While the Church must always proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ, she nonetheless also affirms all that is true and holy in other religions and philosophical systems (see Nostra Aetate #2). In regards to meditation, I will take this principle of Catholic doctrine a step further. I would propose that all that is good, true, and beautiful in the meditative traditions of East Asian religions and in contemporary secular sciences can be found within the riches of a shared Christian patrimony, one that encompasses both Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
In this sense, the profound insights provided by mindfulness meditation are an important opportunity for dialogue and mutual enrichment. In short, contemporary psychology has promoted a notion of mindfulness which involves the intentional cultivation of a non-judgmental awareness of reality. Along these lines, psychology is discovering incredible benefits that accompany the active pondering of one’s interior life and the interconnection between sense perception, experience, and one’s interiority.
While not formulated in precisely the same language, there are many similar concepts that exist within Christianity, particularly within the monastic tradition. In the East, a thoroughly Christian mindfulness seems to be implied in the idea of watchfulness. In a similar stream of thought, Western monasticism had a similar notion that was expressed in terms of recollection. What can be confusing to many contemporary audiences, both Christian and non, is that the kind of awareness expressed by these terms is generally assumed and not explored in great detail. Thus, the life of a monastery assumes a certain amount of interiority and introspection by its way of life.
Furthermore, cultivating watchfulness and recollection was a means to an end, and in many ways, simply a preparation for the full flowering of prayer. We can take a powerful lesson from this and realize that before we begin to ponder scripture in lectio divina or before we engage in other forms of formal meditation, we must take steps to cultivate interior stillness and make ourselves available to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Often, we fail to transition from the busy pace of life into the silence of meditation, and failure to do so can cause much stress and needless struggle.
With this in mind, I believe that all Christians are called to cultivate “mindfulness.” To aid Christians in such a pursuit, I have created a 10 minute guided meditation which lays out the basics for such a practice. In line with current magisterial teachings, this guided meditation is thoroughly “Christocentric,” or centered on the person of Jesus Christ, and does not advocate us setting aside our personal relationship with him.
The meditation can be found on my website which shares a link with Sound Cloud. Soon, I will try and make the meditation available in other places for download. CD copies of the meditation are available at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Fuquay-Varina, NC. At this time, I am not mailing out any copies (simply due to the lack of time and staff).
Keep in mind, the guided meditation is simply a beginning instruction that can and should be set aside when the time comes. The goal with any method or formal set of instructions is to help Christians come to the place of spontaneous and familiar dialogue with Jesus and the saints. In addition, it may lead us to simply resting with the Lord in a wordless, imageless exchange. We should feel free to play and explore, all with the confidence that our longing for God is infinitely smaller than his longing for us.