Mindfulness vs. Prayerfulness
My son came home the other day from college and informed me that he had been seeing a counselor. (And I want to note that he is not at a Catholic college.) “Oh, great,” I thought to myself, and tried to remain open-minded.
Keeping a positive tone to my voice, I asked, “And how is that going? Is it helpful?”
He replied, “I think so. I was feeling a lot of stress and anxiety. My counselor taught me how to meditate and be mindful. I think it is really helping.”
At this point, I did want to suggest things like Adoration, Confession, daily devotions, the Rosary, and so on. I wanted to shake him and say, “What happened to your Catholic faith? Have you tried talking to God?!!” But having experienced the “educated-child-in-college” before, I knew that that approach wasn’t effective. Instead, I simply said, “Yeah, that’s pretty similar to prayer. I hope that it helps.”
This got me thinking and looking at this whole “mindfulness” trend. I sort of liked the idea of being mindful. After all, isn’t this what God wants of us? When I do my daily examen, that spiritual exercise which St. Ignatius proposed, I start by being “mindful.” The 2nd and 3rd steps, according to Jesuit.org, call us to:
- Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
- Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.
This sounds a lot like mindfulness, doesn’t it? When I looked up what the actual definition of mindfulness is, I found this on WebMD: Being mindful means paying close attention to what’s happening in the moment. Put simply, mindfulness is about being present. It means noticing what’s happening inside your mind and in your body.
After further research, I found out that mindfulness actually has Buddhist roots. It comes from a result of meditating. Just recently, it has become widely popularized. We now have articles and books in the same ilk include Mindful Work, The Mindful Way Through Depression, Mindful Birthing, Mindful Movements, The Mindful Child, The Mindful Teen, Mindful Eating, and The Mindful Way Through Stress.
I’m sure some of these are truly helpful. What mom doesn’t need to slow down and live in the moment? There’s a grace that comes in being present. We need to shut down our autopilot, turn away from our cell phones, and read or laugh with our children. We need to talk to them, including our college student stopping by home to do laundry. Actually stop, look them in the eye and ask how they are doing, without worrying about a deadline at work or laundry that is calling our name.
So yeah, I get the need for mindfulness. I see how this frantic, noisy world needs this reminder. I see how this would benefit everyone, even to the point that the medical world suggests that meditation and mindfulness actually reduces stress and anxiety, measurable by blood pressure and heart rate.
Slow down and smell the roses, people.
As Mother Teresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that is enough. Each moment is what we need, not more.”
For Catholics, however, mindfulness can also be a prayer. We don’t stop at “What am I feeling, sensing, seeing at the present moment?” Rather, we ask, “Why God, am I feeling this way? What are you showing me? Where do you want me to go?”
As a Catholic, if we stop at just being mindful of ourselves, without turning to God, we miss the whole point. It’s like going up to a sign that says, “Waterfall ahead” and stopping at the sign. Can you imagine this? We are hiking in the woods and “discover” a big sign that points to the path of a waterfall, and instead of continuing to the waterfall, we stop right there at the sign. Moms, let’s first try to be more mindful throughout our day. Let’s live in the moment — savoring all of these times with our spouse, children, even our pets. Let’s linger a little longer on walks in falling leaves. Let’s tickle our children more. Let’s taste every morsel of good food.
But let’s not stop there! Don’t stop at the sign. Let these lead you to God.
We feel your presence, Lord, in our homes. We praise for your beautiful creations. We are looking for the path that you want us to travel next. Amen.
Copyright 2018 Tami Kiser
Image Copyright: Tami Kiser (2018). All rights reserved.
This article was originally published at CatholicMom.com and is shared here with permission.