Being Mindful

I won’t deny it, I am a technophile, and I have a particular fondness for the Apple products. I’m currently writing on a MacBook Air (the best laptop I have ever used).  I carry iPad Air 2 wherever I go – its great for reading, writing, watching Netflix, and playing a few games when time permits.  And I have an iPhone, useful not just for calls and messaging, but it is a decent camera, and it has my calendar and tracks my running and diet. All very useful.

Recently, there was an update to the Apple Health App.  This is an app that tracks data from other apps you use to give you a report of your overall health and activity.  In the update, the app breaks down your health information into four categories: Activity (which monitors your physical activity and exercise), Nutrition (which tracks what you report for caloric and nutritional intake); Sleep (helping you maintain a consistent routine for bed and get a good night sleep), and finally, Mindfulness.  It’s this last category that intrigued me.

The Mindfulness data is all about “quieting your mind and relaxing your body.”  Apple describes it thus:

Finding a moment to take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind is a great way to relieve stress and improve your overall health. That’s what mindfulness is all about. Many apps on iPhone, as well as apps like Breathe on Apple Watch, help you decompress and stay centered throughout your day.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

How Zen!

Doesn’t it seem a bit ironic?  It’s important for you to decompress, to unplug, to “center your mind”, and hey, we’ve got an app for that.  Just to write this article today, I’ve had to turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on my phone, my iPad, and my computer, just to get an hours worth of uninterrupted time.  The very things that cause distractions are now telling me they want me to focus?!?!?

I get it.  We need time away from the screen, time without an electronic devise in our hands.  We need time to quietly think and regroup.  Surprisingly, we need to be reminded to stop and take a deep breath every now and then.  But is the recommended resources that they suggest that are so bothersome.

So what are they’re recommended ways of “quieting” or “centering”?  They recommend apps like “Headspace” which helps you with guided meditation, or “Grokker” which links videos on meditation, yoga, and healthy cooking. It seems, though, that they’ve gone to great lengths to be sure not to say the word “prayer.”

The problem with all this pseudo-spirituality is its focus.  The focus is always on the self.

I must quiet myself. I must find strength in myself. 

I must find the way to be present in the moment, for I am the center of myself. 

Only when you can quiet yourself can you find the strength in yourself to better yourself.  

The destructive lie of things like zen meditation, yoga, and centering, is that their focus is entirely on the self, even if they dress it up in all sorts of Christianese.

I had a high school student in a youth group point out the fault in this kind of thinking.  He shared with the group one evening. “You know, if you reach far enough down inside yourself, eventually all you’ll get is a handful of _____!” (I can’t write what he said here, but you get the drift).

That’s what we need to remember here.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the heart is deceitful, it cannot be trusted.  I know that left to myself, I haven’t the strength to face the trials and tasks ahead of me. I’m just not strong enough.  I’m not smart enough.  And doggonit, Stuart Smalley, all the daily affirmations in the world will never help me overcome my biggest problem – myself.

Instead of centering on myself I need to find my center in Christ. I need to hear the words again and again, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  God is at the center of the universe, I am not.  I don’t just need to empty myself of all my negative thoughts, I need to be filled with the Spirit of Holiness, and only then will I know peace, only then will I have the strength to face the day.  Yes I need to quiet my mind and my heart regularly, frequently, but not to be stilled by the silence of the moment, but to be filled with the Word of God.

This is what prayer does.  While meditation and centering draws you deeper into yourself, prayer draws us back to God, fixes our hearts on Him and on His righteousness, and helps us to see our lives in the light of His word.  In prayer, we begin to see how our motives, our passions, have gone askew, how we have been self-centered rather than God-centered, and prayer reorients us to Him.  Prayer is finding our strength, our foundation, our peace – not in ourselves – but in our union with Christ Jesus.

So, indeed, be mindful.  Still yourself, not in the quietness of your own mind, but in the presence of the Holy God. Spend a good portion of your day mindful of your need for the strength that only God can provide, and be mindful of the wonderful love of your blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,