Is Christian meditation compatible with mindfulness?

  • By Joel Conner
  • 12 Sep, 2017

This popular topic has been at the forefront lately and I decided to devote some time and uncovering the truth. 

Many different ideas can come to mind when you bring up the word mindfulness and meditation. Although it's not commonly known, meditation has been a key ingredient in Christian practice for thousands of years. In modern times there has been a Revival and Eastern meditation, and it's effectiveness and helping us manage stress in our daily lives.

And now we have a new guy on the block known as mindfulness. Mindfulness has connections to Eastern meditation and striking similarities to Christian meditation. So is mindfulness compatible with Christian meditation? Can Christians today tap into the power of mindfulness without compromising their beliefs? My answer is, absolutely positively yes, and amen.

Let's deal with a few concerns before we go any further.

The first concern that usually is brought up in this discussion is that embracing modern mindfulness will contradict my Christian belief system. However, the modern practice end of mindfulness is typically devoid of any spiritual connotations. Science supports the practice of focusing awareness on our thought life, understanding negative thought patterns, and choosing positive thoughts as a way of promoting a healthy emotional and physical lifestyle.


By far the modern practice of mindfulness is aimed at one major modern epidemic issue: stress reduction.


The ramifications of excessive levels of stress cannot be understated. Stress is literally killing us.

The most obvious detrimental consequence is emotional, but lesser known evils include addictive habits, health issues, and it even reaches in and affects our finances. If that wasn’t enough, I was blown away when I learned how stressful thought patterns can even reach into the future by leaving their mark on our DNA.


“Thoughts and feelings turn sets of genes on and/or off in complex relationships. Moreover, science is discovering that, although we have a fixed set of genes in our chromosomes, it’s principally our thoughts that influence those genes which are active. “ - Dr. Caroline Leaf



This “stressidemic” costs the global business community billions of dollars every year and drugs that we spend trying to treat our condition doesn’t seem to be helping much.  


1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition. That's over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of New York and Florida combined. ” - Mental Health America

And If you are a parent this next one is even harder to consider. Unchecked stress which leads to anger, harsh words, depression, and withdrawal, has a significant impact on our children and grandchildren.

It has become clearly evident though that the practice of mindfulness, if consistently used over a period of at least 3 weeks, can significantly impact negative thought patterns and reduce stress levels. There are a number of books and programs which I will list at the bottom of this article that have  helped thousands of people improve the quality of their lives. Many of these resources I have personally read and some are on my list to read in the future.


What is interesting is that much of what is being reported by the scientific study of the brain or neurology confirms the wisdom of practicing mindful Christian meditation.   But what are the differences between  modern mindfulness and Christian mindfulness and meditation? And what are the similarities?

Let me start by just giving the simplest definition of each:

Modern Mindfulness:  a mental state accomplished by focusing a person's awareness on the current moment, while calmly recognizing and processing one's sentiments, thought processes, and physiological sensations, used as a healing technique.


Christian Meditation: focusing and thinking about the truth as revealed in God’s word, paying attention to your thoughts, and casting aside false ideas.


I know that these are very simplified definitions. the Bible in fact mentions meditation twenty times  and has very detailed explanation on the discipline of Christian thinking.


“Set your mind on the things above”

“Take captive your thoughts”

“Meditate on God’s truth day and night”

"Finally, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things."


Unplugged used to mean an acoustic jam session.  It now means putting down the phone.


Since the wide acceptance of the smartphone, the few moments that we had for contempation has been eclipsed by “the world at our fingertips.”   Even the age old place of contemplation, “the bathroom” has been invaded.  No time to be thoughtful and no time to reflect. There is always something just on the other side of the screen. Don't get me wrong the smartphone is an amazing gift, but most of us in our culture cannot handle it wisely. Therefore, the few little times of reflection that should be default are long gone.


Since the release of the iphone in 2007:

Skyrocketing: Loneliness, Depression, and Suicide

Plummeting: Social Skills, Dating, and Independence


Recent release, “favor” from rock band Ha Ha Tonka reflects a counter movement to this mentality  “Turn your back on the world / Live off the grid / Turn off your phone / You’ll be glad that you did.”


What does the smartphone have to do with meditation and mindfulness?  It’s simple, you cannot be mindful if you are plugged in.


