From Dr Adrian Thomas
Sir, — I was interested to see the article on mindfulness “Learning to live in the present” (Features, 23 October) by Madeleine Bunting. This did not really speak to my condition. I preferred the associated article “Bedfellows, but how comfortable?” by Terence Handley MacMath.
We are told by Ms Bunting that “What we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.” There is, however, so much more for the Christian. I experience being alive each morning when I wake up. We might well ask: Mindfulness is presented, but mindfulness of what or whom?
As Christians, and with Brother Lawrence, we practise the presence of God. With Jean Pierre de Caussade, we become aware that God comes to meet us in the present moment in our self-abandonment to the divine Providence. It is the Quaker philosopher Thomas Kelly who speaks to me most in his A Testament of Devotion (1943). Kelly describes beautifully how at one level we may be meeting the demands of external affairs, and yet at a profounder level we may be in prayer and adoration.
Ms Bunting presents mindfulness in an entirely positive light. There needs to be caution, however, as has been detailed in the recent book The Buddha Pill: Can meditation change you? by Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm (Watkins Publishing, 2015), in which the adverse effects of mindfulness and meditation are recounted. We are not saved or healed simply by awareness.
So I prefer to practise the presence of God, and, with St Paul (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18), we should “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
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