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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Meditation and Mindfulness: Are They Okay?

Meditation and mindfulness include elements of the breathing exercises from yoga, but they also fixate on points, follow suggestions, and concentrate on self. (If you haven’t read my post about yoga, you can scroll down after reading this one.)

The leader for mindfulness training sits in front of the class. He leads the class in opening and closing the eyes, breathing, concentration, getting in touch with the real self, etc. He/she suggests emotions and mind-emptying exercises as well as fixating on certain concepts. The leader is in charge of the class’s minds.

I recently saw a TV segment1 about the “benefits” of mindfulness, advocating introducing it into schools in the United Kingdom for the purpose of “helping students deal with stress.” The mindfulness leader was seated in a chair in front of the class on a raised platform. Behind him, I saw no less than three gold Buddha statues and several Buddhist icons, as well. He was talking about breathing in the segment I saw. His audience had their eyes closed.

Later in this TV news program, they were talking about the "benefits" of meditation-relaxation, and one of the presenters said, “Isn’t this the same as closing one’s eyes and saying a prayer?” The other presenter answered, “No, this isn't religious.”

I scratched my head. If this has nothing to do with religion, why was the leader seated in front of three gold Buddhas? Why was he using Buddhist breathing techniques and suggesting to his audience what to do and think?

Whether we realize it or not, mindfulness (meditation) is a traditional Buddhist practice, not just a new fad. It incorporates the yogic breathing with emptying of the mind, fixating on "spiritual" concepts, and getting in touch with one’s self. If these ideas sound benign, it might be because I’m not elaborating enough on what’s really taught. 

I read some statements by a “meditation master” named Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, from his blog “Mindful.”2  He says some things that make me laugh, such as “I am aware that I am breathing in.” Okay, great! Doesn’t everyone know he’s breathing? He lists the five steps of effective meditation: 1. Breathing 2. Concentration 3. Awareness 4. Releasing Tension 5. Walking Meditation. The last one includes his idea that it’s a “miracle to be walking on the earth.” Interesting.

There are also very dangerous concepts in mindfulness, such as “allowing.”

Biblical meditation means to turn something over and over in the mind. It's like a cow's chewing its cud. 

The Bible teaches:
  • Every thought is to be brought under control and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • We’re to think about positive, pure things—all character traits of our Great God: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  • We should pray for God to help us concentrate on what pleases Him. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
  • We should repeatedly think about God Himself. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD (Psalm 104:34).
  • We need to be thinking about God's Word. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thy testimonies are my meditation (Psalm 119:97, 99b).
  • True peace is from God and in obeying Him. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:9).
  • The secret of joy and peace is in trusting God and in prayer. Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

I decided not to share with you the suggestions that are usually made by mindfulness leaders, but I can assure you they’re not godly. Some are very evil, many are sensual and sexual in nature, and the whole experience isn’t wholesome. Some exercises are a huge waste of time, such as "concentrating on a raisin." I’m not kidding!3 The leaders tell people to meditate on their own bodies, and it gets pretty crazy.

The Bible teaches Christians, What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  • A Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  • A Christian belongs to Christ. Jesus bought him with His blood.
  • A Christian should glorify (exalt) God in his body and in his spirit.

I was looking for a photo illustration for my yoga post, and I was surprised to find the words “body, mind, and spirit” superimposed on a “wave” image and on a wave with a Buddha.

The Bible speaks of body, mind, and spirit this way:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body
be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)

That’s my prayer for you.


Direct references:
1. Sky News International, July 16, 2015, teaching mindfulness in schools.

Other reading for this post:

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