woman_pounding_maize, Diego Rivera, Mexico, 1924

the little things

There is a Tibetan saying popular in mindfulness circles: “If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.”


When I remember this saying, my heart releases what it’s fixated on, and it’s almost always fixated or worrying about something.

Sylvia Boorstein once quipped that she is a “recovering worrier.”

That’s me. And my ongoing recovery is a very bumpy ride.

yielding to the present

My anxiety and fear about the world out there and the world in here start to thaw a little when I yield to the present, changing from overwhelm to saying yes, I can handle this.

And it starts with the little things. Watching the formation of a toothpaste stripe, putting on socks to go to work, looking for my cell phone, again.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “The little things, the little moments? They aren’t little.”

the little way

I feel fortunate to have to have discovered some years back the extraordinary teachings of the Carmelite saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote of a “Little Way” to the fullness of life, a way to joy, to happiness, to peace.

And the Little Way she lived and wrote about she said is very straight and short. You access it, she says, in the present moment, in your life just as it is.

St. Therese was a cloistered nun who lived in 19th century France, who died a painful death at the tender age of 24, from tuberculosis. Her “Little Way” is about discovering the spiritual in the little things of ordinary life. She was inspired by Jesus’ words: “Whosoever is a little one, come to me.”

a path of awareness and surrender

This little way is a path, she would say, of awareness and willingness, of gratitude and surrender, of confidence, and above all, of love. Mother Teresa summed up the Little Way like this:

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

restoring a caring connection

This process draws us to a deeper, caring connection with ourselves and with others. I love the way Sylvia Boorstein puts this:

“Restoring a caring connection when it is disrupted, and maintaining it when it is present, is happiness. Not leads to happiness. Is happiness. With that as my core belief, mindfulness of a caring connection is for me, the key element of spiritual practice.”

Takamaro Shigaraki, a Japanese Buddhist philosopher who died a couple of years ago, has a wonderful description of this kind of intimate connection that he writes about between a person and a flower in his book A Life of Awakening. He writes:

“When we deeply look into the thing the eye that looks becomes the thing that is seen. As we see the tulip we enter the life of the flower. Becoming one with the life of the tulip we come to know the tulip and to see the tulip. Conversely stated, the life of the tulip reaches our lives and into the deepest parts of our hearts and minds, and there we ourselves come to know that tulip’s heart and mind as well as its life and the meaning of its existence, and this way of seeing is called awakening.” 

intimacy and vulnerability

I find these moments just happen sometimes — I feel intimate with my own vulnerability, and with my blue Hydro Flask, or the dishes, my wife and kids, or the bills that just pile up.

When I deeply feel my own vulnerability and dependence on others, my heart softens, and I sense the earthy leavening of love.

Ursula Le Guin reminds us, “Love must be remade each day, baked fresh like bread.”

Can we find moments in our life when we can yield to this simple process at the heart of our mindfulness practice?


Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.

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