Blog Post

Do Christians Need Buddhist Meditation Techniques to Handle Stress?

(Wikicommons Images, Mari Smith CC BY 2.0)

FP writes: "A number of years ago a book was recommended to us by a physical therapist which I bought, but have been hesitant to read.  It is titled, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, published by Delta. The index presents mostly okay topics, but does have about 20 pp. favoring yoga . . . .  Mentioned in the book are these persons’ names: Thich Nhat Hanh, Joan Borysenko, Phil Kapleu, amongst many others. The word mindfulness is mentioned many times. I’m just not sure about this book.  Have you ever heard of it?"

You should definitely pass on the work of Kabat-Zin. Although he is distinguished in the field of medicine, he was also a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn and has integrated the practice of yoga and his studies of Buddhism into what he calls "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction" or MBSR. This is an 8-week course combining meditation and Hatha yoga to help patients cope with stress, pain, and illness through moment-to-moment awareness. Mindfulness meditation is based in Buddhist meditation and is very similar to transcendental meditation in that it is practiced for about 20 minutes twice a day and relies on certain postures, breathing techniques and concentration to effect an altered state of consciousness.

This would explain why he references Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, in the book you mention. Another person he references, Phil Kapleu, is a teacher of Zen Buddhism. Dr. Joan Borysenko is a highly educated woman with a doctorate in Medical Sciences from Harvard Medical School who describes herself as a "distinguished pioneer in integrative medicine" and "world-renowned expert in mind/body connection." Her New Age leanings are quite evident in just the title of one of her books: Your Sacred Quest: Finding Your Way to the Divine Within.

This is a perfect example of how health care professionals who dabble in alternative therapies introduce the unsuspecting into religious practices that are incompatible with Christianity. Even though they may not be teaching Buddhism per se, they are certainly creating an appetite in their patients for a form of meditation that is not even remotely similar to the Christian concept of prayer - which is a dialogue with God. Eastern techniques such as MBSR are mental exercises designed to bring one into an altered state of consciousness.

In fairness to you, your physical therapist should have told you that Kabat-Zinn's work is based in Buddhism (assuming that he/she knew this) rather than leaving you to figure out on your own that this is probably not something you ought to read. If this therapist is into Kabat-Zinn, I can just image what else he/she might offer you. Besides pitching that book, you might want to find another therapist and stick to good old-fashioned prayer to the greatest healer Who ever walked the earth - our Lord Jesus Christ.