I was reading an interview recently with Jon Kabat-Zinn and it brought up some things I have been thinking about that I will share with you. If you are not familiar with the name, Jon Kabat-Zinn, back in 1979, introduced the world to what would become Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It was originally used for pain management but now we know it also helps with depression, anxiety and a variety of other mental and psychological issues. His book Wherever You Go, There You Are, was one of the many I studied in the mid 90s trying to escape my emotional chaos.
My take-away from this interview? Seeing the extraordinary everyday is part of the path. If you look, you will find it.
TG: Is what you do “secular mindfulness”?
JKZ: I assiduously avoid the word secular. As soon as you say secular mindfulness, you’re abstracting the sacred out of it.
TG: The sacred?
JKZ: It’s not really about the breathing, or the object of attention, but it’s the attending itself. We are so seduced by thinking and emotion and we don’t realize that awareness is at least as powerful of a function. It can hold any emotion, no matter how destructive, any thought, no matter how gigantic.
That’s where the transformative power lies, that you’re adding a measure of deep introspection and perception to ordinary experience. And then realizing: There is no such thing as ‘ordinary experience.’ Everything is extraordinary.
TG: Seeing the extraordinary in the everyday is part of the path.
JKZ: Mindfulness represents a new way of being in relationship with yourself, one that’s catalytic of a new way of ongoing learning and healing. The transformation comes with the understanding that you are not your thoughts about yourself. You are far far bigger, more nuanced and multidimensional than who you think you are, the story of you.
In some sense, it’s befriending yourself. You don’t have to meditate in a cave for 50 years; you just need to realize that. These meditative practices are really meant to recognize and learn to inhabit that domain of being, as opposed to fragment it into the sacred-secular divide, the mind-body divide, or the self-other divide.