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Christian Mindfulness

Christian Mindfulness

The Revd. Bosco Peters writes about Christianity and Mindfulness at his Liturgy blog.

Mindfulness is everywhere. Practices from Buddhism and Hinduism are being used in home, schools, and workplaces. People are cleansing their chakras, feeling their breathing, and visualising… Schools are practicing mindfulness at the start of every lesson… While some have criticised the trendiness as McMindfulness, I want to focus here on this being yet another example of the church having spiritual amnesia, of Christians giving away our birthright – or not even knowing we have one!

Some time back, I put great effort into going into the jungles in eastern Thailand to learn from Buddhist monks who spoke English. What I found there were Buddhist monks, of European background, reading books in the Christian mystical tradition. They had not been introduced to this tradition when they had been growing up and maturing in their Western, Christian context – they had discovered them after years of being committed to Buddhism. And I remember well their comments: “I am happy to be a Buddhist now, but had I known this was available in Christianity I would never have become a Buddhist.”

More recently I have had several people describe what they do in their mindfulness practice. My response: “that’s part of the Christian heritage.” Lifelong Christians, of different ages, these people had never come across Christian traditions of deeper prayer, and the practices of repeating a word, or other ways of entering deep silence.

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Shirley O'Shea

I think it is very sad that persons seeking a rich, inward spiritual practice (that will inevitably lead to profound and helpful encounters with others) felt and still feel that they find a path only outside of the church. I have explored Zen meditation and teaching in order to attain serenity and equanimity, but I realize that doing so has a cost for me – that of intimacy with God. It is confusing and dispiriting. I would love for the Episcopal Church to rediscover and offer opportunities to develop Christian interiority. As a part-time worker and full-time mom, it’s rather difficult to forge this path alone.

Marshall Scott

Shirley, I do think lay people asking their clergy can get assistance; and, as I noted in the linked blog post, there are other resources in the Episcopal Church and beyond.

I absolutely agree with you that more needs to be highlighted and more direction offered. I think that one point is simply to include in information provided about the Episcopal Church (confirmation classes, news of General Convention, a variety of ways) reference to that aspect of the life of the Church to then raise the interest in the life of the individual believer.

Marshall Scott

We had some reflection on this here at the Café in this post back in 2007.

Marshall Scott

Shirley, many of us (both clergy and lay) do have awareness of this, and often education. We have religious Orders and also Christian Communities in the Episcopal Church that model this. On the other hand, I watch my colleagues who specialize in parish ministry (as I have specialized in healthcare ministry) and marvel at all they have to keep up with. I know that at times this can get displaced by other plans and needs that seem more urgent for the community as a whole.

Shirley O'Shea

Rev. Scott, I anticipated that limitations on clergy’s time would be mentioned as an impediment to teaching Christian contemplation to lay people. It seems that, for the indefinite future, lay people seeking to develop a contemplative practice and life will need to pray to find the time to do so and, through reading and availing themselves of retreats, when possible (and unfortunately family and work responsibilities – people working in the world are overburdened as well – and financial constraints make this very challenging), try to find their own way.

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