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Soulfulness: Deepening the mindful life 

Brian Draper's powerful new Christian take on mindfulness is like coming home, but realizing home is even more spacious than you had imagined


Brian DraperSoulfulness: Deepening the mindful life 
By Brian Draper
Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN-13: 978-1473630741
Reviewed by Shaun Lambert

Reading Brian Draper’s new book Soulfulness is like coming home, but realising home is even more spacious than you had imagined. In it he lays out a way of life, summarised wonderfully by the title's strapline ‘deepening the mindful life.’

It is indeed a way of life. If I was to summarise the message it would be, ‘mindfulness is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to life in all its fullness.’

But this is mindfulness at its most simple and profound, embodied, relational, brimming with ethical attentiveness – the attentiveness that is a God-given capacity of ours as human beings that has been neglected in the West in favour of rational critical thinking.

The writing flows with mastery in terms of deepening this one life we have. The book took me to the silence in my own heart, it troubled the waters of my soul, and its pages were flecked with gold of the kingdom, as the front cover is patterned with gold.

But this is not ‘chicken soup for the soul’: the book is sharp, especially in pruning our excuses for not following this way of life. It is sharp in a healthy, life-giving way. But it also sticks like pollen to a bee, and fertilises one’s own creativity.

The Christian way of life it outlines is deeply attentive to the things of God, and in so doing reveals a path of joy. Each chapter slowed down my reading, I didn’t want to rush through it, and I wanted to savour it. This is a rare gift in writing.

In part one he asks, ‘What’s right with mindfulness?’ He makes the point that life is more than just a calmed mind, and that is where he brings in the idea of soulfulness in part two.

Soul is not about being disconnected from the world, it is connecting with the world in a flesh-and-blood way that is relational and ethical. We can also learn to see from the ‘witnessing presence’ of the soul, and this transforms our aliveness, from closed and fearful to open and wondering.

There are many simple exercises throughout the book that can be done in the ordinary, everyday elements of our life – that are mindful awareness practices, or soulful awareness practices!

In part three he outlines reaching out soulfully, ‘reconnecting lovingly with all parts of life.’ I particularly like what he says about soul friendship, and breathing the larger air of nature. This section is genuinely inspiring, in its etymological sense, of truth and beauty being breathed into you through the words on the page.

In the final section, ‘living with soul,’ he lays out an incarnational way of life. Where this book is deeply embodied is in reminding us that we can get our spiritual energy from nature, art, poetry, music, as well as more classically spiritual routes.

The book brought back a remembrance of God for me: of all the best moments in my past – both light and dark when God was present. And God reminded me as I read of the flowers in my garden, and bird song, and my apple tree. And I could almost sense small tongues of flame appearing, and I knew after reading this I would not be the same.

Take it and read…take it and read!

Shaun Lambert is Senior Minister of Stanmore Baptist Church and currently researching a PhD project in mindfulness at the London School of Theology. He is also the author of A Book of Sparks – a Study in Christian MindFullness, and Putting on the Wakeful One - Attuning to the Spirit of Jesus through Watchfulness

Baptist Times, 18/05/2016
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