It is only fair for me to point out right from the start, in the spirit of full disclosure, that the cultivation of mindfulness may just be the hardest work in the world.
Ironically, to grow into the fullness of who we actually already are is the challenge of a lifetime for each of us as human beings. No one can take on that work for us. It can only be our own undertaking in response to our own calling—and only if we care deeply about living the life that is authentically ours to live, in the face of everything that we may be called to engage with, being human.
At the same time, the work of cultivating mindfulness is also play. It is far too serious to take too seriously—and I say this in all seriousness!—if for no other reason than because it really is about our entire life. It makes sense for a lightness of being and playfulness to be key elements of the practice of mindfulness, because they are key elements of well-being.
If you can be mindful in this moment, it is possible for the next moment to be hugely and creatively different. —Jon Kabat-Zinn
Ultimately, mindfulness can become an effortless, seamless element of our life, a way for our very being to express itself authentically, with integrity. In this regard, no one’s trajectory in cultivating mindfulness and the benefits that may come from it is the same as anyone else’s. The challenge for each of us is to find out who we are and to live our way into our own calling. We do this by paying close attention to all aspects of life as they unfold in the present moment. Obviously, no one else can undertake this work for you, just as no one can live your life for you—no one, that is, except you yourself.
What I have said so far may not make full sense to you. In fact, it can’t possibly make complete sense until you take your own seat and extend that gesture over time—until you commit to engaging in the formal and informal cultivation of mindfulness, supported by the aspiration to look and to see for yourself how things might actually be behind the veil of appearances and the stories we are so skilled at telling ourselves about how things are—even though they may not be true at all, or are only partially true.
Taking Care of This Moment
When it comes to mindfulness, each of us brings our own genius to adventures of this kind. Moreover, we cannot help but make use of and build on everything that has come before in our lives, even if much of it was—and perhaps still is—painful.
When it comes right down to it, our entire past, whatever it has been, however much pain and suffering it has included, becomes the very platform for doing the work of inhabiting the present moment with awareness, equanimity, clarity, and caring. You need the past that you have; it is raw clay on the potter’s wheel. It is both the work and the adventure of a lifetime not to be trapped in either our past or our ideas and concepts, but rather to reclaim the only moment we ever really have, which is always this one.
Taking care of this moment can have a remarkable effect on the next one and therefore on the future—yours and the world’s. If you can be mindful in this moment, it is possible for the next moment to be hugely and creatively different—because you are aware and not imposing anything on it in advance.
Adapted from Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat Zinn. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Kabat-Zinn.