by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
Why are you here? Let me guess.
I’m going to presume one of two motivations for clinking on the link to open this post: either you’re struggling with your mental and emotional health and want some practical help or you’re curious about this topic because of its controversy. If you have a different motivation, please leave a reply below and let me know! I’d enjoy hearing from you.
Meditation and mindfulness are currently hot topics in conversations and presentations about personal health and well-being. Social science research offers compelling support for their benefits when they are practiced regularly. Do a Google search, and you’ll find hundreds of sites offering insight and practical steps for engaging in them.
Meditation and Mindfulness: Thoughts from a Christian Therapist
However, since the origin of mindfulness and meditation practices is often grounded in Eastern philosophy and religion, those holding to a Christian worldview often feel uncomfortable engaging in such practices. I do not wish to minimize the concerns. A cautious approach is wise and important. Yet, ignoring these practices is detrimental to our spiritual, emotional, and even physical health. With this post, I hope to provide both a Christian foundation and practical instruction for these helpful practices.
First, let’s define meditation and mindfulness:
- Meditation: the act of giving your attention to only one thing.
- Mindfulness: non-judgmental awareness of the present moment that involves quieting the mind and body and focusing on simply being.
Though these practices may often be associated with Eastern religions, they actually have a long history in Christianity as well. Ancient Christian spirituality offers such exercises as Examen, Contemplative Prayer, and Practicing the Presence of God which involve elements of mindfulness and meditation.
In the Bible, Psalm 1:1-3 provides both an invitation into meditation and a helpful metaphor for the benefit of meditation:
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (New Living Translation)
We live in a distraction-oriented, information-saturated world. Competition for our attention is endless. Multitasking is celebrated (though actually not possible and the pursuit of which is quite unhealthy). We are invited to flit about with our attention, rarely pausing for more than a few seconds. And we are poorer because of it. We’re feeding our souls the equivalent of popcorn and cotton candy. In contrast, meditation offers your soul the solid sustenance it needs by focusing on one thing for a sustained period of time. In Psalm 1, the psalmist invites us to make that one thing the wise warnings and caring instructions of our Creator God.
Similarly, Psalm 131 provides both instruction and a helpful metaphor for mindfulness:
Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.
Psalm 131 (New Living Translation)
So much of our mental and emotional energy is spent trying to master life, to “bend” it to our advantage. We spend time and energy distracted by or ruminating on past failures and future fears. The psalmist invites you instead to calm and quiet your soul and then provides the beautiful metaphor of a young, weaned child resting on her mother’s chest without clamoring for sustenance.
Practical Use of Meditation and Mindfulness for Christians
So we have solid support from both science and the Bible for the benefits of regular mindfulness and meditation. But what does it look like practically? Many varied approaches exist. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Focus on your breathing for one minute.
Close your eyes and notice your breath. Feel the air going in and out at your nostrils. Place your hand on your stomach and notice how your hand gently rises and falls with your breath. Lengthen your in-breath and out-breath. Feel your chest and stomach fill and empty. Maintain focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, as it will do, just bring your attention back to your breathing. This can be done for longer than one minute. However, even for one minute, it will allow you to pause and be in the moment. You can build on this exercise by imagining yourself breathing out stress on the out-breath and breathing in God’s peace on the in-breath.
Beloved Child meditation.
This meditation is grounded in the love God has for those who have put their trust in Jesus. I provide detailed instruction in part 2 of my recent series on lament.
This phone app provides a helpful, guided approach to meditation and mindfulness.
CONSIDER ONLINE THERAPY IN OREGON FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELING
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
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OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AT LIFE DISCOVERY COUNSELING IN OREGON
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