Practicing Mindfulness from a Christian Perspective

by Tobin Perry

This year, 2020, has brought about a season of heightened stress and significant change for many people. Whether due to the risk of COVID-19 infection, the significant changes in the economy caused by the pandemic, or the growing social unrest, individuals across the country—and the globe—have been struggling to get a handle on their emotions.

In times like these, practicing mindfulness can help. Here’s what you need to know about Christ-centered mindfulness and how to introduce it into your daily life.

What Is Christ-Centered Mindfulness?

Regina Chow Trammel, a social work professor at Azusa Pacific University, defines mindfulness as the “awareness of the present moment, being still, and practicing meditation.” She calls it an antidote to the often hurried pace of life that has developed, particularly as technology has become more prevalent.

Although the practice originated with Buddhist religious philosophy and the habits of the eightfold path toward enlightenment, physician Jon Kabat-Zinn brought the ideas to the West in the 1970s. Many Christians have remained skeptical of mindfulness because of its Buddhist roots, but Trammel encourages Christians to reclaim it.

“The main difference between a secular or Buddhist mindfulness practice and a Christian one is that we know that we have a relationship with our Savior, who is active in our lives through the Scriptures; He hears us when we call Him and the Holy Spirit provides us insight into God’s heart and will for our lives,” Trammel said.

4 Tips for Practicing Christian Mindfulness

Trammel has a passion for helping students improve the lives of others and focuses her research on how mindfulness can reduce stress. Through this research, she has developed a number of tips that can help Christians relieve stress.

Here are four steps toward incorporating the principles of mindfulness into your life:

  1. Sit still in the presence of God. The best part about Christian mindfulness is that you get an opportunity to hear God’s voice more clearly. Trammel encourages those looking to incorporate this into their spiritual lives to consider practicing mindfulness after devotional times or even after a good sermon. “When we sit at God’s feet and open up space in our bodies, our minds, our spirits, Christ will work,” she said. “As the Psalmist promises, ‘He searches us and knows us and will point out any wayward way within us.’ [Psalm 139] Decluttering our thoughts makes room for God to speak.”

  2. Don’t be a perfectionist about mindfulness. It’s easy, Trammel says, to think we’re not doing mindfulness right, particularly when we aren’t getting results at first. Our minds naturally think in terms of “gain versus loss.” But for mindfulness to be effective, we need to let go of our focus on results. Give yourself the space and the time to experiment as you grow more comfortable with practicing mindfulness.

  3. Lean into the rhythm of your work. Trammel also encourages incorporating mindfulness into your daily tasks if you are busy or find it challenging to sit still—and focusing on gratitude as you do so. For example, as you wash dishes, try to focus only on your task and thank God as you do. She recommends praying something similar to this passage: “God, thank you that I have the ability to do these tasks. As I am doing them, please meet me. I am grateful I can move and am able to do these tasks today.”

  4. Gather resources on the topic. Trammel points readers to a number of strong Christ-centered resources on mindfulness that can help people put it into practice. She pointed to Larry Warner’s Journey With Jesus, which emphasizes a practical application of Christian mindfulness. She also recommends Richard Foster’s book, Spiritual Classics, which provides spiritual formation exercises. Trammel is currently working on a book with John Trent called Wherever You Go, There God Is: A Counselor's Guide to Christian Mindfulness, which is expected to be published in 2021 by Zondervan.

Want to learn more about how you can help yourself—and other people—thrive in your community? Learn more about APU’s Department of Social Work.