Apologist Warns Catholics About Dangers of ‘Mindfulness’

Apologist Warns Catholics About Dangers of ‘Mindfulness’
Interview With Susan Brinkmann About Her New Catholic Guide
Susan Brinkmann, once a New Age feminist, is now a Catholic apologist, award-winning author, Third Order Carmelite, and a staff writer and radio and TV host with Living His Life Abundantly and Women of Grace.


She knows what it’s like to seek happiness in all the wrong places and has dedicated her life to sharing the good news of the Catholic faith.  Her latest book, A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness, warns of the dangers of the latest Eastern meditation fad and offers Catholics a deeper, holier path rooted in the wisdom of the saints and doctors of the Church.

First things first: What is this growing practice of “mindfulness”?

“Mindfulness” is rooted in Buddhism and seeks to bring about a state of active, open attention on the present by which one observes his or her thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, without judging them to be good or bad. Although it is promoted as a non-spiritual practice used as a means of vanquishing stress and anxiety, it is practiced through one of several forms of Buddhist meditation, such as “Breathing Space Meditation,” “Body Scan Meditation” and “Expanding Awareness Meditation.” Connecting with God is not the goal of any of these types of meditation.

Why did you write this book?

My main concern is the attempt by many Catholics to integrate mindfulness meditation practices into their prayer or spiritual lives. They are being led into this by believing that it’s not a “Buddhist practice,” [but a way] to just focus on the “here and now.”

But when we do that via one of several mindfulness meditation techniques — such as “Breathing Space Meditation,” “Body Scan Meditation” and others that are commonly taught — then we are venturing into the realm of Buddhist practices.

Many Catholics may start out trying to keep these practices separate, but there is a common confusion in the West regarding Eastern meditation and how it differs from Western meditation (one is a mental exercise; the other is a method of dialoguing with God), which is why many are inadvertently combining the two — and this can often result in spiritual disaster, even to the point of requiring exorcism in some cases.

Why would combining practices be a problem?

As the book explains, I have personal experience with this. Our “New Age Q&A” blog at Women of Grace recently received an email from a woman whose husband stopped praying the Rosary with his family because he found this kind of meditation to be more relaxing. Although none of us should come to prayer just for relaxation, but to converse with God, this shows how easily people, in varying stages of their spiritual lives, can be confused — without even realizing it — and thus be led away from God rather than towards him.

Are there studies on the effect of mindfulness?

There is mounting scientific concern regarding the mainstream media only touting studies that found benefits of mindfulness and not reporting on studies that found negative results from the practice.  Some studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can actually backfire on people as they focus intently on the moment and leave their thoughts behind, including the positive ones. It can also lead people to disconnect rather than focus and engage in critical thinking on problems that require more thinking and not less.

In addition, a meta-analysis of 18,000 mindfulness studies conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in 2014 found only 47 that were considered methodologically sound — that’s only .0026%. And of those 47 found to be acceptable, the research found only “moderate evidence” of decreased anxiety, depression and pain and “low evidence” of improved mental health-related quality of life. This research led to more alarming findings about the negative effects of mindfulness, which then led me to put this information into a book in order to provide a more complete picture of this practice than what people are getting from proponents.

Why is mindfulness appealing to people?

There are several reasons why people are being drawn to it. First, the increasing secularization of our society has relegated Judeo-Christian values to the “nobody cares anymore” dustbin.

As a result, many people are abandoning mainstream religion and are feeding the resulting spiritual hunger with other practices, which range anywhere from a variety of non-Christian and/or New Age philosophies to the occult.

Second, I see the need to escape from the pressures of modern life as another reason why people are so drawn to Eastern meditation practices. These practices induce altered states of consciousness through the use of techniques designed to empty or manage the mind. This gives people a false reprieve from their worries.

In an era when we are suffering record levels of depression and anxiety, who wouldn’t want to escape their problems for at least a little while? Of course this is appealing!

