In this series on Resilience, I have emphasized that resilience isn’t simply an achievement that can be attained. Neither is it a goal reached that no longer needs development. In fact, it’s the opposite. Resilience is the result of disciplines and habits that need to be maintained in order to remain strong.
Meditation is one of these habits that develop strong resilience.
Significant research has shown what we know as truth from the Bible – Meditation, which increases mindfulness, decreases the body’s response to stress.
The term ”mindfulness” was made popular by Buddhist researcher Jon Kabat Zinn. He defined mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. (https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/)
But the behaviour or actions of mindfulness he describes is not Buddhist or secular. Looking back on ancient Christan Contemplative practices we see the same principles and the positive results found in Scripture.
For example, in Psalm 1:1-6 (ESV) it says,
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
Ragina Tremmal, a Christain mindfulness researcher, author, and speaker at the 2020 Church Mental Health Summit, offers a Christian definition of mindfulness. She defines Christian mindfulness as,
“making mental space on purpose to turn our whole attention to God so that we can hear and abide in His voice in our lives instead of our own judgements.”
Having mindfulness is intentionally focusing on God so that His voice is louder than our judgements. And mindfulness is produced through the practice of meditation.
Meditation is the habit and mindfulness is the skill developed.
As Christ-followers, our resilience is strengthened when we are able to develop the habit of meditation by slowing our thoughts, intentionally focusing on God. This builds our ability to hear from Christ, and abide in Him throughout our day.
We are not immune to life’s struggles as caregivers. We face issues with self-esteem, depression, anxiety and burnout. Having the habit of meditation and building the skill of mindfulness allows us to more readily hear from God, rather than being distracted by our thoughts.
There can often be times where you, as a leader, have several layers of emotion and tension happening at the same time. You are kingdom-focused, community-minded and yet you are still human and wrestle with complex and challenging emotions.
The skill of mindfulness develops your awareness so that you are not overcome by these thoughts.
In your role as a supporter, people often come to you feeling overwhelmed and unable to make forward motion due to the ebb and flow of their thoughts. They feel anxious, depressed, angry, and overwhelmed. As a result, they often experience distress in their body, mind and spirit.
Meditation and mindfulness tends to all three of these areas. Research shows that meditation slows the heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and can improve digestive issues and pain. (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/)
Based on the definition provided by Regina Trammel, Christian mindfulness is walking out what 2 Corinthians 10:5 says in “taking every thought captive.” Meditation develops the skill of gaining control over what you think about yourself and life and submitting it to God.
Meditation nurtures the spirit by developing a more intimate connection with God.
Overall, developing the habit, or discipline, of meditation and developing the skill of mindfulness strengthens your resilience.
When you face challenges or difficult times, you have the ability to control your thoughts so that they don’t hijack you. You have a quick connection with God and are able to check in with Him and abide in Him. This allows you to bounce back more quickly and avoid getting stuck.
When I first learned about meditation it felt really overwhelming. I’m always on the go and sitting still and silent sounded awful. It was exactly what I needed, but it was anxiety-provoking just thinking about it.
Building these intentional routines into your day doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, I bet most of you already do this.
What do you often do when you sit down to eat? Pray. The act of praying before eating is an intentional pause, directing our thoughts to God to acknowledge our thanks to Him for His faithfulness and provision.
I encourage you to think about practical and simple ways that you can take a moment and focus and redirect your thoughts on Christ throughout your day.
For me, I am often running from one appointment to the next. I simply close my eyes and take a few deep breaths before going into my next appointment.
I have a coworker that has the habit of changing her shoes at work and at home as an intentional act of setting her focus.
These are simple, in-the-moment suggestions that help us center our thoughts and intentions on God.
And if you want more ideas I’m offering a free download of Meditation Made Easy for those of you who want a little more step-by-step guidance.