Christ-Centred Mindfulness: Connection to Self and God
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The practice of ‘mindfulness’ has moved from its roots in psychological therapy into the mainstream of today’s popular culture, where it is marketed as a path to health and wellbeing. A mental exercise that takes a few minutes a day seems like an easy fix to life’s problems, the perfect antidote to the frantic pace of our lives.
But does mindfulness work, and if so, how? Is it backed by scientific evidence? And given its links to Buddhist thought, can therapeutic mindfulness be practised in ways that are consistent with a Christian worldview?
In Christ-Centred Mindfulness, academic and experienced mental health social worker/counsellor Katherine Thompson addresses these questions and highlights mindfulness-related practices that have been used within the church for hundreds of years – practices that help us slow down, connect to what is happening inside ourselves and make space to listen for God’s guidance in everyday life. Dr Thompson draws on this rich tradition to present Christian mindfulness exercises that can be used to enrich our prayer lives, help us to draw near to God and grow in Christlikeness.
Whether you’re a Christian who is curious about mindfulness practice and its benefits, or you work in a counselling profession and are trying to sort through your own approach to mindfulness-based therapies, this book is for you.
The first section of the book shows that mindfulness is not new to Christianity. Drawing on a careful study of Scripture and history, she skilfully shows that many mindfulness practices have a place in the long history of Christian prayer and contemplation. With sound scholarly understanding and insight she describes the place of mindfulness in other traditions such as Buddhism and in more recent decontextualized western thought. She explores insights into mindfulness that come from psychological disciplines, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mind Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapies that deepen understandings of the self. With an emphasis on practical application, she shows insights from these disciplines that are useful for helping focus on the present moment and avoid dwelling judgementally on the past or future. She shows how Christian approaches to mindfulness can be used pastorally to help people to disconnect from distracting, stressful and hurtful thoughts, and to reconnect with neglected parts of the self, promoting healthy relationships with others and with the divine.
Using clearly presented insights, tables and diagrams, Thompson shows ways in which a Christian approach to mindfulness differs from Buddhist and secular approaches. She shows that a Christian approach to mindfulness benefits from engaging with Scripture, prayer, tradition and a focus on God and his creative purposes for humanity. She shows ways in which Christian approaches contrast to approaches that seek superficial, quick fix calmness while failing to engage with deeper values, meanings and significance. Thompson guides the reader away from self focused, individualistic mindfulness that some have labelled McMindfulness towards increased awareness and attentiveness towards self, others and God.
In the second of three sections in the book, Thompson explores relationships between mindfulness and the Bible, as well as medieval and contemporary Christian mystical writings. She shows that the value of Christian practices including meditation, prayer, surrender of the will and hope in the resurrection for a biblical, Christ centred approach to mindfulness.
In a third section of the book, Thompson gives practical insights into the ways this Christ-centred approach to mindfulness, can help the reader to slow down, pray, meditate, disengage, sit in silence and then re-engage in ways that are God honouring, life-transforming, spirit enlivening and Christ focused.
I found this to be a valuable book for addressing questions raised by the increased practice of mindfulness. This book provides well informed and practical guidance into the ways in which mindfulness can be used in ways that honour the beliefs, practices and needs of Christian faith.
Sam Hey is a Senior Lecturer at Christian Heritage College, Brisbane, Australia.
About the author
Dr Katherine Thompson BA, BAppSci, BTheol, PhD, is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Member of the Australian College of Social Workers. She works in private practice with young people aged 12 to 25 years, and with missions organisations and their staff. Katherine has developed resources and offers training, debriefing and counselling for people who work cross culturally. She is a widely published Senior Research Fellow and academic who specialises in youth mental health, personality disorder and psychosis.