Mindfulness meditation can be seen as an examination of our present moment experience to reveal the ways we make things harder than they need to be.
An example: I’ve been sitting with a lot of old anger and sadness lately. A several-years-long process of finding and emptying pools of old, stored emotion is still very much in progress. But mindfulness is all about the present moment. Even with pools of “old, stored” emotion and a “several-years-long” process, mindfulness only asks “What’s happening in this moment?”
I had lost sight of that this morning, and on some very subtle level, I was making things harder for myself, suffering over the seeming endlessness of this heavy work. And then I just happened to notice this “endlessness narrative” that I was running, and in that moment of noticing, it stopped. One more bit of tightness loosened. One little bit of habitual resistance released. I said to myself, “you don’t need to change anything. You only need to watch the system, exactly as it is, for 45 minutes.”
From the mindful perspective, it doesn’t matter how many times an experience has happened before. No two moments are identical anyway. And it doesn’t matter how many more times an experience might happen, or how “long the road might be.” It’s not possible to know, and it’s only ever now.
This journey we’re on doesn’t finish. We don’t “arrive at a destination.” It’s amazing how many times and ways I need to hear this. The understanding comes gradually, like the weathering of a stone.
The more we feel that it’s only ever this moment, the more motivated we are to engage, embrace it, seize it. That means feeling what needs to be felt, so that fear of feeling doesn’t diminish our freedom. And that in turn means cultivating a huge heart—a heart bigger than the fear. A heart with room for the fear. A heart with room to see all the moments already missed and opportunities lost without buckling under the weight of it. A heart with forgiveness and patience, willing to witness the ways we’re still stuck, so this beautiful spiral of seeing suffering, feeling freedom, and engaging more deeply can continue.