The Inevitability of Change - Learning to be in the Moment

By Ms Ali V Flint

They say “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”, but there’s another - the inevitability of change. The fact that nothing stays the same is something that bears thinking about as a human being in a temporary body, with to-do-lists that are never completely done, existing on a planet that we have a complicated relationship with.

One of the reasons I cherish the Buddhist teachings is their timeless relevance and universal applicability to all. A deep dive in to the topic of impermanence during a recent study module left me processing long after the weekend Zoom lessons concluded. The need to absorb these teachings via my laptop in my lounge room rather than taking a flight to Sydney and being with my Sangha was another lesson in itself – acceptance of unwanted changes, of yet another frustration associated with Covid-19, of finding peace with what is, and appreciating that technology can let us connect in alternative ways.

Some people might find impermanence and change confronting or saddening - and there definitely is that element within the teachings. The fragility of life, and the search for meaning while we live it, are not easy issues to meditate on. Considering impermanence and change however powerfully promotes the preciousness of each experience we have, honours each connection we make, and reminds us that the memories we collect may be all we have at the very end.

It’s understandable to fear change, protect the perimeter of our comfort zones, and grasp at the familiar. We cling to everything from our youth, identity, beloved pets, friendships, jobs, health, societal expectations and rapidly-growing children who will at some point look down from the mountains they too have climbed.

A lot of my work involves supporting teenagers with mental health issues – which simultaneously keeps me connected to my younger self and shines a light on every day (and the lines on my face) on the planet so far. There is nothing like a teenager to give you brutally honest feedback or remind you of how ancient you seem. In other words, everything is relative, depending on where we personally sit on the spectrum of what is being considered.

Consider for a moment a golden sunrise gliding its way across the backdrop of a pink dawn sky. As the flaming globe keeps ascending, the sky dances through a colour wheel of pinks, purples and blues. Now imagine that you are a teenager late home for curfew again and every star that disappears is replaced by a cloud that spells out the trouble which you will face when you get home to your angry, worried parents. Take this moment instead to daydream that you are feeling weary at the end of your long life, but also grateful to be surrounded by your loved ones. Someone opens the curtains for you so you can enjoy nature’s lightshow. This sunrise may very well be the last one you experience. The opening scene on your final act. Perspective-taking can be reality-making

We rely on the beauty and awe of the natural world to comprehend and describe lofty concepts that occupy our busy minds and fill bookshelves, theatres and song lyrics. Poetry tugs at our heart strings in the same way – so I appreciated the threads of Zen poetry that were woven through the recent weekend module. For the keenly observant, layers of deep complexity are seemingly hidden within most simple reflections, in the same way that a moment can hold incredibly varied meanings depending on the context and attitude of the perceiver.

Below is a classic Japanese poem that can be seen at Sarusawa Pond – by a beautiful Buddhist temple in Nara Park, Japan (ironically translated as ‘monkey swamp’). What an insightful way of highlighting how the same event can affect each of us in different ways:

At the clapping of hands
The carp come swimming for food
The birds fly away in fright, and
A maid comes carrying tea.

It sometimes takes a startling wake-up call in the form of the death of a loved one, a health scare, being made redundant, a soul mate asking to separate, or the loss of possessions in a house fire or natural disaster to remind us we are on borrowed time and nothing really lasts forever. Don’t wait for such a day. If you are reading this, part of you already knows that it is within your power to stop sleep-walking through your life.

The present moment is all we have. Wishing away our struggles and chasing the next goal is literally erasing the precious time we do have. Being mindful of the moment you are currently experiencing is a mindset and a habit that can be practiced. We are all weavers. Humankind and the rich ecosystems we are part of are undeniably interconnected. Our lives are a myriad of unique tapestries. Truly noticing and appreciating the various threads within the tapestry - that is the way to truly see all the colours and textures of your life.

I extend an invitation to you - to meditate on the following:

Death is certain.
The time is uncertain.
What will you do with this one precious life

About the Author

Ali is a compassionate, highly intuitive psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experience. Friendly, down-to-earth and practical in her approach, Ali seeks to truly connect with her clients and support them to tap into their own inner wisdom and strength.

How to cultivate inner calm in a context of chaos – getting flexible and connecting with values!

