A beautiful young woman adorned the cover of a recent Time magazine. Blonde, white, and wearing white, her eyes are closed, with a blissful smile on her face, and her hair blown back by some gentle breeze. This image is set against a powder blue backdrop. The cover title is The Mindful Revolution.
The article tied to the cover is The Art of Being Mindful. What is it about? The pursuit of inner peace and mindfulness—being present in whatever you are doing (or not doing).
Interesting. But is this really mindfulness, or mindlessness?
Pursuing inner peace
This pursuit of inner peace is nothing new. Its present form is repackaged Buddhism and New Age philosophy and meditation. I'm familiar with it all from my own spiritual search earlier in life. It's become a popular and growing business. There's even a course and training called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Why has this come into vogue? Because we are a stressed out, distracted culture in America. There is just too much going on around us and in our lives. The crazy thing is we add to it with social media, from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram and others. And we're consumed with work or the pursuit of work.
We can't figure out how to get off the merry-go-round of it all, so we seek a path of peace in the midst of it all. The sad thing is that Christian believers can get caught up in all of this. But why? Didn't Jesus say He would give us a peace better than what is offered in this life? (John 14:27)
Emptiness or fullness?
When things get intense and worry reigns, we seek relief from it all. Some people seek solace, while others abandon reason for chaos of some kind. If you didn't know it already, there's a new surge of drug abuse and alcoholism. It never really dies out, but intensifies and ebbs in cycles. Relief is sought through escape.
Whether it's a pursuit of solace or escape, it results in the effort to be emptied of whatever is causing stress or overload. But it's temporary at best.
It sounds like a good idea. Yet, if you empty yourself, you will get filled up again with something. But what will you be filled with? Does emptying your mind really bring mindfulness? A goal of Buddhism is to achieve nirvana, which literally means extinction, like a flame that goes out.
Nature abhors a vacuum. If pursuing inner peace requires an empty mind, what will fill it beyond the moment? This will require a constant emptying.
Unplug or plug in?
But what about all the digital devices we're attached to? You know, like the one you're reading this on. Many people encourage taking a digital sabbath or break, that is, to go unplugged from it all for a while. It's a good idea, but it's still a temporary fix.
"Turn on, tune in, drop out," was one of the popular phrases from the 1960's. It was coined by a then-famous Harvard grad named Timothy Leary. He advocated taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs, becoming counter-cultural, along with questioning authority. Although many followed him for a while, it resulted in more lostness than true inner peace.
In a sense, Jesus called His followers to become counter-cultural and often questioned the spiritual leaders of His day, but He didn't advocate the use of any drugs. And He wasn't calling His followers to drop out of society, but rather to be agents of change within it.
So, if you're a follower of Jesus, how do you handle everything else you've got going on in life, and benefit from the peace Jesus promised? The apostle Paul tells us God's peace transcends all that we know and will protect us internally (Phil 4:7). But how?
Neither Paul or Jesus advocated a mind-emptying type of meditation, like the once-popular transcendental meditation. Their promises about God's peace didn't require us to empty ourselves of anything but worry.
What do you think?
Next week, I'll look at how followers of Jesus can experience a more constant sense of peace. Not just a peace of mind, but a peace that is deep in our soul.
Until next week, what are your thoughts? How have you experienced God's peace?
Have you experienced a more constant mindfulness than what is popular today? If so, what helps you to be mindful in a way that draws you to God, honors Him, and blesses others?
I'd like to hear from you on this.