I recently posted up a blog about the usefulness of Mindfulness as a practise. Some of my reflections came from this recently published book by Tim Stead.
This is a very useful and readable book on subject of Mindfulness. I especially liked his insights on God being one and God being experienced in the now. His explanation of his own personal faith journey was also very helpful to read. There has been a need for a book that looks at the interplay between mindfulness and spirituality and Stead has made a good start. It’s not a course though (which he admits) so if you want to learn mindfulness you would need to look elsewhere.
My only criticism is that it was written very much from his personal viewpoint. I suppose none of us can help doing that but when he writes that he sees mindfulness as a practise that will help rebalance the Christian faith away from too much emphasis on ‘what we intellectually believe’ towards a greater emphasis on ‘what we experience’. Many, many Christians would not recognise a problem with ‘too much emphasis on what we intellectually believe’.
Surely Christianity is only ‘too intellectual’ for a very small minority for western, conservative, and mostly evangelical Christians? If we lift our eyes up and take in a global perspective the massive growth of the Christian church is in the Pentecostal stream which, no offence intended, could not be seriously accused of being ‘too intellectual’. The life of a ‘charismatic Christian is ALL about experience – at the extreme end a ‘thrill-seeking, wonder-working, power-encounter of the ‘God’s in my corner’ variety: power everything, power evangelism, power church. For someone of this tradition the concept of ‘making space for God’ is synonymous with being filled with the Holy Spirit and if you ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ why would you need to meditate, you simply need to pray in tongues or have words/pictures from God?
But meditation as an exercise for our minds is somehow different from being filled with the Spirit and experiencing God through spiritual gifts (I write as one who would identify as ‘charismatic’) It adds something not better necessarily, just something different.
Stead poses the questions ‘Does it make sense? and Does it make any difference? of his own Christian faith but I think he also needs to add ‘Is it True?
There seems to be a pendulum which swings between these two
and when the swing is too much towards the ‘does it work’ side of things we cease to be concerned about whether or not it’s true. And yet it does matter that Christianity true because Christianity is (in my view) the only unfailing ‘omphalos’ we have left to offer hope to our world and it’s only reliable as an ‘omphalos’ if it’s true. (The wonderful word ‘omphalos’ comes from John Higg’s book Stranger than we can imagine and refers to a big central idea that makes sense of everything/that connects heaven and earth). To be fair to Tim Stead, he is not writing a book defending the Christian faith.
So is meditation and mindfulness a power encounter for the timid?
I’ve certainly had a greatly increased sense of the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit recently as I’ve been meditating even though I haven’t been doing anything overtly spiritual such as praying (because meditation is not prayer) but I do meditate with a conscious awareness that whatever I am doing, I am doing it in the presence of God so it’s hardly surprising that when I quiet my own mind, I’m better prepared to hear the Holy Spirit’s whisperings.
In addition to this though, my own personal physical stress symptom has disappeared and my ability to find things on my computer (something that regularly causes me a lot of stress) has hugely improved. (I have a filing system, yes that does help, but what has gone, is my own mental panic that I won’t be able to work my own filing system!)
Good book, well worth the purchase price so long as you know it’s not a course on mindfulness. It does though point you towards other helpful places where you can access this.