The gift labeled by one as, “some new age concoction of medication and mindfulness”, is actually the one gift given unto us, that unites each and every one of us; no matter how unique, determined, ambitious, imaginative, loyal, mature, straightforward, independent, negative, positive, and most importantly religious we are. My question is, why is this called “new age” and how does it relate to Christianity? Is mindfulness compatible with Christianity?
Let us begin our story with where mindfulness is perceived to come from. First, it is not “new age”. The practice of mindfulness comes from the time of the Buddha. This is between 566-410 BC. So, unless I'm trapped in a time bubble of some kind, I would say that is not “new age”. The only thing new age about mindfulness and meditation, also perceived as “medication”, (as it is backed by science and can be used to treat forms of substance abuse, physical and emotional trauma and more without chemical), is that people are making money from these modalities, with practices such as yoga classes, meditation learning classes and so forth. This has come to be a worldwide practice in the last 3 to 4 years, during the pandemic, and even more so, in the last 2 years.
A Bible will generally begin with the story of creation, “In the beginning, God…”, which accounts for the entire history of human creation, and the world's creation. So essentially, the very existence of human beings and the world itself, the universe as a whole, is depicted in the Bible as a redemption of God's word. That is something solid to stand on, correct? God Himself or Herself, the All, (whichever you choose to believe), brought forth from the heavens a pen and paper and wrote this story. Wrong. These were stories that were given to men by “God”, and man put these stories on paper. Over time the stories were distorted and made into what we needed them to be, to mold people, and make people listen and follow what we wanted them to follow in religious practice, to maintain order.
On the other hand, history shows that Siddhartha Gautama, (Buddha), lives between 566-410 BC, and began the practice of Buddhism. No, Buddha did not create the world and every living thing, including human beings in 7 days, however, the Buddha did bring to light the philosophy of the Eightfold Path of Noble Truth and Enlightenment. A way to live balanced, feeling "right"; that choices made in life are the right choices. In the process of self-discovery, achieving Right Understanding or Right View is the first step to help one see the world just as it truly is, not as it is believed to be. This Eightfold Path encourages one to take a simple approach in life. Next is Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and finally, Right Concentration. The “right to mindfulness”, this is our topic and brings us to the correlation of Buddhism and Christianity. Why do I bring up these two “creation” stories? Because people live in a tangible world. We need to see it, touch it, smell it to know it to be true and say we can believe. Creation story 1; God creates the world and everything in it within 7 days and there are a ton of other stories that come from many hands and put into the same book claimed to be from the same source to teach lessons, bring out "truths" and create a sense of morality. We believe it and there’s that. Creation story 2 is just the beginning practices of a man who found Dharma, Nirvana, Enlightenment, (the ultimate aspect of truth), after a good meal and some old-fashioned meditation, of which there is historical, tangible evidence. A lot of Christians seem to categorize mindfulness and meditation as something terrible and against God, because it stems from Buddhism. “The Buddhist beliefs do not align with ours”. Other forms of Christianity view mindfulness as something new age, and an abomination.
We must fear what we do not know. False. Silly concoctions of medication are not necessary when all we need is Christianity and community, right? That is all well and good, except we are forgetting one thing. As I stated earlier, mindfulness is the gift that brings us together. The unity of people, the gift given by the Divine. Through a lot of discussions and reading, I have learned that Christians fear, do not recognize, and do not believe in the teachings of the Buddhist view, because there are some differences in the belief system to which they cannot get past. Sin, for example, Christians believe that Adam and Eve were the first to have sinned and a sin is a direct and corrupt violation against God; a rebellion against God and hatefulness against God, to which the penalty is the death and sacrifice of God's only son Jesus Christ so that their sins could be forgiven, washed clean and they could start anew. (Yet they continue to sin over and over, knowing the precious savior, who is without sin, died for their sins, but hey, say your prayer and start again. It’s all good). So, I guess the offense here to some Christians, (besides my comment, though truthful, sorry not sorry), is that Buddhist deny sin altogether. Buddhism recognizes moral error and mistakes. They believe that this error can be corrected through attunement and enlightenment; it is not against a supreme moral being, but a misstep against nature and perhaps a harmful consequence will come to be. Okay, I’ll bite. So, you make a mistake, it is brought to your attention, you make your best efforts to learn a lesson from this mistake and not do this again. Meanwhile, you never made this mistake with the intention of hurting anyone or directly inflicting hate and discontent on any moral being whatsoever. You strive to become a better being, attracting goodness and enlightenment. (We should definitely steer clear of this wholesome view of not beating ourselves up and practicing a different view of Divine loving intervention, don’t you think?) My understanding is that some other beliefs a Buddhist has is to seek salvation from the highest form, which to them is Nirvana and this comes from nature.
