How can mindfulness meditation nurture spiritual life?

Mindfulness meditation (MBM) has become widely available in recent years. It penetrates schools, the world of work, parliamentary assemblies… The reactions are varied among Christians. Some, in search of inner peace, are tempted to substitute it for their time of prayer. Others, on the contrary, fearing that it masks a Buddhist proselytism, reject it. Pascal Ide, priest, doctor of medicine, philosophy and theology, proposes a crest line. It shows how the MPC makes it possible to restore a capacity of attention necessary – but not sufficient – ​​for the life of prayer which presupposes the supernatural virtue of faith.

A new reality

At the end of the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine, American, developed a method to help patients and caregivers to reduce their stress. This training, which begins with an eight-week cycle, aims to promote “an act of pure attention to what is given, that is, present, internally and externally”, then turn it into a durable layout. It is characterized by times of sitting, the back straight, the eyes half-closed or closed, the hands resting on the thighs. Attention to one’s breathing and to one’s body plays an important role in this. The meditator strives to welcome the present by giving up judging, filtering, clinging to or waiting for something.

A Buddhist origin

Jon Kabat-Zinn designed his training from Buddhist teachings which he secularized. However, the Tibetan doctrine is still felt by some instructors. This is problematic for a Christian who has faith in the living God, the source of personal love and salvation. But, according to Pascal Ide, the method can be decoupled from its origin and its interpretations. He wants proof of this in the books of the psychiatrist Christophe André, who introduced it to the hospital before popularizing it in France.

A contemporary need

However, as he himself experienced, MPC can promote our prayer life. And first of all by curing our psyche of a certain number of contemporary ills such as the dispersion of attention overstressed by digital tools, the anxiety linked to the injunctions to act quickly and the disconnection with reality caused by lifestyles artificial. More positively, it helps us to rediscover the interior life, opens us to self-knowledge and establishes us in attention to the present: three essential dispositions for prayer.

An opening to interiority

The rediscovery of the interior life is all the more important since many Christians turn directly to the Most High without first entering into themselves, regrets Pascal Ide, “because their environment has insisted too much on the liturgy or on the sole prayer of adoration”. However, Christ affirms that “The Kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21) and invites us to pray to the Father “in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Saint Augustine did not reveal to us “converted by ceasing to seek God outside of himself? », adds Pascal Ide.


The inner gaze that mindfulness develops helps us to understand the functioning of our psyche, a knowledge that is necessary for true prayer. “One cannot walk towards God without knowing the structure of the soul, its possibilities, its deficiencies, the laws which regulate its activity, says Father Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus. It is the knowledge of what we are and of what we are worth that will allow us to take before God the attitude of truth that he requires. » This inner gaze allows us to respond more effectively to the wanderings of our mind during prayer.

A development of attention

Besides, CPM cures us of some of the distractions which are even more frequent in prayer than in ordinary life. “If we already have difficulty remaining present to sensible realities when we are not stimulated, notes Pascal Ide, how much more to God who is invisible! » And he adds: “Concretely, regularly connecting to your body and your breath helps greatly to be attentive to God and to chase away distraction. » This is an essential point because, to produce its effect of “spiritual repair”, prayer must be “attentive” according to Saint Thomas Aquinas.

An antechamber of prayer

The danger would be to replace our prayer with mindfulness exercises and thus instrumentalize our time of prayer to find inner peace. However, mindfulness is only a means that mobilizes our senses, our intelligence, our will. Prayer, on the other hand, is a “theological” act that mobilizes faith, hope and charity to introduce us into the supernatural order. Through her, “one turns to God, for God, in a disinterested way, insists Pascal Ide. In other words, the person praying seeks the good of God: by adoring him, by giving himself to him, by seeking to do his will, by praising him, by asking his forgiveness. » Peace is not the goal of prayer but a fruit that comes in addition. Mindfulness helps us stay present; prayer makes us discover the presence of the interior Host and leads us to a dialogue, to a communion of love.

Testimony of Pascal Ide
“I open the door and find myself in the street. Without even thinking about it, my hand slips into my pocket and grabs the rosary. Remembering what I read about mindfulness meditation, I stop this spontaneous gesture. I look up, first look at the sky, the fair weather cumulus clouds. I contemplate the colors after the rain. I remember these words of Hölderlin: “The light is more beautiful after the storm.” My lips draw a smile on their own. I feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin. A joy rises in me, without me. A relaxation too: my shoulders drop. Then my gaze drops. He meets people in a hurry, under stress. Now I intentionally slip my hand into the pocket, my thumb and index finger grabbing a bead from the rosary and rolling it. My heart no longer intercedes for the world, but for this world, the one in which I live. »
Pascal Ide, priest, 64 years old.

To read :
Meditate mindfully, by Pascal Ide, Editions de l’Emmanuel, €18. Preface by Christophe André.

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This article is taken from a videoconference offered to subscribers of Pray. This monthly is made up of two media. his booklet, pray daily, offers the Gospel of the day, with commentary by the Taizé brothers and the Sunday readings. The magazine presents reports, testimonials, training in inner life thanks to Anselm Grün, Patrice Gourrier, Martin Steffens without forgetting the presentation of films, works of art, books… Pray is the only newspaper title that covers all aspects of the spiritual life.

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How can mindfulness meditation nurture spiritual life?

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