This topic has been buzzing around me lately, so it's time to write about it. Let's see if this blog creates more understanding or maybe even more controversy? Either way, I would like this piece to set the tone for a thoughtful, kind and open dialogue.
So, my answer... a resounding yes, yes and ooohhh, yes.
Let me stress, I am writing about this from the perspective of the mindfulness practice that I teach in businesses and educational settings. This method is also taught by thousands of other people.
First, I would like to address two of the concerns I hear most often:
Concern #1 -- "As a Christian, mindfulness goes against my theology, as it is a Buddhist practice."
It is true that mindfulness has roots in Buddhism. However, the mindfulness that is typically taught in business and academic settings is completely Westernized. It is purposefully devoid of spiritual or religious connotations and focuses simply on the act of awareness. And if you want to take it to a level that we can all relate to and understand, at its core is stress reduction.
Stress damages our emotional, mental and physical bodies, costs billions of dollars to American businesses each year and has a tremendous negative impact on our children, as they are influenced by it both indirectly and directly. Mindfulness is an incredibly inexpensive, powerful and easy tool in dealing with this challenging, overwhelming issue.
Also, let me add much of the mindfulness practiced in school systems is highly geared toward learning brain anatomy and understanding the science behind how the brain works. Children learn the different parts of the brain, how they interact together, how brain activity influences emotions/choices, etc. They are taught to be bigger than their brains, which completely melds if you also believe the "mind is evil."
Concern #2 --"As a Christian, mindfulness is about 'clearing the mind.' This action opens a gateway to demonic/evil forces, thoughts or actions."
Mindfulness is not about clearing. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite of that.
Mindfulness, on every level regardless of which exercise you are doing (mindful breathing, walking, hearing, etc.), is about bringing awareness to thought. What is "cleared" is the overwhelming majority of thoughts -- mindfulness teaches how to quiet the incessant dialogue that truly ravages our brain to then bring forth clarity and calm.
Therefore, it is a simplification, not a emptying.
Furthermore, when are brains are clearer, so are our decisions, our choices, our priorities. We are also more able to follow our hearts with empathy, compassion and openness as our very analytical minds have been given the opportunity to take a back seat.
Now, let me highlight just a couple of the areas where I believe mindfulness and Christianity blend so wonderfully:
1. Mindfulness embodies the Christian tokens of love and acceptance.
Mindfulness allows everyone to bask in his or her own faith, belief and wishes -- it opens the door to acceptance. It sees beyond the boundaries of religion, race, sex, age. It allows us to see our humanity and the bigger picture things that connects us beyond our titles, beyond our outward appearance, beyond our philosophies and dogmas.
It is a true coming together, a boundless exercise in caring and in the openness of the heart. It allows us to maintain our disagreements; however, in mindfulness we agree to disagree and to somehow find the balance and peace in that.
2. Mindfulness allows Christians to blossom in their faith.
Mindfulness is organic and fluid. It moves and flows with each person who practices it. For example, if you believe that holding a scripture in your mind is the right thing to do instead of focusing on your breath when doing mindful breathing, have at it. If someone focuses on scripture they are indeed bringing the mind to a singular, focused awareness. Excellent.
Another direction... mindfulness allows you to connect more deeply to God. For example, when you are in church you are more "in church." As a practitioner of mindfulness, you minimize thinking about what you have to do after the service, who is sitting behind you, what you are wearing, you are more focused on your faith and the importance of it.
3. Mindfulness allows you to connect to your body "as a temple to honor God."
Our bodies are wonderful gifts. They talk to us all the time and tell us when they are out of balance or when certain parts need attention. When we allow space to connect with our breathing and our physicality, we allow ourselves to truly see and hear what our bodies are trying to tell us. This allows Christians more clarity and power to help nurture the container of the soul. It also provides more strength to literally help you embody your faith.
In conclusion, I know that what is written here is only scratching the surface. Note that I purposely didn't utilize quotes of scripture as they can be dissected in so many different ways. I also didn't highlight my own religious/spiritual viewpoints as that would be in contradiction to my teaching and the content of this article. I simply hope that these words have broadened you or have lead you to more contemplation and possible questions. Whatever it brings you, I wish you peace and peace of mind.
For more by Eden Kozlowski, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.