Monday, April 20, 2015

Mindfulness Meditation or Prayer?

Feeling stressed and burdened with hectic schedules many are flocking to meditation training programs. A recent article in our local newspaper reported the following:
Meditation, primarily a 2,500year-old form called mindfulness meditation that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment, has gone viral.The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit; stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity.
Orthodox Christians have a surer way of finding a joyful way of life. Instead of mindfulness meditation the Orthodox Church teaches the way of prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. When this is based on a faith in Jesus Christ and participation in the full sacramental life of the Church, we will find a greater peace than can ever be found with mindfulness meditation.

Being mindful, or watchful as Orthodox Christians say, is important for our spiritual well being. To be watchful we must have a mind that is under control and not simply being swayed from east to west, from heights to depths, based on the surrounding stimulus it receives from our senses. The form of prayer that has been taught since the time of Christ is to repeat over and over with sincerity, "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner." This is not a mantra. This is a short prayer that affirms our faith in Christ, it recognizes how far we are from the way of life He has taught us, and we ask for His help and forgiveness. By repeating it over and over each morning and evening for at least 15 minutes every day then expanding to 30 minutes, the prayer becomes programed into our physical being through the interconnection of the neurons in our brain. Eventually it becomes a prayer that is with us continually linking all our actions with the will of God.

We begin by praying it verbally and then when God allows, we find we can say it in our mind only with few distractions. The discipline of sincere prayer is to develop the ability to reject the distractions, the thoughts that try to keep us from prayer. This takes effort and time. But instead of putting time into a mindfulness meditation practice, put your time into prayer. You will find you will get greater benefits.

Unfortunately many will say such spiritual disciplines are only for monastics. But the reality is that if we are to be able to follow the teachings of Christ, we need God's help plus our efforts to control our bodily passions. This is why the disciplines like the Jesus Prayer and fasting are emphasized in the Orthodox Church. Most importantly we must to learn to become watchful, to control what thoughts we allow to affect our body's action. If we can learn to control our mind with God's help, then we will receive more of God's grace to do all things He commands.

For information on the Jesus Prayer
For information on the Ten Point Program for an Orthodox Christian way of life.

7 comments:

  1. Christos Anesti!

    An excellent post and timely advice. Thank you for sharing it.

    +JMJ,
    Theo

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  4. I am wondering how often you practice mindfulness meditation to understand what you are talking about. If you really knew mindfulness meditation, you would see that the Jesus prayer IS a mantra (Mantras are prayers ) employed by mindful meditators and thus your argument becomes contradictory. Is not the Jesus prayer utilized in order to bring us into the prescence and recognition of God in the here and now? God doesn't exist in the memories of the past or the fantasies of the future. He is everywhere filling all things. How could attention directed to the now not be directed towards God in the now if he exists everywhere and within all things? My question is, have you ever done the practice mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness meditation is not religion based. How could the practice of being in the here and now be one of religion?

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    1. I too dislike how a lot of Orthodox sites seem to hate on the practice of mindfulness, and do all they can to discredit it. I actually came to the conclusion that the Jesus Prayer is the most important and effective "mantra" to repeat by first delving into mindfulness meditation. The whole point is to quiet the mind so that one can hear the heart, or God's voice that lives in each and every human. That is the whole point! thats why mindfulness meditation works for people across all religions! As orthodox christians, we are very fortunate to have traditions that mirror the embodiment of God/the Logos through the Jesus Prayer. But please, lets let people enjoy mindfulness meditation in whatever way suits them, and if they seek and wish to evolve in truth, we must have faith that coming to the recognition of the Christ is inevitable.

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    2. But otherwise, this is a great and well written article. It does seem that the writer has not looked enough in depth as to what mindfulness meditation is, I promise if you do you'll see how its just a precursor "intermediate" to the true orthodox manner of meditation. If you read up on Hesychasm/theosis you'll see how its extremely parallel to meditation practices of eaten philosophies such as Buddhism, in fact some sources say Hesychasm came about due to exposure with eastern philosophies and even sufism. Like I said prior, we are fortunate that our meditation practices dwell upon the Logos, but it certainly adds benefit to look through other "windows" in order to better see a bigger picture. I'd like to encourage anyone reading this to continue seeking Truth, and to question everything as much as they can. Other orthodox members must have faith that the Truth will reveal itself in the end, however many years that may take, and however many different kinds of roads it may take a pilgrim to reach Home.

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  5. So let us begin to clear our minds of useless, wayward abstract thoughts having no justification to control or dictate our life's direction. We will find meditation allows you in the purest sense, to create your own life's experiences. (More discussion about that possibility a bit later). best books on meditation

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