This Wednesday night’s Christian Mindfulness session will host a visit from my dear friend, Rev. Aaron Miller. Aaron is the Lead Minister of University Hill Congregation, a progressive Christian church located at the University of British Columbia campus. Aaron is part of a network of church programs that includes embodied practices such as Yoga Chapel. Aaron recently created a pub theology event called Foxes & Fowl. His church also produces a beautiful wall calendar, filled with local art, that starts the year with Advent, Dec 1 and organizes itself around the liturgical year. I suggest you check it out. I’m breaking mine out today.
Miller and I became friends when I made regular trips up to the Vancouver School of Theology, where he has an office. Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to know Aaron, his wife Kate, and their two wonderful sons and been humbled by their generosity and strength of Spirit. Miller will speak for about 15 minutes before silent prayer.
The other day, a Christian man shared an amazing religious experience that he had had while practicing walking contemplation.
On this site, we’ve talked about various forms of Christian mindfulness. Walking contemplation is commonly done in a labyrinth. But this experience shows how many ways there are to practice mindfulness and how profound the experience can be.
About three weeks ago, I was in a group discussing the benefits of doing about 20–30 minutes of light exercise before one’s prayer. I mentioned that Asana Yoga was originally intended to prepare the body for contemplation (aka yoga-style meditation). This was a group of older folks, and we talked a little about tai chi and exercises that older people can do. “It can be as simple as walking for 20 minutes before your prayer,” I said.
This sparked a fascinating exchange of email afterward. One humble Christian man, who wished to remain anonymous, shared an extraordinary theophany while walking and reciting the Rosary.
“I paid close attention to Cornelius’ current research involving physical activity with spirituality via Centering Prayer. Combining Centering Prayer with Tai Chai is a promising combination – I wish him luck.
I have an exercise routine that mostly includes walking around in the basement while saying the Rosary. Not all that many years ago, I would say the Rosary while running. Then as I got older, I said the Rosary while walking outside. Now it is usually saying the Rosary while walking up and down the driveway or walking from one end of the basement to the other. So – I have for about 30 years combined spiritual activity with physical activity.
I [recently] had an email conversation with [name of a female priest withheld] recently, where she said she also usually said the Rosary while walking.
About a month or so ago, after saying one of the Rosaries while walking in the basement, I continued walking while trying to impose silence/(no thought) in my mind. After a few minutes, I “saw” Jesus walking beside me adjacent to my right shoulder. He mimicked every move I made as though we were moving in complete tandem. There was some humor as a few times when I moved or did a circle to the right while he did an exact mirror image opposite to the left – we exchanged smiles, and both considered this as true humor. This continued for perhaps several minutes, and we only communicated by looking at each other and using facial expressions – mostly smiles – it was obvious that there would be no verbal communication.
The message I received from the “communication” was that God is always with us in complete tandem, experiencing everything exactly as we do. The experience was, for me, definitely real. Somehow via heavenly power, I trust this is true for all the almost 8 billion of us currently living here on Earth.”
-Anon. Contemplative Christian
Truly amazing. But I am sure this kind of experience isn’t that unique, as I find Christians tend to be very hush-hush about their spiritual encounters. Thank you, sir, for sharing this expereince with us and our readers.
PraXis doesn’t promote mysticism or aim for such lofty things as visions of God. We endorse the use of Centering Prayer or other forms of contemplative mindfulness as a way of deepening our relationship with God, while cultivating the resilience to depression and anxiety that these practices also yield.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16
Fasting isn’t self-torture; it’s an ancient spiritual practice that improves our health while cultivating our intimacy with God. In remembrance of Christ, we recommend eating a “biblical” dairy-free, meat-free Christian meal. You can do this during a time of spiritual struggle, a quest for discernment, or just two days a week (Wednesday and Friday), according to the ancient Christian habit (see The Didache: The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nation).
As we’ve said before, nearly 25% of all US deaths each year are related to heart disease. Almost 72% of Americans are overweight or obese. Seventy percent of Americans also identify as Christians. We can’t say they are the same folks, but there must be a major overlap. Clearly, something has to change with how Americans eat. But that can be a hard pill to swallow.
