Being mindful is as important as breathing. Unfortunately just as we breathe automatically so we often live automatically. We live on autopilot as many psychologists call it. People have been aware of mindfulness almost as long as the human race has been aware of breathing.
What is interesting about mindfulness is the way you can interact with ancient witnesses to mindfulness as well as the latest neuroscientific evidence. One such text is from the book of James in the New Testament.
‘But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.’ (James 1:25)
One aspect of mindfulness is to learn how to ‘look intently’. The Greek word here is parakypsas, which also occurs in 1 Peter 1:12, where it talks about angels longing ‘to look intently’ into the mystery of the gospel.
Within James it appears to be being used as a technical word to talk about meditating on the ancient texts that make up the Bible. Meditation on a text in this way is what we would call today a MAP, a mindful awareness practice. Mindfulness as a state of present moment awareness needs MAPS, mindfulness awareness practices. Within the first chapter of James there are a number of words to do with perception, an aspect of mindfulness.
The other element of how our minds works that James points out, and he is not just being metaphorical is that we forget how to live wisely, and we also have the capacity to not forget, or to remember (James 1:25). James often gives us one thing, for example, ‘forgetting’, to bring to mind it’s opposite – in this case remembering.
The ‘remembering’ that is important here is the Greek word mnesthenai usually translated ‘to be mindful of’. These are two important capacities of our mind, forgetting and remembering. The forgetting in today’s language is akin to what psychologists call automatic thinking, or being on autopilot, which is an unaware and forgetful way of living.
The mindful awareness practices (MAP’s) help us to ‘remember’ to live wisely and in awareness. In my experience God plays his part in this. This is the missing dimension. What I would call mindFullness.