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By Ali Flint

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Hi – I am Ali, a psychologist, human being, and lifelong explorer in science, humanity and spirituality. As part of my ongoing journey of personal growth I recently attended a 5 day Tibetan Buddhism retreat connecting psychology with spirituality. On the way home, in a busy, noisy airport lounge, I wrote some reflections upon my experience, that I'd like to share.

I have been at the airport for a while now.. back to bright, noisy, stimulating and complex civilisation. After 5 challenging nights in a rural spiritual setting - I sit in a path-intersecting pub, having a wine while both a UFC match & background music are surrounding (distracting?) me. What a contrast! Inner calm must be cultivated in a context of chaos or not at all. It seems at this moment like nothing & everything matters - in equal measure.

Despite the misleading word “retreat”, our schedule was demanding: 6:15am- 8:30pm. The dharma lessons were rich and at times my brain drowned in the depths. The deep meditation sessions, chanting of ancient mantras (that reverberated the heart) and group karma was intense. Despite barely sleeping in my modest bed, keeping to strict schedules reinforced by a bell and being devoured by mosquitoes most nights, I truly know I have basked in the teachings that have been in existence since beginningless time, I am privileged to receive the loving kindness of wise Buddhist nuns who are further along the spiritual path, and I am truly lucky (blessed?) to have been part of a group of therapists who are making a concerted effort towards creating a better world we will one day leave behind... 

The heavy rain has fallen day and night throughout the week. A chorus of happy frogs sung loudly & the battle-scarred thirsty Earth soaked up each nourishing drop. Back in Sydney, flights are cancelled, delayed & thankfully rescheduled. Life goes on... no matter what tiny crevice we find ourselves in at any given moment. Our lives are both important and heart-breakingly impermanent & insignificant.

Yet, we all want the same things - true happiness & freedom from suffering. There are always layers. Let’s see each other for who we truly are, and where we are at. We are all doing the best we can, with what we know & have. We have met before. Hello, I am back (for now) – Ali.

Indeed, I was privileged to be able to take this five days away from the rush and pressures of everyday life – but how can I and my clients find such skills DURING the day-to-day chaos? This is where the present moment, values and, yes, even secular spirituality-focused elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can make a real difference.

I am so excited to work in a space that honours the ancient wisdom of such traditions AND builds on and contextualises this from a Western science framework - to allow connection, vitality, mindfulness and more effective ways of dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress – just some of the conditions we humans might struggle with in our complex, 21st century lives.

Check out my page on the Brisbane ACT Centre site, and get in touch if you'd like to see if I can help you on your own journey of personal growth.

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About the Author

Ali is a compassionate, highly intuitive psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experience. Friendly, down-to-earth and practical in her approach, Ali seeks to truly connect with her clients and support them to tap into their own inner wisdom and strength.

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Book an Appointment with One of Our Expert Brisbane Psychologists or Therapists.

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Largest Mindfulness Lesson – new World Record at UQ, Brisbane 23.07.19

By Tunteeya Yamaoka

On Tuesday 23.07.19 at the University of Queensland 1417 people participated in the world’s largest ever mindfulness lesson, setting a new Guinness World Record! Renowned mindfulness expert Dr Russ Harris, author of “The Happiness Trap” and many other ACT books led the mindfulness lesson for 30 minutes, and took the audience on a thoroughly interesting journey towards living a more present and engaged life. Brisbane ACT Centre was proud to participate in this exciting event, with director Dr Rob Purssey and practitioner Tunteeya Yamaoka serving as official Witnesses for the Guinness team!

Mindfulness skills not only actively increase your focus and concentration but also help you to set clear life intentions so that you can live more fully, according to your personally chosen values, and being far less caught up in your daily struggles with thoughts and feelings.

At the end of the day what we are all looking for is peace, purpose and fulfilment in our lives. During the lesson Russ Harris helped the audience connect with how living a more “Mindful, purposeful and fulfilled Life” can be undermined by our efforts to avoid or escape from difficult life experiences or “getting rid of” unpleasant thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, living more fully can be enhanced by becoming more present in the moment, engaged with our values, mindfully aware of our inner and outer experiences, and letting go of control.

One simple and effective strategy that Russ taught the audience during the lesson was his  “ACE Process” to build purposeful awareness.

