In today’s culture, the new age idea of mindfulness has permeated the collective consciousness in a way that has disturbed some Christians. Due to the popularization of Buddhist or pagan ideals, many of those of us who worship the Lord find ourselves cringing away from words such as ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness,’ because to us, these words conjure images of non-Christian rituals or ideologies. This does not need to be the case: mindfulness, when you look at its components, is actually a very Christian practice. Christian mindfulness is the practice of bringing Christian meditation into your daily life.
Those of us who practice Biblical meditation often do so in twenty-minute increments. We set aside a single part of our day specifically to sit in God’s presence, reflect on a given piece of scripture, and reminding ourselves that the love of the Lord is the most important thing in our lives. Mindfulness is what occurs when you take the essence of meditation and practice it as a part of your life. When you practice Christian mindfulness, you are living Biblical meditation. Instead of isolating the benefits of meditation to a twenty-minute session on a daily basis, you can expand your practice so that you are living mindfully every minute of every day. Naturally, this will greatly increase the efficacy of your practice. The more time you spend actively basking in the Lord’s presence, the happier, more grounded, and more faithful you will feel.
So how can you, a Christian, practice mindfulness in a way that is conducive to strengthening your relationship with God?
In its simplest form, mindfulness is awareness. Awareness is pivotal to reducing stress, improving your life on all fronts, and fostering a deeper, more meaningful connection with God and everything that He has created. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of this practice is one that even non-Christians have touted for years: stress reduction. Stress, regardless of faith, is a devastating force when it comes to our thoughts, feelings, abilities, and every aspect of our lives. From a Christian perspective, stress often serves as an obstructive force which steps between us and God. When we are chronically stressed, our physical health suffers, our emotional capacities for love and worship dwindle, and we find that we are no longer in peak condition to work on our relationship with God.
By bringing mindfulness into our everyday lives, we can experience the simplification of thoughts that we relish during meditation. When the contents of our heads are simplified, we can think more clearly, and we find that we have far more room to nurture our relationship with God. Mindfulness brings us fully into the presence. Only when we are living fully in the present, once the distractions and superfluous noise in our heads has been cleared away, can we TRULY exist in the light of the Lord. When you are mindful, you experience everything more deeply. Prayer becomes all-consuming, and when you are in church, you are REALLY in church. By practicing mindfulness, you will be taking in the word of God, instead of running over your grocery list as you sit in church.
The Bible encourages us to be mindful! Perhaps one of the most succinct pieces of scripture in stating this point is Hebrews 3:1, which states that all of us who follow God must, “set your minds on Jesus.” Even Colossians 3:2 reminds us to, “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” For us, this means clearing out the buzzing in our heads. The distracting thoughts that plague most of our attention are the ‘earthly things.’ By being mindful and aware, we can more easily fill our heads with thoughts of things above.
To start incorporating mindfulness into your life, it’s important to begin with small steps. 21st century life is often full of waiting: waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting for an appointment. Instead of mulling over your to-do list or checking your phone, stop, take a breath, and examine your surroundings. Look for evidence of God in everything around you. If your current circumstances remind you of a piece of scripture, meditate on that while you wait. Examine your thoughts, look for things that are problematic, and gently redirect your consciousness in a more positive direction. Keep God in your mind’s eye. Do not lose yourself in distraction.