Mindfulness is a healing discipline that seeks to restore our essential harmony as mind, body and spirit. Some of our distress in the modern world, and the disease that can grow from that distress, is rooted in a lifestyle that has my body in one place and my emotions impacted by something that happened in some other time or place, and my mind, spread across what I am doing right now, what I need to do tomorrow and what I didn’t do yesterday. In other words we are not well because we are not together.
Mindfulness pulls every aspect of our self and our consciousness back into the present moment; back from fragmentation to wholeness; back from distraction to attention; back from being frazzled to the place of peace and harmony in which our bodies and souls thrive
Case Study – An Ancient Celtic Approach to Mindfulness
The Celtic Apostles were monastic people who shaped Christianity in the British Isles in the 400s-600s AD. They understood the realm of eternity not as a remote hereafter but as a dimension immediately adjacent to our own, infinitesimally close. This understanding of proximity meant that these ancient Celtic believers expected to perceive the influence of the divine realm, tangibly in this world – as light, energy, sound, aroma, visions, knowledge, or physical and spiritual healing
This belief in divine energy affecting our felt experience led to a particular form of mindfulness. They called their practice Tuning the 5-stringed Lyre. The principle was to maximize ones spiritual consciousness by carefully and gradually giving attention to the streams of information flowing to the practitioner’s consciousness by the physical senses. The five strings represent the five physical senses. These were seen as the means to tune a person into God.
Tuning the five-stringed lyre is a practice I teach as a modality of healing. It is a modality I have honed over a period of 30 years and use for my own health and well-being. I have seen tuning help countless people – from children to adults – as it brings their consciousness back into the present moment and back into harmony. Tuning slows people down and calms them. Having tuned they become peaceful and experience an inward stillness. Some feel an inner warmth and become conscious of divine presence or love.
The ancient Celtic practitioners – people like Columba of Iona, Aidan of Lindisfarne, Hilda of Whitby, Fursa of Norfolk – used Tuning the 5-Stringed Lyre as a means of heightening their sensitivity to spiritual activity. Their contemporaries knew them for their acute discernment of the spiritual realm, their ability to read situations and human hearts, and to move powerfully in healing.
You can read more about the world in which these Ancient Celtic people operated in my book “Be Thou My Breastplate” – https://paulanthonywallis.com/2016/11/14/be-thou-my-breastplate/
An Eastern Orthodox Case Study – Hesychasm
Hesychasm is a form of mindfulness which has been nurtured for more than a thousand years in the eastern orthodox churches. The most famous practitioner of Hesychasm was a Russian mystic, Seraphim of Sarov, who lived from 1759 to 1833. Most of his life was spent alone in the forest of Sarov, living the life of a monastic hermit. In the last 15 years of his life he opened his doors to receive enquirers. The thousands who flocked to Seraphim during that period were deeply affected by his powers of insight and many came away physically healed.
The word hesychasm means the pursuit of stillness or peacefulness. Seraphim would say, “Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands around you will be saved.” Like Francis of Assisi in the West, Seraphim is known by the Eastern Christian tradition for having so peaceful a spirit that animals found themselves completely undisturbed by his presence in the forest, and would even seek him out for food.
A core practice of Hesychasts was to slow and deepen their breathing, while adopting a physical posture that centred their attention on their torso; their heart and belly. (This is where the pejorative phrase “navel-gazers” comes from!) The aim was to make the practitioner as fully conscious and alert as possible – and they perceived the core of our being as residing in the heart or belly. One famous Hesychast, by the name of Theophan the Recluse, summed up the approach as, “Pray with your mind in your heart.”
To slow their breathing and make it deliberate and conscious, hesychast practitioners would accompany their breathing with the words of an ancient orthodox prayer, “Lord…Jesus…Christ…Son of God…Mercify Me (have mercy on me)…a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer (as it has become known) was to be prayed not only vocally but with the heart and mind thinking each word while speaking it.
The goal of this practice was to attain what Hesychasts called “mystical union” with God. Once this unified state was attained it would manifest at times in outward phenomena – which included an experience of heat and light. Accordingly we have six separate eyewitness accounts of occasions when the energy field around Seraphim’s body became so heightened that it would radiate with a light that was visible to the naked eye – similarly to the way sacred art depicts heroes of the faith with a halo.
Hesychasts understood human beings to be a mystical union of spirit and body. The hesychast approach is a way of uniting all our essential parts together – body, mind and spirit. Posture, Breathing and the use of the Jesus Prayer were their principle tools in achieving this. Used together, they were known as the Prayer of the Heart.
This form of mindfulness not only allowed Seraphim to flow with healing power towards others, but also had a powerful effect on his own body. In his mid-fifties Seraphim was violently assaulted and left with a broken back, which the medics of the time were unable to treat. Yet his health did not break as a result. In fact Seraphim life and work of healing among enquirers took off after that experience.
Prayer of the heart has been part of my spiritual practice for more than 30 years. I use it as part of my own spiritual regimen and, on request I teach it to those seeking healing.
Through his spiritual exercises Seraphim’s body became infused with divine energy which resulted in a well-documented and continual succession of healings over a 20 year period. I should say that these healings were effected “through him” because Seraphim always insisted that he was merely the conduit of divine energies. He was emphatic in directing the faith of his enquirers away from himself and towards God as the source of all life and health.
You can read more about Seraphim of Sarov in my book “My Dinner with Anton” https://paulanthonywallis.com/2016/11/14/my-dinner-with-anton/