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Secret? There is no secret.

There is no secret to mindfulness. It's just a practice and, like all practices (why do you think they call it a practice?), it takes work to become good at it.

Mindfulness doesn't take away the heartbreak of losing a loved one. It doesn't ward off disease or disaster. Mindfulness doesn't make the mountain of work on your desk go away or the baby stop crying in the middle of the night or the traffic suddenly disappear and green lights shine on endlessly ahead.

Life can be hard, and as we lurch headlong into the end-of-year-holiday-consumerism-overload season it can get even harder. Add on top of all that pressure the year-end deadlines imposed by your calendar and toss into the mix life's normal curveballs and you've got the potential for a volatile mix. So, even when life is good, this is a good time of year to think about what it means to practice mindfulness.

Practice means you are doing your best with what you've got right now (sometimes, you've got more, sometimes less). Practice is what you do when you're just learning the ropes and it's what you do when you've mastered the most difficult step so far. It's all still practice. Practice is realizing that all you ever have is your attitude, your thoughts, your heart, your self.

So, as this week traditionally invites us to practice gratitude, I invite you to head into Monday, Tuesday and the coming weeks with an open heart -- a heart of compassion for yourself and for others -- and a reminder to practice. You can practice with just a few deep breaths or a short walk. You can take a time out and just sit. Allow yourself to be whatever you are in any moment. Mindfulness doesn't care if life is just great or just terrible. Your practice isn't going to change the world "out there." But it can change the way you are in the world.

And, I'll tell you a secret: If we were all regular practitioners of mindfulness, then the world would indeed be a different place.

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