  1. Awareness: Intentionally building gentle, willing awareness of your inner experiences. Noticing and naming our thoughts and feelings and becoming more skilful at describing our emotions.
  1. Centering:  Focussing attention on the breath, as you inhale and exhale, just feeling the air entering and leaving your body, grounding yourself by simply focusing on the physical sensations you experience, gently and mindfully just noticing the breath.
  1. Expanding: Expanding your awareness from your body to what is going on around you. Look around, what can you see? Focussing your attention by using sight, sound, taste, touch and smell to become more mindfully aware of your surroundings.

Life makes a lot of demands on us, and it is easy to be swept away with the tide of busy thoughts and tricky feelings. Practicing mindfulness skills can allow us to stay grounded during challenging life experiences so that we can focus and ACT on what really matters.

Call Brisbane ACT Centre’s experienced team on 07 3193 1072 to explore how mindfulness skills training can help YOU get present in the moment, connect with purpose, and LIVE more fully!

The User’s Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation & Noticing

The User’s Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation & Noticing

Mindfulness, an intentional focusing practice, can have many benefits, amongst them easing up feelings around struggle with anxiety. The psychophysiological exercise practice of intentional focusing activates the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain which is related to thinking and emotion, and this entire process, including such physiological activation appears to help us to deal much more effectively with anxiety.

Mindfulness, also referred to as purposeful focusing practice can also lower blood pressure, improves our sleep partly by a common and pleasant side effect of deep relaxation and undoubtedly lengthens your attention span, as mindfulness IS purposeful attentional focus!

However, practising mindfulness skills can be tricky, for instance by bringing us into contact with unpleasant thoughts and feelings that we may otherwise “push to the back of our minds”, seeking to avoid. Many people think they simply can’t meditate. People often believe that gurus who meditate every day have more willpower, less anxiety or a bottomless depth of tranquility.

These beliefs are often due to common misunderstandings: that mindfulness practice is intended to relax (quite the opposite, it is to allow feelings to simply come, and go, and come again), that meditation CLEARS the mind, in fact we usually notice our mental busyness even more. Intentional focusing is a skill that takes practice like anything else.

Guided vs silent Mindfulness practice

There are many types of mindfulness practice, two of the most popular types are guided and silent. Guided mindfulness involves a guide in person or nowadays often via an app, walking you through the practice of intentional focusing step by step. This can be helpful as it brings us back to the purposeful focus practice, as most of us are often hooked off by our minds in all kinds of directions.

Silent meditation practice however is often done completely solitarily, it is likely what you imagine when thinking of the Dalai Lama or Buddhists meditating. This requires great intention of practice and determination aided in all likelihood by historical and cultural reinforcement! Guided mindfulness practice is therefore often your best bet when beginning your own practice.

Brain dump

Often our minds are busy and full of thoughts. It is simply impossible to “empty the mind”. A practice some find helpful is “dumping” all your thoughts on a page – helping you feel like your mind has at least partially processed these thoughts, possibly allowing a little more mental space. If it’s written down you won’t forget it – it can be dealt with after you’ve finished your practice. A brain dump is an exercise where you write everything that’s running through your brain down, handwriting can often be most helpful. Everything that’s bothering you and needs dealing with, whatever pops up in five or ten minutes of writing. It’s a bit like writing a journal, but more flowing and less constrained. It doesn’t have to make sense, just write. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can give you space to experience mindfulness.

Following Thoughts

An ongoing challenge everyone has with mindfulness practice is maintaining focus and not being swept away in our rivers of thoughts that naturally, continuously flow. No one is really able to focus very easily, it’s normal for many thoughts to wander around in your mind and all of us have great trouble unhooking from them.

A helpful exercise (if you are good at visualizing) is the ACT classic leaves on a stream: Visualize a gently flowing stream with leaves on the surface of the water, and you place your thoughts onto the leaves and allow them to float on by. Let these thoughts come, and stay, and go – and come again. While most thoughts me come and go pretty quickly, sometimes, thoughts hang around for quite a while. Let your thoughts come and stay and go, in their own good time, as they please. The aim of the exercise is to learn how to step back and watch the flow of your thoughts, not to make them go away. It’s okay if the leaves hang around and pile up, or the river stops flowing; just keep watching. The skill we’re learning is how to observe the stream of our thoughts without getting pulled into it, how to watch them come and go without holding onto them. So if a positive or happy thought shows up and you go, ‘Oh, I’m not going to put that one on a leaf; I don’t want it to float away,’ then you’re not truly learning the skill of simply watching your thoughts.