A Christian seeks salvation from the highest form, which to them would be in the presence of God, forever in heaven. Beautiful, both views are beautiful. While a Buddhist may pray and include the Buddha in their prayers, they do not believe that Buddha is the Divine. Buddhists believe in all of nature as a whole, “The Energy”, nature is God and do not see this form of God as an actual being. So, there is no denial of God here. Whereas Christians pray to and include God, Jesus, Mary, and many Saints. They believe that God is the one who has created the universe, the world and everything in it and that all are responsible to God. There is no other form purer. Hmmmm. There are a few similarities here, the higher power, the prayer (both forms of meditation practices), and the ultimate desire to attain greatness, by sitting in the seat of comfort when the final day arrives. I could continue to go on about the different beliefs, but you can go study those religions and secular beliefs on your own and make your own opinions. My main objective here is to point out that what one does not know or understand, is what they come to fear, and not knowing exactly what the labeled “medication of mindfulness” is, and where it actually came from is a disappointment, when people spew false words and bring hate to those who fear the unknown. Educate yourself first and then form an opinion. I feel it is not that Christianity and mindfulness are not compatible. I would say the fear of the unknown, the "strange practice of something I have never tried" drives the bus here. The religious discrimination that some Christians have against Buddhists and/or some of their practices, stifle spiritual growth and the ability to practice freely.
The “good book” and general practices of such tell us to love and do not cast judgment, as it is not our job basically. Well, all of that aside, everyone has been breaking the rules or making them up as they go, so let’s hypothetically say we will live by our own desire. Can you deny that a healthy response to a situation of any kind would be to stop, take a moment to think in the moment you are in, breathe deeply, assess your situation, accept your situation, and then proceed? This is a form of mindfulness. (Such terrible 17th century forms of witchcraft indeed! Beware! Sorry, not sorry). Can you deny that a healthy response to any situation could be sitting quietly in a church with the hymn of “It is Well with My Soul” being gently sung in the background, as you pray to God for guidance and ask for peacefulness as you leave the building and continue your day? This is also a form of mindfulness. Behold! Witchcraft!
Psychologists and Christian Baptist Bishops have even come together, reviewing mindfulness, and trying to work together to understand how they can do a better job with training and counseling, to bring souls in a closer relationship with the trinity by use of mindfulness. The very words of Bishop, et al., (2004) described mindfulness and its relationship with Christianity in such a way that was so profound to many, saying;
“The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one's experiences in the present moment, and orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”
Mindfulness is practiced to bring oneself peacefulness and openness to God, and in another aspect, it is used to heal and nurture the body. The very Bible that Christians read today brings out both aspects of mindfulness in which they practice and follow every day. Hebrew 4:12 - 13 shows us that even the bible recognizes this, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as a division of Soul and Spirit and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart and there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we will have to do.”
