A frequent Christian mindfulness practice involves monitoring your thinking. Now and again, you stop to see what you are concentrating on. Or you realize that you are thinking about how the Sopranos ended. And you know that God prefers for you to think about something better.
I previously covered this in the post What to Think. Let’s do an update. Are we using Philippians 4:8 as a yardstick to measure our thought life. The verse says:
This week, let’s return to this verse when we are in a bad mood, when we want to complain and when we are waiting. These are trigger times for negative or unproductive thinking. Let me know how it’s going for you.
Silent retreats are the bomb. I took a four-night silent retreat at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky last year. Afterwards, I promised myself I would do it twice a year.
Well … then came COVID-19. For many of us who have been spending an exceptional amount of time with family for months, a silent retreat sounds like the impossible dream.
So try silence in small bits. Go to a room or outdoor space where you can be alone. No kids, no spouses, no pets. Sit in silence and check in for 10 minutes. Are you anxious? Tired? Feeling pushed or rushed?
Let the silence flow over you. Feel the presence of Jesus in that silence. He loves you. He understands.
This can be a regular practice to restart the day whenever you need it. See how it feels today.
An excellent description of Christian mindfulness is found in Acts 17:28: “for in him we live and move and have our being.” Step by step, hour by hour, we walk with Jesus intentionally, paying single-minded attention to every moment.
Visualize being crucified with Jesus. Sound weird? Yes, but it’s Biblical.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Colossians 3:3: For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Romans 6:6-7: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
So let’s take a quiet moment to visualize ourselves crucified with Jesus. This is a good start to dying to self and waking to walk in Christian mindfulness.
Today’s Christian mindfulness practice calls for 24 hours of attention. We are looking for “divine appointments,” things that God is calling us to do even though they are not on our calendars.
It’s true. The most important thing that Jesus wants you to do today may come entirely out of the blue. An unexpected phone call. A nudge to reach out about something. A whisper to pray for someone. An opportunity to be loving, especially if no one else is looking.
It’s hard to look for divine appointments when we are relentlessly charging through our to-do lists. Make time today to quiet yourself and ask God what He has planned. You may get a very nice surprise!
Is it easy to practice Christian mindfulness while standing in a line? No. Yet it may be harder to practice waiting on the Lord.
The contemplative practice asks us to remain prayerful in God’s presence while we wait patiently for direction or answered prayer. This practice is all over the Psalms, especially in Psalm 27 written by David.
13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Today let us quiet our minds. Let us listen for the Lord’s direction via Scripture and prayer. I always find that synchronicity is a sign. If I hear, read and see the same verse or holy thought again and again, I know the Lord is knocking on the door.
Social distancing can result in upsetting conversations over Zoom and via social media. This is particularly true when we reach out to others who are upset, one way or the other, over systemic racism and/or the pandemic and/or everything.
Working with the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, we can detox from these conversations to return to deep inner peace. It involves, first, identifying how we are feeling. Angry? Disgusted? Sad?
Rather than running away or ignoring the feeling, accept it. Lift it up to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Gently listen to your own thoughts in Christian mindfulness, returning to deep breathing and the Jesus prayer when needed.
Next, calm your feelings. Ask Jesus to be with you as you take care of yourself like you would take care of an upset child. Be fully mindful of your own state. Remember: God is here. God is now. He is with you in your pain and sorrow.
As you calm down, release the emotion to God. As you release, listen. Do you hear a message about something you should do or not do? Did this upset come from a sin area or a false way that you see yourself or the world?
Just keep calming and releasing the problem to God, being willing to do His will. If you are listening in humility, God will be there in a transformational way.
Walking in Christian mindfulness through ongoing pandemic and racial injustice requires faith that abiding in Jesus will bring us peace. In reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace Is Every Step,” I found that Buddhists believe achieving inner peace is necessary to achieving a peaceful world.
In the introduction, the Dalai Lama writes: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way. Wherever I go, I express this, and I am encouraged that people from many different walks of life receive it well. Peace must first be developed within an individual. And I believe that love, compassion and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace.”
As a Christian, I think we achieve true inner peace by abiding in Jesus. For me, His graces are necessary to overcoming my anxious nature. All the Christian mindfulness exercises I do … and the Buddhist exercises that I adapt … are ways to practice opening the door to God.
An explanation of the differences between Buddhist mindfulness and Christian mindfulness is here.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is within us. I do agree that prayer, study and Christian mindfulness practices help us all to walk left-foot, right-foot with God in love, compassion and altruism.
To expect that we cannot achieve peace until everyone is on that path is sad. But I do agree with the Buddhists that inner transformation makes outer peace easier. To be like Jesus … willing to meet people where they are in love … is the path forward.
Living in a fallen world has been especially tough this year. Anger, fear, anxiety … it’s all fallout from a time of protest and pandemic. Brokenness is all around us as well as within us.
I was feeling worried and weary recently. Then Jesus reminded me of a great truth: He wants me to be at peace and without fear. The only way I can do that in a fallen world is to keep my focus on Him.
Focusing on the presence of Jesus gives us strength to do what we need to do. Jesus wants us to live without fear, and He gives us the ability to do that. But we have to focus on Him.
That doesn’t mean that we ignore the pandemic or the issues that are causing the protests. We seek Jesus first, and He gives us all the strength, courage and wisdom we need to do what is right. And he gives us joy and peace as we abide in Him.
“The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17
Evil would want us to think the worst about who we are, so we would have that behind our eyes as we looked at our neighbor. Jesus would want us to see the best of who we are, so we would be able to see the best of our neighbor. You can be an accuser or an advocate. Evil would have you be an accuser in this life. Jesus would have you be an advocate for your neighbor.
We are not the only ones who benefit when we practice Christian mindfulness day after day. Experiencing the presence of Jesus comforts and changes us, so we become better co-workers, neighbors, family members and friends. We become lamps on the table in a very dark place.
The world is out of control. People face uncertainty and fear. In the midst of a long-term, ongoing crisis, people notice when someone else is at peace. It is a significant witness in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Our attitudes show our trust in God.
In 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Paul writes that those of us who experience God’s comfort are not just storehouses. We don’t just enjoy the experience. We are conduits that share that comfort with others … sometimes through purposeful ministry, sometime just in daily interactions with others.
Practicing the presence of Jesus brings peace to more than just us. It can show the world a safe path in a challenging time.