Another major concern is that “mindfulness is about emptying the mind. This process could open a portal to demonic or Satan's influence.


The practice of modern Mindfulness isn't about emptying. In reality, it's essentially the exact opposite.


Mindfulness is about achieving consciousness to your thought life. The goal in clearing your mind aimed at the overpowering vast majority of scattered thoughts - mindfulness instructs us how to calm the constant rambling that actually wrecks havoc on our brain to then give birth to clearness and peace.


And thus, it's a way to clean up, label, organize, and prioritize, not an emptying.


I can't help think of my pc. Over time our computers get cluttered with unnecessary programs that run in the background. This can really eat up our RAM and slow down our CPU. In other words it makes our computer painfully slow and even causes it to crash. The act of wiping your computer clean by reinstalling or systematically removing unnecessary programs is similar to the act of mindful reflection.


Additionally, whenever our minds are sharper, so are our judgments, actions, and priorities. We're foster an increased capacity to do the types of things that Christ encourages us to exhibit such as love , sympathy, consideration and awareness. And as followers of Christ, we have access to the Holy Spirit, who leads us into wisdom and freedom. The spirit of God also empowers us to see the opportunities to serve and help others around us.


Let's look at some more ways that Mindfulness and Christian Meditation are in alignment. Mindfulness facilitates Christ-followers to grow up in their spiritual depth.

Mindfulness is natural and flexible by nature. It changes and moves with every one who practices it. For instance, if you want to meditate on a scripture while concentrating on mindful breathing, have at it. If a person concentrates on bible verses they're taking the mind to a single, targeted consciousness and that is textbook mindfulness.


Mindfulness increases your capacity to connect intimately with God. You can direct your thoughts to, "Practice the presence of God" as was presented by Brother Lawrence in his classic book. A mind that is spinning with random thought patterns doesn't have much of chance and focusing on the unseen essential.


Mindfulness, Meditation and the Holy Spirit

Mindfulness, Meditation and the Holy Spirit

The bible teaches that God’s Spirit can give us discernment. If you take a moment to unpack the implications of having an omnipresent (present everywhere) and omniscience (all knowing) guide that can give us wisdom.  I can’t even see around the corner, God is on all sides of all things and holds them altogether.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows what is best for us and know the future.  So the how does mindfulness work with the Holy Spirit?  Instead of striving for an empty mind, clearing the mind is only the first step, though certainly not an easy task.  Entering a mindful and focused state is paired with an invitation.  A simple and open invitation.  Come and guide my thoughts.  Be careful that you do not just let you mind wander wherever you desire them to go and then have the false belief that God lead your thoughts.  Nor is this a formula for sure-fire determining the will of God.  No this is simply asking for communion and wisdom.  For believers, this can be liken to mindfulness on steroids.  

I plan to continue this discussion and would love to hear your thoughts.

Mindfully Renewed Blog

By Joel Conner 12 Sep, 2017

Many different ideas can come to mind when you bring up the word mindfulness and meditation. Although it's not commonly known, meditation has been a key ingredient in Christian practice for thousands of years. In modern times there has been a Revival and Eastern meditation, and it's effectiveness and helping us manage stress in our daily lives.

And now we have a new guy on the block known as mindfulness. Mindfulness has connections to Eastern meditation and striking similarities to Christian meditation. So is mindfulness compatible with Christian meditation? Can Christians today tap into the power of mindfulness without compromising their beliefs? My answer is, absolutely positively yes, and amen.

Let's deal with a few concerns before we go any further.

The first concern that usually is brought up in this discussion is that embracing modern mindfulness will contradict my Christian belief system. However, the modern practice end of mindfulness is typically devoid of any spiritual connotations. Science supports the practice of focusing awareness on our thought life, understanding negative thought patterns, and choosing positive thoughts as a way of promoting a healthy emotional and physical lifestyle.


By far the modern practice of mindfulness is aimed at one major modern epidemic issue: stress reduction.


The ramifications of excessive levels of stress cannot be understated. Stress is literally killing us.

The most obvious detrimental consequence is emotional, but lesser known evils include addictive habits, health issues, and it even reaches in and affects our finances. If that wasn’t enough, I was blown away when I learned how stressful thought patterns can even reach into the future by leaving their mark on our DNA.


“Thoughts and feelings turn sets of genes on and/or off in complex relationships. Moreover, science is discovering that, although we have a fixed set of genes in our chromosomes, it’s principally our thoughts that influence those genes which are active. “ - Dr. Caroline Leaf



This “stressidemic” costs the global business community billions of dollars every year and drugs that we spend trying to treat our condition doesn’t seem to be helping much.  


1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition. That's over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of New York and Florida combined. ” - Mental Health America

By Joel Conner 27 Aug, 2017

Christian meditation does not differ much with other forms of meditation. However, it does not require one the use of mantras, prayer beads, or even specific postures. As with all others, it necessitates one to free the mind from too many thoughts.

Also considered as a mental prayer, Christian meditation is perhaps the most efficient way to communicate with God. The formal Christian meditation started with the monks. They would read the Bible verses slowly and reflect on the meaning and message of the Scriptures. This early form of meditation is known as the “divine reading”.

These monks were soon praying on impulse as a result of their reading the Scriptures slowly. Their prayers lead to a mental loving thought on God which they called contemplation.

The development from reading the Bible, to meditating, to praying, to loving thought for God, was described as the ladder of prayer, which was given Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio.

There are two forms of Christian meditation during the twentieth century. One form is the Christian meditation using the mantra. Early mantra used was the Maranatha which is Aramaic for “Come, Lord”. The other form of Christian meditation is the Centering Prayer. This form uses a sacred word to convey one’s intention to be in the presence of God. Another part of this contemplative form of prayer is the individual’s detachment to his psychological problems.

The “Five R” Method of St. Theresa of Avila is a good way to fight obstacles of concentration in prayer. This method includes: Ready; Read; Reflect; Respond; Resolve.

* Ready would mean keeping in mind that you are in God’s presence. Think of your faith, trust, and love for him. Be sorry for your sins and ask for your purpose for your meditation.
* Read may mean a favorite passage from the Bible or any other spiritual book, or even just reading a copy of a favorite prayer or looking at a religious picture.
* Reflect means to focus your thoughts on the verse you were reading or the picture you were looking at and answering questions which will motivate you to contemplate deeper.
* Respond is basically the center of the meditation process. This is actually the beginning of a deeper conversation with God. When you have reached this stage, you can now talk to him more freely and openly from the inner depths of your soul.
* Resolve is the goodbye in a conversation. Close it by thanking Him for the time and finish it off with your favorite prayer.
However one chooses to do the Christian meditation, one should keep in mind that it is not as a means for salvation. Like prayer, Christian meditation is a mere form of spiritual discipline, a deeper kind of worship, and a more intimate meeting with God.

By Joel Conner 14 Aug, 2017
Once the fight or flight part of your brain is activated, it can take hours to recover, unless you can short circuit this response before it fully releases all of its stress hormones.

1 - You must immediately be aware that fight or flight is kicking in. To do this, it helps to identify your common triggers. For helpful tips on identifying your triggers, check out Identifying Your External Stressors. Once you have identified the situations that push you over the edge, try to zero in on the thought response that follows. This negative string of thoughts and words is usually filled with illogical ideas that can be labeled, defused, and discarded.

2 - Plan your response before hand. If you don't have a clearly defined pathway out of the fog, you will quickly be enveloped, and your old negative habits of thought, speech, and action will take over.

The Clear Button
Don Joseph Goewey, author of The End Of Stress, an effective method of stopping the stress response. He calls it "The Clear Button."
https://theendofstressbook.com/signup/
This technique is very simple and only takes a few seconds. You press your thumb into the center of the palm of your other hand. Then you imagine a connection directly to your brain (the amygdala). Next, take three deep slow breaths. During each breath, think of a different color.

Five Finger Reset
This is a technique that is just a bit more complex, but more powerful in my opinion. You pick five words that will help you deflate the stress response. Each word correlates to a finger.
On the bottom inside corner of your fingernails are pressure points. Starting with your thumb press on the pressure point of each finger as you say each word. If you want to increase the impact, then breath in on the first three words and out on the last two words. Take your time and don't rush the process. If you are able, close your eyes as you reset your brain, and your amygdala falls back asleep.

Example:
Breathing in: Peace (thumb) Be (index) Still (middle)
Breathing out: I'm (ring) Loved (pinky)

Step Out
This one needs to be prearranged with your loved ones. But you'd be amazed at how different you can feel if you quickly exit the room and take a walk around the block. If however, you wait too long before you exit, it may already be too late, and you may end up ruminating around the block with negative thoughts.

3 - Practice. Once you decide on your plan of action, you must memorize it and practice. Just as elementary schools continue doing their fire drills, so they are ready for the real deal, you must go through the motions to prep your mind for evasive maneuvers.

4 - Proactively work on reducing your overall levels of stress. Get outside and get some sunshine. Exercise regularly. Renew your mind with good thoughts. Play. Laugh. By reducing your overall levels of stress, you have increased levels of tolerance, and more of a buffer around your emotional responses. This helps keep your mind clearer when navigating stormy situations.

If you have any methods that work well for you, please share in the comment boxes below.



By Joel Conner 22 Jul, 2017
It's widespread knowledge that too much stress and tension is bad for a person, but do you know why?

Cortisol: the Saver and the Killer.
Cortisol is the widely recognized "fight or flight" reaction produced by the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
The vagus nerve stretches from your brain to your stomach and reaches almost every organ along the way.
The vagus (not Vegas) nerve becomes enlarged whenever your cortisol levels are too high for too long.
This can lead to all sorts of physical calamities, and high doses of stress is fuel on the fire.

Don't get me wrong; I am thankful for cortisol when I need it, however, if cortisol amounts stay elevated in our bodies for too long, there are a myriad of negative consequences. Elevated levels of stress related hormones or "Neurochemical Sludge" can result in crippling depression (which blindsided me a few years back). It also can cause high blood pressure, persistent fear and anxiety, anger, weight gain, an impaired immune system, physical and mental exhaustion, accumulation of toxins, heart disease, and a litany of other ailments.

Sleeping With Stress
The cortisol released during a stressful afternoon can also result in more cortisol surges throughout the evening and even during sleep.


By Joel Conner 15 Jul, 2017
1. I am skillfully and perfectly engineered
2. I am loved and that is unchangeable.
3. Trouble will come my way, but will give my troubles and worries to Jesus
4. I am cared for by Christ
5. I have my very own rescuer who has infinite power at his disposal
6. Thought I was lost at sea, I am found and safe.
7. Jesus pulled me out from a hateful ocean and gave me life and freedom
8. Though I make stupid mistakes sometimes, Jesus will shelter me, restore me, and give me His wisdom to restore any damage I have caused.
9. Though I feel like I don't have many friends, Jesus calls me friend and the closer I get to him; my relationships will flourish.
10. I can overcome any fear, for the most powerful Jesus is with me
11. I will fall down, but he will raise me and give me courage
12. I need help, He will certainly help me and uphold me
13. Sometimes, I don't know what to say, "He will speak through me."
14. Jesus says, "you are mine."
15. He knows me better than I know myself, and he still loves me!
16. If I blew it today, His mercies are fresh and brand new each morning
17. My help arises from God, Who made everything
18. I can do all things by means of Christ who strengthens me
19. When I'm in over my head, Jesus will be there, and in fact, he is here now.
20. He will recover, confirm, empower, and develop you
By Joel Conner 06 Jul, 2017
Don't think of a Pink Elephant. Don't think of a Pink Elephant! And the harder you try, the bigger and pinker it gets. Ruminating thoughts, however, tend to be about critical areas of our lives. It's common definition is to think deeply about something. And in that sense to ruminate is actually quite a good thing unless your thoughts are being fueled by worry or fear or by a flurry of unclear maybes.

Rumination in the negative sense is one of the most harmful things to your brain. It overloads your levels of stress, produces emotional instability, is detrimental to your health , robs you of sleep, wrecks havoc on your relationships, and plagues your future and the futures of those in contact with you. Ouch, that was a mouthful. To say it bluntly toxic rumination is poor management of your mind and one of the worst forms of self-inflicted damage . It builds and strengthens physical structures in the brain that continuously work against your well being.
So if you are on board with me that something needs to be done about negative ruminating, let's learn how to mindfully short circuit these thought patterns. And what's really cool is that we can turn this rumination engine on it's head and use it to produces amazing results on our behalf.

Short Circuiting Harmful Rumination

1. Realize that you are ruminating. You cannot stop it if you are unaware that you are doing it. Many times people are just too busy and distracted to realize that in the "back of their minds" they are thinking about the same worries over and over.

2. Analyze your thought pattern. Is this thought entirely true? Many times a ruminating thought contains some truth but is mixed with falsities and fears of future possibilities that may or may not materialize. Often, if a fear is repeatedly circulated in endless possible scenarios, it will find its way into the most horrific conclusions. So running a quick analysis of your thought pattern allows you to remove the parts that are based on future fears.
Look out for absolute statements such as, "This always happens," or "he never..." or "I can never." These sort of declarations are typically false. And the are very destructive. They flow out our bad habit of exaggerating.
Example: "I am in deep trouble because I was unable to finish a project. My supervisor is going to get me fired. I am going to have to return to that job that I hate. My spouse is going to be so ..."

Analysis:
deep trouble- in the future, unclear, possible but not for sure
going to be fired- future, unlikely,
old job- future, unlikely
the reaction of a spouse- purely speculative
Is it possible that other projects were not finished by the projected deadline and yet the world kept on spinning?

3. Label the different pieces appropriately. Put the elements of your rumination in their proper places. Are future based fears are they worth dwelling apon? Discard them for a more productive option.

4. Smile at the silliness of your faulty thinking. Seeing the humor in your over inflated fears is a great way of disarming them.

5. Decide on your action. Make a decision on what you are going to do about this issue. "I am going finish this first thing in the morning and own up to my mistakes, and all these other thoughts and possibilities are not worth considering. This is the right thing to do, the correct approach, and God has good things lined up for me tomorrow."

6. Replace your harmful rumination with a simple, powerful life-giving truth. In regards to our example situation, consider these truths from the Bible.
“So don’t worry about these things... These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers , but God already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live rightly, and he will give you everything you need. Don’t worry about tomorrow... from Matthew 6:32-34
To summarize:
1. God already knows all my needs
2. I will seek Him and try to follow his ways
3. He will take care of my needs
4. Tomorrow is in His capable hands

Recap:
1. Ruminating is extremely powerful either for good or bad.
2. Being mindful of your thoughts is the starting place for wisely managing them.
3. A quick analysis can break down the false ideas and even provide you with an inward smile.
4. Take or plan the action you will take, shelf or discard the rest.
5. Replace your harmful thought pattern with the polar opposite: a life-giving truth.

Our minds are an amazing gift! Let's use them wisely!
By Joel Conner 28 Jun, 2017
Know your stressors   Find and Replace! 

Definition of  stressor

  1. :  a stimulus that causes  stress

First Known Use: 1950


Effective stress management starts with identifying your sources of stress and developing strategies to manage them. One way to do this is to make a list of the situations, concerns or challenges that trigger your stress response. Take a moment to write down some of the top issues you're facing right now. You'll notice that some of your stressors are events that happen to you while others seem to originate from within.

Exterior Triggers
Exterior triggers are events and situations that happen to you. Some examples of external stressors include:

Family & Community Interaction. 

G etting to know new people is usually a stressful situation. Consider calling a new acquaintance, and you most likely begin to perspire. Interactions with family members frequently create   strain   also. Think back to your last grapple with your spouse or youngster.

Unforeseen situations

Without warning, unwanted visitors show up. Or maybe you 
realize  your mortgage payments proceeded to go up or that your job  might be  slashed.

Work environment.  
Typical  triggers on the job include an unattainable amount of work,  never ending  messages, pressing due dates along with a difficult manager.

Significant
life changes .
These
developments might be positive , such as marriage, pregnancy, a promotion, or a new home. Or they may be bad , such as your demise of a cherished one or perhaps a breakup.

Life Conditions .
The input from your environment generally is a source of stress. Take into account how well you respond to abrupt sounds, for instance a screaming child, or how well you respond to a vibrant bright area as well as a dreary day.

If you are able to identify your most common triggers, then you can be ready with an truth statement that can short circuit the emotional surge and empower you to respond in a better way. You may even surprise yourself, and you loved ones.

Approaches to cope with external triggers consist of habits such as being mindful of negative thoughts and replacing them with encouraging truths, staying physically active and having adequate sleep - these factors greatly improve your threshold. Additional
advantageous methods consist of requesting assistance from others, enjoying a good laugh, being assertive, and renewing your mind. Contemplate the way you make use of time by concentrating on pursuits that are most important (relationships and meaningful services) , reducing the number of hobbies you're engaged in, and being able to set limits.

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