Philosopher Mark Vernon has written about a spiritual revival happening through mindfulness, in which the church, he laments, plays little part.
The growth in mindfulness shows no signs of slowing down. The Mindful Living Show at the Business Design Centre back in June this year showcased many of its different strands, but not a Christian one.
With an epidemic of mental ill health across all-ages, and especially young people, mindfulness is crucial not just to spiritual well-being, but our mental well-being.
However, it is not all inattention from the church. Christian mental health professionals are to an increasing extent engaging with mindfulness at both a popular and academic level. Christians at a local church level are increasingly asking if they can access secular mindfulness therapies like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression – and they deserve a well-informed answer.
There is still suspicion among some in the Christian world toward secular mindfulness, as well as a misunderstanding about mindfulness being uniquely Buddhist. In fact mindfulness can be found in all the great faith traditions, but has biblical as well as historical roots within Christianity.
I have been researching mindfulness since 2006 and am currently doing a PhD project at London School of Theology on mindfulness of God. In conversations with other Christian organisations also engaging with mindfulness, the idea for a National Mindfulness Day for Christians emerged.
This has now come to fruition and is being run on two Saturdays in May 2018, the first on St Paul's Ealing on May 12, and the second at Bridge Community Church in Leeds on May 19. The organisers wanted the day to be run in the north as well as the south. The event is being sponsored by the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) and Pastoral Care UK. As well as myself, other partners include Richard HH Johnston of Christian Mindfulness, the Mind and Soul Foundation, the British Association of Christians in Psychology (BACIP) and London School of Theology.
I am speaking at the event and other keynote speakers are drawn from the partnering organisations, and include Richard Johnston, Dr Kate Middleton of Mind and Soul, Rev Will van der Hart, pastoral chaplain at Holy Trinity Brompton and a director of Mind and Soul, Dr Rob Waller – also from Mind and Soul – and Dr Roger Bretherton, a lecturer in the Psychology Department of Lincoln University and chair of BACIP.
Topics include 'Why Christians should engage with mindfulness,' 'Mindfulness, Compassion and Contemplation', 'Mindfulness and Resilience – Weathering the Storms of Childhood and Adolescence,' 'Mindfulness Strategies for Managing Pain,' 'Mindfulness for Mental Health – Its Place for Those Who Are Medically Unwell' and 'Mindfulness and Christian Character.'
The speakers are bringing biblical, historical and psychological perspectives to the cultural phenomenon of mindfulness and will be exploring mindfulness for health and mindfulness of God. The conference will be invaluable for any Christian interested in this area of mental health and spirituality and there will be an opportunity for questions and answers.
My own research into mindfulness for health and mindfulness of God came out of an experience of anxiety, depression and burnout. Mindfulness glued me back together. As I speak around the country I hear many similar stories. Mindfulness is a biblical spirituality as well as a psychological intervention – and the church needs both!
More details can be found on the website www.nationalmindfulnessday.co.uk, including how to book. You will also be able to learn more about the conference from a series of short videos that will be released shortly. There are plans for further conferences and the hope that these national mindfulness days for Christians can also be a bridge to mental health forums where Christian organisations increasingly work together in the hugely important fields of mental and spiritual well-being.
Rev Shaun Lambert is senior minister of Stanmore Baptist Church and one of the organisers of the National Day of Mindfulness for Christians.