Plant-based diets are not some trendy fad. They are part of ancient Christian practices. They are, uh, also a trendy fad. But, the wellness benefits of a plant-based diet is a scientific fact. It can:
reduce cancer risk
reduce inflammation in the body
help maintain a healthy weight
But it’s tough to change what we eat. Food can reflect our identity. We can find ourselves inextricably linked to our culture, traditions, and upbringing through the ritual of breaking bread. Whether we carry forth these values in our adult lives or teach what we’ve learned to our children, the prospect of changing our eating habits can be hard and even frightening.
The words “diet” or “fasting” might be loaded terms for us as we conjure up images of celebrity craze diets, counting calories, or extreme times of not eating. But Christian fasting is just regularly eating simple, whole foods, or a plant-based diet and holding off on very savory or very sweet flavors from time to time. It can also mean intermittent fasting—going without food for a day. But we will talk about that in another post.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Christ’s disciples did not fast because Christ was among them (he is Immanuel, aka God among us). Every day was like a feast. But when Jesus rose from the grave, it was expected that his followers would go back to the fasting tradition. That is how the early Church saw it.
In the Eastern Church, fasting is still done onWednesday and Friday in remembrance of the day Christ was betrayed, and the day he was crucified. Fasting, in this sense, is a tool that assists us in spiritual growth, rather than a kind of deprivation. These fasts were times of reflection. Times when Christians, and the Jews before them, turn their attention away from their stomachs and toward God.
Longer fasts like Lent vary depending on the season. Remember that in the earliest days of the Great Church, there were both feasts and fasts. Most of us still embrace the “feasting” while conveniently forgetting about the fasting.
Remember, turning to God’s grace is the real focus. Fasting is only one way we practice the pivot. Go easy. The goal is progress, not perfection.
1. Start small. Maybe fast one meal a week for several weeks. Then try two meals, and work your way up to three meals a day, for two days every week. Or eat a fasting meal after you exercise and pray. Remember not to eat at least three hours before exercise and silent prayer.
2. Plan what you’ll eat in advance. Fasting isn’t merely an act of mindful eating, but a spiritual discipline about being deliberate in the way you seek God’s fullness. Be intentional.
3.Don’t replace meat and dairy with sugar and a lot of carbs or seek out a lot of exotic spicy, rich, or saucy vegan options like Indian or Thai food. This is fine in the short run as you try to transition to a new habit. The Christian fasting tradition is about simple foods, not simply being free of meat and cheese out of concern for health, animals, or the environment (which is also good).
4. Consider how it will affect others. Fasting is no license to be unloving. You may get grumpy at first. Be mindful and pray upon your behavior toward others during your fasts.
5. Pray and watch (mindfulness). Pray with special earnestness for God’s help. As hunger arises, become present and mindful of the sensation. Meditate on it (think about the what, where, when, why, and how of your hunger) and what it means to your relationship with God and your body.
6. Go into itgradually. DON’T jump in with both feet. DON’T go all in. This will only make it more likely that you’ll break your diet and fall off the mark. If you GO BIG, you may quickly find yourself GOING HOME. Slow and steady wins the race and this is a marathon (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
7. And like all things, do it with others in the Body of Christ. Find a group, start with some friends, talk with your parish leader about it. We all need one another and Christ in our midst to make a change for the better.
We’ll have more posts with recipes and ways to ease into fasting in the future. Until then, think on it, and remember that it is Christ who fills our hunger, not bread…hmmm…yummy, yummy bread.
In our last post, we talked about the form of mindfulness prayer known as Centering Prayer and we went through the step-by-step process of this type of prayer. However, a lot of people find it hard to achieve Centering Prayer right off the bat.
For those unfamiliar with this type of silent prayers, we recommend a gradual approach toward deepening into silence. Pick and choose. Go at your own pace. But the telios (fancy Greek word for “goal”) is to sit in Centering Prayer or ceaseless prayer (see below) for 10–20 minutes after light exercise each day.
