Mindfulness is an incredibly popular practise among westerners. Having rejected their Christian heritage and identity, they look to fill the void with cheap spirituality that makes no demands of them. You can enjoy the benefits of Yoga, Mindfulness, tarot cards and Chrystal’s without having to change who you are as a person.
I’m well aware of this because I too at one stage in my life practised nearly all these things. I read books on Buddhism, including one of my favourites the book of the dead. I rummaged through Hinduism and occult stuff like Wicca.
It was a time when my life had a void to be filled, and I began searching. Although that search is not something I will be covering in any great detail today, it’s sufficient to mention that the road eventually led me back to my Catholic faith.
A lot of people have been criticizing Mindfulness lately, such as journalists who share testimonies of those who have experienced adverse effects. For example, in The Guardian newspaper and online publication, Dawn Foster wrote about her negative experience. In her piece on Mindfulness she explained that:
For days afterwards, I feel on edge. I have a permanent tension headache and I jump at the slightest unexpected noise. The fact that something seemingly benign, positive and hugely popular had such a profound effect has taken me by surprise.Dawn Foster, Is Mindfulness making us ill?, The Guardian
Later on she explores the testimony of others who say the following:
“Initially, I found it relaxing,” she says, “but then I found I felt completely zoned out while doing it. Within two or three hours of later sessions, I was starting to really, really panic.” The sessions resurfaced memories of her traumatic childhood, and she experienced a series of panic attacks.Claire, Is Mindfulness making us ill?, The Guardian
“Somehow, the course triggered things I had previously got over,” Claire says. “I had a breakdown and spent three months in a psychiatric unit. It was a depressive breakdown with psychotic elements related to the trauma, and several dissociative episodes.”
Having looked at these testimonies, in my opinion, they seem to blame the actual breathing itself, but this is not the case. It’s not the breathing that’s the problem, but the intent one has to breathe and what is missing from it.
When a person comes from a hectic lifestyle with little to no room for contemplation, there’s going to be a problem. Jumping immediately from the fracas of life into a sudden quietude is bound to have its adverse effects.
In Buddhism, Breathing during prayerful meditation is necessary to achieve enlightenment. However, breathing in Christianity is not seen as essential for salvation or contemplation of God. The desert fathers (the cave dwellers) practised it only to help them focus on the Jesus prayer and quiet the mind.
But one could live with or without the technique, and it’s something someone should really only practice under the guidance of a spiritual master. Doing this on your own will open you up to spiritual delusions, that if go unchecked can cause problems.
For example, some monks in the desert committed suicide, and some others would be found ordaining themselves as priests such were the delusions. Spiritual warfare and the mind is nothing to be toyed around with it’s a serious business.
It’s not that breathing is the cause, it’s the way we breathe and pray that proposes problems. Many Christian monks breathe and don’t experience these issues because they’re under a particular type of guidance from those with experience.
They must reveal all their thoughts and feelings to their spiritual father who can then assess if all is going well and whether or not they should continue the prayer. Not everyone is called to breathing or even a particular type of worship. It’s up to one’s spiritual father to decide that for them.
If that is what happens when we include Jesus, what do you think is going to happen when we exclude Him?
I would, therefore, invite all Christians of every tradition, to practice caution concerning mindfulness. Although it’s not a sin to engage in it for physical benefits to reduce anxiety, to exclude God is a big deal for us. To contemplate and rely on the self, not God for ones enlightenment, is a form of pride where we choose ourselves above God.
Should we, then, be surprised if we go off the rails? In spiritual warfare, this is like a soldier who jumps out of his trench. He runs across no mans land in broad daylight. What do you think is going to happen? He will be mowed down by gunfire.
It’s no different when we practice a spirituality that places God as second best. It is neither a good idea when we practice deep prayerful meditation in the Christian tradition without some sort of guidance. If you can’t find guidance, the next best thing is advice from Fathers and Saints who’ve written books on what to expect.
Mindfulness and its religion, philosophy, or at times lack of both, is the problem. It is this approach that causes problems and not breathing. The only problem with breathing is one can hyperventilate, and that’s not a good thing, so something to look out for.
Hyperventilating doesn’t necessarily involve gasping for air but can be very subtle. If it becomes a problem for you, then it’s crucial to stop the breathing and do only the prayer.
As I said at the beginning, breathing is not necessary in prayer, and sometimes a person needs to rearrange their spiritual living room until they get it right. Why? Because breath is meant to help a person focus on their prayer, but for others, it can serve as a distraction.
Now…take the time to breathe in and on the exhale…click the “follow” button and subscribe.