Psychology goes through all kinds of phases, and over the last few decades, they have become more positive, and inclined towards steps you can take to improve your quality of life and heal. One techniques which is popular now, is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is intentionally, becoming completely aware of everything going on around you and inside you now, in this moment, without judgement and “with openness, interest and receptiveness.” It may surprise some Christians to know that this is an “ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga.”
That it’s roots are not Christian doesn’t bother me, as much as the manner in which I have seen mindfulness taught. As a chronic pain patient, I have been told many times that mindfulness is a wonderful method of improving pain management, so I bought a book on the topic. As a social worker, the book worried me, a lot.
Mindfulness is very effective in making people aware of what additional stresses can be adding to your pain. You know how you’re feeling and may be able to pull all the pieces of the life puzzle together, rather than just reacting and feeling lost. The issue was, that was where that particular book stopped. It told me how to do tune in, and then left me in pain, depressed and totally miserable (at the time), with all this baggage and absolutely not a clue on what to do with it all.
If someone is overwhelmed or depressed, that is level of knowledge is potentially bad. Very bad. Mindfulness, without any additional steps to aid in coping with the volume of information, can lead to deeper feelings of hopelessness, failure, shame, guilt, rejection and can result in suicide.
So do we abandon mindfulness? I did. I chose to lean on the Lord for help, and the Psalms for comfort. David was very mindful. The Psalms are full of completely honest and aware reactions to his life, so he encourages me to let all my feelings, fears and hopes out before the Lord and deal with my circumstances in the same manner he did: prayer, praise, fasting and waiting on the Lord for deliverance.
My decision to abandon my book on mindfulness was a personal choice. It may have been that the book was simply a bad teaching of the practice, however, had I known that mindfulness came from eastern philosophy I would have never bought the book.
If you’d like a Christianised adaption of mindfulness, may I suggest a few ideas?
1. Don’t go into any techniques without researching them and ensuring they are godly. You may be dabbling in a religious ritual without knowing it.
2. Make sure you have solid friends, a counsellor, pastor or family to talk to – in a hurry if needed – about the issues bought up. Without that, you’re alone with your hurts. Don’t let that happen. You’re worth more than that.
3. Pray through everything. Hand it to the Lord and let Him be your buddy system.
4. If you use a mindfulness technique, cap it off with a session of praise to the Lord. That will encourage you and help balance any negativity by focussing on gratitude. It worked for David, it will surely work for us!
5. Use what gets bought to your attention as a means to repent, build your character up to the next level, then get closer to the Lord.
Nothing beats the healing, forgiving and loving power of the Lord. Remember that. Mindfulness may be a fad that comes and then goes… but the faithfulness of the Lord is eternal.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Vago DR and Silbersweig DA Mindfulness
*The last part of my definition and the philosophies where mindfulness are found, comes from The Happiness Trap http://www.thehappinesstrap.com/mindfulness
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