In Christian prayer, they may have to confront their problems, but they are doing so with Someone who can actually solve those problems. In Eastern meditation, the only option is momentary escape. Afterward, you’re still stuck with the same problems.

Third, with respect to psychologists and others promoting the practice, there is much money to be made through psychospiritual fads like mindfulness.

We have seen the same pattern in the past with Reiki and “Centering Prayer.” Once these fads become common interest, many seek to exploit them for financial gain.

Why are the Catholic alternatives superior?

If one is living in the present moment in the presence of God, there is no need for a Buddhist practice like mindfulness. These Christian practices far surpass these merely human-based methods and actually draw us into the presence of God, where we can find authentic peace and healing.

Instead of a momentary escape from anxiety, the Christian alternative offers a real solution to anxiety and a permanent transformation. One practice is a quick fix; the other is a long-term opportunity for exponential personal growth toward the ultimate goal of our existence here on Earth — union with God.

By the time we reach this summit of union with him here on Earth, we will have been completely transformed into a totally new creation — not just an improvement of the old. When we are united with our Creator, we will finally become who we were meant to be from the beginning of time. This is a grace that surpasses all understanding.

Can a person be a good Catholic and still practice mindfulness?

It depends on what you mean by “good.” Good people are deceived all the time. Well-intended people pursue means that make them feel good all the time, but these means can be deeply spiritually damaging.

If you are just refocusing yourself for a few minutes on the task at hand, that is not a problem.

But if you’re engaging in the typical methods of practicing mindfulness, all of which involve some kind of meditation, then you risk inducing an altered state, which renders one vulnerable to psychological damage or to the influence of spiritual entities.

Catholics should not be involved in this, even when it is recommended by a doctor, because too many studies have shown it to be harmful, which is why more and more researchers are speaking out about it.

If a Catholic wants to practice being mindful of the present moment, my book recommends that they begin to employ The Practice of the Presence of God, which was introduced in the 16th century by a humble Carmelite brother named Brother Lawrence. It not only teaches a person to stay grounded in the present, but to do so in order to live in continual awareness of the presence of God within.

We’re taught to live in the present moment at all times in order to respond to the will of God as it plays out in each and every moment of our lives.

There is a vast difference between a state of sterile “awareness” and the much deeper realms of bliss to be found while basking in the presence of the Creator of the universe.

Get AQ Email Updates

8 comments on “Apologist Warns Catholics About Dangers of ‘Mindfulness’

  1. Living right on the shoreline of the Gonzo-filled Ganges, a/k/a SoCal, this article makes some sense.
    Highly to be recommended are certain YouTube videos of recent conferences by Fr. Chad Ripperger, formerly with FSSP and recently moved to Denver. Father’s comments on spirituality and the often-demonic dangers of trendy oriental exercises are taken from his Thomistic and extensive expertise in psychology and as an exorcist.

  2. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Master Po: What is troubling you, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: I am confused, Master.

    Master Po: What is confusing you, Grasshopper. Perhaps you are wondering whether time is running out for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick after Tom Brady’s F-bomb tantrum at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for being called out after throwing late and behind receiver Brandin Cooks on third down, ending a first-quarter drive.?

    Hans Küng: I would like to comment on that…

    Kwai Chang: No, Master. That is an interesting dilemma but I am wondering about something else.

    Master Po: Well, then, perhaps you are still wondering why American college students were triggered by Steve Martin’s “King Tut” song as a politically-incorrect microaggression of cultural appropriation, sending them in hysteria as crazed snowflakes searching for safe spaces?

    Steve Martin: Funky Tut! A wild and crazy guy, yeah!

    Kwai Chang: That is confusing and absurd, Master, but I am actually confused about something else.

    Master Po: Perhaps the curse of Tutankhamun has affected postmodern professors’ and students’ minds, Grasshopper. The realm of illusion presents many challenges and dangers, as the wheel of karma turns around and around. But what is confusing you right now, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: Very well, Master. I am wondering how too much mindfulness could present a danger for modernists in the Bergoglian pontificate of endless novelties.

