The practice of mindfulness is everywhere. It’s utilized in workplaces, sports teams, and in schools. Our kids are going to come face to face with this practice, and as Christian parents we need to educate and equip our children to think of mindfulness biblically so they can develop and exercise discernment and wisdom in this area.
What is mindfulness?
If you have ever driven five or more exits on the highway with little or no recollection of that experience, you know what mindlessness is. Mindfulness is its opposite.
Mindfulness is sort of like an I-spy game for you inner and outer experiences. You simply notice what you think, feel and sense in the present moment. Its purpose is to bring organization to a disorganized jumble of thoughts, feelings and sensory inputs, anchor you in the present moment, and create a sense of peace and calm.
When we are focused on the hurts or regrets of the past or the fears and worries about the future, the present moment gets crowded out.
Think about the last time you felt real inner calm and peace. It was probably a moment where you were fully present: a moment with your children, a quiet time with God, a special outing with your spouse. Being centered on the here and now can usher in feelings of gratitude and praise.
Is mindfulness biblical?
There is nothing in the Bible that would indicate that mindfulness as an exercise is sinful. In fact, there are Scriptures that indicate that we are to:
- have a “steadfast mind” (Isaiah 26:3)
- meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8)
- “search our hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4)
Asaph asserted that he would “ponder” all of God’s works and “meditate” on His mighty deeds (Psalm 77:12). We also know that Jesus went away to lonely places to be with the Lord. He went to pray and to be present with His father.
Time alone with God, thinking about His word, talking to Him, fully enjoying a pleasurable moment or experience as it happens are all very “mind-full” practices. You can invited the Lord into any mindful exercise and teach your children how to incorporate these ideas too.
How to use mindfulness biblically
1) Teach them about the omnipresence of God
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8). God is everywhere. If our children can grasp this theological truth, they will have a strong foundation for the following tips for inviting God into any mindfulness activities they may be asked to do at school or other activities.
2) Equip them with emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is important. It can equip your child to be able to identify and articulate a wide range of feelings.
One of the practices of mindfulness is a non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings as if they are passing before you on a conveyor belt.
We can help our kids invite God into this activity by encouraging them to “think about what they are thinking about.” But as they notice their feelings and thoughts, help them recognize that they are standing shoulder to shoulder with God as it happens. He sees their thoughts and feelings – not in judgment but with mercy and compassion. These partnered observations with God can bring a sense of calm and belonging.
3) Turn mindfulness into prayer
Our children can also use their observations of thoughts and feelings as a springboard to prayer. As your child notices what he is thinking and feeling, he can talk to God about it. For example, he can say, “God, I notice that I am feeling nervous. I know you see that too. Thank you for being with me in all of my feelings.” Instead of simply noticing alone, your child can realize that God notices too. And he doesn’t just notice. He knows. The Bible says that Jesus was a man well-acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He sees. He understands.
4) Help them practice gratitude
One way to practice mindfulness is to observe the details of the objects in your surroundings, pulling yourself back to that focus as your mind wanders. Your child can use this type of activity as an opportunity for gratitude. As your child looks around the room or the environment, he can thank God for what he sees. He can say something like, “Thank you for this home that keeps me warm. Thank you for the light that helps me see. Thank you for the picture of my family who loves me. Thank you for the trees outside that gives me air to breathe.” Gratitude is a sure-fire way to access the peace of God.
Note to parents
You don’t want to create fear, but it is important to teach your children to be aware of any practices that are anti-biblical. Some examples are exercises that ask a child to:
- empty their mind
- chant or repeat a mantra or phrase that is not biblically based
When these things happen your child can simply abstain from participating or incorporate one of the biblically based tips above. You may want to role play this exchange so they would know how to respond in a class or group setting. It’s important to teach our children how to be loving and kind toward others who may think differently. We are called to be peace-makers and, in as much as it is within our power, to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
The world is full of opportunities for intentional Christian parenting. These opportunities need not be seen as a threat but as a chance for your children to grow deeper in their faith and develop a biblical world view. And by wisely gleaning some principles from mindfulness and applying them biblically, we can drawer nearer to God.