noticing” things with our reactivity. Meditation does assume or judge things from God’s point of view in such a way that frees us from worry or fighting the situation. Both include an acceptance but meditation includes acceptance of God’s point of view.

I think mindfulness research in psychology has exploded because of the propensity for us to be constantly and anxiously judging our worlds. We confirm our own fears about what is right, wrong, good, bad. It recognizes that there can be wise thinking about these things but much of our lives are reactive and anxiety based. So, we benefit from the reminder that acceptance of feelings, and experiences helps us to be aware of that there is a “bigger picture” as Tan reminds us. While some may think this acceptance makes us passive or allows us to become unwilling to do something about sinfulness, that is not the point of mindfulness or meditation and would be a mis-use of these tools.

Tan, E. (2008). Mindfulness in Sexual Identity Therapy. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 27, 274-278.

42 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Mindfulness, Psychology

42 responses to “Mindfulness and meditation

  1. Brett

    I find your stuff on mindfulness very interesting. I am a college Christ-follower and joined a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for years (trying everything except antidepressants). Anyways, the class was going well until about a week and a half in. All of a sudden, depression and anxiety hit- and hit hard. After doing some reading I read about what’s called “emotional upheaval” that sometimes accompanies meditation practice. I think that’s what did it. Wondering if you’ve checked into this at all.

  2. Shuyi

    Dear Phil,

    Thanks for this entry. I was just doing a Google search of “Mindfulness and Christianity” to find out whether mindfulness is purely a Buddhist kind of discipline. What I gather from your writing is that mindfulness and meditation are like tools to help us not to “react to life rather” but to”observe it without giving in to impulsive reactions”.

    I hope to be even more mindful of this now. It’s very easy to get distracted and worry instead of focusing on the present moment.

    Shuyi

  3. Doug

    It seems that mindfulness is usually associated with Buddhism, but Buddha was just a man that figured out a spiritual principle of our Creator, the Lord God. Mindfulness works because it disengages you from the future, which really is a time not guaranteed to any of us.

    Jesus told us to “take no thought for tomorrow.” If you study that in the Greek “no thought” means no thought. As we have developed mind habits for years, that is a tall order. But, through practice and diligent effort you will develop new pathways in your brain that will make this more natural.

    Mindfulness will also help us deal with troubling thoughts normally associated with anxiety disorders. That is where it has helped me as I don’t need to get upset over every stupid thought that I create in my mind. I don’t judge them; I just let it flow on out like water. It is awesome when I can just be an observer of what I think.

    I read a paper that said this is where Christianity and mindfulness are at odds because Paul the Apostle said we should “take each though captive.” But, in proper context Paul was saying that we need to take each thought captive to the obedience of Christ in terms of false doctrines.

    Paul also said we need to be mindful of what we think on. He said whatever is pure, lovely, and so on … think on these things. So clearly he was telling us to not let disturbing thoughts be meditated on. He also said “be anxious for nothing”. And that definitely involves not judging anxious thoughts but letting them go.
    I believe Evangelical Christianity would quickly reject any idea that came from Buddha because often we think there is a devil under every rock. But Buddha was just a man, not a savior, not a god…just a dude who wanted to chill. He had some great ideas as did other great men and women of the past. I am not going to become a Buddhist, I am a believer in Jesus, but as I mentioned earlier I believe Buddha just tapped into a spiritual principle that works.
    Mindfulness Works, but my mind habits (because of an improperly train conscience) will tell me that is not of God, and blah blah blah.

    • EM

      Thanks Doug, yours is a very helpful perspective. I’ve recently discovered the benefits of mindfulness, but then heard it might be in conflict with my Christian faith. I feel like I can now go forth with a clear conscience/mind.
      Ed

      • Jesus does not want us to be “disengaged” from the future. Such disengagement would mean never looking forward to eternity with Jesus. If we look forward to our own wedding day, we should do no less for the great wedding feast that awaits all who love Him.

  4. Peter

    Hi. I am a Christian who struggles with depression and anxiety. A Buddhist friend has been pressuring me to try Mindfulness meditation. I have dismissed
    it because I fear it’s Buddhist origins.Now I must investigate it further. This friend does seem rather detached from reality mind you and quite smug about being enlightened etc…
    Thankyou. Peter

    • Peter, thanks for your comment. Remember, just because your Buddhist friend uses mindfulness to detach, don’t assume that that is what mindfulness is really all about. In many ways, the healing power of mindfulness is really a form of taking captive every thought. It is far to easy to let our minds go in bad directions. When we take captive our thoughts we have an opportunity to hear and respond to wrong thinking, judgmentalism, etc.

