Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality: Making space for God
Church Times Bookshop £9
I WISH I had read this book several weeks ago when my friends wanted to talk about mindfulness and prayer. Their conversation could have been so much better informed.
Tim Stead is both a parish priest and an accredited mindfulness teacher. Helpfully, he uses his own experience to illustrate the points that he makes. He begins by carefully explaining the history of mindfulness in the West, and where the course that he teaches fits into this picture. He also gives a few mindfulness exercises so the reader has a taste of what mindfulness is.
His definition of mindfulness is “being more fully aware of your own experience in the present moment in a non-judgemental way”. He emphasises all four strands: awareness, experience, present moment, and non-judgement.
Stead’s argument throughout is that mindfulness makes space for God. First, he sets out how mindfulness can give us greater understanding of what God/Jesus/ the Holy Spirit is like, not so much intellectually as in relation to our experience. For example, he explores the belief that God is one; that is, that God is diverse but not divided (so no vying for dominance within God).
He then goes on to describe how mindfulness shows us that humans are divided from ourselves, other humans, and the rest of nature. He also writes about his experience of how mindfulness can help us to develop a sense of harmonious diversity (like God’s oneness).
Similarly, Stead then describes how mindfulness can help in various aspects of Christian living, such as knowing God’s presence, finding peace, and practising love. Unsurprisingly, mindfulness was
the answer to every question he raised.
To give perspective, I was
pleased to discover the “prayer and worship” chapter, where he links what he has found through mindfulness to the experience of contemplatives through the centuries, the practice of Bible devotion, the Daily Office, intercessory prayer, and, briefly, the use of icons, and the eucharist.
His explanations are clear and readable. I now feel that I understand the practice of mindfulness better, and what mindfulness can offer to living Christian spirituality.
Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.