The Rev. Monica Coleman Lecture on Spiritual Practice and Depression

March 5, 2009
Click on the link above and you will be able to view the video of my good friend, Monica A. Coleman's lecture "On Baking and Biking: The Theological (and Neurological?) Value of non-Contemplative Spiritual Disciplines as Spiritual Practices in the Context of Depressive Conditions." This was part of a conferences on Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices at Claremont School of Theology in October 2008.

Coleman is a theologian at the Claremont School of Theology in California, who has also suffered through depression. When she spoke at this conference, everyone else spoke about the importance of mindfulness, but Coleman chose instead to speak about how for a person who is depressed, mindfulness is not always desired. For instance, if a person is suicidal, then they do not need to concentrate on their own thoughts or if a person is manic, then their thoughts are too scattered to be able to be mindful either.

She discussed doing activities that get the body moving and that provide a sense of accomplishment, such as baking and biking. She suggests that it is important to have activities that one can do even when a person does not feel like it, for feelings cannot always be trusted. By doing mindless, repetitve activities, one can find comfort and even God in a space where one could not before.

It it often said that one needs to be mindful of the moment to experience God, but Coleman makes the claim that this is not true, for God is in everything and in every moment. And isn't that what faith is all about? Being willing to experience God in the times when one cannot feel the Holy One's presence?

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