What is mindfulness? Is it Christian?

America is drowning in a flood of intellectual noise. Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, news reports, emails and text messages are just a few of the many popular means of barraging people with an excess of information. Many Americans are recognizing the need to shut down the noise and create moments of quiet in their lives. Mindfulness promises to help quiet the over stimulated minds of stressed out people. What is mindfulness? Is it something that Christians should be involved in?

Mindfulness promotes the focus upon the sensations of the moment to help to center the person in the present. Mindfulness does not teach focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness stops all other activity to become aware of the present. Mindfulness pauses and looks inward to pay complete attention to one’s senses, thoughts and emotions. It is the practice of being aware of the moment without critique, judgment or thought. A recent advertisement for local mindfulness classes said, “”Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness is taught through the application of principles from classic eastern meditation. By setting aside a specific time of meditation the person learns the ability to fully experience the sensations of the moment. Throughout the day the mindful person stops for a brief time to refresh mind, emotion and energy.

Americans have intentionally divorced mindfulness from its religious connections, but the principles behind this practice are nothing less than pagan. Mindfulness comes out of Buddhism and Hinduism. As a result, it is based upon a a view of the mind and body that is contrary to the Bible. Mindfulness, and all eastern meditation, starts with the premise that every person is a manifestation of the Divine. Mindfulness involves the participant in a technique springing directly from a false salvation that believes the ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the great universal divine.

As with most relaxation techniques mindfulness does bring some physical benefit to the practitioner. It may rest the mind, relax the body and refresh the person, but it carries with it the baggage of the false religions of the far east.

The quieting of the mind and attending to the moment are praiseworthy goals. Certainly a person should pay attention to the task and people at hand. This is not mindfulness. This is diligence and courtesy.

Instead of turning to mystical practices Christians should turn to the Bible for guidance in virtuous behavior. Give your life to the control of the Holy Spirit who will produce in you the fruit of love, joy and peace. Practice Biblical meditation on verses like Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 5:16-17; Colossians 4:5-6; Colossians 3:23 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. These verses will help instill Christian virtues in your life. Practice some simple steps like turning off most of the notifications on your phone. Refuse to look at the phone every time it beeps. Turn off the TV. Ignore text messages when you are in a face to face conversation with someone. Pray. Remember that your life is given to you by God for His glory. Use your life intentionally and wisely for His service.

What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious?

Many today make the claim that they are spiritual but not religious. The one claiming this usually has a good opinion about God, tries to do good works and be kind people. He may pray or read the Bible but does not attend church and doesn’t care to be around people who think you should go to church. The spiritual but not religious tend to pick and choose from many different religions to craft a personalized spiritual experience. They are not people of no faith, but people with their own custom built faith. They have typically rejected Christian institutions and denominations. They refuse to be defined by the beliefs of a religion or restricted by the rules of any particular religious institution. The title “nones” has been applied to this group because when asked on religious surveys what their religion is they select the option “none of the above”.

Spirituality as defined by the nones is the private practice of faith and the personal experience of something greater. Religiousness is associated with the public expression of faith through religious institutions, strictures, rituals, gatherings and official systems of belief. For some of the spiritual Jesus is a guide or a personal guru but is not God. For some being spiritual is about understanding a person’s role in the cosmic scheme of things. The nones cannot be pinned down to any set of beliefs or core tenets, but they do have some things in common. First, and the defining feature, is the personalized crafting of a system of belief that works for the individual. Closely associated with this personalized belief system is a desire for personal improvement that is sought after by means of the spiritual person’s belief system. Often the spiritual accepts some form of mysticism. Mysticism seeks to evoke deep spiritual feeling through a transcendent experience. Mystical experiences can take place while wathcing a sunset, walking on the beach, praying, singing in church, practicing yogic meditation, painting, dancing or drinking a really good cup of coffee. Despite the desire for a spiritual experience the nones are unlikely to participate in any organized form of religion. They will participate in activities with a strong religious undertone, but will not join themselves to any religious system. The spiritual is very tolerant of other religious beliefs.

The nones are the religious embodiment of today’s post-modernism and critical realism. They have rejected any sense of absolute truth and believe the individual is the sole determiner of what is true for himself. The spiritual sees his spirituality as a means of personal development not reconciliation with the Divine, atonement for sin or a means to reach eternal bliss. Much about the spiritual bears strong similarity to the practices of Buddhism and Confucianism. I would describe the spiritual as a particularly American form of Buddhism. The nones try to be good people, seek a spiritual connection, and reject a strict definition of God and of Biblical doctrine.