Mindfulness Meditation and the Book of Genesis

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the connection between the creation story in the Book of Genesis and the purpose of mindfulness meditation.
  • Recognize the role of judgments in our perception and mood.
  • Learn to suspend judgment and cultivate a state of non-judgmental awareness through mindfulness meditation.

Once in awhile, one sees remarkable connections between various spiritual traditions. For me, one such connection is between the creation story in the Book of Genesis and the purpose of mindfulness meditation. Maybe this helps explain why mindfulness is so powerful. The Book of Genesis explains not only the origin of the world and humankind’s place in it, but also the origin of suffering. In Genesis, God created the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve were free to wander about in the Garden. They were asked only to avoid eating the fruit of two trees, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve exist in the Garden in a state of perfect innocence, and only because of their innocence were they allowed to exist in the Garden and dwell in the presence of God. After they partake of the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, however, they are no longer innocent and must be forever exiled from Garden. Instead, they have acquired the capacity for making judgments regarding good and bad (evil).

When you meditate, your purpose is to turn off judgments. Jon Kabat-Zen defines mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” The idea here is that between our awareness and the world lie numerous filters that interpret this experience. Each such interpretation naturally ends with “this is good for me” or “this is bad for me,” or maybe it ends with “this thing is good” or “this thing is bad.” Either way, such judgments make our mood dependent on the outside world and circumstances, which means we feel vulnerable. Many people make judgments automatically, they have no awareness of even doing so. They automatically put themselves at the mercy of this habit system, from the moment they wake to the moment they sleep.

Mindfulness meditation teaches us to avoid judgments. Moreover, it teaches what making judgments feels like, because it draws our awareness to thoughts that exist at the very fringe of consciousness. By avoiding judgments, you re-emerge into that state of perfect innocent that existed before the Fall. Before the Fall, there were no judgments and self-judgments. Innocence was a state of perfect tranquility, what Buddhists call nirvana. Since judgments are so deeply involved in most psychopathology, being able to suspend judgment would become a broad and useful treatment strategy, which is exactly what we see in therapy that uses mindfulness.


Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What is the connection between the creation story in the Book of Genesis and mindfulness meditation?

  • A. Both describe the origin of suffering.
  • B. Both emphasize the importance of non-judgmental awareness.
  • C. Both explain the role of innocence and exiling from the Garden.
  • D. Both involve avoiding the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

2. What is the purpose of mindfulness meditation regarding judgments?

  • A. To intensify the habit of making automatic judgments.
  • B. To make our mood independent of the outside world.
  • C. To rely on judgments for self-protection.
  • D. To cultivate a state of non-judgmental awareness.

3. What does mindfulness meditation teach about judgments?

  • A. Judgments are necessary for psychological well-being.
  • B. Judgments should be made automatically and unconsciously.
  • C. Judgments are the result of habit systems.
  • D. Judgments should be intensified for a broader treatment strategy.

4. What state of mind is associated with the state of perfect innocence?

  • A. Nirvana
  • B. Psychopathology
  • C. Vulnerability
  • D. Non-judgmental awareness

5. What is the significance of avoiding judgments in mindfulness meditation?

  • A. It intensifies vulnerability.
  • B. It allows for a broader and useful treatment strategy.
  • C. It leads to automatic judgment-making.
  • D. It helps in understanding the outside world.

Answers

1. B

2. D

3. C

4. A

5. B