The learned practice of focusing thoughts and emotions on the present, frequently referred to as mindfulness, is becoming very fashionable these days. Mindfulness is seen by many as bringing wellbeing to their lives, as an aid to concentration and as a therapy for a wide range of psychological disorders, including anxiety.
Actually, Jesus agrees that mental distraction caused by anxiety is indeed unhelpful to us. He says ‘So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings’ (Matthew 6:34). And the Bible encourages us to take captive under the authority of Jesus every thought that persists in opposing the truth of God; ‘We pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
However, Jesus would not endorse either the spiritual roots or many of the techniques associated with today’s mindfulness programmes. They are based on beliefs and methods derived from Buddhism, and participants are usually encouraged not to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of the thoughts that they are experiencing.
Mindfulness is seen to be increased through various techniques such as meditation and yoga. In Buddhist tradition it is part of a process which is intended to lead both to enlightenment and to detachment from the unhelpful cravings of this life.
Mindfulness training has been widely adapted for secular settings, in schools and hospitals for example, intending such programmes to be independent of any spiritual connection. However, as believers, we need to be very careful of soulish techniques, devoid of the authority of Jesus, which are used to deal with mind disorder, and the spiritual roots of mindfulness should not be ignored.
Any mind activity which is likely to open us to a spiritual control other than the Holy Spirit has the potential for causing hidden bondage rather than bringing true freedom. Followers of Jesus can be fully confident that the Bible gives spiritually safe advice to help tackle issues such as stress and anxiety.
Prayer: I choose not to worry about anything, but I will ask You, God, for what I need, with a thankful heart, for I believe that Your peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep my heart and mind safe in union with Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Amen.