Grace Moxon believes mindfulness and meditation can be vital tools for you to stay sane and spiritually alert in your parenting
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (MSG)
So often we find our minds stuck in the future, anticipating what is to come. We so easily get caught up in to-do lists, work, emotions, finances, health concerns, hopes, worries, desires and fears. Whether in everyday practicalities, or deeper concerns for ours or our child’s future, our minds are often anywhere but right here, in the present.
Jesus’ invitation to us is to come to Him when we are weary and find rest for our souls [mind, will, emotions] - Matthew 11:28-30
One way we can experience rest in our mind is through practising mindfulness and meditation. These tools help us focus on Jesus as our source of peace amid hardships and struggles, without denying their reality, and bring our attention to what He is doing right now. I love this practice because it truly brings a profound sense of peace and wellbeing, especially to the mind.
What is mindfulness? What is meditation?
These are two words that often go together, and whilst there is a lot of overlap, it’s helpful to understand the distinction between the two.
Mindfulness is a practice that involves cultivating both a non-judgemental awareness of what’s happening in your thoughts, as well as having your ‘mind full’ of the present moment. We of course balance this with being able to plan, imagine, be creative, and think about the future.
Meditation is the practice of noticing, observing and redirecting your thoughts and attention onto the present moment or simply onto something good. We can see it as a ‘mental muscle’; in the same way you workout to build physical muscles, you meditate to build mental ones.
To use an analogy, you can think of mindfulness like general fitness, and meditation like doing a work out. Working out (or meditating), helps us to increase our general fitness (experiencing life in a mindful way).
What is Christian mindfulness and meditation?
What’s your reaction when you hear the words mindfulness and mediation?
Sceptical? Honestly, I was too. Perhaps you go straight to adult colouring books, the phenomenon of self care, or maybe Christian alarm bells go off as you associate it with other religions.
However, Christian meditation is a deeply biblical concept. The Old and New testament instructs us to meditate on, and abide in God and His teachings (see Joshua 1:8, Timothy 4:15 , Philippians 4:8, John 8:31-32, Colossians 2:3).
Christian meditation is about focusing our awareness on good things, truth or simply the presence of God with you in each moment.
There are many ways to meditate including: cultivating an awareness of God’s love and presence; placing yourself into gospel stories; mulling over bible verses; memorising parts of the bible; anything that allows you to focus on God, His word and His goodness.
In contrast to non-christian meditation which often seeks to empty the mind, Christian meditation is about focusing your mind and attention on something particular. Often we ruminate or ‘meditate’ on our worries - if you’re good at worrying, chances are you’ll be great at meditating!
As with anything, it’s important to engage with meditation practices that are rooted in Jesus and His word, and there are many forms of non-Christian meditation to avoid.
Why practise Christian mindfulness and meditation?
1. They equip us to follow God’s commandments
Mindfulness is a God-given tool to equip us to more effectively follow biblical commandments. Using this newfound skill of focusing our attention, mindfulness provides a platform for us to pause, observe and then redirect our thinking. As we meditate we learn to observe our thoughts, see them as transient, watch them come and go, then redirect our attention onto good things.
Pause. Observe. Redirect. Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
2. It gives us a platform: to redirect to gratitude. (Phil 4:8)
to choose to think on whatever is good, pure, noble, praiseworthy. (Phil 4:9)
to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)
to meditate on the word of God night and day. (Psalm 1:2-3)
to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2)
3. They deepen our prayer life
Mindfulness and meditation are a natural foundation for contemplative prayer; the invitation to be still and know that He is God. This has been one of the things that has most profoundly impacted my faith and drawn me into greater intimacy with God, as I have felt more equipped to focus my mind and my attention onto God and His word.
Where to start; a few practical suggestions
Each of these can be for as long as little as you want, depending on the time you have in the midst of busy family life! God knows. Whether it’s finding 10 seconds to pause, actively take a breath and notice, or creating a regular space to practise, here are some great places to begin this journey of focusing your mind and becoming more aware of the presence of God with you in each moment.
1| Guided meditations - Focusing our thoughts and attention can be tricky! The goal isn’t to have perfect focused attention overcoming every distraction. No one gets there, even people who have been meditating for years. The goal is moments of peace, and to practise bringing your mind back. To build the muscle of being able to focus your attention.
Christian Mindfulness: Breathing Space Meditation - this one is one of my favourites. Super short, and introduces you to the concept of focusing on your breath and Jesus, as well as grounding yourself in the present moment.
2| Focus on the breath - this is quick and can be done anywhere. Simply pause and take a moment to focus your mind on your breathing as a tool to move away from anxious thoughts and come back to the present moment.
3| Lectio Devina - you may have come across the Lectio365 app or the practice of Lectio Devina or ‘divine reading’. This ancient monastic practice is a great example of how we can focus our minds through slow reading of the word of God and really meditate on what it is saying.
4| Contemplative prayer - An extension of mindfulness and meditation where the focus of our attention is on the presence of God, His love, or simply on the breath as we use a prayer word such as ‘Jesus’.
Here are a few books and sermons that I have found helpful in this area if you would like to dig deeper
1. It is well - Interview with Christian psychotherapist Jo Hargreaves https://open.spotify.com/episode/4pgYDerLcAZ4QgETyCIxz9?si=6fc8a77b413444b2
Here you can find a great set of free Christian guided meditations
3. Invitation to silence and solitude, Ruth Haley Barton
Practical guide to sitting in the stillness of God or ‘contemplative prayer’. Really accessible reading, like having your best friend talk you through why and how. It is very real and helpful around what makes it difficult and yet so freeing.
4. Coming to God in the Stillness: Discovering the Power of Contemplative Prayer- Jim Borst
This is a really short, excellent book that looks more at the christian side of meditation and contemplative prayer and has been incredibly transformative in leading me into the presence of God, giving some really practical tips about coming into the stillness and how we counteract the challenges of a wandering mind.
5. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World - Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Really practical guide to mindfulness and meditation including helpful stories and examples to provide a clear understanding of the psychology of thought, and what we can apply to manage our thoughts
6. .Part 3 & 4: Renewal of the Mind. Bridgetown Audio podcast
Session 3 is great if you’d like to learn more about the impact of the fall on our minds, and session 4 is great for laying the foundations for renewing the mind.