    • Georgina Rout

      Find yourself a wise Christian Spiritual Director. Leave the Buddhists alone. (Been there / done that). Sadly many people have never heard of the ancient art of Christian Meditation. I am currently enjoying
      An Ignatian Prayer Adventure – Spiritual Exercises Online Retreat
      http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/…/an-ignatian-prayer-adve…‎
      An Ignatian Prayer Adventure is an adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises. Join in this online retreat for Lent or other times of spiritual renewal. Wish I knew where you lived. Also check out Living Wisdom. David Riddell is one of the wisest and clearest Christian leaders I have met. He has trained others and could direct you in your area. I live in CHCH.

  5. Doug

    I agree, Phil. I have begun practicing more mindfulness and keeping a gratitude journal. It’s been quite helpful as I’ve wrestled with anxiety etc.

  6. John Lawrence Gillis

    I wanted to begin with “Dear Dr. Phil” but I’m sure you’ve endured too many bad jokes about it, and I’m concerned that the “real” Dr. Phil might sue you not only for copyright infringement but for being more telegenic!

    Like many of your respondents, I think the word “mindfulness” is laden with too much Eastern baggage to be embraced by Western Christianity and culture, and this is genuinely tragic. A new “age of anxiety” seems to be setting in, and our collective inability “to be aware of the present … without being reactive” is clearly having a depressive effect – on our psyches AND our economy.

    But I also believe that the mindfulness principle of observing without reacting can easily be reframed (and even improved upon) within JudeoChristian tradition. I have very specific ideas and ambitions on this subject, and if you’re interested I’ll be glad to share them with you and your readership in my next entry.

    You have a great website, and an equally great head of hair which, in these last days, is certain to unleash the full apocalyptic wrath of “the real” Dr. Phil. Please consider putting on the full helmet of God!

    • marilynn

      John,

      I am new to this site but I am interested in your ideas about reframing observing without reacting within Judeo Christian tradition.

      I have recently subjected myself to some Psycho-therapy and am not happy. I feel as if I am being sucked into a self perpetuating secular vortex. I want out. I want the healing for my emotions that I know is available to me in Christ. I am very interested in your ideas and ambitions.

      marilynn

      • John Lawrence Gillis

        Dear Marilynn,

        I would love to correspond with you about this subject, or perhaps even talk to you about it. Please write again to me at JohnLawrenceG@juno.com and include your own private email address and we can get the conversation started. God bless you. John

      • marilynn thornburg grimm

        I cannot believe that it has been a year since my last post. Hmmm sounds familiar, father firgve me it has veeb `19 yeas f=aince my last confession. I soitle a paperclip from teachers desk, but i gave it back does that count.

        My real mail is grimmzAYAHOO,COM i WOULD LOVE TO DIALOGUE WITH YOU.

  7. garnet1905

    Hi Phil.
    just came across your site…I would be very interested in knowing what books you have been reading about mindfulness. Thanks in advance
    John

  8. kbuckett

    Hi Phil,

    Helping 12 yr. old recover from severe TBI, which exacerbated his OCD. Learned about Jeffrey Schwartz’ “Brain Lock” and his emphasis on mindfulness and was hoping to discover what I found on your site, that mindfulness is really healthy biblical meditation. Jake is making a remarkable recovery, but his OCD and other issues make his recovery most challenging. Thanks for your research and writing. I think I can move forward in good conscience. wish you were on the west coast!

  9. Carol

    The devil toys with you. Look up the word Meditate in the Bible. I am not going to tell you what you will find. One hint, the devil likes humans to focus on themselves, human “ability” to overcome all sorts of things. Don’t be fooled. Mindfulness, is another tool in Satan’s bag of deception. If he can put the focus on “self” and take the focus off Christ, then he has once again accomplished his goal. Go. Look up the word meditate in scripture. Then, tell me if it is wise to contemplate the moment or breathing or sound etc.

    • Hi Carol,
      I’ve been trying to discern if Meditation and Mindfulness is useful for the Christian or if it is deception.

