What is the best approach to stress and anxiety in our lives? It can be challenging for us as Christians to answer that. We see friends and family signing up to all sorts of pursuits like yoga and mindfulness. But
yoga and mindfulness have their roots in Eastern religions like Buddhism or Hinduism.
For some insights on a practical level, former pastor and Christian therapeutic life coach, Peta Soorkia, joined this 20Twenty conversation. Peta has been studying psychology for many years, and believes there is room for a Christian approach to the stress we find ourselves dealing with.
Peta believes that there’s a lot of good in psychology, but also a lot of things that are based on Eastern religions. We have to be careful about those things. For example, mindfulness can be a very good way of de-stressing. But what sort of mindfulness are we practicing? Maybe we’re doing something involving clearing the mind, which isn’t really possible. The mind just keeps going.
“We need to be careful,” says Peta. “But there are some very good strategies like physical relaxation and tensing up each part of the body and releasing it. That’s a good type of mindfulness. I have also heard some people say they go to Christian yoga classes. My research into that suggests that even
the way we stand or position our bodies in yoga is a type of worship of gods.
So that is something I would be very hesitant about supporting.”
Peta says we need to look at the basis of these types of therapies. There is a Christian form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that many practitioners use. It involves looking at what we are thinking about and what we are doing. It explores how we act as a result of our thoughts.
“Are we listening to perhaps the voice of the enemy or are we listening to what the Bible is saying and what God is saying?”
Christians definitely feel some confidence about a Christian viewpoint and the contrast between the secular viewpoint. Peta always comes back to the Bible, and questions if what she’s learning in a secular study supports what the Bible says.
“From that perspective, let’s talk about narrative therapy; what is your self-talk? What is the dialogue going on inside your head?”, says Peta. “I’ve had a lot of success with this because I ask what are we listening to as Christians? Are we listening to thoughts that line up with the Word? Or are we listening to the enemy? I can use narrative therapy in terms of my Christianity because one of the interventions is called externalization. We look instead at what the Lord says in His word, by His Holy Spirit. Then we can externalize the junk and put that aside. And we can internalize our dialogue to go along with the word.”
Peta uses the acronym ‘BSB’ to help people remember what to do when they want to relax.
“B stands for breathe.
If you recall in Genesis, when God made man, man didn’t actually come alive until God breathed his spirit into him,” continues Peta. “Every breath of life is a gift from God.”
“S stands for surrender.
And I think that’s part of our Christian walk. We want to be in control, but we can’t be. For that I use the Scripture, not my will, but your will. That’s what Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane before He was going to face the cross the next day. There’s no better example of surrendering than what Jesus did to go to the cross.”
The third B is for Be Still
. “I love to go to Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still and know that I’m God.’ If you look at that scripture it’s all in the present tense. So in this very moment now, we can stop and know that He’s got everything in his hands.”
Peta likes to go into more detail with her clients about the science of breathing. “I link a bit of science to a lot of God,” she says.
“At any moment we can just say, God I cast my cares. Your will, not mine.”
Reflect + Respond
- Have you been practising yoga or mindfulness? Knowing the truth about these practices, how can you switch to alternatives such as pilates or Christian meditation?
- How can you implement BSB into your well being?
- Have you cast your cares on God? If you would like to start a relationship with Jesus, who cares for you, or would like prayer, you can click here for more information.
To connect with Peta online, go to www.petaempoweringyou.com, and to listen to the rest of her fascinating discussion with Neil, click below.
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