‘Mindfulness’ – a biblical view

Has the word ‘meditation’ gone out of fashion in the vocabulary of New Age ‘spirituality’ in favour of ‘mindfulness’? Or would the term ‘mindedness’ better describe the discipline of focused, calm stillness that adherents attempt to achieve? I could ‘Google’ it, I suppose, but I prefer to consider the Bible’s use and meaning of such terms and then to put them into practice. Or even the dictionary definitions:

[] ‘minded’ = having an inclination towards, or an interest in a particular field, as in money-minded, politically-minded;

[] ‘mindful’ = keeping aware, heedful as in ‘mindful of her responsibility’.

So neither word, in accepted English, means blanking out conscious thought.           


Then, it would perhaps be more honest to refer to the state that Oriental gurus try to induce as mindlessness. And that is a natural survival technique, not one of advanced spirituality! Joseph Conrad in his short story Typhoon offers a good description of that state of mind as one sailor’s reaction to a violent eastern storm (with my emphases).                       

‘Jukes remained indifferent, as if rendered irresponsible by the force of the hurricane, which made the very thought of action utterly vain. He was not scared; because, firmly believing he would never see another sunrise, he remained calm in that belief. These are the moments of do-nothing heroics to which even good men surrender at times. It was rather like a forced-on numbness of spirit. The long, long stress of a gale does it; the suspense of the [impending] catastrophe; and there is a bodily fatigue in the mere holding on to existence within the excessive tumult; and of all the gifts – even before life itself – aspires to peace. Jukes was benumbed much more than he supposed. He held on – very wet, very cold, stiff in every limb. The spell of the storm had fallen upon [him]. He was penetrated by it, absorbed by it; he was rooted in it with a rigour of dumb attention.’           

            The biblical meaning of mindfulness

[] The two Old Testament Hebrew words for ‘meditate’ both mean ‘murmur’ – not a blanking of the mind. They were never used of a meaningless ‘oh-o-o-ommm’ sound but of the reciting of God’s words and works (e.g. Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 143:5).

[] One of the Hebrew words for ‘mind’ is yetzer. Like those dictionary definitions it means ‘intention of thought’ (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Deuteronomy 31:21), ‘frame of mind’ or ‘creative idea’ (Isaiah 29:16). Isaiah 26:3 exposes the error of mindless ‘meditation’; You keep him in perfect peace whose mind [creative imagination] is stayed on you, because he trust in you .’ True meditation muses on the Lord, not on ‘nothing’ – rendering one’s mind at peace: a pond’s smooth surface can reflect the distant  heavens (clouds, moon and stars) – but even a tiny stone can disturb it!

[] The Hebrew word zakar = ‘bring to mind’ or recall (Psalm 77:11; Ecclesiastes 12:11), literally ‘piercing’, implying mental attentiveness, not a vacant mind.

[] The New Testament nous (= mind), is defined by W.E.Vine as ‘the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising…perception and understanding, and…feeling, judging and determination.’ It means ‘understanding’ in Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 14:15,19; Revelation 13:18; 17:9, and ‘purpose’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 – ‘the determination to be steadfast amidst afflictions’ (Vine).

[] Another Greek word is dianoia = ‘thinking through, reflecting (2 Peter 3:1); ‘sober-minded’ (1 Peter 1:13).

* So: Set your minds on [phroneo = ‘be mindful of’] things above (Colossians 3:2).

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