In a TV interview a few years before his death, Billy Graham was asked what he would do over if he could do things differently. In his inimical way, he said, “I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer.”
Definition & Origin
Mindfulness is a research-based practice that involves both dedicated meditation time and present-moment awareness in everyday life.
Charles Stone refers to it as Holy Noticing, being fully present and mindful in each moment God has given us. Stone defined mindfulness as the art of Holy Noticing, noticing with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships, and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.
God models this pattern of noticing because He is a Perfect Noticer. Nothing in our lives is too small or insignificant for Him to notice. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He noticed the Hebrews groaning under Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:25). He notices our pain, our joys, our heartaches and our happiness. The psalmist writes, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT).
Some Christians are slightly sceptical of mindfulness because they perceive it to be of purely Buddhist origin. Yet, “Holy Noticing” is a centuries old Christian practice and we would like to to encourage Christians to reclaim it.
For example, in the last few decades, scientific research has discovered that exercise is good for you. Exercise is exercise, though. We don’t split it into secular exercise and Christian exercise. It benefits Christians and non-Christians alike.
There is a long tradition of contemplative prayer and biblical meditation in Christianity.
Christian mindfulness practice is rooted in the most basic witness of Jesus: God with us, right here, right now. Jesus proclaims, The reign of God is at hand! here, now available for all, if we pay attention. Or, as Jesus says, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. If we are mindful. To live out the reign of God requires mindful lives, intentionally aware in each present moment of God’s life and mission in the world. Christian mindfulness, then, is an anchoring practice, a way to abide in Christ…
However, does God’s Word support and does Christian history illustrate Christians using some of these techniques as tools for spiritual growth? Yes. It’s a lost spiritual discipline that believers should reclaim. And well-known Christians are embracing practices like mindfulness.
The Bible has a lot to say about calming our minds and keeping a vertical focus on the One who lovingly created us and knows us intimately. For example:
- The apostle Paul reminds Christians that they’re called to be mindful and live with an awareness of the present (Philippians 2:1-5).
- Prayer is one very practical way Christians apply mindfulness to daily life (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Meditation appears in the Bible in the context of spending time studying the Word of God (Psalm 48:9; Psalm 63:6).
- We should look to Jesus and think about true, admirable things (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 4:8).
- Christians shouldn’t let themselves to be distracted by worry about the future (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Scripture teaches us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- Paul tells us to “be transformed” by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) and to practice God-honoring thoughts (Philippians 4:9).
Like anything, mindfulness can be misused. However, it doesn’t automatically contradict the Christian faith. We just need to make sure we approach it in a wise, biblical way.
It’s important to remember that our ultimate goal is not to use mindfulness simply to make us feel better—because science has discovered that it does just that—but rather to make us more like Christ (see Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:13; Galatians 4:19).
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. It helps us to relax, to de-stress, and to become aware of our own thoughts. They draw our gaze towards God.
Christians counselors use mindfulness in a Christ-integrated way as a therapy tool. They believe mindfulness can be compatible with a biblical worldview — as long as it’s rooted in Scripture and focuses on connecting with God.
Christian mindfulness is a tool God uses for our healing and growth
Mindfulness training has been associated with the following benefits:
- 50% reduction in depression relapse rates over 12 months
- 50% reduction in general psychiatric symptoms
- 70% reduction in anxiety
- 44% reduction in medical symptoms
God created our brains to respond to these mindful practices in several positive ways.
Our neuro-pathways are rutted with conditioned reactions and responses. Mindfulness practice rewires these rutted neuropathways, creating new ones. These actual physical changes in our brains and bodies begin to mark our lives in concrete ways.
Christ-Centered Mindfulness Techniques
Secular mindfulness is horizontal. In other words, you pay attention only to yourself. However, that approach contradicts Scripture’s teaching to have the mind of Christ and evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus.
Christian Mindfulness or Holy noticing—noticing with a holy, God-focused purpose—means noticing your
- Body: being aware of your physical body states and sensations;
- Relationships: assessing the health of your relationships;
- Environment: taking notice of your current surroundings, including sights, sounds, smells, and God’s creation;
- Afflictive emotions or Affect (a general term for emotions):acknowledging how you’re currently feeling;
- Thoughts: being conscious of your current thoughts;
- Heart: paying attention to the state of your spiritual life and the Holy Spirit’s whisperings or impressions on your heart; and, to tie it all together,
- engage: engaging the world like Christ, practicing holy noticing in the mundane, the everyday, the ordinary.
Breathe deeply with a two-word anchor prayer.
Another mindful grounding technique is to focus on your breath. The breath is commonly used as an anchor in mindfulness, because it’s always there. To also connect with God’s presence, breathe with a prayer. This exercise is useful any time you’re feeling a bit anxious and you need a way to come back to the present.
Simply focus on your breath as you breathe normally. Thank God for each breath, then start to repeat a two-word prayer in your mind.
Breathe one word in, and one word out. If you want to, extend your breaths to be longer and deeper. Deep breathing helps you relax and calm down.
Choose a two-word phrase from Scripture or a phrase that you feel He is teaching you. For example: “Trust God.” “God’s grace.” “Jesus’ love.” It can be any phrase that will help you connect with God as you breathe deeply.
You can also read a Bible verse and find a two-word phrase. For example, take a Bible verse like: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV) and breathe the phrase, “Trust, Lean.”
Or take a rich verse like this, and choose two of God’s characteristics:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:2 NIV
For example, breathe in “my rock” and breathe out “my fortress.”
Use this breathing exercise any time that you need to stop and anchor your mind in Christ.
Pause to appreciate natural beauty.
God’s creation is all around us, and pausing to notice it is an opportunity to see His handiwork and praise Him for it.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. ~ Psalm 19:1 NIV
Even when we can’t go on vacation and immerse ourselves in nature, we can still appreciate natural beauty in the everyday moments of life. If you spend most of your days inside, at home, work, or school, plan to look out the window or go outside for a few minutes. Simply notice and observe what your senses show you. What colors and shapes do you see in the sky and the clouds? Can you hear, or feel, the wind blowing? Do you see flowers or tree branches moving in the wind? Can you see or hear any animals or birds?
When you notice these details, say a prayer of gratitude to God. Thank Him for creating this beautiful world, and for expressing His own characteristics through nature (see Romans 1:20).
Here are some other ideas to mindfully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, even if you don’t have much time:
- Watch the sunrise or sunset and notice the colors.
- Keep flowers or houseplants wherever you spend the most time in your home.
- Go outside at night to look at the moon and stars.
- Listen to the birds chirping in the morning.
- Notice the weather and the changes in the clouds.
Mindfulness of Domestic Chores
Pick an activity such as ironing clothes, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, and do it mindfully.
For example, when ironing clothes: notice the color and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappear. Notice the hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder.
If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you are doing.
Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
article “The art of holy noticing” by Charles Stone
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- The Mindful Christian by Irene Kraegel
- Holy Noticing by Charles Stone
- Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality: Making Space for God by Tim Stead
- Right Here Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness by Amy Oden
- Christian Mindfulness: The Prayer of the Heart by Peter Tyler