Professor of Christian psychology and director of Gideon Institute of Houston Baptist University, Eric L Johnson PhD, goes on to explain that secular mindfulness is becoming more aware of the internal world, which is so imperative for soul-care. He continues on, pointing out that it is a skill that counselors need, to work together, to develop and train, in order to serve all those who wish to be in relationship with God. My own curiosity got the better of me, so I turned to the Bible to find more scriptures. I once practice Catholic and Methodist religions. There was never any one particular Bible passage that ever stood out to me. I was always drawn to mindfulness, being attuned to oneself in relationship to the Divine. I was always leery of words that came from the Bible. I read some posts, blogs and articles of atheists who became Christian and how it's because they turned to the Bible, and they spoke with people of the church. I am happy for them, that they have grown in spirituality and faith, and found what works for them. I am just not sure that I, myself, could ever credit certain words or individuals for where spirituality and faith comes from for me. You see, on one hand someone may make a claim that “concoctions of medication and mindfulness” are of an atheist belief and yet here, in their very own practice, the very words of which the devout Christian totes on; I find countless scriptures telling us to meditate. When I look further into the passages, I learn even more so that the meditation is meant in such a way that we are not to have judgment, that the loyalty of righteousness is maintained by the value in which we place God's word and we are to meditate and have mindfulness as not to empty our minds, but to fill them with the instructions in which God gives us, so that we can internalize it, live it, breathe it, and practice it. Making our souls open and available to the very God who created our existence, allowing us in the end, to have eternal peace. (But wait, could this be a form of…Nirvana? You don’t say…) So how can I be told that it is nonsensical, unnecessary and comes from an atheist existence? Yet here I am, reading it in the very Bible in which the Christians tell me to follow, in order to be whole and to be saved for my God. Here are a few passages that you can read for yourself.
Psalms 1:2 NIV “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law, day and night”
Psalms 119:15 NIV “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways”
Psalms 48:9 NIV “within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love”
Psalms 49:3 NIV “my mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding”
Psalms 77:12 NIV “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds”
Psalms 119:23 NIV “the rulers sit together and slander me, your servants will meditate on your decrees”
Finally, one passage that I think I rather enjoy sharing; Joshua 1:8 NIV “keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful’
I say that I enjoy sharing this, because a Christian who is against mindfulness and meditation as though it is a form of witchcraft, and we should be burned at the stake tells me that it is a terrible thing; that it takes us away from the Divine and it is nonsensical. Yet here in the very book of which they supposedly read, practice, and follow daily; it tells you to keep the book of laws, keep it on your lips, meditate on this every day and every night and be so careful to do all that is written and only by doing this will you be prosperous and successful. So, a fair warning to be mindful and aware of the rules and all that this book has to offer; to follow it and you shall have eternal greatness. Again, I ask, why is it so difficult for this practice to be recognized as something positive, rather than a terrible assault against God? Awareness is simply a different approach to opening our minds. Some use this form of awareness and mindfulness for health, while others use it for the practice of being open to God. Both practices are healthy and significant in the engagement of Christians, Buddhists, atheist, and anyone else seeking mindfulness or a relationship with a higher power and to better themselves. Mindfulness is simply a way to pay attention on purpose, without judgment; bringing our perspective specifically emphasizing on a certain thought or
feeling and being able to focus on where we are in that particular time.
Perhaps my little write-up here will bring some backlash and perhaps not. Is our world so full of hate, misunderstanding, and misguidance, that one could be so foolish to think that something as healing, free, gentle, and connected as mindfulness could be something so dangerous and terrible? Would they rather see people using substances, abusing others, or turning away from the Divine altogether?
I suppose in a way I am advocating for mindfulness. I am not advocating for any type of religious practice by any means. (While passionate, I do not know enough about all religious practices for that). I am certainly advocating for people. People must take action to be closer to loving and understanding themselves in order to be able to function and to be a functioning member of society. The greatest gift in any religion or practice is love. Love without condition; without judgment. If practicing mindfulness allows you to heal, learn self-love and brings you closer to the Divine, while strengthening your community, then I say go for it. Be mindful, be beautiful. It is yours for the taking, and don't let anyone stop you.
In closing, the one thing I love most about mindfulness, is the demonstration of Soul-Care heritage. Mindfulness is not a new age practice; this is a tradition passed from thousands of years ago, and what I love most is that it is finally coming back, and people are becoming awake and open; practicing what was once running thick in our blood so many years ago. Mindfulness is a fundamental practice of discovering oneself, a way to examine ourselves completely, so that we may be present with our whole selves or to whomever we wish to be present to, whether it be God, Buddha, or other Gods and Goddesses. How does this align with your beliefs? Do you practice mindfulness? Will you start, now that you know it is not a sin? Blessings dear ones. Be mindful on your journey today and peace be with you.