      I suffer from depression and have practiced mindfulness and found that it was very beneficial to my mental state.

      I think that contrary to it being a selfish thing one actually learns the impermanence of self by mindfulness. One sees the obsessive, selfish, constant chatter of the mind come and go, rise and fall. Mindfulness is specifically a tool to help one become less self centered.

      I really do not think it is helpful to see demons under every practice that is not specifically Christian. There are many things we practice that are not specifically Christian in our daily lives that we give no second thought to. Why cant Mindfulness be one of those?

      Would Christ want you to be un-mindful?
      -John-

    • Ann

      Carol, Maybe you won’t see this response 2 + years later, but truly, when people are suffering with physical and emotional pain (anxiety, depression, etc), this can be an absorption with the self. Mindfulness allows a person to create space between their experience and thier reactions, between thought/emotion and over identification. Our truest nature is much more than our bodily or emotional experience. Our truest Self ( Christ consciousness, Cosmic consciousness, G-d consciousness, enlightenment) can be found when we quiet our minds and tune into what is that which is observing all of this unfold. But the main thrust of mindfulness practices is to WAKE UP and be present to embrace all that is emerging in our precious lives…..without trying to force things to be different, without judging harshly, without running away into mind dulling practices. The main focus is to learn how to watch our automatic thoughts and reactions and to watch how these emerge but then make a choice how to proceed. Usually when we stop, pause, become more aware, we make much more skillful decisions, are kinder to others and connected to our world. If this is not Christian living, what is?

  10. Susan

    I am a Christian. It took me a long time to realize that I am not my feelings. What that means to me is that my feelings, emotional responses, ect. are just part of who I am and aren’t all of me. That led me to the realization that my emotions and thoughts had been controlling my life. Once I learned that I don’t have to react to every feeling that I have, that led to me being able to mature and grow up.

    Now, I realize that my thoughts and feelings are messengers to me; constantly giving me imput. They tell me what my physical needs and wants are on a regular basis. They also act to inform me as to how I am perceiving the world around me. I think that this is part of being mindful.

    I have a hard time with wanting to please others. When I tune into my feelings and my gut, I will sometimes feel ill at ease or pressured, anxious, nervous, ect. That informs me that I should step back and not rush into anything. This gives me time to pray, get away from outside influences and think about the situation.

    When I am reading the bible and resting, the Holy Spirit is able to communicate with me more freely because I am open. I trust that God loves me and will guide me and take care of me.

    I don’t think that I could ever really experience the peace that God can bring, if I hadn’t learned that I was a whole person and not just a heart or a brain or a soul. By that, I mean that being saved means that we still need to navigate through life and learn how to take care of ourselves in these bodies that God gave us.

  11. imageinme

    What is Mindfulness Meditation?
    Mindfulness is a type of meditation that essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself.

    Research suggests that mindfulness meditation may improve mood, decrease stress, and boost immune function.

    Meditation is not “new age” or Eastern thought. Meditation has been practiced by Christians for centuries. The big difference is that our minds as Christians have been renewed to the image of “Christ”. We meditate on the Word of God.

  12. Nadine

    God Please Help!
    I noticed that the postings are old, but decided to try anyway. Recently at my old age of 52 was finally diagnosed with Complex PTDS. Stressors, trigers, life is spinning out of control. Doctors trying new meds, counselors doing their best. Yet fear, anxiety, sadness, and alone in dealing with the emotions and flashbacks are overwhelming. Please if you have any Godly advise the little girl inside of me could use it. Ps 139 isn’t helping. Why would He create me to watch me suffer so for so many years. I’m depressed, panic attacks and anxiety, clean and sobor from alcohol for two yr’s, (started drinking at the young age of 10) and agoraphobia. Current stressors, loss of jobs, loss of home in forclosure, bankruptcy, 30 yr old Autistic son still living at home, 24 year old son marring a wonderful Cambodian girl and becoming a full time missionary in Cambodia, and my husband of 32 years of marriage is still giving in to the addictions of porn.
    Please God send me some loving advise!
    Nadine

