By Dr. Jerry Terrill
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46: 10a)
The theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard writes in his journal about an experience on the coast of Gilbjerg: “It has always been one of my favorite places. As I stood there one quiet evening as the sea struck up with its deep quiet solemnity, whilst my eye met not a single sail on the vast expanse of water, and the sea set bonds to the heavens, and the heavens to the sea; whilst on the other side the busy noise of life subsided and the birds sang their evening prayer…but I saw everything as a whole and was strengthen to understand things differently” (Kierkegaard 42 – 43).
In modern counseling theory, what Kierkegaard describes is known as “mindfulness.” Mindfulness might be summed up as being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and being able to accept them non-judgmentally. Mother Teresa shares, “Each moment is all we need, not more.” Normally this occurs during a time of prayer, mediation on the Word. “Trusting to God I have found peace, calm, and confidence in God” (Kierkegaard 147).
To quote Mother Teresa, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…the more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silenced to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within—words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” (Something Beautiful for God 48).
However, “The light of dawn does not emerge from a void: it emerges from darkness. Darkness is a precondition for light to appear” (Patocka 95). The poet Aton Wildgans states, “What is to give light must endure burning.”
Mindfulness physically, emotionally, and spiritually provides the insights to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2). Paradoxically, this inner transformation through mindfulness occurs by emptying our lives of the external “things” as observed in Philippians 2: 5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Galatians expands this theme in 2: 20: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Henning Mankell terms this “Clarity that arises in the spaces in between.”
In A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce, we see the main character, Stephen Dedalus, beginning to achieve inner consciousness or mindfulness: “Life became a divine gift for every moment and sensation of which, were it even the sight of a single leaf hanging on a twig of a tree, his soul should praise and thank the Giver” (Joyce 166).
Mindfulness allows us to become present in the moment, a new creation, experiencing an individuated state of congruence through a new stream of consciousness narrated and facilitated by a passionate and loving God.
Dr. Jerry Terrill is Professor of Counseling and Director of the Counseling Program at Houston Graduate School of Theology