Be Mindful of the Dangers of Mindfulness

For many people, “mindfulness” is a gateway to non-Christian philosophies.

Meditation (photo: Benjamin Balazs / Pixabay/CC0)

I’m told April is “Stress Awareness Month.”

So count the seconds before “mindfulness” is back on the block, selling its soiled goods.

“Mindfulness” and the industry it has spawned are often linked to the mindset that proclaims itself as “spiritual not religious.” It is a modern phenomenon that wants the peace associated with faith without any of the challenges of having to adapt one’s conduct and lifestyle to a fixed set of dogmas.

The whole “mindfulness” racket is never about prayer though, but rather evasion. The true Christian path of discipleship is narrow and hard. It means an encounter with the Cross of Christ, not a soft cushion to meditate on. This has been the case for 2000 years. It still is the case today, and, no doubt, it will continue to be so tomorrow. That is why, for some, any alternative is preferable.

For many people, “mindfulness” is a gateway to non-Christian philosophies. Sadly, as a result, in recent years some Catholics have drifted toward embracing the form and representations of Buddhism — or what they think is Buddhism. For them, and for many in the West, that religious system appears to serve up a religion without creed, belief without catechism, and, best of all, seemingly no moral absolutes. You can be fashionably spiritual without needing to mention the “r” word (religion) or, heaven forbid, the ‘C’ word (Catholic).

There is nothing new in this dalliance with aspects of other religions. Just over 30 years ago, on Oct. 15, 1989, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation of the Faith, published the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.

It is worth re-reading.

Paragraph 12 deals “with the present diffusion of Eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities” and the fact that there is “a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian.”

To achieve this, “some use Eastern methods solely as a psycho-physical preparation for a truly Christian contemplation; others go further and, using different techniques, try to generate spiritual experiences similar to those described in the writings of certain Catholic mystics. Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality.”

Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, the words “syncretism” and “apostasy” come to mind when one hears “mindfulness” being introduced into the conversation of Christians. But then so, too, do the words of St. John Henry Newman. He spoke of the “great apostasia,” what he called “liberalism in religion” — that is, “the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion,” that “one creed is as good as another,” that “revealed religion is not a truth but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”

The English saint could have been speaking of “mindfulness.” In this world, by rejecting dogmas and embracing something as vague as it appears universal, “mindfulness” promises that you will be “mindful” — while never telling you of what exactly; “mindfulness” promises you “peace” — but it is a “peace” akin to a spiritual chloroform. In stark contrast, the Prince of Peace promises the Cross in this world and Eternal Life in the world to come.

If you really want mindfulness, I have a suggestion. It is the very short, but very perceptive classic: The Practice of the Presence of God by the 17th-century Carmelite friar, Brother Lawrence. That holy man, in a few pages, lets you into the secret of real mindfulness — a practice known more correctly as “living in the presence of God.”

But there is something else of which to be mindful and it is something from which this little book shall save you — namely, the huge fees charged for courses and workshops dedicated to “mindfulness.”

For “mindfulness” always comes with a price tag, and what’s for sale just may be your eternal destiny.