    Master Po: Strange are the ways of the cycle of karma in the realm of illusion when searching for the flow of the Tao , are they not, Grasshopper? For who can know the way to San Jose in the long quest for satori? Perhaps you are wondering who will next accuse Congressman Conyers of grabbing her thigh or the next woman to claim that Al Franken has squeezed her behind?

    Kwai Chang: I cannot be certain of that, Master.

    Archie Bunker: Let me jump here for a minute to explain a thing or two to Grasshopper about all this mystical meditation mumbo jumbo. See here…er…Grashopper, if that’s what your New Age hippie name is….Let’s take the Meathead over here. Say, Meathead gets into all this meditation nonsense contemplating his navel so he can be one with everything. Next thing you know he gets it into his head that marijuana ought to legalized. He starts smoking them marijuana reefers, with his head in the air contemplating the cosmos, when one day he’s walking along the street and – oops! – he slips on one of them banana peels and falls in front of a car. Then some poor guy’s up the creek with his car insurance. So the rest of us end up payin’ higher premiums. You see what I mean?

    Mike “Meathead” Stivic: That’s great, Arch’. Always making fun of other cultures.

    Archie Bunker: Ya see what I mean? His brain is so filled with bleedin’ heart liberal nonsense there, he must be brain-damaged from all the marijuana reefers.

    Mike: I can’t believe we have to listen to this. Arch’, did it ever occur to you that meditation may help some people?

    Archie Bunker: Help? Are you kiddin’ me? Is that why that Kwai Chang Caine is always jumping around with those fancy karate and Kung Fu moves, gettin’ into fights with everybody? Because he’s so relaxed and calm from meditatin’?

    Archie Bunker: Oh, I’ve got to give other cultures a chance? Like, when they sneak-attacked us at Pearl Harbor???

    Mike: I gotta hand it to ya, Arch’. You’re certifiable.

    Archie: Well, listen to Mr. Nobel Prize Albert Einstein over here. If we had let all those liberal hippies sit around meditatin’ and smokin’ marijuana reefers all day long back in my day, the Japs would’ve won the war.

    Archie: One day one of your liberal hippie friends will be smokin’ them here marijuana reefers and he’ll get so high he’ll get it into his head he’s Superman or somethin’ and try to fly out a window. They showed that in an episode of Dragnet.

    Mike: Did you hear that, Gloria?

    Archie Bunker: It’s Lucky Strikes and Chesterfield’s you gotta smoke to win a war.

    Dr. Strangelove: Ja, ja. He has a point there.

    Archie Bunker: It starts out all nice and charming with hippie kids in white robes doing yoga squats and leg raises in a gym, but it ends up with them in a trance on a low protein diet chanting nonsense mantras while the Maharishi cult leader takes liberties with everybody’s girlfriends, see…Just ask the Beatles.

    Mike: Gloria!

    Archie Bunker: I saw the documentary on Jim Jones and cult leaders on the History Channel for God’s sakes. I know what I’m talkin’ about here!

    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening….Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but speaking as a semi-recovering former Lutheran familiar with the pitfalls of eliminating reason and logic from discussions of religion, this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, Max Weber’s concept of disenchantment in modern culture, and Professor Taylor’s secularization theories….

  3. LOL!!!

    Another gem, Howl !

  4. Kwai Chang: I am still confused, Master. If too much meditation and mindfulness presents the Meathead with the temptation of smoking marijuana reefers, getting so high that he thinks he’s Superman and tries to fly out a window, how must a Zen Buddhist counsel him to pursue and find satori?

    Archie: Oh, well, the Meathead there has to watch out for those whaddya-call-it…Hawaiian sinsemilla Thai sticks, the ones that Al Gore smoked at Harvard. That crazy liberal fried his brain so bad he’s thinks when it’s five below zero outside that it’s caused by global warming.

