Psychological Mindfulness vs. Contemplative Spirituality

Mindfulness and contemplative spirituality word List: Body, Mind, and Spirit; Integrative Health; Mindful Eating; Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

These healing words are easy to find today in descriptions for various healthcare and wellness services. This is a positive movement as researchers confirm more of what has been intuitively known- that our lifestyles directly influence our health. Teaching individuals techniques to better regulate their physiology (like heart rate and brain signaling) naturally through breathing and meditation is of tremendous value. Encouraging and giving patients permission to not be shy about bringing their spiritual beliefs into conversations with their doctors is also positive. As humans tend to do (eventually), we are moving in the right direction.

There is still a vulnerable area within holistic health to move forward though. This is to be much clearer with individuals on the uncomparable difference between psychological mindfulness and contemplative spirituality. 

Spirituality, grounded in tradition, is clear that there is only one sought after result with contemplative practices. To bond with God. To prioritize that relationship above all and to demonstrate the earnestness of our intention through the giving of our limited time to just be with God. No expectations. No hidden health motive. Just shared time to nurture our relationship. As our Benedictine tradition assures us, the results of this strengthened relationship provides the true source of what we need for wellbeing and increased quality of life.

The gentle supplement we can share with others as conversations increase about mindfulness is that to be a contemplative practice, the intent is to nurture your relationship with the divine. If the goal is better control of thoughts, relaxation, or stress management, that is psychological mindfulness rather than contemplative spirituality. Mindfulness techniques play a valuable role in choices for Lifestyle as Medicine but not in our intent to bring spirituality forward first. Contemplation is prayer, it is not a stress reduction technique. 

Teri Rose, OblSB, MS, LN


Teri Rose, OblSB, MS, LN is founder of the Benedictine CARE Wellness Ministry at the Benedictine Center. She is an Oblate of St. Paul’s Monastery (since 2020) and coordinates the Benedictine Practice Groups for Oblates. She is Founder of Perfectly Produce Weight Loss & Nutrition Services.