Labyrinths are a form of walking mindfulness. These designs appeared in churches around 1200 CE. The labyrinth itself is less important than being able to walk in a space where you do not have be aware of your surroundings or respond to your environment. You need to be in a distraction-free environment, so usually just walking around your neighborhood or a busy park won’t do. Many church yards have labyrinths these days. It’s worth searching around your area for a deliberate place to do this. This site can help you find one near you.
The key to this form of contemplation is to let your active thinking rest, even as your body slowly moves. Before you begin, open a prayer to God, saying only that you welcome the presence of the Lord into your heart. As you begin to walk, place your attention on the soles of your feet or the sensation of breathing in your chest. Let your thoughts and emotions go. Don’t put anymore energy into them. As new thoughts come up, turn your attention away from the thought and return it to your feet or breathing. When you get the center, you may pray again, for nothing more than to invite God’s presence. Stand in stillness for a few moments, and then continue out the way you came. You can do this with any kind of walk, including just pacing back and forth in a room. Continue for 10–20 minutes. Learn more HERE.
Step 2:Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina, or “sacred reading” in Latin, has been around since the 12th century. It is a kind of self-reflective Scripture reading that leads gradually into silence. This form of prayer was based on the Jewish tradition and developed by Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century CE. This prayer can be done in groups or alone. It’s a good practice for someone who is not used to extended silence. Essentially, there are four stages that gradually lead you to contemplative silence. There is a lot written on this, so we will simply refer you to this BLOG for the details.
Step 3: Audio Divina
Audio Divinia is a less common form of “sacred listening,” but it can be a step toward greater inner stillness. In this form of prayer, you actually just listen to a calm, soothing piece of music and reflect on God. In a four-part process, just like Lectio Divina, you slowly become mindful of God, images, and emotions that arise in the mind. The point here is to begin to let go of worded prayers and instead simply sit with the feelings and images that arise as you listen to the music. In time, you will want to let go of these images and feelings, and just let them pass without pondering or savoring them. Here is a four step guide to the prayer. However, we recommend a slight modification. Do not journal or write your thoughts down after you pray. Just let them go. Also, add a fifth step: just listen to the music one more time, and as images, thoughts, and feelings arise, just let them go, and turn your attention back to the music in the same way you would turn back to your sacred word in Centering Prayer. After the music is complete (don’t put it on a loop), just sit in total silence for a five minutes.
“Pray without ceasing” 1 Thess. 5:17
Step 4: Ceaseless Prayer
This passage from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is at the root of the ancient Christian practice of Ceaseless Prayer. This is when a very short prayer phrase is repeated mentally to oneself over and over again. The prayer should not be longer than about 13 syllables. Most commonly, in the Eastern Church this would be something like Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) or the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me). As with Centering Prayer, as thoughts arise, return your attention to your prayer repetition. Do not ponder your thoughts, judge them, or hold onto them, just return to your prayer. You should really only use this prayer as a way of getting to a more silent posture like Centering Prayer. We recommend using Ceaseless Prayer for a few weeks, and then slowing your repetitions down until you have long silences in between repetitions. Eventually you will come to rest at a mental posture that is the same as Centering Prayer.
“The vigilant monk is a fisher of thoughts” – St. John Climacus, 600 CE
Please read the first post to understand some of the terms we will use in this conversation. The PraXis routine is to do 20 minutes of light exercise followed by 10–20 minutes of Christian Mindfulness, also known as contemplation.
Christian Mindfulness is the term we use to describe contemplative prayer practices that help us to sit silently and wait on the presence of the Lord.
“Be Still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
The training challenge
We see Christian Mindfulness as a form of spiritual training. Perhaps the most challenging form. One of oldest contemplative traditions in Christianity is known as hesychia, the Greek word for stillness. Think of it as stilling the waters of a turbulent mind. When the waters are still, there is a moment in which God can emerge.
As one Christian has said, “We spend most of our prayer time asking the Lord for things. How often do we use our prayer time to simply sit and be in God’s presence, just to be with Him?”