    Meathead: That’s beautiful, Arch’. You should be on TV.

    Archie: You don’t believe me? I read it right here on the Drudge Report. It’s freezing outside and he thinks it’s because of global warming.

    Meathead: Oh, now we’re back to climate change denial. Somebody help me out here…

    Edith: Maybe it gets warmer spiritually when it’s freezing outside and when you’re high on Hawaiian sinsemilla your chakras are more sensitive to pick up on spiritual global warming…

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: A clever answer, but not one that Father Gannon would have been likely to accept on the Metaphysics exam at Fordham in the old days, I’m afraid.

    Hawkeye: Was he a climate change denier too?

    Master Po: Our journey to satori may take many unexpected turns through the peaks and valleys of the realms of illusion. However, we must cultivate mindfulness along the way, Grasshopper. Let us recall that the “Buddhist term translated into English as “mindfulness” originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. According to Robert Sharf, the meaning of these terms has been the topic of extensive debate and discussion. Smṛti originally meant “to remember,” “to recollect,” “to bear in mind,” as in the Vedic tradition of remembering the sacred texts. The term sati also means “to remember.” In the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen. Sharf refers to the Milindapañha, which explained that the arisement of sati calls to mind the wholesome dhammas such as the four establishings of mindfulness, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the noble eight-factored path, and the attainment of insight.”

    Lewis: This journey to satori …does it stop near Aintry?

    Ed: We don’t want any trouble from you, gentlemen.

    Bobby: If you’ve got a still up here, we’ll buy some moonshine from you.

    Master Po: Some peaks and valleys are more challenging than others.

    Kwai Chang: How then can we teach the Meathead to remember to avoid thinking that he is Superman who can fly out of windows and that it is warming outside when it is below ten degrees, Master?

    Al Gore: The polar ice is melting so fast, that polar bears can’t make it to Martha’s Vineyard and don’t have private jets for weekend trips to Nantucket. As a result, I must save them!

    Master Po: Ah, Grasshopper, you are learning to cultivate mindfulness. In time you will snatch the pebble from my hand and it will be time for you to go.

  5. Mike: You should be more open to other cultures, Arch’. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it has no value.

    Archie: Well, listen to Margaret Mead over here. You don’t think I ever watch the National Geographic channel? If teenagers want to run around naked on one of them tropical islands like in Coming of Age in Samoa, that’s their business. Here in Queens, you gotta wear clothes.

    Kwai Chang: Perhaps Mike would be happier if he were in Coming of Age in Samoa.

    Mike: It’s not just Margaret Mead, Arch’. If you would take the time to read Freud, Jung, and Erich Fromm, you might learn something.

    Archie: And that’s another thing. You take the Meathead here, bleedin-heart liberal nutjob that he is. The Meathead might start meditatin’ and get his head so stuck in the clouds from eatin’ them Lotus flowers that he won’t be payin’ attention on one of them tropical islands. The next thing you know, there’s a 7.0 earthquake and he’ll be too far off in La-La-Land up there to hear the tsunamic warning.

    Mike: Oh, that’s a good one, Arch’.

    Archie: But you might look good in a grass skirt. A couple of nights sleepin’ in a hut fightin’ off the mosquitoes might wake you up to what progress, science, and American exceptionalism have done for you.

    Sammy: Maybe you should try meditating, Archie.

    Archie: Meditatin’? What good will chantin’ Aum all day long and half starvin’ on a rice diet do?

    Mike: It might help you to appreciate other cultures and fill you with compassion so that you’ll have more interest in helping them.

    Archie: Oh, we’re supposed to help them? After their sneak attack at Pearl Harbor?

    Mike: It couldn’t hurt.

    Archie: We have been helpin’ them. Didn’t we give them all that science, technology, and government aid after the war? And then they went and messed it up at Fukushima and robbin’ our kids blind with Nintendo games.

