Mindfulness in Christianity is more popular than ever before. Data shows that the number of people practicing meditation today has tripled since 2012 and revenue from meditation apps has increased dramatically, indicating the popularity of mindful practices.
Religious or not, many people want to declutter their minds and step back from the busyness of life. We want to experience peace and to feel comfort and stability in chaotic times. But this popular western form of mindfulness is really nothing new. Actually, we can see it in many cultural traditions and it shows up in almost every major religion.
The art of mindfulness is universal and that is no surprise. As believers, we recognise that such healthy practices are inherent in our created design. Christianity also has a long history of mindfulness and contemplation as a form of developing a deep and personal intimacy with our Heavenly Father. Contrary to what some might think, mindfulness is compatible with our faith.
Psalm 46:10 is one of the bastions of Christian mindfulness: “Be still, and know that I am God.” It’s a call to explore what this popular practice could mean in the context of our own faith.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that involves focusing our awareness and attention on the present moment, accepting our current capacity for change and being content with it. Experts have described our attention as a muscle. Mindfulness is the act of controlling and strengthening this muscle.
Practicing mindfulness can have positive effects on your mental health, help you be more present in social situations and even more patient with others, too.
But, where does it come from?
Where does mindfulness originate?
The history of mindfulness is complex and there are no easy answers as to where it first came from.
Although there are Christian circles that view mindfulness with some suspicion, stemming usually from the well-publicised links between the practice and Eastern Buddhist and Hindu traditions of meditation, the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn – seen by many as the “father of secular mindfulness” ring true: “Saying mindfulness is Buddhist is like saying gravity is British because Isaac Newton discovered it.”
Trousselard also notes that “the history of mindfulness should not be reduced to Buddhism and Hinduism, as mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”.
As Christians, this opens the door for us to explore our own mindfulness heritage as we walk daily with Jesus.
The history of mindfulness in Christianity
The church has used contemplative Christianity and meditation since the early days of the desert fathers and mothers. These were early church leaders in the third and fourth centuries who decided to live a more monastic existence, pursuing Jesus in every aspect of their life and rejecting worldly influences. Their teachings and practices still influence us today.
Their practices came straight from the way of Jesus, the call to “take up their cross” (Matthew 10:38-39), and the example of many characters in the Bible. The Psalms are full of moments of contemplation too. Psalm 119:15 says,“I will meditate on Your precepts”; in Psalm 62:5 we read, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God, my hope comes from Him”.
Many churches are responding to the growing popularity of mindfulness in the secular world by recognizing the benefits of Christian spirituality. Popular Christian leaders like John Mark Comer have spoken and written at length about contemplative Christianity and taking time to restore the soul.
Christians aren’t jumping on the bandwagon of a popular trend though. Rather, the trend is mimicking the way that God always intended us to live: a sustainable, Christ-centered life characterised by peace, stillness and awareness .
Should Christians practice mindfulness?
We live in a world that encourages us to be self-absorbed at times. Yet this runs contrary to the teachings of Christ about denying ourselves and following Jesus as our example (Luke 9:23). There are also many passages about serving and loving others sacrificially (1 Peter 4:8-10) and preferring others over ourselves.
Christ-centered mindfulness actually goes a step beyond self-centredness by encouraging us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). It encourages us to switch our gaze; to focus on God first and ourselves second. It teaches us to take the burden of doing things in our own strength off our shoulders and yield our lives instead to Jesus. Mindfulness, ultimately, is one of the practical ways we can tangibly accept Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The benefits of mindfulness in Christianity
It’s clear that there are many benefits to mindfulness, both in improving our spiritual life and our mental health. God cares about our mental health and has given us tools to help us to take care of ourselves.
In general, mindfulness can lead to being less anxious, happier and more present. It can also lead to better concentration and focus on your work and social life. It has been proven that mindful practice has a positive impact on the brain and can alleviate mental illness. These are all great benefits.
For Christians, mindfulness goes a step further. It’s about being still and listening to what God has to say and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Through regular contemplation and focus on God, we become changed into His likeness.
How to practice Christian mindfulness and prayer
There’s no set way of doing it and different processes work for different people. You can of course pray at any time of the day, stopping and centering your focus on God. Try stepping away from what you’re doing and breathing deeply for a couple of minutes.
Many also have dedicated times of mindfulness. Some people call this their ‘quiet time’.
Why not try Glorify Resources ? We have lots of helpful blogs, playlists and material to help you connect to God with joy and intimacy.
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