Silence and stillness, however, are actually very difficult to come by. It’s not only because we live in a world where we are constantly being stimulated by TV, mobile apps, social media, and earbuds blasting music into our brains; it’s just something most people don’t want to do. Studies have shown that 60% of respondents would rather give themselves an electric shock than sit in silence. When we still our minds we immediately see how many thoughts are popping in and out of our heads all the time. And it can feel like our minds are out of control. That can be scary. But it’s very normal.
Our minds pump out thoughts in the same way our hearts pump blood. Thoughts come and they go. Just like clouds in the sky come and go. The monks of the Eastern Church call these thoughts logismoi—tiny words that pop in and out of our minds. And as we practice stillness and silence, we learn how to let these thoughts go, or just ignore them. Eventually the thoughts slow down, and this opens up a still and silent space in which God will emerge.
The gradual approach is best if you are unfamiliar with the practice. The first thing you might do is just turn off music and podcasts when you drive, walk, or ride your bike. Just begin to be alone with your thoughts more. Once you have done that for a week or so, there are a number of different Christian practices that we can do to bring about this stillness. The most common one is called Centering Prayer.
This is a modern distillation of mental prayers that have been practiced throughout Christian history all the way back to the 4th century.
The practice is simple.
Set a timer (five minutes at first) Sit comfortably: As you sit, you may find that your body itches, or wants to move this way or that. Just ignore those urges. In time, they will pass. This will set an example to you. Just as these bodily urges pass, so too will your thoughts pass. Set your intention: Open your heart and invite the presence of God, wording it in any way you see fit. Choose a sacred word: This is a single syllable word like Abba (Aramaic for father), or Mar (Aramaic for Lord), or Kyrie (Greek for Lord), Christ, or Love. It should only be a short word. Sit in silence: Just sit with your eyes closed (or in a relaxed, unfocused gaze in one direction, if that is less distracting than closed eyes). Thoughts arise: As thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images arise, do not repeat them, judge them, add to them, or cling to them. As soon as you realize you are thinking, gently put the thought to the side, and repeat your sacred word to yourself silently. Try to once again rest in stillness. Repeat Timer goes off: Slowly come back into your sense of your self and your body. Say a closing prayer thanking the Lord. Goal: 20-minute sits, twice a day.
There are many resources out there for Centering Prayer. Go here for more support and information.
Easier in Groups
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” Matt. 18:20
Like most forms of training, spiritual training takes repetition. So finding a group that can support you is vital. That said, many people find this kind of silent prayer VERY challenging. So in our next post, we will show you some other forms of Christian Mindfulness that will help you ease gradually into deeper forms of stillness.
PraXis explores evidence-based wellness practices in exercise, diet, and mindfulness as they relate to the ancient Christian tradition of askesis or spiritual training. Wellness addresses two core chronic health problems in America: heart-related disease, and mild anxiety and depression. In this post, we’ll introduce you to practices that contribute to our emotional and mental health, while deepening our relationship with God.
Before we can jump into what that mindfulness bit might look like, we’ll need to define some terms.
“Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10
Contemplation: Contemplation is an ancient Christian practice, but most don’t know much about it. This type of prayer is referred to as mental, wordless, imageless, silent, or noetic prayer. Contemplation is different from other common forms of active prayer, in which we spontaneously or through written words praise God or ask for something, i.e., supplication, intercession, confession, etc. In contemplative prayer we are sitting in silence, and without words or thoughts, we open ourselves and wait on the presence of God.
“Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.” Psalm 37:7
You might see contemplation in terms of the form of prayer that the Jews refer to as Tifalah, or join with the divine. Or we can look at the Latin word, con-templatio, which denotes con– (to join with) and templi (the temple). A nice way to think about it is that in contemplation we are engaged in the most sacred of actions: waiting on the presence of the Lord, in the same spirit that temple priests in Jerusalem use to enter the Holy of Holies once a year to encounter the Earthly presence of God. Contemplation is a spiritual act of intimacy with God that occurs in the deepest and most profound state of our own mental silence.
