I was recently asked a good question:
What do you think about the popular practice of “mindfulness” and “meditation”?
Here’s my initial response.
I’m not sure what kind of “mindfulness” you’re critiquing. Eastern meditation seeks to empty our minds, to be mindful of our own “inner divinity” and mindful of the Oneness that permeates all reality. Certain Eastern forms of meditation can be inconsistent with Christian spirituality — especially if they involve Eastern religious beliefs and teachings, and I think this is what you’re questioning.
On the other hand, there is an appropriate Christian “mindfulness” taught in Scripture that invites us to fill our minds with the revealed truths and promises of God as we “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2), “meditate on all God’s work (Ps 77:12), “meditate on His precepts” (Ps 119:15) and more.
Jesus rebukes Peter harshly saying, “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt 16). And Paul’s invitation to be mindful and meditate is found in Phil 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Another one of my favorites:
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away….And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…” but sadly, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 3:16-18; 4:4).
While some Christians take a “defensive” stance toward other world-views and secular culture, I’m in favor of reclaiming and redeeming all good created things belonging to the Creator, including things like Christian mindfulness, meditation on Scripture, and contemplating the glory revealed in the face of Christ.
For example, our church even hosts a fully Christianized Holy Yoga class on Saturdays where people get down on their mats, listen to worship music, meditate on scripture and bring their entire body, breathing and movement all before the Lord of Heaven in worship, prayer, and meditation.
Why? Because all of this stuff — breathing, stretching, meditating — were all the good creation of the One True God long before they were co-opted by Eastern religions now known for such practices and using them to lure people away from the Truth. Yoga is wildly popular right now, and we’re using this ministry to bring people back to God.
One might even argue this ministry is in step with the evangelistic heartbeat of the Apostle Paul who said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). While it may be a bit of a “stretch” (forgive the pun), if Paul were ministering in our world today, I can almost envision him face down on a yoga mat helping others “contemplating the Lord’s glory” in hopes that by doing so the veil might be taken away from unbelievers.
So, the practice of mindfulness and meditation for followers of Jesus are not problematic per se; it depends on the object and goal of one’s mindfulness and meditation.
Finally, I should briefly mention that many practicing meditation and mindfulness today are void of all religious or spiritual elements, and seem to equate to simple breathing and relaxation exercises aimed at relieving stress and anxiety. I don’t see anything harmful about such practices.