Catholic psychologist speaks on practicing mindfulness to build trust

Gregory Bottaro


Gregory Bottaro
Photo by: Elena Mirus

Students and staff gathered in the Gentile Gallery for a lecture on Catholic mindfulness Sunday Sept. 15 at 9 p.m.

Gregory Bottaro, who holds a doctorate in philosophy and is the founder and director of the CatholicPsych Institute, visited campus to share the integration of mindfulness and Catholicism.

“We’ve thrown out psychology, we’ve thrown out the humanity, we think that the spiritual life is just spiritual,” said Bottaro, “and that is a heresy. … We are an integration of body and spirit, and we have to be moved and give and receive through both.”

Bottaro confronted the objection that mindfulness is a “new age” or strictly Buddhist practice, saying that true mindfulness is about learning to be in the present moment. Look at mindfulness for what it is, he said, with your Catholic faith: paying attention to God and those around you.

He encouraged his audience to “bring it back to the breath” when facing anxiety. Breathing deeply tells your brain that you are safe, said Bottaro. When we allow ourselves to enter the present moment, we actually let God’s grace enter our lives and build trust in God’s providence.

Bottaro used his own experience to illustrate the graces of this trust. After his parents got divorced when he was 17, the Catholic principles and ideals upon which his family was founded, Bottaro said, were broken.

“I was living a lie. … I thought (the Faith) was the thing that was supposed to make sense of everything, but … I (had) nothing,” said Bottaro. However, by studying under the Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, Bottaro found what he was looking for: the philosophy and spirituality of the Catholic faith.

“(God) was the only thing that could … immediately replace what was ripped out from underneath me,” he said. Over the years, he learned through experience that accepting God’s grace comes in the present moment by being mindful of yourself, God and others.

Mindfulness, he said, is the key to avoiding the often-untrue idea that we are in a “spiritual desert.”

Mindfulness allows us to hear God’s voice and “to take Jesus at his word … ‘Do not be anxious about the things of your life.’ The Father in Heaven loves you, more than the flowers and the birds,” said Bottaro, encouraging the audience to live this belief “in a human way.”

Alice Aufderheide, senior theology and mathematics major, agreed with Bottaro about how simple it is to be mindful. “We don’t need to be anxious,” she said, “(just be) truly present.”

The talk was part of the Gift of Human Sexuality Symposium series.

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