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Centering Prayer

Christian Mindfulness

Centering Prayer

Mindfulness is everywhere. Practices from Buddhism and Hinduism are being used in home, schools, and workplaces. People are cleansing their chakras, feeling their breathing, and visualising… Schools are practicing mindfulness at the start of every lesson… While some have criticised the trendiness as McMindfulness, I want to focus here on this being yet another example of the church having spiritual amnesia, of Christians giving away our birthright – or not even knowing we have one!

Some time back, I put great effort into going into the jungles in eastern Thailand to learn from Buddhist monks who spoke English. What I found there were Buddhist monks, of European background, reading books in the Christian mystical tradition. They had not been introduced to this tradition when they had been growing up and maturing in their Western, Christian context – they had discovered them after years of being committed to Buddhism. And I remember well their comments: “I am happy to be a Buddhist now, but had I known this was available in Christianity I would never have become a Buddhist.”

More recently I have had several people describe what they do in their mindfulness practice. My response: “that’s part of the Christian heritage”. Lifelong Christians, of different ages, these people had never come across Christian traditions of deeper prayer, and the practices of repeating a word, or other ways of entering deep silence.

On this website, a central passion of mine is to pass on Christian practices of deep prayer and silence. Read about
Silent Prayer
Lectio Divina
The Examen of St Ignatius
Daily Prayer

Part of the issue, I believe, is that we are not forming clergy for contemplative leadership.

More on spirituality here.

Two great movements (links off this site) are Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation.

Do you have any other good resources of Christian Mindfulness to point to? Or any comments or questions on what is written above?

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16 thoughts on “Christian Mindfulness”

  1. I think the ex Christian Buddhists have found answers that real Christianity was never going to provide. A warm feeling about a life of denial and legalistic routine is not going to save them whereas a conviction of their innate sinfulness will set them on a road that will. I would argue that there is nothing mystical about Christianity at all although some men have added that to the mix. The great wonders of God and the Trinity are not, to me, mystical (but that’s not to ask how you get your head around them). Christ’s prayers are, as far as we can see, practical and there was no need to wander about with smoke and chanting to get a result. To me it smacks of the Charismatic movement – its all about having an experience and that does nothing to create a firm faith that will survive testing.

    1. Thanks, Brown. The search for an “experience”, that you have underlined, is quite a different direction to where my post is pointing. I’m thinking of another post that highlights that further. “Mysticism” is a much-abused, much-misunderstood, confusing word. It often starts in a mist and ends in a schism 😉 Blessings.

  2. Isn’t also part of the ‘I’m not religious but …’ discourse? A search for an experience, a way of life even, but being able to opt out, when something doesn’t suit.

    1. Yes, Caro, I think you are right – and I’m thinking of exploring what you are pointing to possibly in another post. Blessings.

  3. I don’t think it is the same, though, due to intent. Christians focus upon God, and these other meditation traditions focus upon the inner or higher self or hope to achieve an amorphous universal “oneness” that is certainly the antithesis of Christianity, in which we believe that God is an actual triune being. I am so tired of people suggesting meditation and mindfulness practices to me, including inviting me to Buddhist retreats, as if we all would benefit from this or want to seek it out. But I do not like to be rude to people I care about. I have started saying “Actually, I don’t meditate, I pray”. Prayer works brilliantly. Even though I am surrounded by atheists and secular Christians, I just got tired of NOT ever saying it but only nodding and smiling. What’s weird these days, at least here in Australia where I live, is that everyone and their grandma will recommend meditation and mindfulness and all manner of pseudo-Buddhist or Hindu practices to you, and that is completely socially acceptable (as are all manner of silly new age platitudes). But, it is so not okay to say to someone “have you ever tried prayer?”. So, I tend not to say it unless it is to someone with whom I have a very close relationship.

    1. Thanks, “T.D.” [Please can you just use your ordinary name here – it is part of keeping discussions on this site generating more light than heat, by being aware this is a community of real people.] You are actually pointing in the direction I want to reflect in a future post that I’ve already alluded to. I will be approaching it slightly differently. I also want to hold onto the (even-in-Christianity-confusing) words “meditation” and “contemplation”. I think that the Christian word “prayer” is (sadly) overweighted with an understanding of “saying words”. So we are back to my original point: our birthright, our heritage of deep prayer beyond words. Blessings.

      1. Sure I will use my regular name. I only use my initials on social media because there are a lot of people with my exact same name out in the world, so I get rejected when I try to sign up for things using my full name, as it’s always already taken. I have just become used to using my initials now.

        I am very much looking forward to your future posts on this topic, as it interests me greatly. I recently read Rowan Williams’ “Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another and Other Lessons from the Desert Fathers” and was enthralled by these stories of the desert fathers’ (and mothers’) lives.

        I see what you mean about the word “prayer” though I have the same reflection about the word “meditation”, to be honest. Not, of course, that it’s just saying words, but that it cannot be assumed we all mean the same thing when we speak of meditation, unless we qualify it.

        Blessings to you, too, Fr. Bosco.

  4. It seems to me that the little book by Br. Lawerence “Practicing the Presence of God” is a classic example of mindfulness.

    In response to Brown I don’t want to stay in my head I want to involve the whole of me, which has experience as part of the mix.

    1. Thanks, David. You are right about Br Lawrence. The classic I treasure in this tradition is “The Cloud of Unknowing”. Blessings.

  5. You might be interested in my latest book, “Silence: A User’s Guide.”

    Glad you are pursuing silence. You are absolutely right about the dearth of clergy training in contemplation, and much of what is taught is wrong because it makes an idol of “experience”. Christian maturity is about self-forgetfulness.

    1. Delighted to have you here, Maggie (how did you find this site?). Yes, I’ve read your book, and am looking forward to the promised sequel! Blessings.

  6. I would especially recommend two books by Cynthia Bourgeault: _Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening_ and _The Wisdom Jesus_. The first is a very comprehensive account of Centering Prayer, as an explanation of the practice and also of the tradition, theology, and psychology of contemplative prayer. Besides being a useful resource for beginning and experienced practitioners, it would also be a good resource for clergy training in contemplative practice. The latter book presents Jesus as “a teacher of the transformation of consciousness” (quoting from the cover blurb) and includes a section on “Christian Wisdom Practices”–Centering Prayer Meditation, Lectio Divina, Chanting and Psalmody, Welcoming, and Eucharist. I think the chapter on Centering Prayer is the best succinct (eight pages) introduction to the practice that I have seen.

    Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader.

  7. Martin Hennessy-Smith

    Couldn’t agree more! Mindfulness is exercise for the brain. I t can be preparation for prayer, sport or religious experience. However, it is not what it is a preparation for, Agree, that it is based on the experiential learning of monastic practice, over thousands of years.

    Western science and medicine have become fascinated with it and the scientific method shows that it works. I have had such relief from acute anxiety and depression since I started using it.

    I prayer that to will be is with understanding and discernment within our communities.

    Nor do you have to pay vast sums of money to experience and make use of mindfulness. There are iPhone apps that can introduce you to the practice without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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