PETER TYLER is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality at St Mary’s University London. He has written widely on spirituality. He sees this book as a return to themes he was exploring twenty years ago when he wrote The Way of Ecstasy: Praying with St Teresa of Ávila. Tyler is clear that what is now called “mindfulness” has always been central to the practice of Christian prayer. But he begins with a helpful engagement with Buddhism as the main source of the contemporary mindfulness “revolution” in recent years.
While publications on mindfulness continue to expand apace with the universe, what makes this contribution distinctive? First, Tyler brings a wide learning to the subject and succeeds in setting mindfulness practice in a richer, integrated context of informed faith. The theoretical and theological engagement here is meaty, but always accessible. There are helpful chapters of Thomas Merton, St Teresa of Ávila, and St John of the Cross and the desert tradition.
Second, he is also able to draw on wisdom from corners of Christian faith and prayer which many will not have been introduced to before. There is a fascinating chapter on the medieval Iberian tradition of mental prayer and meditation, and a rich chapter on “Living the Mindful Life in the Indian Tradition”, illustrated with the work of Rabindranath Tagore and others.
But this is intended to be a book for praying through, not just thinking with. “Read and pray!” is the commendation on the back cover. So, each chapter concludes with a variety of very helpful exercises, providing a very practical introduction to ancient approaches to prayer. These would work very well in a shared context such as a retreat or a study or prayer group — and, given its price, this book may be one for sharing anyway.
So this offering of prayerful Christian learning stands out in a market that already offers a bewildering range of choices and approaches to this subject.
The Revd David Runcorn is Associate Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Warden of Readers in Gloucester diocese.
Christian Mindfulness: Theology and practice
SCM Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18