    • Hi Nadine, just saw your post, more than a year later and wonder how you are doing. I can hear how challenging your life is on many fronts and sincerely hope that in your search you have come across the specifics you need in order to get onto a path of inner health and recovery. I have had quite some challenges in my own life and, as a Christian, had also tried to work things out within the traditional Christian context i.e. Bible reading, crying out to God, Christian counselling and even fasting. In fact I went to a retreat centre on a three day fast before I finally ‘crashed’. I had tried all of the ‘known’ routes to find that I’d come to that place where I needed help from professionals. I was fortunate enough to be admitted to a clinic for three weeks where I had the privilege of being part of a programme which, combined with medication, had group therapy (which I found invaluable!) teaching on various life skills such as a healthy self image, boundaries, mindfulness etc. The programme which was ingeniously put together helped me get my life back. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that – I’d lost the will to live. I wasn’t suicidal but my life with its current circumstances had looked to me like a mountain that was insurmountable, a prison that was inescapable.

      I think that one of the contributing factors to my then increasing anxiety and depression was the fact that due to my circumstances I had been progressively becoming more and more isolated. My time at the clinic showed me clearly how much I’d missed out on being in a friendly group environment. Being removed from my challenging situation, in a place of safety, I was able to look at my life objectively. Discern old wrong ways of viewing things. It really was a kairos time for me. The clinic wasn’t Christian but I know that at exactly the right time, God had allowed me to come to the end of myself, and opened this door of opportunity for me to deal with my past. In a certain situation I had been walking with unforgiveness towards myself which was unfounded – this came to light during group therapy. I also got in touch with anger, resentment and bitterness that I had no idea that I was harbouring. When I left the clinic I re-entered my ‘old world’ a relatively new person. The journey of total recovery will never be over while we’re still living in this fallen world but I do sincerely believe that every trial that comes our way has concealed within it something of inestimable worth.

      I am newly on the path of ‘listening’ – my Christianity to date has been meaningful and fulfilling but my new path of learning how to ‘be still and know God’ for who He really is, is perhaps the most exciting chapter of my 65 year old life.

    • I did post a reply to Nadia’s post before I signed up – hope it didn’t get lost?

  13. anonymous

    Has anyone read Marcia Montenegro’s article on mindfulness? She is an ex-Buddhist, ex-astrologer, ex-psychic, you name it, she has probably done it. Now she is a Christ follower and a Bible-believing woman.

    She states emphatically that “mindfulness is in complete conflict with a Christian worldview”. I am curious to know what everyone else thinks.

    => http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Mindfulness.html

    (Sorry Phil for cross-posting, but I wanted to hear people’s thoughts.)

  14. Marcia

    Mindfulness meditation is Buddhist, and can alter your worldview and will undermine your Christian worldview and attitudes. I do not advise doing it. I did this for about 12 yrs. before I became a Christian. It much better to read God’s word, memorize some Psalms, and pray when one is anxious. A regular habit of reading God’s word, which is our spiritual food, and memorizing scripture, will give you the worldview that God has and that he wants you to have. The goal of mindfulness is to cultivate detachment, which means to detach from all desires, which are the cause of suffering in Buddhism. There are no good desires in Buddhism, which is not true in Christianity. As for the person who experienced a surge of depression after doing mindfulness, let me say this is a warning. It is quite common to have this type of thing occur in Eastern meditation as well as with New Age forms of healing. It is a sign of the beginning of an occult initiation and is a warning from God to stop doing it, not to keep doing it!

    Mindfulness is not biblical meditation at all. Biblical meditation is meditation on God’s word and pondering it. Mindfulness is a technique based in and designed to cultivate a Buddhist worldview, which is incompatible with a Christian one.

    • Marcia,

      I disagree with you that Mindfulness and Christianity are incompatible. Many evangelical Christians use the term “Meditation” the way you describe it as “pondering God’s word”. This is more of an analysis that is very helpful, but not the only form of Christian meditation. Christians have been using meditative techniques for close to two thousand years. Most of these are much different than analyzing God’s word. If you read the works of Thomas Merton he speaks to this quite a bit.

      I’ve read through all of the responses on this page and did not see a single person that you’re referring to that suffered depression after doing mindfulness. On the contrary, if you read through all of the responses, you’ll see that several people have experienced relief from anxiety and depression through mindfulness practice.

      I’ve suffered with anxiety for 15 years, and telling someone to just “read God’s word, memorize some Psalms, and pray when one is anxious” is dismissive and naive. Doing those things can help sometimes, but to suggest that it’s all you need to do is honestly quite ignorant. Sometimes reading the Bible can be helpful when anxious, sometimes it doesn’t. Mindfulness doesn’t always work either, but it’s more of a way to accept the anxiety and not react to it.

