A few days ago an email came into my inbox at work advertising a three-day intensive course on mindfulness for educators and health professionals. I'm familiar with the terminology. It's been cropping up in educational articles with ever-increasing frequency (along with zentangle and yoga for babies). I've felt uncomfortable with the concept and have not supported it, but after reading the email (from a reputable provider of professional development) I decided I needed to become more fully informed.
Which led me to a number of articles here and here. Actually, I didn't stop there: I continued to read and read. And then I posted a link on Facebook.
Never ever do this. Unless you enjoy public debate. Which I don't. Those Christians against it were noticeably absent. Perhaps there aren't [m]any. Perhaps they didn't see it / read it / comment on it. Whatever the reason, I plan to take the post down in a few days due to a picture someone posted that is counter to my beliefs and which may give others the wrong message. The friend who put it up genuinely believes that all roads lead us to love and eventually enlightenment, but, as a Christian, seeing Jesus holding hands with Buddha and Mohammed and other false gods is not the message I want on my Facebook page.
Not that Jesus isn't love - He is - and He died for all - even those who turn their back on Him - but He is NOT a prophet or "good person" on the same plane as Mohammed or some other prophet. He is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Saviour of the World. He is far and away above all others and one day, at His Name, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.
So the post will come down as I am unable to remove the picture without removing some of the comments. And if I'm going to remove some, I feel that I need to remove all. But I don't necessarily want to lose all the thoughts expressed in the comments. Hence the reason for this post.
Perhaps one of the things I find most disturbing about the trend to use mindfulness in schools is the idea that it is neutral. That we can somehow remove it from its religious base. If I were to go into a secular school and announce I was going to teach prayer because it has been shown to promote self-control and has positive mental and physical outcomes but that it wasn't religious, I'd be shown the door! No one would consider it possible to remove religion from a religious practice such as prayer. And yet, this is exactly what we are told has been done with these practices that have come from other religions.
Another disturbing trend is that it is being given innocuous names. For what purpose? To deceive? To make it appear harmless? To make it more appealing? In New Zealand it is being called Pause, Breathe, Smile. (I'm not linking to it but please Google it if you want to know more.) Some of the principles sound good: reducing stress, regulation of emotions, improving focus and attention. But then you read further and you discover it is not neutral: everything is connected to everything else, rising and falling, touching stillness. This sounds to me very much like some religions - religions that are in conflict with Christianity. Rather than being based on science (note the website says it is based on "wellbeing science" - whatever that is) it is faith-based.
Which brings me to another concern. As Christians we are to have the mind of Christ. Having struggled with depression and anxiety, believe me, I know how hard this is at times. Those thoughts creep in, our feelings become overpowering, it seems too hard to have the mind of Christ. Wouldn't it be easier just to do a few breathing and mental exercises and have all those thoughts melt away? I think one of the reasons mindfulness can seem so attractive is because we don't have to face our sinful self. To have the mind of Christ means to recognise Him as Lord, it means to confess those thoughts and feelings that are sinful, it means to turn to Him for answers and not ourselves. I have felt the resistance when I've known what I should do (pray, read the Word, focus on Christ) but have not wanted to because I am a sinful creature. Something that makes us by-pass those truths is going to seem pretty attractive.
Lastly, we are not to empty our minds of all thoughts as is taught in mindfulness, but to bring those thoughts under subjection to Christ. This is another ouch! moment for our sinful natures. Sometimes we just don't want to give up those thoughts! Worse, we think we can have those thoughts and not be harmed. We deceive ourselves that we're strong and those thoughts of lust or greed or whatever will not lead us into temptation.
As an adorable granddaughter so innocently said recently when she moved chairs, "I'm moving into temptation." Sadly, so many adults do and we don't even admit it to ourselves. We practice mindlessness rather than being mindful (conscious or aware) of the things of Christ and what hurts Him.
Do I understand what it means to have the mind of Christ or to bring my thoughts under subjection to Him? Not fully - if at all. But I know these two things: one, He who began a good work in me will see it though to completion, and two, mindfulness, regardless of how popular it is becoming, is not the answer.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5, NKJV);
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2, NKKV);
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NKJV);
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippine 1:6, NKJV);
Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJV).