Mindfulness is quite the trend these days. Scroll through the App Store and you’ll find plenty of apps designed to increase mindfulness and reduce stress. Schools are adding mindfulness to their curriculum in an effort to “lessen the anxiety, pain and anguish that some teens go through.”1 Even Mayo Clinic is recommending mindfulness. So, here’s a simple but important question: what exactly is it?
Here’s Mayo’s definition:
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.2
Mayo goes on to say that mindfulness is an effective strategy for combatting stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Mindfulness, we’re told, can help us improve our attention, decrease job burnout, and control diabetes. Sounds promising! So how does it work?
Here are three ways Mayo recommends to help you practice mindfulness:
- Pay close attention to your surroundings. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? Set your mind on your breathing and focus on where you are.
- Find joy in the moment. Focus your mind on positive sensory experiences and relish them. Delight in the good around you.
- Accept yourself. Be thankful for who you are and treat yourself well.
So, the goal of mindfulness is experiencing the blessings of joy and peace. And it’s no surprise that our stressed out, anxious world would be deeply interested in this method. The problem is, mindfulness (at least how Mayo’s described it) is not going to work.
There is a path to joy and peace, but this blessing is not found by focusing more on our present circumstances, seeking joy in the moment, and accepting ourselves. Think about it. What if my present circumstances are really awful? What if the moment I’m in is painful? What if I’m aware of the ways I’ve fallen and failed and I know I can never accept myself?
A better way
There is a better way. Consider Psalm 1:1–3: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Here is a path toward true joy and peace. True blessing is not found in the kind of personal mindfulness so popular in our world today. True blessing is found in biblical meditation. And here’s how it’s done.
1. Pay close attention to the Scriptures
Strategies for mindfulness include closing our eyes, focusing on our breathing, and filling our heads with positive thinking. Biblical mediation involves opening our eyes, focusing on the God-breathed Scriptures, and filling our minds with his truth.
In Psalm 1 the blessed person is the one who meditates on the word of God day and night. This person is not giving their Bible an occasional glance. This person is digging in and soaking in God’s Word.
That means the first step toward true blessing is to open the Scriptures. Set aside a regular time to read and ponder. Don’t settle for a basic understanding of the story, the psalm, or the letter. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see marvelous things in his law (Psalm 119:18). Ask him to give you great understanding of his truth, and for that truth to penetrate your mind and heart in a personal way. In other words, ask God to speak to you. He will. His Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
2. Find joy in the Lord
If you are truly mediating on the Bible, you will find joy. The blessed person in Psalm 1 does not simply comprehend the law of the Lord, his delight is in the Law of the LORD. The Bible brings delight, because the Bible reveals God, the source of all true joy.
Tim Keller writes, “Meditation is spiritually ‘tasting’ the Scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him.”3
One of the goals of mindfulness is to alert our senses, and the goal of Biblical mediation is the same. We don’t simply want to know that the Lord is good, we want to taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8). This spiritual tasting of the Lord’s goodness happens when we feed on his Word, and it always brings joy and delight.
3. Find peace in his grace
The saddest element of this modern practice of mindfulness is that it attempts to lead people to accept themselves. But if we’re really honest, we all know that we have walked in the counsel of the wicked, and stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the seat of scoffers. We are a fallen people, in a fallen world, unable to repair, redeem, or restore ourselves. Self-acceptance is simply not possible.
But when we mediate on the Scriptures, here’s what we find: Yes, we are incredibly flawed. In fact, the problem is even worse than we can imagine. But, we have a God who is wonderfully gracious. His grace takes center stage all throughout his Word, culminating at the cross of Christ. At the cross our Savior died that we might live, he was condemned that we might be pardoned, he was cursed that we might be blessed.
The goal of biblical mediation is to fill your mind with this truth so that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18–19).
That’s the fullness you were made to experience. So forget personal mindfulness, and pursue biblical mediation.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/world/europe/uk-mindfulness-children-school.html ↩
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356 ↩
- Keller, Tim. Prayer. New York: Penguin Books, 2014. 151. ↩