      When I first became a Christian, I bought all those books on spiritual warfare that you’ve probably read. I believed what they said, and those books actually made me more anxious and depressed. I started worrying that everything was from the devil and my anxiety was worse.

      If you narrow meditation down to just analyzing the bible (which many Christians do), then you’re really discounting a very important Christian practice that has been around for centuries. To quote the writer above, imagineme, he says:

      “Mindfulness is a type of meditation that essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself.

      Research suggests that mindfulness meditation may improve mood, decrease stress, and boost immune function.

      Meditation is not “new age” or Eastern thought. Meditation has been practiced by Christians for centuries. The big difference is that our minds as Christians have been renewed to the image of “Christ”. We meditate on the Word of God.”

      • Amy

        In short Mike I agree with what you are saying.
        At length – There was a short little book I read recently that said something specifically about “talking to yourself” vs “listening to yourself”. It was a Christian book, but I can’t find it right now to give the title. I think that as it has been said, mindfulness does not need to be a strictly Buddhistic concept wherein the goals of meditation are producing a lack of desire – but, instead in reminding yourself what your desires are to be in this moment. Like awakening yourself from the reactions of the fallen subconscious mind. It should be said as well that reading biblical scriptures should accompany any such meditation as a Christian. The importance would be being mindful of truth and the Holy Spirit’s movement in and through, or away from you based on your current state of being and decision process.

        I believe that the biological awareness through breathing techniques may be helpful in accomplishing an emptying out of worldly distractions before meditating on scriptural principals. The goal should be not to empty the mind, but to pour out the daily anxiety driven self-dialog that accompanies our hormonal processes and lower brain functions. When these subconscious reactions overwhelm our conscious mind it is difficult to act according to, or learn the principals that will bring us closer to “enlightenment” which for the Christian means Christ. I’m not saying in this that I believe there is any other form of enlightenment at all- only that i don’t see how guided breathing techniques that promote relaxation, reminders to stop judging others whose mental processes I do not know, and to stop worrying about tomorrow since only God knows what tomorrow will bring, could possibly stand in the way of my relationship to God, as long as my meditation on him does not end with that.

        I do however disagree only slightly with the idea that we ought not judge our own actions or speech, only in that we need to be able to understand where we are committing sin against others in order to combat those behaviors at a later time. Not to promote guilt feelings which do nothing to sanctify us, but to pray for cessation of those behaviors and attitudes.

      • Amy,

        Thanks. That made a lot of sense, including your clarification about judging yourself. If you find that book title, I ‘d be interested in pursuing it.

  15. medley

    I think that someone should put together a sound apologetic in order to dispel such ideas as: certain actions are inseparably bound to certain principles by mere mortals and apparently mere mortals cannot unbind them. All future beings are apparently incapable of rebinding, it seems. What special powers did these first buddhists have (I must speak in this way) that they could bind what future generations could not dissolve? The main two arguments revolve around describing the roots of a spiritual movement which is distinct from the secular movement and claiming they are the same, and focusing on words which are not purely descriptive but proximal and therefore subject to dual or multiple interpretation. Words such as “self” are construed to mean sinfully selfish instead of “necessary self regulation and discipline”, and “emptiness of mind” is construed to mean some dissociative state conducive to possession instead of hyper-awareness and a state experiencing minimal abstraction. Many christians are sensitive to criticism about meditation and mindfulness and an apologetic seems in order.

  16. monica

    love this discussion…especially because I can relate to Mike and agree totally. I am a believer and have have chronic GAD . I tried praying, reading,memorizing, being prayed over,journaling, christian therapy…all to no avail. Even with med’s..I could not shake the anxiety.
    I started to get upset with God…because while he tells us in the bible Not to fear…I knew he knew…that everyday was a battle and I felt I lost it. I very recently was DX with C-PTSD. Someone shared with me that they too had lived with chronic anxiety and had C-PTSD and was helped completely with Mindfulness. The tools that mindfulness uses, breathing to remain in the present moment ,awareness, non judgemenatl etc…provided the keys to beable to seperate myself from the anxiety. That space…enabled me to see that I could tolerate my anxiety because it was just a feeling state. Probably fueled with a whole lot of cortisol.Thats it…Some of it was previous programming that was no longer useful for this present moment but was tied to yesterday. Today..I could observe the feelings, breathe through them or just let them float away. Thats what mindfulness does..it allows you to remain.
    I have never ever been able to tolerate the feelings so I would run or disassociate.
    I am so thankful To God to leading me finally to the tools that i can use to remain present.

