Every Moment is Equally Worthy of Mindfulness

This article originally appeared on A Little Death Blog. It has been lightly modified for publication here:

I was at a short retreat at a Buddhist center one weekend in early 2011. The practices that weekend were diverse, including sitting meditation, walking meditation in nature and in the temple, cleaning and cooking, and contemplation of texts. The teacher explained that when he suggested contemplation of specific texts, this did not mean thinking about the text or analyzing the text. It meant reading the text and resting in the experience of the meaning. The reading could be done freely – that is, reading the text over and over, or pausing on a specific phrase and repeating that gently, immersing oneself in the experience of it. This practice of immersing in a text is called lectio divina in contemplative Christianity.

We were given a text and 90 minutes of silent time during which we could sit or walk while contemplating.

On this particular day the text included a line which jumped out at me and which I then took as my sole object of contemplation for the entire session. I walked slowly back and forth in the parking lot, in the cold winter air, repeating it slowly to myself.

The line was: “Every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness.”

When I first read it, I recall a mental jolt. “What? What do you mean every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness?” Since little jolts like that are always a good sign that you’ve hit a spot that needs attention, I stuck with that phrase. “Every moment…” I thought. “Every moment? Like… this one? And this one?” I brought my full attention to this very moment, as much as I was able. “This moment, right now. This moment. Equally worthy of mindfulness. Right now.”

I continued this immersion in the text for the duration of the 90 minutes. But it never left my mind. Again and again in the following months it would rise back to the surface and poke at me and I would contemplate it anew.

One day it finally made sense. It describes perfectly the intimacy and presence that awakening brings. Every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness because to prioritize one moment over another is to divide things. When we think some moments are special, we cling to them. When we think some moments are annoying, we reject them. When we find some moments boring, we ignore them. When we divide things into “special” and “not special” we apply our preferences and preconceptions to the truth of our experience as it actually is.

If we practice paying close attention to every moment equally, we see more clearly where we like and dislike the moment, and where we want to struggle, change things, keep things and reject things. When we let go of that division, every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness simply because it is no longer possible not to be mindful of every moment equally.

This remains one of my favorite teachings.

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