We live in a therapeutic age. One way we see this is in the heightened focus on inner health and wellness. More and more people are motivated toward living balanced and whole lives. This has had valuable outcomes. One of those outcomes is that it has led people to recognize the need to nourish their mental and spiritual condition. Conversations about the need for mindfulness, meditation, and reflection for internal health are common themes of workshops, news articles, blog posts, and tweets.
Secular modalities embolden people to find the source of healing from within where the journey for wholeness concludes in the self. The desire people have to focus attention on mental and emotional stability is understandable. However, the world’s approaches have an orientation for restoration that come through self-actualization. While the conclusion is flawed the pursuit of internal health is not.
Christians should pursue things that lead to human flourishing but the pursuit must have a different orientation than that of secular models. Christians realize that part of understanding true health must include internal wellness. Despite the reality that the body may have ailments a person can still thrive. This is especially true in regard to spiritual wellness. Internal steadiness comes from orienting our lives to our Creator not ourselves.
With that said, methods utilized by the secular world do not have to lead to the faulty conclusion reached by mainstream health and wellness coaches. Some of the methods, in fact, are tools Christians can and should use. This is because some of these methods are in line with both how God has created us and how God has called us to live well. Two of those tools are mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness mostly refers to a focus on the present moment in a way that acknowledges how the moment is impacting you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is the focusing of your thoughts on a reality in front of you or. Mindfulness simply notices and intentionally recognizes how things effect you.
Meditation is thinking. When a person meditates they are focusing their thoughts on a particular subject. It is likely that you were meditating the last time you sat at a long red light. The last time you had a decision to make you likely meditated on the subject before making a decision. You thought about all the possible consequences of the idea. Meditation is not the suppression of rational thought it is a practice of focused thought.
While secular definitions may vary, believers can consider mindfulness and meditation as simply noticing and thinking.
In effort to better understand how these two things can help believers we will look at each in turn with an emphasis on how believers can use these tools in a way that honors God and encourages spiritual health and well being.
For this blog we will look at mindfulness. Mindfulness that leads to spiritual health is an intentional directing of the mind toward truth and noticing how you are impacted by your focused thought.
We see an example of this in the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:21-22. In this passage we have a call to mindfulness.
“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.”
Jeremiah is mentally invoking something specific; the steadfast love of the Lord and His never ending mercies. What do you think of when you call to mind God’s unfaltering love? When you consider His eternal mercy what do you think of? What do these thoughts do to you? For Jeremiah these thoughts caused a reaction: Hope. “This I call to mind therefore I have hope.” Mindfulness isn’t just focusing on a specific truth but it is noticing what this intentional thought does to your whole being. In this case it brings hope.
Prayer is another way mindfulness can be practiced. As you bring the burdens of your heart to the Lord, you call to mind who God is as you place your burden in His care. Your circumstance have not changed because you prayed but your focus has, and this change in focus has an impact on you. The next time you pray about something notice how you feel after. Are you less worried? Do you have peace? The Lord intended that we notice the peace that passes all understanding. Mindfulness is taking the time to notice the impact that spending time with the Lord has on you.
With this explanation of mindfulness it is easy to see why this practice would promote holistic well being. The value of noticing what happens to us can help us experience more fully what we might otherwise move quickly from.
Too often we are fast to move from moments with the Lord to the daily hustle and bustle. Mindfulness means you take time to notice what you gain from time in the Word or prayer. Take time to mindfully experience God’s presence. Allow this practice to nourish your soul toward spiritual health.