    • Monica, thank you sharing your experience on the use of mindfulness in anxiety and C-PTSD. I am just beginning as a clinical social worker and have been pondering the biblical congruency of mindfulness. I am glad that it has helped you which gives me more confidence in integrating it into my work with clients with Christian beliefs, and for myself personally. I still do have some questions about the deeper philosophy about Buddhism, which ultimately I think says something different than Christ as far as our purpose and value and life- but the practices can be very helpful for people of many traditions.

  17. I’m a believing Christian who has recently found benefits from mindfulness. I’ve researched this congruency issue all day on the net. Seems like most of us do not know how to resolve it as well as we would want. Is there something we have not discovered yet? . .

  18. Claire

    God helps those who help themselves and holds us when we cant. I totally agree with Monica.

    • I agree with Claire and Monica. Also verified that many Christians throughout history have practiced mindfulness. The Vatican does not forbid it as long as it does lead to syncretism with Buddhism. The most accomplished Buddhist masters teach mindfulness as separate from the rest of the Buddhist religious ritual and metaphysics. Two books by Murdo MacDonald-Bayne depict this purest element about mindfulness practiced by Tibetan Buddhist masters and its applicability to Christianity, “Beyond the Himalayas” and “The Yoga of Christ” which are available as free e-books at http://macdonaldbayne.homestead.com/prices.html. Some of the descriptions of Tibetan miracles may seem far-fetched to some. but the teachings on exactly what mindfulness is and is not are very enlightening.

      • One area that causes confusion for Christians using mindfulness may be confusing the tool of using mindfulness with the “hope in Christ”. A Christian may worry about learning to trust in this tool as the means to salvation instead of in Christ and the atonement at the cross. I am interested in others opinions about this. I’ve come across several explanations, two of which are”
        (1) its just a tool, like prayer, so trust in God through the tool, not in the tool

        (2) Salvation and atonement are part of the Christian exoteric religious structure, sort of like training wheels, out of which one goes through stages of first using mindfulness as a tool, and eventually embracing the esoteric goal of Christ consciousness (Christ the hope of glory within each individual) which is equivalent to higher consciousness attained through mindfulness obtained by a follower of another exoteric religious structure such as Buddhism, even though it is not labeled as “Christ” consciousness. It is essentially the same, that is, there is biblical justification in the NT for those practicing the way to truth without being exposed to the same path as the Judeo-Christian,,.they know they way to truth without using the same language name for it and Christ lives within them even though it is known to them by some other means than the institutional organization of the Christian church and all its doctrines.This does not invalidate the exoteric structure of Christianity, which lays the groudwork for belief, faith, hope, mercy, grace, repetence, devotion, etc. We have to grow up spiritually through some path that is compatible with our culture and inherited mindset from our parents. But this also leaves the door open for a Buddhist to become “Christ” conscious without going identifying with the exoteric Christian message. The renown Christian philosopher, Paul Tillich, believed this.

        (3) The Christian exoteric message is the only accurate one, even though people from other cultures have come into the truth through partial ignorance, and they would be better if they converted to Christianity in its full exoteric structure.

  19. I have some appreciation for the experience of a Christian convert who is an ex- Buddhist, ex-Hindu or other ex-religious non-Christian who may have practiced some form of mindfulness as an integral part of their former religion, but now is inclined to not practice mindfulness as part of a vow to forsake all for the privilege of knowing Christ. Apostle Paul says he forsook all of the purported benefits of the traditional Judaism in his time for that privilege, but still had respect for Judaism and the Jewish people who did not become Christians, and that God’s delivering hand and promises through the patriarchs was was still upon them. But he did not forsake prayer, just because prayer was a practice of traditional Judaism, he simply practiced it with a different perspective, that it was made effective through.the mediation of Christ. There can be a similar justification for ex Buddhists practicing mindfulness after they convert to Christianity. Like prayer, mindfulness is not the sole property of any religion, it just happens to have been practiced by Eastern religions.

