Mindfulness is something you’ve likely heard of in some context. It’s become the hot way to fix all that ails us. From stress and anxiety to overeating – mindfulness promises to show us how to solve life’s problems.
The question is,
This post will explore
- what mindfulness is,
- where it originates, and
- what God’s Word says about mindfulness practices.
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said “if you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I pray you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth as you prayerfully read this post.
Table of Contents
The History of Mindfulness
The modern mindfulness movement was started by a man named Jon Kabat-Zinn –
- a molecular biologist,
- Buddhist, and
- founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts.
Kabat-Zinn reframed his buddhist teachings to form
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR),
- Mindful Yoga, and
- his research into the effects of mindfulness on pain, anxiety, brain and immune function.
It’s these Buddhist teachings that Kabat-Zinn retooled into “modern day” mindfulness practices and techniques.
An English translation of the original Buddhist teaching on mindfulness can be found here.
So now that we know where mindfulness came from, let’s explore what modern mindfulness is.
What is Mindfulness?
The original Buddhist discourse on mindfulness states mindfulness is: “the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right method, and for the realization of unbinding—in other words, the four establishings of mindfulness.”
According to Psychology Today this definition has come to mean: “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Others define mindfulness as: “self-examination of one’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and emotions with no judgment of their being right or wrong”.
Should we do what those definitions are asking?
To answer those questions we’re going to God’s Word, the book He gave us for finding truth and direction.
The questions we’re going to answer come from the original Zen Buddhist definition of mindfulness (best to start at the source…right?).
- Is there a place for modern mindfulness in a Christians life?
- What does God’s Word say the “direct path” is?
- How does God’s Word tell us to “overcome sorrow and lamentation”?
- How does God’s Word tell us to “handle pain and distress”?
- What does God’s Word say about the “four establishings of mindfulness” (body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities)?
Today we’ll provide short answers to each of these questions and in subsequent posts, we’ll go into more depth on specific mindfulness practices and how God’s Word tells us to handle them.
Is there a place for modern mindfulness in a Christians life?
The short answer to this question is no.
As Christians we’re told “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
The Buddhist view states that we’re connected to the cosmos and that mindfulness helps facilitate that connection.
God’s Word says Christians are His image bearers and that we’re to live our lives connected to God. Period.
Modern mindfulness teaches people to escape reality and God tells us “even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4
What does God’s Word say the “direct path” is?
John 14:6 provides the most basic answer to this question.
Psalms 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp for me feet, a light on my path.” and Proverbs 3:6 instructs us to “in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
When we choose to follow Christ, He leads us through every second of our lives.
Jesus left us with the same helper He had, the Holy Spirit, so we’re able to successfully walk the path of life God chose for us.
How does God’s Word tell us to “overcome sorrow and lamentation”?
Proverbs 10:22 says “the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” and
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Little rabbit trail: Suffering and sorrow are the result of the condition of sin and not always a person’s specific action.
Sorrow and mourning are a normal part of life because they’re a natural response to the pain sin causes. The sorrow of death is the ultimate result of the sin condition.
But Romans 8 reminds Christians that we have been “set free from the law of sin and death” and to “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
When life makes us sorrowful, God is the one we’re to turn to.
We can trust that when we turn to God and follow the path He has for us, it’ll be filled with blessings, the blessings of being “liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.
How does God’s Word tell us to handle "pain and distress"?
I love how Psalm 91 broaches the pain of life.
This passage tells us that “God is our refuge and fortress” and that God delivers us from anything that could harm us.
It continues by telling us “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day…”
Because of humans sin condition pain, like sorrow, is guaranteed. It also comes in many forms –
- relational, etc.
Regardless of the pain source we’re to find refuge in the Lord and do as it says in Isaiah 41:10 “so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
What does God’s Word say about the “four establishings of mindfulness”?
First, the four establishings of mindfulness are:
- mind, and
- mental qualities.
This one is big.
When we choose to follow Jesus our bodies no longer belong to us, they’re Gods.
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20
If our bodies are God’s that means our feelings, mind, and mental qualities are also His.
1 Corinthians 2:16 says “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” and Philippians 2:5 says “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”.
1 John 2:6 tells us that “whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked”.
You have the mind of Christ and are told to live your life imitating Jesus Christ not figuring out the “four establishings of mindfulness”.
God created you and knows every aspect of your life. Establish yourself in Him and allow God to:
- direct your steps,
- bring you peace,
- heal your pain,
- comfort you, and
- provide your every need.
Wow! At its root mindfulness doesn’t have a place in Christians lives. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a Godly way to mindfully approach life.
Over the next several weeks we’re going to further unpack mindfulness.
We’ll explore how the scientific benefits of mindfulness can be reframed in a Christian perspective.
We’ll dig deeper into how God’s Word defines mindfulness and how meditating on God and praying without ceasing connect to having our minds “set on things above“.
We’ll tackle the stress, anxiety, worry, pain, food, our bodies, and waiting on the Lord. Eeks!!
We’re covering a lot in the coming weeks aren’t we?
Stay tuned because…
The things we’ll be covering will help you grow as a woman of God and also help you disciple those around you.
Until then…I pray you put Romans 12:1-2 into action and…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”