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8
Meditation: Meditation is a very confusing term, because it means different things depending on if you are a Christian or a non-Christian. Here, the term means actively thinking about or pondering a specific question, issue, or text. The scriptures say to meditate on the Bible every day.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
Mindfulness:Mindfulness is a clinical term for the human ability to be fully present and aware of our thoughts and emotions on a moment-to-moment basis, without reacting to or judging these thoughts or emotions. We are mindful when we are not carried away with our own thoughts and emotions. You can think of this as watching your own thoughts and emotions as they come and go. Clinical research indicates that mindfulness practices lead to reduction in stress.
How are these things related?
Contemplation is a form of spiritual training in which we learn to sit in silence and wait on the Lord. And that training essentially strengthens our ability to concentrate, while relaxing our tendency to react to our own thoughts and emotions prematurely. The process of strengthening and stretching our mental muscles is referred to as neuroplasticity. Increased neuroplasticity makes us more resilient to stress and less susceptible to anxiety and depression.
We’ll go into greater depths in other posts, but what is important to know at this time is that as we practice contemplative silence, we learn to let our thoughts just drift by. Eventually our thoughts slow down, and this opens a silent mental space in which we can encounter the Holy Spirit. Practicing this silence also allows us to respond to everyday life with more mental/emotional calm.
Christian Mindfulness: We are going to use this term to refer to anything that moves us along the path toward silence as we wait on the Lord. There are lots of forms of prayer, including labyrinth walking, and forms of Scripture reading like Lectio Divina, that move us toward silence without you having to actually sit in complete silence all the time. So if you are terrified of silence, don’t worry. There are alternative ways to ease into this at your own pace.
We’ll explore some of the health benefits of mindfulness and look at some forms of Christian Mindfulness in the next post. Hope you keep reading.
PraXis might be a strange concept to some Christians. We combine ideas of spiritual growth with a conversation about how fitness, food, and your thoughts and emotions lead to health and peace of heart. The word praxis is just Greek for practice. The idea of spiritual practice, distinct from liturgical worship, was foundational to the early Christian Church. These practices included worship and Scripture, but also things like fasts (abstaining from meat, cheese, wine, etc.), vigils (staying up all night), pilgrimages, and other physical actions that deepened one’s relationship with God outside of Sunday service.
Today there is a hunger for spiritual practice—something that many Christians have lost touch with. Research has shown that only 52% of Christians in the United States are making efforts—exerting discipline—to grow spiritually. Meanwhile, other forms of spirituality like Buddhism, yoga and other practical spiritual traditions that offer concrete spiritual practices are gaining popularity.
In order to address the current health crisis among Christians today, we look back to ancient history to find a uniquely Christian approach to mind, body, and spirit practices. There will be no pleasing some people, for sure. But this system of exercise, diet, and mindfulness is flexible enough to meet most denominational needs. Christians are unique in our view that the body and soul are ONE—we do not see a division between our bodies and our souls. Ours is an incarnate (in the flesh) God, who meets us in our bodies. Ours is a God who understands the trails and joys of our own embodied lives, because he has been with us, in a human body. Christ is with us in psyche (soul or mind), soma (body), and joined with the pneuma (spirit). Our spiritual wellness praxis (practice) is no different.
Too often we forget that the English word salvation, is actually a translation of the Greek word soteria, used in the New Testament. In Greek, the word applies to more than protection from harm, but also to health and well-being through Christ: the Healer (soter).
The medical profession started using the term wellness in the 1950 to describe conditions that promote optimal health. Today, Wellness constitutes an $8 billion a year global industry, promoting everything from Wellness branded shampoos to snake oil medicines. But at its core, wellness tries to get at two critical long-term health problems in the West. The crisis of heart-disease and mild anxiety and depression in America.
Forget COVID-19, heart-related disease is the number one killer in America. Heart-related disease accounts for 25 percent of all deaths. Meanwhile a staggering 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders, nearly 20% of adults over 18 yrs. old. Anxiety and depression is by far, the most rampant mental disorder in the US.
