Category Archives: Mindfulness

Evaluating your life: Are you satisfied?

If you are in the Eastern part of of the US, you probably got an opportunity to feel some warmth, shed some layers, and see small signs of Spring. Its hard not to feel just a little less dismal about life. So, in honor of impending Spring, I’m going to post a few times this week about the continuous evaluations we make about life and their impact on our experience and feelings about said life.

Are you satisfied?

Just how would you go about answering that question? The very idea of satisfaction brings up many questions. What does satisfaction look and feel like? How does it differ from peace, hope, joy, contentment, etc.? Is it a feeling? A conclusion? What areas of life are we talking about?

Despite these many questions, part of the curse of living in Western culture is that we are taught to obsessively evaluate our lives and question if we are getting all that is available to us. (I’ve written in the past about tendency for individuals in my program to rate their optimism high but their happiness low–a sign of discontentment but hope for the future).

Of course, repeated evaluations generally lead to a sense of missing out on some important part of life (isn’t that what advertising is all about?)

What lack do you use to evaluate your life?

Most of us know we lack something that many others have. We may indeed have many good things–things that others would grab in a heartbeat. But those things we take for granted while we ruminate on what we wish for. “If only I had…then I would be able to…”

What is on your list? Home ownership? Education? Sex? Being pursued by someone? Children? Successful career? How does the lack you perceive you have shape your sense of life satisfaction? What does it cause you to ignore (or diminish) in your life that is blessing you?

Changing the criteria

If you have ever travelled to a part of the world where it is obvious that you are wealthy in comparison, you know that such an experience immediately changes your focus and evaluation. You see immense blessings. You feel guilty for spending 3 bucks on a coffee when someone in front of you hasn’t eaten for 3 days.

So, what might you use this week to change your focus? How might you look more at what you have rather than put your hopes in what you do not have but want so very much? How is God sustaining and enriching your life even though a desire you have (quite possibly a very holy desire) has not been satisfied?

Concluding thought

Satisfaction is not some higher plane of life; a nirvana. It happens in fleeting moments. We live with unmet desire but also with opportunities for pleasure and contentment. Challenge yourself to notice satisfying moments and take pleasure in them by engaging in thankful meditation.


Filed under christian psychology, Christianity, church and culture, Cultural Anthropology, Desires, Mindfulness

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.


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

What does your internal conversation reveal about you?

In your quiet moments (hey, it may only be the shower for some of you), where does your mind go? What topics, feelings, ideas show up when your mind has no place it has to be? What do you notice, turn over in your mind, “process”, etc.? What internal conversation do you have with yourself? As you take stock, just describe what is there: Continue reading


Filed under Anxiety, christian counseling, Desires, Insight, Mindfulness

Mindful of God’s presence in the beauty of the Maine wood

There is a pine and birch wood behind my parent’s house. A path crosses the back corner of their lot and traverses along a brook and bog. I’m sure it was once a logging road, but now parts have little trees growing in the middle. The wood is reclaiming portions of the trail and in a few years only the keenest eye will spot glimpses of the leaf filled ruts. In other parts, the trail looks new thanks to 4 wheelers and snowmobiles. Soon after leaving my parent’s lot, the trail passes by a boggy pond. Beavers once had a house here and you can still see old tree trunks gnawed to a pencil point. But now the pond is merely a few deep pools with grass growing in odd places. Ice forms around the edges but much to thin for my tempted foot.  After the pond, the trail moves up and on through birches and open woods. It passes through a thick stand of tall pine trees and back again to birch, popular, and maple trees.

I love walking this trail. There are houses near by and some now visible as they encroach on “my” trail. And yet, I can lose myself in the quietness of the wood. Squirrels chatter, small birds chirp, a few old oak leaves, still unwilling to fall to the ground, rustle in the wind. With any luck, a little snow will let me see the tracks of deer, rabbits, a lone dog, a skunk.

Walking this trail feeds my soul and helps me to see that God has made a beautiful world. It stirs the imagination in many ways. I must remember to find ways to see this beauty in Philadelphia.


Filed under Meditations, Mindfulness

Sheer pleasure

Note to self: be mindful of the simple pleasures of life.

Sam in motion

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Ponder this: Fosdick on handling limitations

Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world – making the most of one’s best

Attributed to Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878-1969

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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?


Filed under Mindfulness