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Mindfulness in the Christian Tradition (Part 2)

Thursday, November 3, 2016 17:50
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‘But mindfulness is Buddhist!’
I hear those words from time to time from a Christian, usually an evangelical.
Now, as Richard Nixon used to say, ‘Let me make this point perfectly clear.’ Mindfulness is notBuddhist. Well, certainly not exclusively or inherently so, and even as respects Buddhism mindfulness is only one aspect of one particular tradition in Buddhism. Mindfulness is universal. It is grounded in the human experience of living fully from one moment to the next.
B4INREMOTE-aHR0cHM6Ly80LmJwLmJsb2dzcG90LmNvbS8tSEREdGxPU3Qxc00vV0J2UTY0SmhMM0kvQUFBQUFBQUFHaVUvOFU3cU9GTWNXTWM4MWR3LXBqTy1IOWFCQVl4eGVnbE93Q0xjQi9zMTYwMC9iZXN0aWxsYW5ka25vd3RoYXRJYW1Hb2QuanBnYou can find mindfulness in all religious and spiritual traditions, including Christianity. What’s more, you can find mindfulness outside of religious and spiritual traditions. 
 
For the most part, the mindfulness that I teach is outside mainstream religious and spiritual traditions, although I do draw from a number of those traditions where I think they are making a valid point, that is, a point of universal importance and one that is generally in the nature of a self-evident truth. Of course, a self-evident truth is not always readily apparent or discernible to people. However, once a self-evident truth is properly understood, you are justified in affirming it as true.
In a previous post I looked at mindfulness in the Christian tradition. In this post, I want to focus on some good advice from the Bible. It’s from the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). It is from both the Jewish and Christian traditions, but the advice is good for all of us, even for those who claim not to believe in a God.
The Hebrew Scriptures advise us to know God by becoming still: ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10).
 
Who or what is God? Some dubious theological construct, one that some people have made up in their minds in an attempt to explain the mystery of life, but which doesn’t actually exist in objective reality? Well, the Bible elsewhere refers to God as the One ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). For me, ‘God’, when I use the word, which is not that often, refers to the one universal Presence and Power active in the universe, the medium (that is, order or level of reality) in which all things have their very be-ing-ness. God, if you choose to use the word at all – and you need not – is the Supreme Being, and we have our be-ing-ness, our very existence, in that Being.
Back to Psalm 46:10. There is so much in that short verse. The first thing to note is the importance of being still, if we are to come to know and experience the larger reality that the Bible refers to as ‘God’. In explaining this verse to people I sometimes break it up like this:
‘Be still and know that I am God’
 
‘Be still and know that I am …’
‘Be still and know …’
‘Be still …’
‘Be …’
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If you experience the verse – note that word ‘experience’ – that way I truly believe that you will come to know and experience what some choose to call God. You can call it whatever you like. It doesn’t really matter. As J. Krishnamurti used to say, over and over again, ‘The word [in this case, God] is not the thing.’ It’s the reality – the experience – behind and beyond the word that really matters. Indeed, it is all that matters.
One of my spiritual mentors was the late Dr Norman Vincent Peale. He helped millions of troubled people in his long lifetime. He gave some wonderful advice on how to still the mind and the body. He often said that you cannot still the mind until the body has become still. First, still— that is, relax—the body, and then the mind will follow. Dr Peale wrote, ‘Sit still, be silent, let composure creep over you.’ Then you will be still. That’s why Psalm 46:10 says, ‘Be still …’
 
Jesus preached the ‘kingdom of God‘ (referred to in Matthew’s gospel as the ‘kingdom of Heaven’). For me, the Kingdom of God is that state of being and consciousness that is often referred to as the eternal now. There is an eternal, that is, atemporal, quality about the now. It is forever new. The present moment has its unfolding in the Now. The past is no more than the expression of a present reality, being a present ‘window link’ to the eternity of the Now. Any memories of the past are a present reality. It’s the same as respects the future, for any ideas about or hopes for the future are present ideas and hopes. You see, the present is simply that which presents itself before us in and as the Now. So, the present embraces past, present and future. 
Back, once again, to Psalm 46:10. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ First, the ‘knowledge’ spoken of is not book knowledge. Not at all. It is an inner knowing. Secondly, note those words ‘… I am God.’ Now, I am not saying that you and I are God, although I do say that you and I, as well as all other persons and things, have their be-ing-ness in God. Now, those words ‘I am God’. God is the Great I Am, that is, the presence and power of pure Being. What’s more, that pure Being is the very be-ing-ness of the person that you are. 
 
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When you enter the silence, you are approaching the very presence of be-ing – that is, sheer existence … the very livingness of life itself. The state of mind experienced in the silence is not one of passivity or non-action. No, it is a truly awakened state of mind and be-ing-ness in which all things are experienced as new and fresh in the omnipresent eternal now. 
 
In time, and with regular practice, the action of being fully and choicelessly present in the moment from one moment to the next – the essence of mindfulness and living mindfully – will quicken and intensify.
The essence of Christianity is the experience of coming to know God – the larger reality – in the form, and through the person, of Jesus. What’s so special about Jesus? Well, among other things, Jesus lived and was fully grounded in the eternal now. His strength, power and peace were the result of his being at-one with the source of all life and being, and his living fully in the eternal now. That is why he said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36). Now, as I see it, Jesus was not saying that his kingdom was on some supposed ‘higher’ order or level of reality. No, the kingdom of which Jesus spoke is one that that we enter when we live in the eternal now. It is the very reason why Jesus said that he had come.  ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). Abundant living. Living mindfully in the eternal now. Living selflessly. Living lovingly.
‘Be still and know …’
 
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