The problem is a combination of lifestyle and environment. Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity are the leading cause of heart-related illness. Only 5% of American adults are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, and only 20% of kids. Nearly 72% of Americans are overweight or obese.
Anxiety and depression are harder to pin down. Stress is a driving force behind mild forms of anxiety and depression. We, in the US live in a hyperstimulated, hyper active culture, that may contribute to stress and anxiety. What we can say is that certain mental exercises known as mindfulness, meditation or contemplation, have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and make us more resilient to anxiety and depression. That is because these forms of mental exercise literally stretches our minds, producing neural plasticity, making it easier to cope with traumatic mental and emotional events.
Despite the unhealthy state of many Christians, we are called to life. God wants us to be healthy and to thrive. And the tools we need already exist in long forgotten Christian spiritual practices like fasting (no meat, no dairy Wed. and Friday) and contemplative prayer (medical science now referred to this as mindfulness).
“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” Matthew, 7.14. Note here that the word for life in Greek in this passage is zoe. The word bios, in Greek, means animated life, like biology. But zoe means more. It means alive-ness! God wants us to be more than just a life form. God wants us to feel alive! And that’s what wellness is all about.
Salvation, Soteria and Wellness
The funny thing is that what Christians normally refer to as Salvation, can also be translated as wellness. The word Soteria is the Greek word in the New Testament that has been translated into Salvation. But in Greek and in Latin the word means more than just protection from harm. It also means, wholeness, healing and yes, wellness.
Christians were the first wellness-focused people. Christ the Savior, was Christ the soter, or healer, the bringer of wholeness to those in mind, body and spirit.
At PraXis we want to bring back this sense of Soteria, or Christian Wellness, not in the sense of spiritual salvation but in the sense of physical and mental aliveness and peace. Christ can bring spiritual Soteria. But we humans can practice daily habits that cultivate a healthy body and mind, while at the same time, deepen our relationship with God.
Christianity is a path that celebrates life. We are led by the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, to Salvation in Christ. Upon our baptism, the Holy Spirit literally came to dwell inside our bodies. And in this spirit, we should honor our bodies with daily practices that cultivate better bodily and mental health while bringing us closer to God: a Soteria or Wellness of mind, body and Holy Spirit.
The key to PraXis is doing light exercise before your mindfulness, or contemplative prayer practice.
In general, adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 5 days a week just to stay healthy. In PraXis, exercise is followed by 10- 20 minutes of Christian mindfulness, such as Centering Prayer, Christian Meditation or ceaseless prayer like the Jesus Prayer. [Check out Contemplative Outreach for details on centering prayer].
Below are some examples of different exercises you can do depending on your fitness level. Use discretion and choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness and health goals. Increase physical activity gradually over time. Work with your health care provider if you have chronic conditions or symptoms to choose the activity appropriate for you. Apply the Rule of Pain (see the bottom of this post HERE) if you experience pain, fatigue or discomfort.
For many exercises, equipment is not needed. Mostly you will need quality shoes and comfortable clothes you can move (and sweat) in. Occasionally you may need a yoga mat, resistance bands, small dumbbells, or any type of weight added strength training.
Exercises here fall into three categories, mobility (stretching and flexibility), strength training, and cardio or HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training). Excerises called Prehabs, and exercises for seniors are described in a separate post. We suggest doing two days of cardio or HIIT, two days of strength, one day of mobility and two days of rest each week. This will not turn you into a body builder, or get you “swoll,” but over time, combined with the Christian diet, you will feel healthier and more alive.
Mobility is related to the joints and their ability to move actively through their full range of motion in order to express muscle flexibility. Here’s a great video that explains the difference between flexibility and mobility. Here is a 15 minute full body mobility routine, it’s helpful if you have a short stick and a yoga mat or soft surface. Below is a simple 15 minute stretching routine you can do daily, or for a light warmup before contemplative prayer.
Strength Training benefits of strength training include improving bone strength, body image and weight control.
