Take three minutes out of clock time. Perhaps you are stuck indoors behind a desk. This is a three minute video of the sea, waves gently lapping at the beach.
Come to your senses. Let the waves and the sounds come to you. Notice your breathing, is it rhythmic like the waves? Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep like the waves?
Let the colours come to you. Notice when the clouds come over, or when the sun comes breaking through. Can you hear quieter sounds in the background.
If your mind wanders, notice what it wanders too and bring it back to the waves.
Feel the sand beneath your feet and the coolness of the water. Salt drying on your face and the cool wind and warm sun…
Notice any longings to walk on the beach barefoot, to paddle in the sea. To gaze out at the horizon in open awareness, breathing in freedom. Is there a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving for the gift of your senses…
Did you notice the light flooding in at the end? May it be a picture of wellbeing flooding into you.
Let go of whatever is troubling you. Come back to the task in hand refreshed. As the paddle boarder appears at the end, so it is time for you to journey on to your next task.
There are two Greek words, used in the New Testament, that are commonly translated as ‘time’. Although they are not always used consistently by the biblical authors, together they represent two different conceptions of time.
The word chronos generally describes the linear idea that we are most familiar with in modern culture. The other word, kairos, often signifies the sense of an ‘opportune moment’, a particular moment in time where something significant occurs. The other important ingredient in such a moment is that of relationship.
Rebecca Nye, following her extensive research into childhood spirituality, has proposed that the ‘core’ of children’s spirituality is ‘relational consciousness‘, by which she means particular moments of ‘an unusual level of consciousness or perceptiveness… expressed in a context of how the child related to things, other people, him/herself, and God.’1
Maybe this is one aspect of what Jesus was referring to when he said that we must become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. To journey any distance into the Kingdom of God requires us to be ready for kairos moments with each other and with God. It is in responding to these occasions that we make progress – so we need not just to pray but ‘to watch and pray’.
1 Rebecca Nye, ‘Identifying the Core of Children’s Spirituality’ in David Hay & Rebecca Nye, The Spirit of the Child, London: Jessica Kingsley, 2006, 109.
(Apart from two years running a relief agency in Thailand, Phil Wield worked for many years in IT, mainly in the NHS and the banking sector. He then studied theology and counselling at London School of Theology and now works as a Counsellor in private practice, as well as being the Assistant Manager of Watford Christian Counselling Service. He is a member of Watford Community Church.
He believes that recent advances in neuroscientific research are helping us to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God, in that we are profoundly relational beings. It is also provoking the Western church to rediscover its heritage in terms of Christian Spirituality, especially in the area of meditation.
Phil is married to Cathy and they have four children and two grandchildren).
Jesus was a riddler and so riddles must be important. ‘Why is present-moment awareness so important?’
As Jesus said, ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow..’ (Matthew 6:34)
In his brilliant book on the practice of contemplation Into The Silent Land Martin Laird (OSA) says the doorways to the present moment are guarded by three riddles. The first riddle is this: Are you your thoughts and feelings?
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.