    Perhaps a new convert from Buddhism might benefit from forgoing the practice of mindfulness because of so many associations with the religious and metaphysical forms of Buddhism, especially the rejection of the concept of a personal savior. But once confident of their salvation through Christ, and firmly established in the biblical representation of the “Word of God”, having learned to meditate on biblical scripture to transform thoughts into the obedience of Christ, perhaps they could eventually find benefit in also practicing mindful meditation as a tool, like prayer, to help encounter the aspects of Christ that are beyond thoughts, the indescribable mysteries of Christ that Paul eludes to. There is no biblical imperative that meditation always must involve musing on biblical scripture. Also there is no biblical imperative that says the canonized scripture is the exact equivalent of the Logos of God, who is with God from the beginning. There is often a mistaken impression that the bible, referred to as “God’s Word” or the “Word of God”, is the Logos. This is because the translators of the King James chose to translate “Logos” as “Word” for lack of a better commonly understood word in English. The bible is certainly a respected and sacred attempt to represent the Logos as understood by those who canonized it in the 4th century. And meditating on it is beneficial. But it is not the Logos. To revere it as such is idolatry. It is subject to the limits of the processes of thoughts, language and interpretations, maybe even the politics of human power. It is a sacred tool to learn more about the nature of God through language, but it does not encompass everything we are to experience about God. We can experience God through prayer and through many methods of meditation.

    Meditation by “Lectino Divina”is a four step process of reading (scripture), meditating (on Christ), prayer and contemplation. It was encouraged by the 3rd century Church father, Origen, practiced in monasteries in the middle ages and surviving today as part of the Catholic Catechism which defines “contemplation” as “remaining silent in a receptive mode.” This is very close to, if not equivalent to mindfulness.

    So to say that Christian meditation is only dwelling on scripture, analyzing it so as to “conform” to it, may be an erroneous dogma that limits the believer from fully apprehending the depth and breadth of Christ that surpasses ordinary understanding.

    The interpretation of the OT passage “Be still and know that I am God”
    has many levels, depending on what is meant by “still” and “know”. “Still” can mean mindfulness and “know” can indicate experiencing God through mindfulness.

  20. I have a friend who has had a lifetime of struggle since he was a child in coming to grips with apparent incongruities in the Christianity he grew up with. The older and more mentally acute he became, the worse it got. Why does the bible say one thing here and another opposite thing there. The explanations seemed like so many patches on a quilt. He rebelled against Christianity, he tried different lifestyles but eventually returned to Christianity hoping to find a solution. When he studied for an MA degree in religious history, specializing in the first century Church, his dilemma became more intense. He now had scholarly references confirming the incongruities he had personally experienced. But then he learned mindfulness meditation. It gave him a way to find some unity and order in his Christian belief. He started a blog http://www.spiritofthescripture.com in which he shows that biblical scripture points to meditating other than on scripture itself. I would proofread his comments for him and i so doing got very interested in how he meditated. He sent me a three sentence email describing how he used breathing to quiet his thoughts and then throughout the rest of the day observed himself, others, and surroundings without judgement,etc.. I was amazed at the benefit of trying this one time. I disagree with many of his conclusions on his blog, but I know he is going in the direction of greater enlightenment. He seems at peace with his belief in Christ; although it is not a traditional one, it is dynamic, personal, and effective for him. He will be publishing a children’s book very soon
    that portrays a spiritual message in a very gentle and aesthetic way, and magnificently illustrated. His belief has added a dimension of creativity to his life, instead of being tortured by incongruities within traditional Christianity.

    This changes the focus from worrying about incongruities between Christiainity and mindfulness to looking at incongruities in traditional Christianity, to explore whether mindfulness is a cure for it or its ill effects.

  21. I know I have made some lengthy comments. It summarizes much of what I have learned about resolving incongruities between Christianity and mindfulness since my original post about one month ago. I welcome any comments. I am impressed with the benefits of practicing mindfulness, but I also find some pitfalls. I am a person who tends to get carried away and do something too much out of balance (hence my lengthy comments). And I can misuse spirituality as an escape. All I know about mindfulness it what I practice from my friends description, and some things I’ve read on the internet. I have problems what balancing my life and wonder if others have dealt with the same temptations.

