I used to sneer at ‘mindfulness’. As a Christian, I thought I was automatically an expert when it comes to the interior, ‘spiritual’ life and there was nothing I could learn about it from the secular world.
I used to think mindfulness was a waste of time…until a combination of professional and spiritual burnout, a global pandemic, a devastating medical diagnosis and eventually a visit to a therapist’s office changed my mind.
I did take a considerable amount of convincing though – even after my therapist prescribed the ‘Headspace’ meditation app to me, it took me a long time to finally download it and actually try meditation. I was still very much in the eye-rolling and sarcasm phase of my relationship with mindfulness.
I wondered to myself: Isn’t mindfulness just prayer without Jesus, and therefore prayer without power? My supernatural-obsessed Pentecostal side kept chiming in: Isn’t this dangerous? The invocation of Eastern deities of some sort?
It only took three sessions for me to realise that my prejudices were unfounded, and that I needed to make room in my life for mindfulness. I’ve since discovered that prayer and mindfulness are both beneficial, but quite different, practices.
I don’t know what your prayer life is like, but mine is a rollercoaster of emotions. God and I really wrestle (his reluctance to do what I tell him to do results in a whole lot of conflict). I plead with God. I talk about my friends and their struggles. Sometimes we converse on politics and we even discuss my frustrations with his bride, the Church. And, honestly, when I compare my experiences to the book of Psalms, I can’t help but feel my prayers are pretty biblical.
Of course, I also have times of peace in the presence of God mixed in among the chaos, but overall I find prayer to be a very active, engaging and even potentially stressful state of mind.
And that’s not a criticism of prayer – it’s just that prayer isn’t designed to only be a solution for my anxiety, but rather to be an entrance into relationship with a dynamic, divine person.
So when I’m looking for direct connection with Jesus, I pray. And when I’m looking for a way to reduce stress, I meditate.
By ‘meditation’ I just mean taking ten minutes out of my day to breathe deeply and notice what I’m feeling, without judgement or attempting to correct or change it.
It’s no more complex than that. And there are certainly no wacky religious overtones to anything I have practised. It’s just about giving yourself a break from the relentless input sources in our lives and creating a moment to sort through how you’re feeling about this crazy 2020s life.
The Bible says: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). For years I thought I was accomplishing that fully through prayer, but it turns out I was doing more ‘knowing God’ than ‘being still’. Mindfulness has been the missing link that has helped me to finally live out this verse. Maybe it can do the same thing for you.