For as quiet and serene as most mindfulness landscapes and experts appear, the actual act of becoming conscious and aware of oneself, one’s thoughts and one’s environment is remarkably difficult, at least at first. There are so many distractions in today’s world that keep us looking for something else, someone else, and even some time else. Our brains yearn for what’s coming next, while our souls feel most at peace in the now. It’s easy to get trapped in how easy it is to disconnect from the present and log into some other time and some other place. It’s a little bit harder to stay here, and now.
The good news about mindfulness is that it in no way is something to be mastered immediately. In fact, if it feels difficult at first, you’re on the right path. Total awareness requires energy and effort. It is something that can last for a second or a moment and change everything. The even better news is that you can start again with each breath, even if you lose it for a minute or a year. Mindfulness is always an option.
If you are trying to get in on the peace and universal joy of being in the present moment, but need a refresher course on how to do it and why it’s important, here are 20 quotes from Zen masters, writers, musicians, and thought leaders on what mindfulness means to them and how they choose to practice it.
1. “The English word “mindfulness” is the usual translation for the Pali word sati. Most generally, sati means to hold something in awareness. When the Chinese translated Indian Buddhist terms into Chinese characters, sati became a character with two halves: the top half is the character for “the present moment” and the bottom half is the character for “heart.” The combination suggests that mindfulness is connected to the heart, to being “heartfelt in the present moment.” It points to the possibility of holding our experience in our hearts, to having an accepting, soft, and spacious awareness toward whatever is occurring.” — Gil Fronsdal
2. “You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
3. “Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” – Amit Ray
4. “Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” – Nhat Hanh
5. “Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.” – Marie Lu
6. “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu
7. “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” – Mother Teresa
8. “Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra
9. “The only true thing is what’s in front of you right now.” – Ramona Ausubel
10. “Live today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments. Don’t rent them out to tomorrow. Do you know what you’re doing when you spend a moment wondering how things are going to turn out? You’re cheating yourself out of today. Today is calling to you, trying to get your attention, but you’re stuck on tomorrow, and today trickles away like water down a drain. You wake up the next morning and that today you wasted is gone forever. It’s now yesterday. Some of those moments may have had wonderful things in store for you , but now you’ll never know.” – Jerry Spinelli
11. “Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.” – Pema Chödrön
12. “Some moments are for Instagram, some are just for the moment itself. We’re encouraged to document everything important that happens to us. Birthdays, proposals, baby’s first this or that, crazy nights out when everyone’s outfit is on point. It’s cool, we all do it. What gets tricky is when something great happens and you didn’t capture it, then you feel this sense of loss. That sense of loss and anxiety that you didn’t get to your phone fast enough then completely overtakes the magic of the moment that just took place. So lately, I’ve learned to really live my life, and not worry so much about documenting every split second of it. The most magical, exquisite, spontaneous things happen when there is no time to grab your phone. The best moments of my life have been too fragile, too fleeting, too magical to even try to document them with a camera. And I wish you a lifetime of moments too beautiful to capture on film.” – Taylor Swift
13. “Meditation. There is nothing to do. It is about undoing.” – Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoch
14. “What would I do if you never came here?’ But I was ALWAYS coming here. I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
15. “Someone else’s action should not determine your response.” – Dalai Lama
16. “With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice.” – Oprah Winfrey
17. “Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau
18. “‘What day is it?’
‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.
‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”
– A.A. Milne
19. “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
20. “I’m pretty much done with mindfulness. I’m just going to start paying attention.” – Gina Barreca
This post originated on Soul Anatomy.