Speaking to his disciples, Jesus Christ says: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). This was stated in relation to the many trials and tribulations the disciples would soon face. Today, how do we find the sense of peace and cheer when we face our own trials in life? The answer is summed up in a spiritual concept known as mindfulness or mindful living. It is a concept that is gaining utilization within the mental health and behavioral science field. A key concept developed by Dr. Kabat-Zinn for a mindfulness based stress reduction program out of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The approach of mindfulness has roots within Buddhist spirituality and philosophy and all other ancient religious spiritual teachings – to include Christianity.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concept that focuses on the here and now of human experience and existence. Two particular definitions follows: (1) It is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”; and, (2) a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. A third, and more appropriate, definition is this:
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognize and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.
It is the idea of being acutely aware of how we are feeling, the physical response we have, the emotional responses that begins within our thoughts, the particular feelings associated with those emotional thoughts, attached feelings and the engagement of behaviors that stem from those thoughts and feelings.
How influential is mindfulness within the Christian life and teaching?
Going back to John 16:33, the Savior provides some truth to his statement – Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. In Revelation 3:21, the Savior reports the following: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. Throughout the New and Old Testament, there are many scriptures that teach on the idea and concept of being mindful. A concept about overcoming our own debilitating thought patterns that may spiral us into a state of anxiety and/or depression. It is a key concept in how we are equipped to cope with the stress of every day life, and manage ourselves through trials and tribulations that may prove traumatic. It is the sole aspect of acceptance and surrender in which we accept whatever is happening in the here and now, surrendering it over and responding to it with wise decision and emotional response.
In essence, Christ was providing His disciples (and us today) with the understanding that through our faith in Him, we have the power to overcome whatever it is we have to face in our own existence. It is through the power of our faith, through the gift of acceptance and surrendering, we can become better individuals that have built their homes on the rock, ready to withstand the tempests that may rage (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)