Belfast Telegraph

Why it's so important to always mind how we go

By Alf McCreary

Some time ago I bought The Little Book Of Mindfulness in a Dublin bookstore because it seemed to have wise words about trying not to become over-stressed by the daily challenges of a busy life.

I did not know that I had literally bought one of the great 'in-books' in the Western world and that it is a bestseller among all kinds of people.

At this stage of my life I tend not to buy fad books because I have read many in the past and hardly remember any of them. Don't ever buy me another golf-improvement book, because it won't work!

However, The Little Book Of Mindfulness has many helpful quotes, including this one from William James, who wrote the classic study, Varieties of Religious Experience. He says: "Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."

The techniques in this book on mindfulness place great emphasis on breathing in and out slowly and in the process concentrating on the 'now', and not letting the worries of the past, present or future overwhelm your mind.

It reminds me of the times I went to yoga classes and tried to calm my mind by lapsing into quiet meditation.

Unfortunately, I usually fell asleep, but at least I woke up refreshed.

Many Christians have grave doubts about yoga or, indeed, about some of the teachings of other great religions. I believe, however, that anything which helps people to get in touch with their spiritual selves cannot but be helpful, because, in the long term, we are all searching for some inner meaning to our lives.

The Little Book Of Mindfulness has quotes from the teachings of other religions, including Buddhism, and this does not worry me. However, I also find in its pages the wisdom which is already there in the Scriptures.

Take, for example, the Old Testament statement: "This is the day which the Lord has made, I will rejoice and I will be glad." Or take the teachings of the great Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich, who said: "Everything has its being through the love of God" and that: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well".

This may be hard to believe in our frantic world, where materialism is king, and where there is so much bombardment from the media and advertising, as well as the apostles of political correctness, health and safety, and equal and human rights. At times we are hardly able to find the space to think for ourselves.

The whole point about this Little Book Of Mindfulness is not that it is 'right' but rather, that it gives us the opportunity to think beyond the familiar things we know and trust, and to discover wisdom where we did not expect to find it. There is great wisdom in all religions, and particularly so in Christianity. It worries me that in our drive towards secularism and the attempts by so many people to discredit Christianity, we are losing some of the vital touchstones of our civilisation.

In this context I am attracted by the quote from GK Chesterton, who said: "Christianity has not failed. It simply has not been tried properly."

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