A Christian's Guide to Mindfulness
Many of my Christian clients ask whether it's possible for them to practice mindfulness. And my answer is usually an astounding "YES!" Their confusion may come from concern they'll compromise their beliefs. There is also the tendency to associate mindfulness with the Buddhist practice of meditation.
Yet mindfulness has very little to do with religion. 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 comes 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. With all of these benefits, Christians should be less fearful of its practice. Yet there still remains hesitancy.
Will it leave our minds open to evil?Some Christ followers worry that while practicing yoga or meditating, clearing the mind lessens our guard, leaving us open to spiritual attack. As Christians, we never want to leave our minds susceptible to evil. Yet mindfulness is not about emptying your mind completely - that is impossible.
Mindfulness is an act of single focused discipline. It is the practice of training your mind, body, and soul to rest.
When God's presence is incorporated into the exercise, mindfulness is an opportunity to arm ourselves against all evil, malice, and wrong-doing. Mindfulness can serve as an opportunity to invite God in, experience His presence, and renew our mind through Him.
Because wherever He is, evil cannot be.
How do I do it?
Below I have written a step by step guide for Christians to incorporate God's presence into their mindfulness exercise. 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 affects.
A Mindfulness Exercise for Christians
- 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. But 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 for ever." (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.
I leave you with 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.
Let's not let another moment pass without taking the opportunity to experience His perfect peace.
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!