Today, when mindfulness has been analyzed by scientific studies and discussions, we tend to consider it a technique or tool developed to solve problems. But it is important to remember its origin: meditation appeared as a discipline, a practice that sets us free from fears and desires of our ego (which is nothing more than a contemporary word for sin). That’s right: meditation was not invented at Harvard. Once we as human beings become aware of ourselves and the other people, we begin to develop practices that are similar to meditation. Forty thousand years ago people already had their own ways to contemplate the world to deal with the ups and downs of life.
Contemplation is something common to all religions. If there is a bond that unites them, behind so many names, institutions, dogmas, and belief systems, it is this mindful state of seeking wisdom through contemplation. The experience of silence, loneliness and simplicity acquired in this state happens to everyone. It is in the psychological and spiritual heart of our consciousness as humans. The state of contemplation takes us to meditation and its power to change the way we look at problems and relate to life situations.
The concept of mindfulness appeared in a more specific context in the Buddhist philosophy. In this context, this state is only one among other states of preparation that are performed during meditation. But meditation as a whole is not about being present, it’s about transcending. When we meditate, we connect with ourselves, and find within ourselves a person of greater compassion, that is able to listen, reconcile and forgive. It is important not to meditate to reorganize concepts and come out with solutions. Meditation is more related to immersing in an experience that offers wisdom, a wider view and contact with the truth. For this reason, we shouldn’t practice meditation as a technique to achieve a result or goal, but as continuous learning. In this sense, meditation can be compared to the practice of music or sports: it’s a pleasant activity in which we are constantly learning and evolving.
In Christianity, meditation is called prayer. And there are different types of prayer: speaking, reading, dancing, singing, or even church rituals. It is important to highlight that to deepen the contemplative sense of prayer, it shouldn’t become a repetitive activity, but a journey, a relationship that is always happening and evolving with each new conversation.
For Christians, Jesus clearly taught the correct way to pray (or meditate): “Go to your private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in that secret place. Don’t do like pagans, who think that the more they speak, the more they will be heard.” He also said that “God knows what you need before you ask Him. Don’t worry about what you will eat, where you will sleep and what you will wear. Look at the beauty of nature around you and how everything works.” It’s a lesson, an invitation to contemplation.
Christianity teaches a simple method of prayer, a prayer that comes from the heart. Theologically, in Christian prayer we should find Christ within ourselves and make this feeling emerge. In this case, the spirit should pray inside, much deeper than any word or concept. This movement towards silence, interiority and equanimity should always be remembered. Because the mind of Christ is that sense of stillness; stillness of mind is what we should try to achieve in our daily life. Stillness, as a combination of contemplation and actions based on it, should be at the core of every activity we conduct in our life.
The Gospel of Luke presents the story of Martha and Mary, two sisters who are at home and see Jesus approaching with his friends. Martha receives them and soon begins to take care of the house, distracted by many tasks. Mary is more contemplative, and near the feet of Jesus, listening to His stories. Soon after that, Martha becomes stressed, goes to the room where Christ is and says: “Master, don’t you see that I’m doing everything by myself? Tell Mary to help me!” Jesus answer: “Martha, you are anxious and worried about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen the best part and it will not be taken away from her.” If we analyze this story coldly, the answer may not seem fair at first. But the key is to analyze the two characters by relating them to the two moments of mind we have in each sister: the anxious and the contemplative. Jesus was a teacher of contemplation and taught us the message that “being” comes before “doing.” First, we should be, then we should do things.
This is a practical story that helps us re-evaluate balance, harmony, and equilibrium in our life, constantly choosing wrong priorities and feeling stress the wrong way. Thousands of years ago, long before the first smartphone was launched, Christ already recommended that the best way to live well was not to worry so much about life’s distractions, but to be present in the moment and contemplate.