mindfulness (little “m”)

I have struggled with the concept of “mindful” for years. It usually comes with a lecture, or a demand disguised as a request often framed as a learning opportunity. It has been used to override boundaries, and bypass requests. The concept is often used in Christian Science to blame, shame, undermine, and side-step the actual issues at hand. The mindful issue starts at the top, with the Official Church Statements and works its way down.

A blurb from the Christian Science Press Room about vaccinations and public health:
Grateful as we are to live in communities where honest differences can be respected, Christian Scientists are also mindful of the obligations all citizens have to respect the rights of others in their communities. (1)

I do not have the emotional bandwidth to unpack that statement further, but suffice it to say, if Christian Scientists were honest or mindful, they would not have pushed for religious exemptions in the first place.

Mindful is weaponized into you should do what is easier for me, and be respectful of me, even if I am not going to be respectful of you. Mindful demands your respect while giving you none.

Mindful plays into toxic family dynamics, and is most often used by the Matriarch to manipulate their adult children. It is “we need to be mindful of your sibling’s needs” but your sibling does not need to be mindful of yours (or your children’s). If anything, the youngest children’s (or grandchildren’s) needs come last, they can “learn to be patient” and to know the “world does not revolve around them.” The same people are left wondering why the child had an overstimulated exhausted meltdown later that day — the child was put last, they were made to wait longer than necessary, they were not fed soon enough, their basic needs were not met. The adults (Matriarch) in question were not mindful of the children’s needs because they were so wrapped up in making everyone (including the children’s parents) mindful of her needs at the expense of everyone else’s.

Mindful is the admonishment, often from the aforementioned Matriarch when something goes wrong. “You should be more mindful of” actions, surroundings, whatever it is you’re falling short on. “Watch where you’re going” takes on a whole other level of passive-aggressive when it is delivered as “be mindful of your surroundings” and the message is often lost on younger members of the family.

Mindful is toxic. “Aware” isn’t much better, but is less loaded (at least for me).

So where does that leave mindfulness?

I was not able to find much on Christian Science and mindfulness, there was a 2015 blog post from a CSP who did not define mindfulness particularly well, possibly confusing it with a different flavor of woo, and turned it back to Mindfulness, with a Capital M, like Mind as the synonym of CS-God. If you’re curious, I’ll include a link below, if you’re not, I can’t say I blame you. (2)

Mindfulness (little “m”) is not “try[ing] to project mental energy of my own to create a material result” as the questionable CSP piece puts it, rather “mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.” (3) I’m going to trust the Mayo Clinic over the CSP on this one.

In short, mindfulness (again with the little “m”) is the opposite of Christian Science prayer, as it encourages you to focus on your physical body, instead of focusing on how to best align your thoughts with CS-God.

As I mentioned in my previous post on mindfulness, I was lousy at silent prayer. I would sit quietly and although I tried to align my thoughts with CS-God, I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes. I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Everyone else, sitting still with their eyes closed, me counting ceiling tiles, hymnals in a row, feeling the hard pew through the worn-down cushion. I was not necessarily focusing on my body during this time, unless my shoes pinched, clothing was too snug, or the pew was causing my back to ache.

In Christian Science the body is spiritual, not material, so the idea of doing a “body scan meditation” where you are encouraged to “lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe” (3) is completely foreign to us. I’ll take it one step further, and say body scan meditations are the most likely to send me into a state of heightened anxiety.

The simple ways to practice mindfulness, include things like paying attention to your environment, and taking time to slow down and enjoy your favorite food (CS counters there is no sensation in matter, and the act of eating is one of those “suffer it to be so now” problems). Live in the moment, find joy in simple pleasures (joy comes from CS-God). Accept yourself as you are (you can’t really do this in CS, you should be striving to be more Spiritual, ALL THE TIME). Focus on your breathing if/when you have negative thoughts (you can’t have negative thoughts, those are erroneous).

So where am I going with this? I’m not sure, but I’ve found this exercise in unpacking mindful and mindfulness to be helpful. Words have meanings, and Christian Science so often distorts, manipulates and re-defines words for its own use, that sometimes you need a 1000 word essay to sort things out.

Endnotes

  1. https://www.christianscience.com/press-room/a-christian-science-perspective-on-vaccination-and-public-health
  2. https://www.christianscienceva.com/2015/01/21/mindfulness-whats-name/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356

Additional Links

2 thoughts on “mindfulness (little “m”)

  1. spindrifterr says:

    Among the sociological mistakes made by the Christian Science inputs on society, getting exemptions from vaccination shots is near the top of the list. When I was in college, one of my professors kept bringing up the CS exemptions to me in our private discussions. I didn’t have a good answer for him. It went like this: At the earlier time, it seemed to the Church in Boston as a good idea. The Church had the political clout to do it. The Church doesn’t have that clout anymore. In my family, we get the shots. Mrs. Eddy advises to get shots when society proscribes them and pray for no bad aftereffects.

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