A little goes a long way

Making time for regular mindfulness practice is tricky but even five to ten minutes of meditation has been shown to have demonstrable benefits. Sometimes people may expect to focus perfectly first try, but this is really never the case. Mindfulness practice, while helpful, naturally allows the presence of various difficult thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself noticing a very busy mind, don’t beat yourself up, this is a totally normal experience. When a thought arises, thank it for its presence and let it come, go, and come again. Good on you for giving it a go – doing any amount of any new health practice is an achievement!

Apps to Guide your Journey

ACT Companion – the Happiness Trap app – full features US $10 guided mindfulness, written and experiential exercises – from none other than Russ Harris, author of the best-selling book The Happiness Trap. Simple defusion and acceptance techniques, easy values-clarification and goal-setting tools, powerful ‘observing self’ and self-compassion exercises – you’ll find it all here.

buddhify – “the most convenient, best value and most beautiful meditation app available today. Helping people around the world reduce stress, sleep better & be present in the midst of it all.” Certainly the best looking and easy to use mindfulness app!

Insight Timer

Insight Timer has 19000 free meditations by different guides available. Easy to use and has a wide variety of meditations to choose from. Insight Timer is free & community driven with a rating system to help you find the meditations that best suit your needs.


Headspace is a very popular guided meditation app that tracks how often you meditate and rewards continued use. It has more structure than Insight Timer, and requires a subscription past the free courses. The graphic design is also excellent!  If you prefer a structured, consistent course, this is the app for you.

The Sleep School App helps you practice The Sleep School sleep tools & techniques until you have mastered them for life. The app delivers The Sleep School approach across its 5 core areas in a highly interactive audio-visual format.

Mindfulness is like any skill, it takes practice. It’s normal to find it difficult at the start so don’t beat yourself up. There’s a wealth of research demonstrating benefits for performance, wellbeing and sleep – even a small amount of focusing practice can go a long way. Try the brain dump exercise, letting your thoughts flow freely without judgement and go easy on yourself for your first experiences of mindfulness. There are some great apps available to aid you on your journey.

Our Brisbane ACT Centre psychologists are trained in the latest cognitive behavioural therapies, and are all keen mindfulness skills coaches. If you’d like further coaching or input, get in touch with our friendly staff today.  Remember to be gentle with yourself, mindfulness practice is tricky and you should be proud that you’re trying. Be persistent and it will get easier, but forever challenging – in a good way!

My GP recommended yoga…Now what?!

By Davina Tapper

ACT Aligned Yoga: Committed Action 6 Week Workshop
Saturdays, 9:15am – 10-:30am, 25 August – 29 September 2018
At the Brisbane ACT Centre

When we have been through something that causes us discomfort or pain, whether it’s a stressful work environment, or a serious life change or loss, it’s healthy to find support to get through it. Recovery is an active process and it’s supported both from seeking help from others, and also engaging your own skills and self-care. Everyday more research is showing the multi-faceted benefits of yoga, leading to more GPs and health professionals recommending it. Incorporating a deliberate yoga practice into your weekly routine, can help you practice the tools to increased awareness at other times when life throws “reality” at you. Before you can start gaining the common benefits of yoga like better posture, improved focus, a more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system, reduced muscle tension and increased self-awareness, you need to find out where to start.

As a seasoned yoga student, I’ve moved across countries and then across an ocean and between states, and know all too well the difficulty in finding the right class. I’ve also had the experience of coming to yoga young and supple, and returning stiff and disheartened post traumatic-injury. I often felt yoga was inaccessible, too hard, or even competitive. That starting point with a new class, like any new skill or recovery process, can feel awkward and full of anxiety and questions for many reasons. Why not just do something different? If it feels so hard to get started, is it even worth trying? Will it really add much to my life?

