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What is mindfulness?

Christian mindfulness
Question: "What is mindfulness? Should a Christian be involved in mindfulness?"

Mindfulness is a loosely defined term that has gained cultural popularity. For some, mindfulness is seen as intentional awareness of the current reality or the act of being in the moment. Others use it to talk about a specific meditative state or the meditative practices used to enter that state. Mindfulness could be understood as observation of one’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and emotions with no judgment of their being right or wrong. For some, mindfulness is used as a stress reducer in the midst of a hectic life. Others use it as an aid to prompt full engagement in life over rumination on the past or worry about the future. For others, it is seen as a means of self-discovery.

Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism, as promoters of mindfulness readily admit, although it is often adapted for secular purposes. The ideology behind mindfulness is to achieve stillness and balance of the mind. Some of the mindfulness techniques touted in popular psychology are perfectly compatible with the Bible. But the foundational assumption behind mindfulness is that we can create our own peace through our own efforts. Mindfulness might contribute to reduced stress and an increased sense of well-being, but mindfulness will never achieve for us the satisfaction our souls crave. Only God can meet our deepest needs.

From a biblical perspective, we know that only Jesus gives the peace that can exist in all circumstances (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7). No human can control emotions or thoughts on his or her own because we are born slaves to a sinful nature (Romans 6:17–23). Only through the power of the Holy Spirit who sets our minds free to think truthfully can we know true peace. If we want to practice being more aware or insightful, there are much better options than mindfulness techniques, such as Bible study, prayer, and worship of God.

When Christians think biblically, they see things defined through the lens of Scripture. The word mindful, which means “attentive,” is not describing anything inherently wrong. The psalmists were attentive to their surrounding and their own emotions. We can be, too. Jesus was attentive to the needs of others around Him as well as to spending private time with the Father apart from the crowds. We can mimic that same behavior. Christians can be mindful of Christ by taking every thought captive for Christ and renewing their minds with the truth (2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2). We are mindful when we examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) and ask God to search and reveal our hearts (Psalm 139:23–24). Philippians 4:6–8 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” This behavior might be seen as mindfulness. But mindfulness, as a Buddhist meditation technique or even as a psychological self-help method meant to be a cure-all for self-awareness and self-fulfillment, is not biblical.

Recommended Resource: Experience the Life Series, Believe as Jesus Believed - Transformed Mind by Hull & Mascarella

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