Here is a total body workout, no equipment necessary. 16 minute workout includes 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down (See Fitness Blender for more exercises)
Cardio (low & high impact) in a nutshell, the term aerobic means “with oxygen.” Aerobic exercise and activities are also called cardio, short for “cardiovascular.” It’s a level of activity that you can maintain for an extended period of time. Can you comfortably pass the ‘talk test’ and be able to talk while slightly breathless? If so, you’re engaging in aerobic exercise.
Here’s a great 30 minute cardio (no equipment) by fitness blender.
Alternatively, you can High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) instead of the classic cardio. HIIT is an efficient for fat burning for those who already have a solid basic level of fitness and limited time for working out. HIIT is a form of anaerobic exercise, which means “without oxygen.” These burn more fat, but are much more intense.
Here’s an intermediate level workout. HIIT Pyramid style workout with warm up & cool down 26 minutes total (Level 4 HIIT). Or try Level 3 or Level 5 if you need to adjust the intensity up or down.
These are great exercises to do for their own sake. But with PraXis, we recommend you not try to overdo it on exercise. We just want you to build healthy habits, and prepare your body to relax into the next phase, mindfulness. Once you cool down, we recommend giving yourself a few minutes to lay on the floor, or sit silently. Then proceed into a 10-20 minute of Centering Prayer or similar contemplation.
“Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy: 4:8
PraXis is about urging Christians to practice healthy living in mind, body, and Holy Spirit. We do this through diet, fitness, and mindfulness in the Christian tradition of the spiritual athlete.
In the 1-hour PraXis sessions, we engage in 30–40 minutes of light exercise and then sit for 20 minutes of Christian mindfulness, otherwise known as contemplative prayer. In this post we go over the basic intent and theology of the exercise modality. The PraXis exercise is intended to do three things:
Keep the body vital
Prepare for mindful prayer
Turn attention to God through embodied practice and silence
Most people are familiar with yoga, or asana yoga, a series of controlled stretches and poses. There is no real equivalent to asana yoga in the Christian tradition. However, calisthenics and gymnastics are ancient Western traditions of physical training that were certainly present in the Hellenized world of the earliest Christians. Really any kind of exercise appropriate to our age and fitness level will do. There is nothing wrong with purely physically focused tai chi, or yoga. However, we also look at modern calisthenics and modes like Pilates and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) as well.
Christians have a unique relationship with the body. In our tradition, you are not a spirit having a bodily experience. You are a body and spirit equally. Christians believe that when we die, we lose our bodies, temporarily, but we will be reunited with them someday, in a place outside time, when Heaven and Earth are reunited. So we must take care of our bodies, for as Paul says, they are not our own. Our bodies were won for us at great price, by Christ on the cross, so that they might become a fit dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (who dwells in your heart). So when we care for our bodies with exercise and fasting, we are performing a kind of prayer of thanksgiving to God.
We have to remember that for most of Christian history, people were not in need of physical fitness. In the days of the early Church, almost every task required physical exercise: farming, making bread, repairing even the simplest tool. Every part of existence was a workout. It was rare for people to make a living while sitting in a chair for eight hours a day.
It was only as we came into the later part of the 20th century that we found ourselves in a crisis of physical and mental health in the United States and the West. This crisis has a lot to do with modern lives, where our bodies are too still and our minds are too active.
Healthy Body, Healthy Soul
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, adults are way too sedentary these days. Let’s face it, we do sit around way too much. Adults who do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity gain health benefits that include prevention of chronic diseases, weight control, strength, improved sleep, stress relief, and increased life expectancy.
Adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five days a week. Exercises that we will promote in PraXis fall into three types: mobility or stretching (that means you, yoga), strength training (body weight exercise), and cardio or HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).
Exercise depends on your individual condition, one size does not fit all. Your weight, age, and general health are the starting points. So be careful and remember to
go slowly at first
pay attention to your body
With anything in PraXis, there may be some discomfort as you begin to push yourself into doing something new, or physically or mentally strenuous. So as a martial arts instructor once told us, if it hurts, remember this Rule of Pain and Progress:
The first time you feel it, ignore it and keep going The second time you feel it, pay attention to it, but keep going The third time you feel it, stop and rest