Newsletter 603 – The Mindfulness Explosion

Homepage_RotatorI read a number of magazines that expose me to information and trends that may be unfamiliar but that also can have relevance to my interests in counseling, coaching, leadership, ministry and futuristic issues. Psychotherapy Networker is one such publication. The current (January/February, 2015)  issue on mindfulness stretched and disturbed me but the best article is Mary Sykes Wylie’s lengthy overview on the popularity and perils of mindfulness. 

Wylie describes mindfulness as a “kind of stealth Buddhism,” popularized, westernized, and mass-marketed without the “bells, chants, prayers, and terms like dharma and karma.” From modest beginnings, interest in the mindfulness movement has exploded, making extravagant claims about its effectiveness. It permeates the health-care and mental health professions, the US military, numerous corporations, university courses, sports, and even churches. It has captivated and impacted “regular people—teachers, truck drivers, carpenters, business executives, stay-at-home mothers—trying to find the inner stillness beneath the turmoil of their lives.” Mindfulness is relentlessly marketed as a form of personal stress reduction, even though there is no accepted definition of what it is or how it is done.

 One leader defines mindfulness as a form of meditation that involves “paying attention on purpose in the present moment nonjudgmentally.” Thousands of scientific articles have studied mindfulness but one massive review concluded that the research is not very rigorous and gives limited evidence of its effectiveness. And as mindfulness has become a huge business and fad it also has produced a backlash of critics.

 What does this mean for you or me?

Be cautious. Mindfulness is Buddhist based and promotes techniques that may be inconsistent with many elements of Christianity and other non-Eastern ways of thinking. From her secular perspective Wylie writes, ”Mindfulness is an entire worldview and religion… entirely subjective and inherently unfriendly to the necessarily objective methods of empirical science….While it has been acclaimed and sold as a quick, no-risk, easily-mastered technique to achieve just about any desired goal….in fact it is a far-deeper…and less well-understood process than many people realize.”

·      Be open. Many practices are valuable, despite their origins, and consistent with our Christian and professional beliefs. Meditation, for example, is a biblical concept but with a focus that differs from mindfulness meditation.

Wylie’s article is worth reading. What do you think? Please comment.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Gary. At last, someone who has the same view as I have – I’ve spoken out against the Christian-integration-movements fall on their knee before the fad of Buddhist Mindfulness at CAPS conferences and elsewhere – my views were not well received (the rebel going against the mainstream).

    I think there has been a shift in the Christian Counselling movement away from integrating theology and psychology, to an integration of spirituality (mostly Buddhist based) and psychology. I’m of the opinion that it’s because it’s more acceptable to the CACREB and APA and the only way that Christian Counselling training institutions can keep up their accreditation/registration. Being Christ centered, biblically based, and Holy Spirit empowered, just did not cut it any more. There is a Dutch saying “Degene wiens brrod je eet , zijn woord u spreken” – I believe that accreditation and registration has sadly forced this shift onto Christian Counselling.

    In their book “The Spiritual Revolution” Heelas and Woodhead asks the question, “Why is religion giving way to spirituality”. Donald Bloesch makes a case for “Recovering Authentic Spiritual Life” in his book “Spirituality Old & New”.

    Reply

  2. I think “mindfulness’ is a response to the multitasking society we have become. And we all know that if you are juggling 4 tasks for example at once, you are only giving each 25% of your attention.

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  3. Are we comparing Christianity with Buddhism, or Western science with an Eastern mystic worldview? Christianity can not be equated with Western science, although in some aspects they may have overlap. In the same way, Eastern mysticism may have overlaps with Christianity. Medical doctors are recognizing that chemicals and mechanical interventions are not sufficient or even appropriate to address the suffering of all their patients. Buddhism per se is obviously not the Christian response, but a spiritual approach to life that include heart, soul, mind, strength would be fully biblical.

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  4. Thanks Gary for highlighting this topic. I’m a Christian Marriage and Family Therapist, and I practice and teach the principle of mindfulness in my practice; however, I believe other religions, cults, etc. have found true principles of human nature (which are outlined in God’s Word) and they have refused to give God the credit for creating those principles. I could easily list bible verses that identifies the principle of mindfulness, but I will only list two here in the interest of space: Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.” Colossians 3:2 – Focus your hearts and minds on things above…” I love God and spending time with Him and He always helps me to calm myself and find a “peace that transcends human understanding” even in a storm, just as Peter did when he walked on the water with Jesus. Thanks again Gary.

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  5. Greetings Gary:

    In this piece are expressing very important thoughts on this trend. This piece is really “classic” Gary Collins. You do challenge us to be open but are wise to remind us of the depth and truth of our Christian tradition.

    There are indeed significant differences between general spirituality and gospel-centered Christianity, even when there are apparent similarities.

    Thank you.

    Blessings,
    Steve

    Reply

  6. Hi Gary, as a former Boston person, I can confirm the marketing coup that has happened in terms of mindfulness. I’m on the mailing list for Harvard Med School Psychiatry Department Continuing Ed Seminars. There is hardly ever one that does not include something on Buddhism or mindfulness–whatever the day long topic at hand might be. I think Jim Beck may have coined the phrase “ABC” i.e. “anything but Christianity” is acceptable in the new era of spirituality in psychology at least in certain parts of the country.

    Thanks for this helpful piece.

    Brad

    Reply

  7. Western Christianity (a generalization) has been so captured by theologians, Arminian, Calvinist, Pentacostal, prosperity and psychologucal, that the personal piety and scriptural reflection that marked earlier generations have been forgotten.
    Here in South Asia, the religions all offer personal spiritual development, and those who embrace Jesus find an advance in their spiritual discernment, including a certain peace in the midst of persecution.

    Reply

  8. Wylie’s article is very instructive in laying out the history of mindfulness. And the phrase ” People can, in effect, use mindfulness to become better at being worse. ” highlights questions that start with What or How . The Christian message is based Who and Why, Who is God , and Why does he love us. From which flows Who am I and why am I engaged in the activities I am currently engaged. This line of thought can prevent the mindless following of mindful practices and it’s attendant philosophies.

    Reply

  9. Thanks, Gary for starting this conversation. As a life coach, I reference mindfulness in seminars on life balance and dealing with stress. Yet, I have noticed that this trend when traced back always goes toward Buddhism. As many have already pointed out, there is a Biblical form of mindfulness. I’m enjoying the comments and diversity.

    Reply

  10. Hi! My 2nd Edition copy of Christian Coaching says that the coaching forms in the back of the book can be downloaded for use at the garyrcollins.com website or at christiancoachingbook.com website. When I tried finding them on the garyrcollins.com site, it mentions the downloadable coaching forms but the provided link goes to christiancoachingbook.com and that site has a note saying the website is not available.

    Is there another way to get the downloaded forms as indicated in the book? Also, the contact us link on your webpage with email address doesn’t seem to be working either so I’m trying this reply box.
    Thanks for your help!

    Reply

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