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The practice of mindfulness has reached an unprecedented level of prevalence in the US and the UK, both in terms of widespread popularity and in terms of institutional support and investment. One potential clue to this phenomenon may be found in the nature of the institutional contexts that are increasingly being filled with mindfulness practitioners and seminars: each is deeply embedded in and pervaded by what philosopher Charles Taylor calls the ‘modern identity’. This article provides an analysis of mindfulness as a practice of moral formation that challenges these late-modern notions of human agency and identity. It does so by bringing mindfulness into conversation with another contemplative tradition, namely, Christian silent prayer as exemplified in the anonymous fourteenth-century handbook, The Cloud of Unknowing. It then situates these two formational practices within the broader social imaginary that dominates late-modern, North Atlantic life, and ventures a few suggestions about the significance of this overlap for Christian ethics, specifically at the end of life.


Originally published in Studies in Christian Ethics, given permission to publish by Studies in Christian Ethics.

Volume. 32, Number. 1 (2019)

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