My first two posts set the foundation for applying specific counseling tools and modalities from a biblical perspective. The first topic I will present, based on this foundation, is the practice of meditation. We have established that, “All Truth is God’s Truth”. We know from science that the practice of meditation has a positive effect on mental, emotional, and physical health. We know from Scripture that Jesus himself took time alone to focus and pray. Meditation is both scientifically and biblically applicable to the work of healing and growth.
Considering a holistic treatment of self, we identified three parts of self; mind, body, and spirit. Our attention to the body often dominates the daily practices of self-care and personal development. Make a list, on paper or in your mind, of all of the daily activities attending to the needs of the body. Grooming, eating, and exercising; just to name a few. Now consider the frequency of thought focused on the condition and presentation of the body. The body has a way of demanding our attention. This is not necessarily a negative. The body holds and shares information that our minds need to regulate and care for our system. However, as we discussed in my previous post, the body is not designed to be the CEO of the system. Created in the image of God, the mind and spirit of man set us apart from other species. We have the capacity for metacognition, discernment, and decision making. We also have the ability for creativity and original ideas. Attending to the mind and spirit is attending to the image of God in us.
The intangible part of man, the spirit, is the point where our system connects to God and others.
The spirit of man is redeemed when restored to relationship with the Spirit of God through Jesus Christ. The spirit in man, in connection with the Spirit of God, is meant to be in charge of the system. Mindfulness practice trains the body and mind to yield to the leadership of the spirit. Mindfulness practice strengthens the spirit of man by strengthening the connection to the Spirit of God.
When Christians hear the term “meditation”, they might, and rightfully should, have some reservations and educated questions. Meditation simply means setting your mind in an intentional direction for a specific purpose. But not all purposes are equal. Meditation is a word found in the bible to mean directing the attention to God.
There are other meditation practices which are not compatible with a Christian purpose. One example is transcendental meditation. Admittedly, I don’t have personal experience with and a very limited study of transcendental meditation. Therefore, I will let an expert describe the difference between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. “ In this regard, the main difference between the two is that the goal of mindfulness meditation is to have one's thoughts be on the present moment, whereas with Transcendental Meditation, the process involves transcending thought itself and experiencing a state "pure awareness," in which one is aware but without an object of thought.” (Karben, PhD.;2015)
The danger in seeking to transcend the mind is the disintegration of self. We want to increase awareness and connection within the system. We value all three parts of self and believe balanced integration of each best represents the image of God. Discernment is an important role of the body and mind. Think of the senses, of body and mind, as guards, posted outside the gate. If we disengage these important messengers, we can unintentionally leave the spirit exposed, to spirits not of God.
With mindfulness meditation, we are not seeking the absence of thought. To the contrary, to be “full of mind” is to be more connected to the messages of the mind and body. This type of contemplation does not come naturally to us. Our environment is loud, busy, and distracting. Just like we take time to exercise and strengthen the muscles of our bodies, we need to be intentional in exercising and strengthening the control of the mind. This heightened connection to the spirit feeds the system and strengthens the integration of self and God.
4 steps to developing a daily mindfulness practice:
Psalm 46:10 reminds us to, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Jesus did this when he went away from the crowds to rest, to pray, to focus on God’s words. We can take time daily for the stillness of meditation.
I highly recommend the bookAnatomy of the Soul, by Curt Thompson. Thompson is a Christian psychiatrist who specializes in interpersonal neurobiology. He believes that therapy should lead to a connected internal person; connected to God and connected to others. He says, “I suggest that many elements of our mind/body matrix are means by which God is trying to get our attention, but we have not had much practice reflecting on them.” (Thompson, 2010; p. 59) “The more we pay attention to these things-what our brains are telling us-the more we are ultimately paying attention to God.”
Thompson compares mindfulness practice to the visiting of the temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are the new temple of God. As believers in Jesus Christ, when we take the time to visit inward, we are visiting the temple where the Holy Spirit resides.
“Paul was not saying that God is the body, but that in order for us to attend to God, we have to attend to the place where he lives. Our brains assist us in doing this.” (Thompson, 2010; p. 59)
Through noticing our thoughts, we identify and release our worries, feelings, and intentions to God. Christian meditation intentionally directs the thoughts with the spirit of man leading the system toward peace through faith. Rather than judging our thoughts and feelings, we notice them. We cannot release something that we are unaware of.
We are then intentional in redirecting our attention to God in some of the following ways:
- God’s ways (Psalm 119:15)
- God’s wonderful deeds (Psalm 119:27)
- God’s promises (Psalm 119:148)
- Gratitude to God (Psalm 136)
- The things God loves:
Again, our intentional experience of mindfulness is a practice. It is not our natural state in the flesh. But with consistent practice we connect with God in the stillness. Our end goal is not an empty mind, but a full mind. A mind full of God.
WHERE TO START?
- Consider this guided meditation as a way to experience Christian mindfulness practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZb5fN_YEbQ.
- I often recommend an app called “Headspace” for clients to begin developing a daily practice of stillness and noticing without judgement.
Karpen, J., PhD. (2015). What is the difference between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation.Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Mindfulness-meditation-and-Transcendental-Meditation
Thompson, C., M.D. (2010). Anatomy of the soul. Carrolton,TX: Tyndale House Publishers