We are now entering 2020 – a new year and a new decade! A time for looking back and looking forward. What will this new year bring? Are we in danger of living for the future and missing out on the ‘now’?
You don’t have to go very far these days to hear talk of ‘mindfulness’. But what is it? The dictionary defines it as ‘the state or quality of being mindful’. We might say to someone ‘Take care, mind how you go!’
But there is a second definition ‘the practice of giving complete and non-judgmental attention to one's present experience, used as a stress-reduction technique.’ This is often linked to meditation techniques such as yoga taken from Buddhist philosophies.
Guidance from the NHS says: ‘Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.’ There is no doubt that being aware of ‘the here and now’ rather than what has happened or may yet happen can help us to relax and understand the world and ourselves better. GK Chesterton commented on Saint Thomas Aquinas that ‘to him even the momentary was momentous’.
Isaiah, writing his prophesy about 700 years before Jesus was born, said that God “will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in him”. Meditation and mindfulness are important Christian concepts. But the Bible encourages us to focus on the God who made us and not just on our own thought processes.
Jesus also dealt with issues of stress and anxiety. In Matthew, he addressed his hearers in ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ telling them "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Rather, he says, your heavenly Father will take care of our needs if we seek first his kingdom and righteousness.
Let us step back from the busyness of life – all the frenetic activity of December with the election and politics; and nativity, feasting and spending money at Christmas – and appreciate what we have achieved and what is going well. We don’t need (and it is not helpful) to fill every waking moment with activity.
We noted, a couple of months ago, that the Psalmist said, ‘Be still and know that I am God’. And the apostle Paul writes to Christians in Rome: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Paul, again, gives us a clue as to how to do that in another of his letters to churches. He says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
In our uncertain world let us take time out to renew our minds and seek to be transformed.