    Mike: I can’t believe I’m listening to this. This is as bad as Trump and climate change denial.

    Mike: You’re certifiable, Arch’. You oughta be locked up with Trump in an asylum.

    Archie: Well, if you’re partial to Nintendo games, why didn’t you say so? I mean, we sold them a lot of Mickey Mouse watches. You’d think all them liberal fruitcakes at Disney would show some appreciation for American capitalism.

    Edith: That must be why Mickey Mouse’s dog is gay.

    Mike: Gloria!

    Sammy: I think you’re getting Pluto mixed up with Plato.

    Archie: That’s why you don’t see too many ancient Greeks walking around in togas no more.

    Master Po: What have we learned, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: Perhaps if the Meathead had grown up running around half naked and uninhibited like in Coming of Age in Samoa, he would not be troubled by neurotic fears of Archie and his narrow point of view, Master. Then, perhaps, he would be more prepared for satori.

    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening….Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but speaking as a semi-recovering former Lutheran familiar with the pitfalls of eliminating reason and logic from discussions of religion, this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, Max Weber’s concept of disenchantment in modern culture, and Professor Taylor’s secularization theories….

  6. Mike: Hey Arch, some Catholic bishop thinks you got charm. He says Trump is Archie Bunker without the charm. The guy never met you.

    Archie: Another stupid pinko fag Catholic bishop. And ask your mother-in-law why she married me. Charm is my middle name.

  7. Mike “Meathead” Stivic: Face it, Arch’. You can’t accept people from other cultures because you’re threatened by what you don’t understand. If you would take time to study other cultures you might be surprised by our common humanity.

    Archie Bunker: Oh, stifle yourself, Meathead. If you would just listen you might learn somethin’ here.

    Now, you take these new computerized wide-screen TV’s they’re sellin’ to everybody now with mobs lining up and stampedin’ for on Black Friday, knocking each other over to the ground and what not. Everybody knows them new TV’s have one of them whaddya-call-it … computerized back doors that lets them geeks and nerds from Microsoft and Samsung spy on you.

    Now, it’s not a very big back door but it’s just wide enough for one of them Chinese Commie midgets to sneak in there and take pictures of ya’s when you’re in the shower.

    Mike: Gloria! I’m feelin’ light-headed. I think I need a glass of water.

    Archie: Be careful. There might be a Commie midget in there spyin’ on ya’s right now.

    Mike: I can’t believe this. What does this have to do with meditation and Buddhists cultivating mindfulness?

    Archie: Oh, well, that’s easy. Half of ’em are probably just pretending to be Buddhists.
    They use all that meditation and chanting nonsense in these New Age mind control cults as a cover, preparing for the day when the Commies launch a sneak attack.

    Maharishi: Picture the energy swirling around your chakras and your whole being.

    Lennon: It’s groovy you’re teaching us to meditate and all, but can you lay off our girlfriends?

    Ringo: Yeah. We thought you were an Avatar bringing us illumination.

    Archie: Just ask the Beatles about mind control cults from the Mystic East. Classic Commie pinko technique for softenin’ up the population for mass invasion and takeover.

    Mike: He’s certifiable! Ma, Gloria…somebody help me out here.

    Archie: That’s why they make the wide-screen TV’s so large now. So Commie midgets and lightweight Fifth Column agents can fit inside the boxes. One day everybody will be sitting around on Christmas morning, opening their presents and – poof! – a hundred million Commie midgets will jump out for the sneak attack. They’ll never know what hit us.

    Dr. Strangelove: Zat is a great idea.

    Mike: Gloria! I may faint.

    Archie: Oh…uh…Kwai Chang? You doin’ alright there? You got your green card?
    I know ICE has been doin’ sweeps through town recently, crackin’ down on undocumented tourists overstaying their visas.

    Kwai Chang: Forgive me, Mister Bunker. Do you wish me to check inside your television set to make sure there are no Maoist midgets inside?

