Mindfulness is a popular practice in our current culture, but what is its place in the Christian’s life? Maybe as a believer, you have been skeptical of some of these new-age “spiritual” practices, and rightfully so. We always need to weigh everything against what the Word teaches.
But what if mindfulness can actually help us grow closer to God?
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply being present and aware of what is going on around you without judging or reacting to it. It is a way to let go of our fears and worries, and just be fully present.
Though it seems like such an easy concept, it can be anything but; it takes discipline to calm your mind long enough to see a difference in your life.
What Mindfulness is Not
When you think of mindfulness, you may not think of it as a Christian practice. In fact, you may explicitly associate it with other religions like Buddhism. But the reality is that mindfulness can be practiced by anyone from any religion––it does not discriminate.
Additionally, mindfulness is not a new concept. Mindfulness has been practiced for centuries, and was even practiced by early Christians in the form of meditation on God’s Word, which we will look at next.
Mindfulness in the Bible
Mindfulness certainly does not contradict anything in the Bible––in fact the scriptures approve this type of lifestyle. For example, in Matthew 6:34, Jesus encourages us not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own. In order not to worry, we need to stay grounded in the present and connected to God.
Another passage that comes to mind is the famous Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” He commands us to be still and behold His greatness.
There are countless other examples of scriptures that point people towards being mindful, so clearly it is a practice that can help anyone grow in their faith and closer to God. In our current “hustle culture,” slowing down long enough to be aware of our surroundings and how we are feeling is actually a way we can connect with the Lord.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be combined for better results. Meditation is a Biblical practice of listening to and reflecting deeply to the Word of God. Everyone can benefit from learning how to calm our minds and bodies through mindfulness so we are ready to hear from God. He cannot speak to us when we are in constant motion both within and without. Mindfulness allows us to receive what the Lord wants to speak to us.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages us to “pray without ceasing,” which means we need to be in constant communication with God to have a healthy faith life. The way we can do this is through meditation and mindfulness. The Psalms are great passages to meditate on, as they remind us of God’s constant love for us.
You can find a plethora of mindfulness practices on the internet, but here are a few to get started:
1. Breathing Exercises
You don’t notice how shallow your breathing is until you stop and pay attention. Most of us breathe from our chests instead of our bellies, which can exacerbate our anxiety and stress levels. Deep belly breaths replenish us with more oxygen and can calm our systems down.
You can follow guided breath practices or simply take a few minutes each day to slow down and focus on your breathing. You will notice your stress dissipate as you do this.
You can use breathing to draw closer to God by practicing deep breathing at the beginning of your prayer or devotional time. Take a moment to take deep breaths and focus on your breathing. This will help you be more present in your spiritual time with God.
Journaling is a great way to practice mindfulness.
First of all, the act of physically writing forces us to slow down when we are so used to typing on our keyboards. Secondly, journaling helps you become in touch with your feelings and emotions, which grounds you in the present.
Spend 10 minutes each morning (perhaps after your morning devotional/Bible reading time) to journal whatever comes to mind. It could be thoughts you have about what you just read, how you are feeling, or what you are noticing at that moment.
Be consistent about it and notice how it changes your days. Do you feel more energized and ready to face the days? Do you feel calmer and more connected to God?
3. “What” Skills
In combination with the two previous strategies you can use the What Skills. This is a set of skills (i.e. observe, describe, participate) that is taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a treatment created by Marsha Linehan. Using the What skills you observe your internal events (i.e. feelings, thoughts, body sensations, urges) and external events using our senses (i.e. taste, sight, sound, touch, smell) with the goal to describe them to yourself or others and decide how you want to participate or act.
The What skills can be used to practice mindfulness in your time with God:
1. Observe your thoughts and feelings when you are in prayer or reading the Bible.
2. Describe these to God by either talking with Him or journaling them.
3. Reflect to build insight on what you are thinking and feeling. You may ask questions, or state yours or others needs.
Using the “What” skills will help you increase your awareness and be more present in your spiritual practices and consequently this may help you build a stronger relationship with God.
Practice Makes Perfect
When it comes to mindfulness, the only way to increase and reap the benefits is to practice. This would not just help you grow closer to God, but it can also help you flourish in your life as you are more present in the moment and not in worries of the future or the regrets of the past.
“Dialectical Behavioral Manual”