short video interview with me via Association for Promoting Retreats on mindfulness
a link to Premier Radio’s Inspirational breakfast show interview with me on Christian mindfulness.
One of the most important insights of mindfulness is that we have relational perception. Daniel Siegel, an interpersonal neurobiologist, is an important theorist in this area. He talks about us having an eighth sense where we can tune in to what other people are thinking and feeling.
Others are also working with this area. Person-centred therapy is working with relationship and its perception in very interesting ways. One of the influences on recent developments in person-centred therapy has been the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and especially his theory of relational ethics.
A central aspect of awareness and attention is when it has a relational and ethical scaffolding. An influential development of this was by Levinas.
Roger Simon explains that one of the ways Levinas emphasized being attentive was through the Jewish concept of kavannah, ‘the attentiveness, attunement and intentionality with which one is able to engage in prayer.’ This is sometimes called Jewish mindfulness
Simon goes on to talk about two forms of this attentiveness within Levinas’ thought, ‘the spectatorial and the summoned.’ These are specifically defined.
A spectatorial kavannah leaves ‘ourselves intact, at a distance, protected from being called into question and altered through our engagement with the stories of others.’
The summoned kavannah ‘establishes proximity, not as a state, a repose, but a restlessless, a movement towards the other in which one paradoxically draws closer when vigilant of one’s infinite distance from the other.’ This summoned kavannah involves a different level of responsibility, a vulnerability, towards the other.
These forms of attentiveness can be used in any setting, not just in prayer. In our culture it is a spectatorial attentiveness that dominates.
Jesus also gives attention and awareness central place in a relationally ethical scaffolding. I am grateful to Stephen E. Fowl in his commentary on Philippians for pointing this out.
In Philippians 2: 4 Paul says ‘Do not attend to your own interests but rather to the interests of others.’ (Fowl’s translation)
This is in direct imitation of Christ’s attitude and focus of attention (Philippians 2:5-11). The Greek word here for attend is σκοποῦντες, which means regard attentively, colloquially ‘fix one’s mind’s eye’ on something. Focusing our attention on others in this way helps to form a consistent pattern of helping others in us.
So how we use our eighth relational sense is very significant, as is how we focus our attention and awareness. Within secular mindfulness for health you are encouraged to develop compassion, for yourself and for others and to be non-judgemental.
One can also ask, how else can one relate to one’s own self as well as to others through how we focus our attention and awareness?
 Roger I. Simon. ‘Innocence Without Naivete, Uprightness Without Stupidity: The Pedagogical Kavvanah of Emmanuel Levinas.’ Studies in Philosophy and Education 22 (2003), 50.
 Simon, 51.
 Simon, 52.
 Simon, 53.
 Simon, 52.
 Stephen E. Fowl, Philippians (The Two Horizons NT Commentary), Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans (2005), 85.
I like the requirement in the reading rooms of the British Library to write only in pencil, in order to protect the precious books. Ink marks the books and is indelible. It stains and cannot be removed.
When we speak to each other we should speak in pencil, kindly, compassionately and gently, as one learner might talk to another, as one beggar might share bread with another.
We should not talk to each other in indelible ink, as know-it-all’s speak to know-nothings, as angry, and self-righteous – believing there is only one perspective, ours and that it is right.
Speaking in pencils we don’t leave angry marks on other people, who are more precious than books, but mark as easily.
Spent yesterday with Gary Dell (@wisewordtv) and Cathy Le Feuvre recording six podcasts for A Book of Sparks – a Study in Christian MindFullness.
These were done as interviews, with readings from the book and example meditations or mindful awareness practices.
The idea came about for this to become a resource for small groups or individuals to use as they work their way through the 40 meditations in A Book of Sparks, along with a study guide.
An ecumenical prayer group are going to use the book as a post – Alpha course, and these recordings were initially done for them, as they begin their six-week course shortly.
Cathy’s new book is out this week, entitled ‘William and Catherine’ – the love story of the founders of the Salvation Army told through their letters. You can read more about this and her work in media communications, and background in broadcasting and production on her website: http://www.cathylefeuvre.com/.
Gary also has a wealth of experience in production and broadcasting and I am hoping to interview soon about his work via @wisewordtv.
Last night I met with some therapists who are Christians to talk about mindfulness. I wanted to know had they come across it, where had they come across it, what did they think of it?
I learnt a lot from the dialogue, and I hope we can start many more conversations. One of the key learning points I think that came out of our discussion is the importance of clarifying definitions.
So we talked about mindfulness as a universal human capacity. What evidence do we have? I am interested in collecting examples! There is the attentiveness in nature-writing, the way poetry can lead us into mindful awareness. I came across some research recently trying to determine if tango dancing is as effective as mindfulness in reducing symptoms of psychological stress and promoting wellbeing (http://www.complementarytherapiesinmedicine.com/article/S0965-2299(12)00089-1/abstract).
We talked about the mindful awareness practices (mindfulness meditations) that help us develop mindfulness and their reality-focused nature. Christianity is an incarnational religion and so how might we scan our bodies?
We talked about the overlap and distinctives with Christian contemplative practices and their therapeutic as well as spiritual value. Our God is of course interested in our mental, physical and emotional health. Jesus came that we might live life in all its fullness.
It is also clear that intelligent and engaged study and dialogue with Buddhism and Buddhists is an important path to follow right now.
Someone asked what would be a good introductory book to read on mindfulness. I recommended ‘Mindfulness: a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (http://franticworld.com/). Professor Mark Williams is one of the leading researchers into mindfulness and co-developer of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Dr Danny Penman is an award-winning journalist and author. MBCT is recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence as a treatment for depression.
It is very clearly written, well-researched and very human book, infused with a deep compassion for all who might read it. Read it and see what you make of it?
We mustn’t be the apocryphal little boy with his finger in the dyke, trying to hold back mindfulness. The dyke has long gone. What we had last night was intelligent, respectful and engaged dialogue.