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Silence, Mindfulness, and the Buddhists

Posted on November 19th, 2013

I recently attended a seminar on mental health/personality disorders in which the leader taught about the need to teach patients “mindfulness.” She defined it as stillness, openness, and silence, leading to the ability to radically love others. She then proceeded to share how her “profession” has learned this from the Buddhist tradition. While she is an atheist, she commented, a number of mental health professionals have converted to Buddhism as result. Sadly, she didn’t think of Christianity as the originator of silence and solitude (e.g. Ps. 37:11, Ps. 46:10, Luke 10:38-42, Elijah, John the Baptist, Moses, Jesus). She also did not associate Christians with “radical acceptance” and love. We have forgotten that other religions and movements may benefit from God’s truth, but it all belongs to Him! (What is really tragic is when Christians mistakenly say that an emphasis on silence and solitude as spiritual practices is New Age or Buddhist). Research with Buddhists and Christian monks has demonstrated conclusively how the practice of “mindfulness” or silence transforms the neurochemistry of the brain. (See Daniel Seigel’s The Mindful Brain and work for an introduction). That is true, of course. It was always meant to be part of Gods’ plan for our spiritual formation. Brother Lawrence sums up Christian mindfulness well: “Above all, get in the habit of often thinking of God, and forget Him the least you can.” My prayer is that when the world thinks of people who are centered, present to the gift of life, and overflowing with love and compassion, they think first of us as followers of Jesus and not the Buddhists.

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