Ideally yoga helps you work on connecting your body and mind to increase both physical and psychological flexibility. When you find the right class, yoga can be a safe place to explore how nutritious movement (and often breath work) can help fuel your brain as well as your body. Before we even start something new, we are already going into it with our beliefs and experiences from the past and expectations for the future. Thinking about what you want and your expectations can be a helpful start to dealing with the anxiety and take action to find a good class.

Once you have an idea of what you are after, ask questions and talk to the teachers. Some great questions include asking about the level of the class and experience required, what type of yoga the class works with (and what that means), and sometimes the class size can be something to consider, especially if you are newer to yoga. Giving yourself the time to understand and explain what you want will usually help you be more confident in finding the right class. If you still have questions, it might be time to ask yourself what’s holding you back or if you are letting your mind give you an excuse. Otherwise, it might just be time to give it a go and see for yourself!

ACT-inspired yoga allows you to provide a deliberate practice in self-compassion, mindfulness, letting go of pain and be OK with uncomfortable feelings through using movement and breath. We have one body, one mind, and countless thoughts. Awaken your body and senses while increasing compassion and vitality through ACT-inspired yoga.

Where’s Your Head At? Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important (Video)

Where’s Your Head At? (Video)

Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important

Would you like to improve your performance, reduce feelings of stress and increase your satisfaction with life and work? These are the three key benefits offered by mindfulness practice, and are well supported by scientific evidence. Mindfulness practice has exploded in popularity. Major tech companies offer mindfulness training. For instance, Search Inside Yourself (SIY)  was developed at Google along with some of the world’s leading neuroscientists. The benefits of meditation are taught and studied in academic institutions across Australia and are the subject of ever more articles and think pieces.

In late September last year the Brisbane ACT Centre’s own founder & director, Dr. Rob Purssey, presented at QLD TAFE Brisbane’s inaugural TAFE Services conference. Rob presented a warmly received talk to over 200 attendees with the title “Where’s Your Head At? Connecting to the Here and Now to Focus On What’s Important”. You can download the slides here.

The conference was held for TAFE’s education and business staff with a theme of ‘Making Connections’ – connections with students, educators, colleagues, industry partners and community. To make a genuine and authentic connection to someone we have to be present, we have to pay attention – and to be mindful. Rob’s talk aimed to give participants the tools they need to practice mindfulness in their professional & personal lives.

The slides above show the progress of the talk, Rob starts with an explanation of mindfulness and mindfulness practice and moves into using the ACT matrix as a simple and effective framework for noticing our own behaviour more purposefully.

Here’s some highlights:

Slide 3: “Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”

Slide 6: Benefits of Mindfulness in Life + Work 

  • improve focus and concentration
  • increase self-awareness
  • reduce the impact of stressful thoughts and feelings
  • build better relationships
  • catch self-defeating behaviours, and do more effective ones
  • be aware of self-defeating thought processes, and ‘let them go’

3 KEY BENEFITS: improve performance, reduce stress, and more satisfaction in work and life. (c/- ACT Mindfully training by Russ Harris)

Slide 8: “Consciously bringing simple awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness.” (The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris)

Slide 14: Mindfulness (& meditation) isn’t about relaxation. It can be boring, frustrating, anxiety inducing – which is normal and ok – just notice and refocus. Simply focus on something (eg the breath), when you notice that you’ve wandered bring the focus back. It’s a skill, like anything else.

Why is breathing so often used? Convenience, simplicity & cuts down distraction.

Slide 25: Introducing the ACT Matrix

The ACT Matrix is a tool, a simple point of view, used to help you to be the person you want to be more often, even when you’re under stressful situations. You can use the matrix point of view to notice and sort your behaviour into the matrix. Simply pause and notice then sort your behaviour into 4 quadrants – values and purpose, hooks that are showing up, towards moves that are moving you towards the kind of person you want to be, and away moves that are normal actions to avoid painful stimuli – but which we can overdo.

Slide 30: Mindfulness (be here now)
+ Values (know what matters)

+ Action (do what works) = Psychological Flexibility

(living your life more freely, fully, and effectively)

Being where you are and
doing what’s important… to YOU!


Mindfulness & ACT are valuable tools to help you be the person you want to be more often. By taking just a little bit of time to focus on the here and now you can get some fantastic benefits. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly staff at the Brisbane ACT Centre.

