A wise person told me that sometimes enlightenment happens all at once, like falling into a pond, but most of the time waking up happens gradually over time, like walking through heavy mist. It doesn't matter whether you fall into the pond or walk through the mist, either way you end up drenched.
When we walk through mist, it is difficult to look back and say exactly when we went from being dry to being wet. Mindfulness practice works in this way. We bring effort to noticing sensory experiences, just as they are and practice not trying to force them to be different. We work on breaking mundane experiences down into their component parts. We practice gently bringing our attention back to whatever we’ve decided to notice while letting other things operate in the background. We cultivate a persistent intention to savor the composition of our experience and loosening our grip on its content or meaning.
We practice day after day, breath after breath, touch after touch, sound after sound, image after image, emotion after emotion. Over time we notice that we have changed and that we continue to change. We are gradually eroding our constant interference with the natural flow of our lives.