A Biblical Guide to Mindfulness
For the past four years, I have gotten pneumonia in the fall. It would start with a runny nose that would turn into a cough and within a week or two...full-blown pneumonia. This would linger through March or April and then be gone.
Last year, things escalated very quickly and one morning I woke up coughing so hard - I thought I might faint from the inability to breathe. I ran into the bathroom, and when I looked into the sink - I saw blood.
My doctor immediately sent me to the hospital for tests. I was there all day. I had a fever of 103 degrees. I suspected they would tell me I had pneumonia, give me a round of antibiotics, and send me home to rest.
Except when you’re a working mom and wife, there is no rest. Between running my own business, running a house full of boys (seriously, even my dog is a boy), running from activity to activity - I never stopped.
Around one o’clock that morning, the ER doctor came in and informed me the CT scan was abnormal. I had a nodule the size of a pea on the lower right lobe of my lung. They referred me to a lung specialist who would contact me in a few days. And then they sent me home.
When the news set in, I panicked.
I met with the lung specialist two weeks later, and he was not sure what the nodule was. It could have been an infection, scar tissue from pneumonia, a fungus from the soil, or lung cancer. Because of my age and the fact I did not smoke, he was hopeful it was benign. They would repeat the scan in 9 months.
And then I went home to wait. For 9 months.
Now, I’m no stranger to waiting.
I waited through years of infertility and pregnancy loss before becoming a mom again.
I waited weeks on bed-rest with a belly full of twins.
I waited to hear the results of lab tests from freakish health issues that have spanned the past 8 years.
The truth is we are all waiting for something. Waiting for our husbands to return from work, our kids to get off the bus, a phone call from the doctor, a yes or a no on a new job, the money to show up in the bank, the holidays to arrive….
I tend to think about the future while I wait….longing for the next project, next phase, next journey, next, next….
When my mind races into the future - I snap myself out of it with a certain song. The chorus goes like this: “you take my mind off of the future, you bring my heart out of the past; you are the promise here in the moment where I find my rest.”
That song makes me pause….and brings me back to the present moment where God is waiting for me.
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in all the heavens, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10 NIV).
How can I practice stillness?
I can tell you as a mom, I have commanded my kids to “be still” on numerous occasions. At the dinner table, “Sit still!”
While standing in line at the grocery store, “Stand still!”
But what about when stillness comes as God’s command for me?
I fear I am no better than my 4-year-olds.
As a therapist, one of the methods I use to help my patients practice stillness is a technique called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Simply put, mindfulness entails three things:
- Intention. Intention is what you hope to get from practicing mindfulness. Do you hope to reduce stress? Be less anxious? Or even experience God's presence?
- Attention. Mindfulness is about bringing attention to your physical or mental experience. Whether you choose to practice mindfulness formally or just when you clean, drive, or talk to another person - drawing your attention to the current moment is the game.
- Attitude. Attitude is where the non-judgmental part comes into play. Mindfulness entails embracing attitudes of self-acceptance and kindness. So when thoughts from your past or your giant list of projects come to mind, don't judge yourself. Simply bring your attention back to the moment.
A combination of endless access to technology and over-packed schedules has left our brains constantly moving from one thing to the next without truly enjoying the present.
We have to stop seeing each fleeting moment as a means to the next.
Research has shown mindfulness to be beneficial in decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression as well as improving brain-function, empathy skills, and quality of relationships.
Is mindfulness biblical?
Yes! There are numerous stories in the bible where God's people intentionally set aside time to practice being still. When God's presence is incorporated into the exercise, mindfulness can serve as an opportunity to invite God in, experience Him, and renew our mind; it is an opportunity to discern His will for our lives.
Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -His good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV)
How do I do it?
I have written a step-by-step guide with scriptural references in order to incorporate God's presence into the practice of mindfulness. You can practice this daily, several times a week, or once a month. The great thing about mindfulness is that even the littlest bit can have positive effects.
A Biblical Guide to Mindfulness
- Find a quiet place. Eliminate all distractions and interruptions. Jesus wants to be alone with you in a quiet place to rest. (Mark 6:31).
- Turn on a favorite worship song or hymn. Jesus inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). We are instructed to enter His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breath. Breathe slowly. In through your nose and out through your mouth. God breathed you into being. The breath in your lungs is His. He formed you from the dust and chose every bone, curve, and hair (Genesis 2:7).
- Notice your body sensations. Start at your feet, then legs, stomach, arms . . . and slowly bring your attention to each part of your body. It is perfectly normal for your mind to wander. Simply notice your thoughts, set them free, and return your focus to your breath.
- When the song is over, turn it off. Allow the silence to fill the space and continue to focus on the breath going in and out of your lungs.
- Speak the name of Jesus. This step will feel strange. Yet repeatedly in Scripture, we read there is power in the name of Jesus. The devils were powerless because of his name (Luke 10:17). The demons were cast out in his name (Mark 16:17-18). Healing occurred in his name (Acts 3:6, 3:16, 4:10). Salvation comes in his name (Acts 4:12, Rom. 10:13). We are to baptize in his name (Matt. 28:19). We are justified in his name (1 Cor. 6:11). Everything we do and say is done in his name (Col. 3:17).
- Be still. Allow the Holy Spirit to move you. "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
- Wait for him to dismiss you. When you come to the throne of the King, you must wait to be dismissed from his presence. You don't get to choose when you get to leave. It is during this waiting to be released one can experience peace. Luke 2:29, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word."
- Give Thanks. "O unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever." (1 Chron. 4:6-7)
- Slowly open your eyes. You may be dizzy from sitting or laying down. Take your time upon standing to account for changes in blood pressure.
God’s command to us is two-part: Be still AND KNOW….BE MINDFUL….that I am God.
God doesn’t just call us to stop moving. He calls us to be mindful and trust that he is God. He is fighting for us. He is FOR us. And the battle is His.
One year after receiving news I had a nodule on my lung, I received the news my scan was CLEAR.
God healed my lungs.
God healed my lungs.
He has carried me through all my times of waiting. All I had to do is be still and know.
When we bring God into the practice of mindfulness we can experience ultimate peace and a transformation that only He can give.
So, have you given mindfulness a try?
If not, I encourage you to find a quiet space and listen to the chorus from my favorite mindfulness worship song, As Good As it Gets by Matt Maher:
You take my eyes off of the future.
You lead my heart out of the past.
You are the promise here in the moment.
Where I find my rest.
You are as good as it gets.
Heather is wife to a funny blue devil, mom to three lively boys, and singer both on stage and in her child's ear. She is the owner of Kaloupek Counseling, LLC a private practice offering mental health services to children, teens, and adults in Decatur, IL. You can read more about her, her blog, and counseling practice here. Want to reach out? Send her an email! She would love to hear from you!