If you have not noticed the term “mindfulness” popping up everywhere over the past few years in America, perhaps you have not been paying attention. Mindfulness is all the rage in healthcare and education, among other areas. But what is mindfulness? Where does it come from? And what are its goals? Mindfulness sounds like something good, right? Like eating your broccoli or getting more exercise. Perhaps it is like being smart or wise. Who would not want to be mindful?
What does it look like? If you are sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed, meditating on the present moment (i.e. on your breath), and non-judgmentally acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, you are probably practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a religious term from the Pali language, referring to the seventh aspect of the Eightfold Path of enlightenment, meaning the “awareness” of Buddhist beliefs. Its regular practice is believed to lead to enlightenment or nirvana (realization of the non-self or emptiness; escaping reincarnation). Essentially it is a substitute for and the very opposite of Christian beliefs about biblical meditation and prayer.
Unfortunately, most Americans are completely ignorant about what mindfulness really is. Let us take a moment for a quick peek behind the metaphysical curtain. Mindfulness has been carefully packaged and marketed in America primarily through the work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Zinn, envisioned MBSR as a way to “take the heart of something as meaningful, as sacred if you will, as Buddha-dharma and bring it into the world in a way that doesn’t dilute, profane or distort it, but at the same time is not locked into a culturally and tradition-bound framework that would make it absolutely impenetrable to the vast majority of people.”
While Zinn’s other promoters have attempted to camouflage the religious roots and purposes of MBSR, according to Zinn himself the “particular techniques” taught in MBSR are “merely launching platforms” for “direct experience of the noumenous, the sacred, the Tao, God, the divine, Nature, silence, in all aspects of life,” resulting in a “flourishing on this planet akin to a second, and this time global, Renaissance, for the benefit of all sentient beings and our world” (emphasis added).
I don’t know about you, but this sounds extremely religious to me! Put slightly differently, Mindfulness is a Buddhist meditative practice that seeks to connect people to their purported inner “divinity” or “god.” Mindfulness at is core, confuses and blurs the distinction between Creator and creation (See Romans 1:25).
Mindfulness can be a psychologically and spiritually risky practice. Dr. Willoughby Britton, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University Medical School, a mindfulness practitioner herself, has documented how many who have engaged in Buddhist meditation can become detached from themselves, experiencing dark psychotic hallucinations, feelings of terror, and compulsions to kill themselves. Some quite literally lose their minds. Perhaps it should be better called “un-mindfulness.”
Now, if mature informed adults want to engage in edgy and potentially risky private religious practices on their own dime, that is perfectly constitutional in a free republic. The problem is that mindfulness is being deceptively promoted as a purportedly “secular” and “scientifically” proven cure for all that may stress-out kids in public schools. Public educators are increasingly concealing its Buddhist foundations and force-feeding mindfulness to a captive audience of unsuspecting impressionable children in our schools.
However, evidence-based concerns about teaching MBSR in public schools include, but are not limited to, the following:
• The effectiveness of MBSR for children had not been scientifically established.
• Adult studies indicate that MBSR should be excluded for individuals suffering from any psychotic disorders.
• The impact of MBSR on children’s brains had not been studied at all.
• Potential adverse effects of MBSR for children had not been adequately studied.
• Child meditation is a novel idea, in that Buddhist monks in other countries do not typically instruct children in meditation.
• Children engaging in MBSR should be screened and carefully monitored.
• MBSR trains children to engage in Buddhist religious practices and promotes a Buddhist worldview.
• Most MBSR curriculums for use in public schools deceptively camouflage Buddhist religious practices and beliefs.
• Social science research confirms that individuals engaging in purportedly “secular” MBSR experience a powerful transformative spiritual impact—towards a Buddhist worldview (i.e. away from Jesus Christ).
Because of our work last year challenging MBSR in Cape Cod Massachusetts, public educators are starting to wake up to the spiritual realities of MBSR and organizations promoting it are being forced to be much more honest and open regarding the truth about mindfulness. Concerns about whether students are engaging in MBSR with informed consent is a major ethical issue with MBSR. Fortunately, earlier this month, we were able to convince a public charter school to pull a seminar promoting MBSR to unsuspecting parents and students.
These significant concerns and many others regarding MBSR are well-documented in the 2016 legal opinion memorandum (containing 89 footnotes) directed to a public school district in Cape Code, Massachusetts, which is linked here to enhance your understanding about MBSR and related legal issues. Mindfulness meditation is, in essence, an analog to and is a substitute for Judeo-Christian prayer which, as I am sure you are aware, the U.S. Supreme Court has long held should not be coercively promoted by state actors (i.e. administrators, staff, and teachers) in our public schools.
But tragically, it is not only public schools that are being infiltrated by the religious twin Trojan horses of mindfulness and yoga, it is also occurring in many Christian organizations and churches. Thirty years ago, most Christians leaders understood that Eastern religions were pagan, dark, and verboten for true believers. Now we have forgotten this, perhaps foolishly thinking that the occult and idolatry are now somehow “cool,” and that we are somehow free to syncretize (mix) pagan occult eastern practices with Christianity. People of God, this is an unholy recipe for spiritual disaster! I was recently deeply discouraged to learn that prominent local pastors and churches are affirming “energy” manipulation and healing in “biblical” counseling programs. A good rule of thumb here folks is that anytime people are manipulating energy, you are probably tapping into the dark side–witchcraft and the occult.
All religious paths do not lead to God or heaven. The evangelical church is rapidly becoming lost in a new age nightmare. We must get back to the Bible as the only source of truth and authentic spiritual practice. These very scriptures clearly warn us that we are not to worship our God as the pagans do (Deuteronomy 12:24, 31) and that false teachers (pastors and other leaders) will participate in these attractive deceptions. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15).” If your church is teaching you to tap into any other power or any other Jesus, I strongly suggest that it is time for you to confront your church leadership, and if they do not repent, find a new church—one that is firmly grounded in the truth of God’s word.
The wisdom of these biblical warnings is affirmed by all the social science research, documenting how the religious practices of mindfulness and yoga are spiritually transformative, enticing practitioners into Eastern mysticism and away from Jesus Christ. Biblical fidelity and discernment is clearly on the decline in many of our churches. This dark shift is precisely why I have written the book Jesus Doesn’t Do Yoga: Challenging Pagan Myths in the Culture and the Church, which will be published later this year.
Will the courts block mindfulness meditation (stealth- Buddhism) or yoga (stealth-Hinduism) anytime soon in our public schools? Probably not anytime soon, though they should. The truth is that most cultural elites like Hinduism and Buddhism more than biblical Christianity. Why? They are morally relativistic and, in this sense, pagan, blurring and confusing the lines between good and evil and Creator and creation. It is quite empowering and intoxicating to stupidly believe you are God and that you can make the rules yourself. In other words, the elites will strictly scrutinize anything that looks like Christianity, which is in great cultural disfavor, while covering their eyes or looking the other way for more morally “relaxed” religions they prefer, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Yes, mindfulness is not all beauty, sweetness and light, as promoters desperately want you to believe. Mindfulness has a distinct dark side. It definitely does not belong in our public schools. Our children deserve better than to be metaphysically experimented on, treated as spiritual guinea pigs.
For more information, please read Why is Mindfulness an Issue In Public Schools (California 3 R’s Bulletin, 2016, especially the section by Dr. Candy Gunther Brown).
— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.
Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.