    Archie: Oh, well, that’s not a half-bad idea there, Kwai Chang. I mean, while you’re here and all. I don’t think we have too many jobs makin’ Mickey Mouse watches no more, but they’re lookin’ for counter help at the 7-Eleven down the street.

    Mike: Gloria!

  8. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Master Po: What is troubling you, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: I am confused, Master.

    Master Po: What has you confused, Grasshopper? Are you wondering if Tom Brady’s injured throwing hand will prevent the New England Patriots from making a run for another Super Bowl title, sending him into another F-bomb tantrum?

    Hans Küng: I would like to comment on that…

    Kwai Chang: That is an interesting dilemma of postmodern culture, Master. But I am actually confused about something else.

    Master Po: Strange are the ways of the cycle of karma in the realm of illusion when searching for the flow of the Tao , are they not, Grasshopper? As the great philosopher Lao-Tzu has said in the Tao Te Ching. Long is our journey in search of the Tao. For who can know the way to San Jose in the long quest for satori? Perhaps you are wondering if another woman claims that Al Franken has squeezed her behind, will Stuart Smalley return for more therapy and self-affirmation training on Saturday Night Live?

    Kwai Chang: Forgive me, Master. That is most interesting, but I am actually wondering about something else. Perhaps I am confused by the ways of liberal science, Master, but if the Meathead is so sure that global warming is taking place, why does he not wear Bermuda shorts and summer clothing when it is five below zero outside?

    Archie Bunker: Well, you gotta admit Grasshopper has a point there, Master Po. But the Meathead here fried his brain so bad from smokin’ them marijuana reefers he thinks when it’s freezing cold outside it’s because of global warming.

    Mike “Meathead” Stivic: There he goes again with the climate change denial. Gloria!

    Archie: Well, you gotta admit it’s been pretty damn cold outside this winter, Meathead. If that’s your idea of global warming I’d hate to see what happens when the next Ice Age hits.

    Edith: Maybe even though it’s five below zero outside physically that it’s really warmer spiritually and Mike’s chakras are more sensitive to feel the global warming from smoking sinsemilla marijuana reefers….

    Archie: That’s almost what I just said, Edith. His crazy liberal brain is so fried from smokin’ marijuana reefers that he thinks the freezing cold outside is caused by global warming.

    Meathead: Gloria! Somebody help me out here!

    Kwai Chang: Perhaps the sinsemilla reefer smoke warms his soul, Master.

    Archie: And fries his brain. Just like Al Gore and that Spicoli kid.

    Spicoli: Whoa! Dude, the bong water cools the smoke for longer hits, but my chakras feel fine

    Meathead: Face it, Arch’. The only reason Hillary lost to Trump was because the Russians hacked the election.

    Archie: Hacked the election? Listen to Joe McCarthy there!

    Archie: Where did the Russians hack the election? Where did the Russians “hack” into voting booths or voting machines? Nowhere’s that’s where. Fusion GPS, Hillary, and those pinko FBI agents made up that whole Russian collusion baloney to cover their asses for sellin’ and tradin’ away our uranium to the Russians.

    Meathead: Ma, Gloria! Somebody get me a glass of water! I think I’m havin’ a seizure.

    Dr. Strangelove: Ja, ja. Communists are always stealing and selling nuclear materials!

    General Turgidson: Another dirty Commie plot!

    General Ripper: Mandrake, have you ever wondered why liberals support fluoridation of water and mandatory vaccinations?

    General Ripper: Have you ever wondered about that, Mandrake? The same people beating the drums for coercive population control…Atheist liberals who believe in no hereafter….

    Boris Badenov: We go this way to uranium store. Then to here to pick up thumb drive from Seth Rich.

    Major Marco: How about a game of Solitaire, Raymond?

    Boris Badenov: Now with pee pee dossier in hands of CNN is only matter of time before Trump is removed and replaced with Comrade Hillary!

Leave a Reply