  22. mark

    This is very interesting stuff..Most Christians I know practice mindlessness, and this is supposed to be just fine. Get real people be “mindful” and let God tell you something probably for the first time in your life.

  23. Robert

    Now we have another new religion, “Tilghman-ism.” I read about as much of the information on the above-mentioned site as I could. I feel sorry for this man who has abandoned the truth for a lie. Like many who follow that path, he seems unsatisfied with keeping this deception to himself. He wants to create a new religion with followers of his own. How eternally tragic this may prove to be for him and for those who choose to buy into his fabrication.

    • Hi Robert. This is an interesting blog. Every few months someone replies. I get to look back and remind myself what it is about and what I was thinking then when I wrote my last message. I’m impressed you actually read Josh Tilghman’s blog. Josh is a good friend of mine and someone I have been able to relate to spiritually, and we respect and support each other even though we often disagree about issues. He’s a school teacher and published a really wonderful children’s book with some fantastic illustrations. Some of his blog activities are directed to marketing his book and some of it is an opportunity for him to explore his own spirituality, organize his thoughts, and express them in a public forum. I think when he gets all the kinks out he will probably distill the best of his ideas and formulate them into a book. He is exploring and learning a lot in the process, and meanwhile providing his readers with something new to think about. It’s true he explained to me in a short email how he meditates, and when I tried it, it opened me up to some really good things. But I never felt compelled to follow him into a “new religion”. The meditation was a tool that helped me understand myself better and make some sense out of my own frustration with some religious institutions that I have found too dogmatic, too judgmental, and not providing a deep enough insight so I can be successful at following Christ to the measure I have always wanted to. I live almost two hours from Josh, so I don’t get to see him much in person. In the months since my last entry into this blog, I have done some exploring of my own and found near my residence a whole church full of devout Christians who meditate and have had the same frustrations with some parts of traditional Christianity that I have had. You can visit the church’s website at http://www.northraleighcommunitychurch.org for yourself and listen to the audio lessons from what I consider a very accomplished theologian and experienced church leader, and decide for yourself. He isn’t starting a new religion, but is a part of a lot of different spiritual groups throughout the world seeking God in new ways, some of them actually old ways that have been rediscovered. The community spirit is very strong in this church. The people are very tolerant, accepting, and open. They support each other even though they have different backgrounds, political views, and are used to variations in religious beliefs. I took courses there in “Conflict Resolution” and in understanding peoples different personalities in addition to the regular stuff. This has been a tremendous period of personal growth for me and many of my friends and relatives have remarked that I have changed a lot for the better. Whatever I am doing is not foreir ptath everybody. Some of my relatives tried to attend but just didn’t get it. One group of Christian friends in a house fellowship who I used to be very close with could not process my growing beliefs and asked me not to come back. I seem to get along better now with all kinds of people with entirely different beliefs and customs than mine… Muslims, Jews, Indians, Hispanics, gay, black, even my mother-in-law. .And I get along a lot better with my wife. I used to suffer from moderate, chronic depression. In the last six months I have had only two very short periods of depression that lasted less than a day. The people that I have had the most problem with are some very fundamentalist Christians who are convinced I am off their path and headed for trouble, but they don;t seem to be able to offer any solution except the same old judgmental admonitions they have been taught. Sometimes I think they mean well, but I think they are getting hung up in denominational dogma rather than being able to flow freely in the spirit of Christ. Maybe they are looking for a demon or a flaw in me in order to validate their own beliefs. I’m not sure. I know that is what I used to do. Now that I try not to do that anymore, I feel closer to God’ s heart.

  24. Bisola Wald

    Hello!

    Our elementary and high school desires to learn more about trauma and how to better address it as teachers in the classroom. Oftentimes, we only see the behaviors such as anger but we fail to understand the root of trauma affecting the child. We have come across pamphlets that label these sorts of children as angry and simply give Scripture verses reminding them to trust God and even stating that to not trust God is just obedience and sin. We do not agree that blaming children for the frustrations they experience due to trauma and anxiety is the correct approach. The large majority of our inner-city children struggle because of classism, racism, poverty, abuse, fatherlessness, deportation, and more. Is there any handout or book that you can recommend for our school? As someone myself who is a ACE level 6 trauma but is not trained professionally like yourself, I found your articles to be more Godly and encouraging than what most churches provide or talk about.

    Thank you

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