Mindfulness in the Psalms
Insights into the relationship between God’s Presence and David’s meditations
There is much to be said on the topic of David’s astonishing awareness of God’s presence in the midst of everyday life. As you dive deeper into the meditations of the soul that shine forth in the pages of his psalms, they yield abundant insight into the reality of Divinity surrounding us and how the practices of mindfulness allow us to become aware of such a reality.
One particularly noteworthy passage is in Psalm 139. David writes:
Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do;
from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting;
you know all my actions.
Even before I speak,
you already know what I will say.
You are all around me on every side;
you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep;
it is beyond my understanding.
The word “examined” here carries meanings of being searched, probed, investigated. (Let’s leave the jokes about alien probes aside for now…!) God has investigated David throughly. All of David’s thoughts are understood…even before he says a word, God knows what he is going to say. God has deep knowledge of David, beyond all human understanding. No matter what David is doing—working during the day, resting during the night—God is there surrounding him.
One of the key facets of mindfulness training is the idea that we have the ability to dive deeper down into the emotions and thoughts that lie below the level of our conscious awareness, thereby gaining a greater understanding of how our mind works and thus achieving greater focus and self-control. I would argue that we also gain additional insight into the true self that God sees and that is often hidden not only from others around us but even from ourselves. In other words, as I get to know the true “me” that incorporates and integrates all aspects of my mind and my body, I begin to feel a deeper and more authentic connection with God’s Spirit.
Later in Psalm 139, David writes:
Examine me, O God, and know my mind;
test me, and discover my thoughts.
Find out if there is any evil in me
and guide me in the everlasting way.
Here David is not simply stating a fact: “God has examined me” — rather he is entreating God to continue to examine him and to know him intimately. He is asking for divine guidance to pursue that which is good and eternal, and for God to uncover any evil within himself that needs to be brought to light.
Again, I am reminded that when I meditate, when I dial down the self-talk, worry, negativity, or ambition that drives me in my habitual routines, and I allow myself to become open to the whispers of God’s Presence, it increases my ability to “tune into” His frequency and receive that divine guidance which David describes. It allows me to feel more known by God, to become aware of the discovery of my innermost thoughts.
Darkness is not dark for you,
and the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
You created every part of me;
you put me together in my mother’s womb.
When my bones were being formed,
carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
when I was growing there in secret,
you knew that I was there—
you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began.
Here we learn about how God sees things: he doesn’t look on the world like we do, peering through darkness and trying to see light. It is all One to Him. He sees both at a far deeper and at a far higher level. He could see David when David was first being formed in the womb—but more than that, He could see David before David even existed. God is outside of both space and time, yet able to enter in at any moment, at any scale. In a real sense, God is both “out there” and “in here” simultaneously. And in every act of creation, good and noble, beautiful and sublime, there God can be found.
So much of what I deal with every day is at a human scale. The food I eat, the tools I use, the screens I stare at (far too much I’m afraid!). That’s why it’s so good to get out into nature, to meditate, to engage in activities that remind me that the universe is both far more minute and far more grand than I, and that God’s Presence is true at all scales, throughout all vistas, and in all of life.
Where could I go to escape from you?
Where could I get away from your presence?
* Scripture taken from the Good News Translation