Mindfulness and Christian Meditation

By Ingrid Ord

I am frequently asked to comment on Christian meditation websites, and these requests have increased as, I suspect, the availability of such websites has increased. Many Christian denominations are represented, and I suspect that there is a fairly even distribution, although I have not researched this. Many offer courses, retreats and material such as books and CD’s in their shopping areas.

I am not going to pinpoint any particular website as I am perturbed by something which I will go on to explain, and I do not wish to denigrate the work of any particular group or person.

It is no secret that over the centuries multiple variations of forms of worship and religious practices have become popular in the Christian church. Indeed, they have been the root of many a conflict leading, in the most extreme cases, to murder and suicide. Any form of ‘packaging’ a set of rituals and rules for the practice of worship and communion with God is, unfortunately, vulnerable to the perils of being exalted from ‘one way of doing it’ to ‘the only way to do it’.

I fear that this might happen to Christian meditation if it is linked to any prescribed manner of behaving. In all of my work with ACT and how it can be helpful for Christians, I have stayed away from Christian traditions, for the reason explained above, and stuck with the one religious text common to all Christian traditions: the Bible.

I have found a very rich connection between mindfulness and Christian meditation, in the Bible, and explain this and have written about it and produced a CD. In no place do I prescribe a manner of behaving, as that is best left to the individual and the complexity of their needs and ways of relating. I explain this a little later – but first I think it may be helpful to tell you a (true) story to illustrate the connection.

This morning the sun was shining brilliantly, the sky was a pristine blue and I noticed a feeling of hopefulness. Nothing very intense, just a mild, general, ‘I can do this’ kind of a day. It is now clouding over, threatening rain and I am aware of a slight ‘slowing down’ within me, and barely perceptible thoughts about how difficult things are. As my spirituality is very important to me, I also find my thoughts tending towards God and His part in all of this. Couldn’t He just arrange for me to have one, really good day? Doesn’t He know that I am an African to whom sunshine is life and joy and motivation in contrast to these grey, English skies which breathe ‘trudge’ and ‘plod’ and ‘do it grudgingly because you have to’ kind of days?

Before I started regularly practising mindfulness and Christian meditation, I would only have known that I felt mildly disgruntled, but not really have known why. Then I would have felt guilty for being ungrateful and become embroiled in a complexity of thoughts and feelings about how bad, unworthy etc I am. Now I can tease out my thoughts and feelings and notice how they are linked to small changes in the environment/context. I also notice what I want to do as a result (ie: go back to bed) and purposefully assess whether that lines up with what is important to me (ie: catching up with my correspondence). Then I can make an informed decision.

It just so happens that I am still writing because I chose to continue doing something that is important to me, and, coincidentally, the sun is shining again. The sunshine is now a bonus, and not something upon which my sense of vitality or purpose is dependant. Very much connected is whether this becomes important in my relationship with God, or not. In other words, if my happiness depended upon whether the sun shines or not, and God says He loves me, then He could prove it by making the sun shine. Right? So if He doesn’t, does that make Him perverse, unloving or perhaps a liar?

If you have read thus far, you may find the above a little strange, especially if you have different religious views from me. To my mind, and in the minds of some, if not many, other Christians, these thoughts would all be entirely logical. I am now aware of them as a direct result of my practice of mindfulness over the years. This awareness has helped me to clear the confusion about why I feel like I do, and what I should do about it. Judging myself for not being content has also been replaced with compassion for my reactions to current difficulties.

Part of the whole process described above  is to do with my relationship with God, and that, together with questions about whether he is perverse, unloving or a liar are settled through meditation. I say ‘settled’ and not ‘answered’ because part of the process has been to learn to live with ambiguity about the ways of God. What the Bible says about God is unambiguous, whether you believe it or not. If you believe it, then questions about His character become irrelevant because the answer is written and, although difficult to understand, the matter is settled upon remembrance of that which is written. What is written is that God is good, just, and loving, and has a wonderful plan for each of His children.

Practitioners of mindfulness who also practise meditation have noted how the experience of practising mindfulness can be very similar to the experience of practising meditation.  This has led to a certain amount of confusion, even amongst professionals.  Both terms have become common in the media and popular psychology, and can have very different meanings for different people.

