What is Mindfulness

We live in a distracted world. Social media, news, and advertisements compete in a frantic race for our attention. One look at the front page of a leading online newspaper will confirm this. One-liners, moving images, colorful pictures, and shocking headlines all vie for our attention. Shock and fear are the commodities of our time. Our fragmented minds jump from one thing to another in a constant flow of information.
During such distracted times, it’s difficult to keep your focus in any place for very long. That’s why mindfulness has become such an important practice. Being mindful and attentive helps to counteract the destructive forces of distraction.
What is mindfulness? An online magazine, Mindful.org, defines it this way: Mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Dictionary.com adds that mindfulness is, “The state or quality of being mindful or aware of something…one focuses one’s full attention only on the present.”
As Christians, God knows the dangers of being distracted. Luke 8:14 tells us that distractions such as worries, pleasures, and money concerns create a smothering, choking effect on our spiritual growth. When we live a fragmented life, we cannot fully absorb the union and love of Jesus Christ.
On the flip side, God promises that when we know him, he will give us an undivided heart. Ezekiel 11:19 says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” NIV

Here are some practical steps to help you begin your journey towards mindfulness:
• Ask God to help you understand what it means to have an undistracted heart.
• Spend quiet time alone with God, meditating on his promise to give you an undivided heart
• Take one small, practical step to lessen the impact that money, riches, and worries are having on your daily life. Perhaps that means turning off the news or getting off social media for a few days.
As God transforms us, our hearts will no longer be distracted. We will have a unity of focus. With all our heart, we will be present in the moment, focused on Jesus, aware of his love.

Cultivating Intentional Mindfulness
Have you ever felt like your mind was like a ship at sea, pitching back and forth so quickly that you felt nauseous? The internet’s constant flow of information, opinions, gossip, and chatter can be exhausting. Our minds can feel like the man James described: “Like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind… double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6, 8 NIV) Our fragmented minds heave to and fro, constantly in turmoil.

Learning to focus our attention and let go of distractions can help us find rest in our souls. In fact, mindfulness is an important part of getting to know God. But these habits of mindfulness do not form automatically. They take intentionality, perseverance, and persistence.
Intentionality includes “being deliberate or purposive” and directing our “thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes… toward some object or state of affairs.” Just as mindfulness requires us to break our distracted train of thought and focus on one thing or person, intentionality demands that we direct ourselves towards one goal. Our goal is mindfulness: a purposeful focus of the heart towards Jesus.

Mindfulness doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment. Consider the following steps towards becoming more intentional about mindfulness:
• Set aside a time and place where you will practice mindfulness. It could be your favorite recliner chair just before bedtime. It could be the side of your bed right after you wake up in the morning. It doesn’t matter where and when you choose to practice mindfulness. But it does matter that you consciously set aside a time and place.
• Schedule it. Put it on your day planner. Make a plan.
• Make a goal. Be realistic when setting goals. When forming a new habit, you will not succeed at accomplishing it every single day. Shoot for three days a week to start with.
• Make a chart. Could you use a day planner? How about a simple piece of graph paper with numbers for the days? Cross off every day that you achieve mindfulness. See if you can trace any patterns. When you practice mindfulness, do your quality of life and emotional health improve?
• Start small, and work up. In the next article, we will discuss practical steps for mindfulness. Start with the smallest, most reasonable goal (like two minutes) before moving to something more complex.
Make specific, measured goals and take small steps towards creating a habit of mindfulness. As you do, you will discover a deep sense of peace and calm.

Practical Tips for Mindfulness
Today, we will dig more deeply into the practical aspects of mindfulness. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author recommended mindfulness as a resource for the difficulty and futility of life.
Like the author of Ecclesiastes, you may feel frustrated by the apparent meaninglessness of life. You may be able to relate to his motto, “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT Hard work doesn’t always pay off, things seem to go in circles, and nothing seems to get accomplished (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11).
We’ve all noticed that this world is broken, tragic, and sometimes senseless. Solomon’s answer to this conundrum is to simply enjoy life as God gives it to us. We should be mindful, living in the moment.
Ecclesiastes 3:13, 22 “People should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God… So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life.” NLT