Mindfulness as a therapeutic practice has no essential spiritual connotations.  The aim is to relearn how we can simply let our thoughts, emotions and physical urges or sensations just ‘be’, without trying to ‘do’ anything with them or about them.  No spiritual exercise is part of the practice.  Meditation is usually linked with spiritual practices which have spiritual gains as their goal.  The difference between the two practices lies in the goal of the practitioner, although the method of practise may appear to be very similar.

It is not essential for a Christian to practise meditation in order to benefit from mindfulness.  Some may find it threatening to consider doing meditation as it is often linked with other religions.

The aim of Christian meditation is very specific, and it is very important to keep in mind whether one is doing an exercise as mindfulness, or as Christian meditation.

Christian meditation:

In Psalm 1 the Psalmist says ‘Blessed is the man (whose) delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.’ Blessed means ‘happy’!  Does that, and the word ‘delight’, mean that meditation on God’s word is, in fact, a source of happiness?

The Bible says that God wants a relationship with us based on love, obedience and trust and not an empty show of rituals (1 Samuel 15:22).

Praying and communicating with God can be difficult as it involves conveying our thoughts and feelings, and listening to what God may be saying.  In close relationships words are not always needed.  The mere presence of the loved one brings delight.  It is a profoundly moving experience to be free of the need for words and to just be in the Presence of God, in the spirit.

Sometimes there are words, and you may hear the ‘still small voice’ (1Ki 19:12) (NIV) of God in these ‘quiet and alone’ times.  Paying attention to what God may be saying in that moment can be a great help in experiencing the Presence of God in a full and open relationship.

Sometimes there are words, oftentimes no words but just a sense of being in His Presence.  This is Christian meditation.

Where does mindfulness fit in?

The practice of mindfulness can facilitate and provide a platform for the practice of Christian meditation.  Kabat-Zinn says that what tends to happen in mindfulness is that it shows us how to ‘surf the wave between chaos and order’.  Even when we feel very turbulent or our minds are troubled, mindfulness helps us to ‘find the sweet stillness inside the wave.’ (Rich Simon, Mary Sykes Wylie) Mindfulness is good  preparation for focussed attention on God’s word.

Paying attention to ‘what comes up’ in the present moment with no goal other  than just to notice, and continually returning to this task without judging oneself, brings us to a ‘Just as I am’ state of mind.

It is hard not to judge ourselves and try to ‘fix’ things about ourselves before approaching God.  It is natural to want to protect parts of ourselves from scrutiny. It is hard enough to be willing to notice certain aspects of ourselves without going into judgemental mental activity when we are alone.  That is why it takes practice to allow all these parts to be present when we spend time with God.

In approaching ourselves first, in an attentive manner without judging, we allow the totality of who we are right now to be present.

Meditation is not difficult in the sense that it requires skilful learning.  It is difficult because it ‘goes against the grain’.  Just as it is not easy to take time out from daily tasks to exercise physically, so it is not easy to take our minds out of their usual activities into a special time of just experiencing the present moment, right here, right now.

As mentioned earlier, it is important to remember what we are aiming at.  The aim of Christian meditation is not to empty the mind but to focus upon ‘obedience and faithfulness’ to God which, as Foster suggests, is what ‘most clearly distinguishes Christian meditation from its Eastern and secular counterparts.’  (p37) (Foster, 1998)  Further on he states that ‘..detachment is not enough; we must go on to attachment.’(p43)

The bible is replete with suggestions about many different ways to meditate and many different things to meditate upon. We will just have to leave that for another time.

Much of what has been written here has been taken from my book ‘ACT With Faith’ (2014) and on the CD which I recorded in 2009 called ‘Mindfulness and Christian Meditation’. Both are exclusively available on the website ‘’ in paperback, PDF, CD and MP4 format.

Other references include:

Foster, R. (1998). In Celebration of Discipline (20th ed.).

James Strong, S. L. (1890). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

Lawrence, B. (1967). The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. (F. H. Revell, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Spire Books

Rich Simon, Mary Sykes Wylie. (n.d.). The Power of Paying Attention: What Jon Kabat-Zinn has against spirituality. Retrieved 2009, from Psychotherapy Networker.