Here are a few practical tips for nurturing a habit of mindfulness:
1. Take a sensory walk. Go to a nature park or walk around the block. Let go of distracting, frenetic thoughts. Instead, focus on your five senses. Do you smell the sweetness of clover? Do you hear a bee buzzing or a train going by? How many colors can you spot? What shapes and textures do you see? Are there any wild berries or edible plants you can taste? How about touch? Can you feel your toes rubbing your shoes, your soft jacket on your arms, or the rough bark of a tree beneath your fingers? By spending time in nature, you will grow in your awareness of the present moment. You will learn to silence your distracting thoughts and focus on the beauty that God has created (Psalm 19:1).
2. Spend two minutes in silence. Turn off all distractions such as music, computer, phones, and digital devices. Focus your attention on your five senses. Truly take in the beauty of the moment. Become aware of Jesus’ presence with you.
3. As you get more comfortable with mindfulness, try increasing the time to five, then ten, then twenty minutes. Can you spend twenty whole minutes focusing on your senses? Can you sense the presence and love of Jesus? Try to journal about your experience. Or create a poem and piece of art about the thoughts that surface while you wait on God.

As you practice these tips, you will grow in your ability to enjoy the good gifts God has given you. In the midst of a frustrating life, you will experience peace.

Letting Go
An important part of mindfulness is letting go. Our overstimulated minds seek to hold on too much and too hard. We find it difficult to let go of opportunities, information, or opinions. We seek to be ever-present, always in the know, and always-available.
As we learn to be mindful, we must let go of hurry.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-3, 7 says, “As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. …Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God…God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool. Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.” NLT
In this passage, God encourages his people to come to his presence in a sense of peace. We don’t need to frantically rush around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to serve him. God is not impressed by our constant chatter, hurry, and worry. Instead, he wants us to come to him quietly, mindfully, and focus our attention on him.

Second, we must let go of the past. Much of the time, our distracted and fragmented thoughts focus on mistakes we’ve made in the past. We ruminate on lost relationships, shame ourselves for our sins, and wish we could undo yesterday’s errors.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 gives us a fitting admonition: “What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered.” NLT According to Ecclesiastes, we don’t need to worry about the past; it’s water under the bridge.
It’s not always true that there is no hope for change. But often, we waste time when we ruminate, obsess, and worry about the past.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” NIV
Hebrews 12:2 adds that we run the race by “looking away from all that will distract us and focusing our eyes on Jesus.” (Amplified Bible)

The key to focus and mindfulness is letting go of the past.
• Journal about difficult things that have happened
• See a therapist, counselor, or minister who can help you process what has happened.
• Mindfully focus on Jesus, knowing he has forgiven you of all past mistakes.
As you let go of hurry and worry, you will experience a greater connection with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Mindfully Meditating on the Word of God
As you let go of hurry and process the pain of the past, your mind will be clear, open, and ready to receive all that God wants to speak to you.
As you develop your habits of mindfulness, learn to calm yourself, and focus on clearing your distracted mind, you will need something to fill your spirit.

God’s word does just that. An ancient Christian practice called Lectio Divina focuses on letting go of distracting thoughts and filling your mind with the word of God. Lectio Divina has four steps: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate.
• First, read God’s word contemplatively. Allow it to speak to you. Don’t just charge through the passage in order to get done with it. Ponder what God might be communicating with you personally. His word is a love letter. Connect to him as you read his words to you.
• Second, Meditate on God’s word. Turn God’s precious words over and over in your mind. Meditate on God’s word. Joshua 1:8-9 says of God’s word, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” NIV Meditating on God’s word is the key to overcoming fear.
• Third, pray. Speak to God and thank him for his love. Tell him what you’re learning as you ponder his truth.
• Finally, contemplate. After you’ve connected with God, just rest in his love. No words are necessary. A couple who has been married for many years and is able to sit together and just enjoy one another’s presence. Bask in God’s love. As John 15:9 says, “Abide in my love.” ESV

Through mindfulness, I trust that you will connect to God more deeply than ever before. May his presence light your way. May his grace keep you wherever you go.