Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, 1994

Work at allowing more things to unfold in your life without forcing them to happen and without rejecting the ones that don’t fit your idea of what “should” be happening. pp. 46

Amazon Link

A collection of very short essays on the philosophy of meditation, the rationales and benefits of meditation, and different strategies you can use to guide or enhance your meditation.          

I don’t think this book broke much new ground for me, as I’d done other reading on the topic and have watched a few videos that discussed meditation in similar ways.  The book does contain a number of quotes that nicely summarize the main principles contained here and in other sources.  I feel that the book wasn’t designed to be completed in a short span.  It seems more like a daily devotional or guide book for people who are engaging in meditation frequently.  Maybe a week could be spent on each essay within the context of meditation/quiet time.

Again, implementation of what’s discussed here is more important than reading it through quickly, as I did.  I was, in a way, happy to discover that the main principles he discusses were nothing new.  A few of the strategies, like imagining yourself to be a mountain or a lake were new to me, as well as bit hokey.  However, having such an image in mind appeals to me, as it scaffolds the experience in a way that makes meditation seem more possible than silent meditation.

I’d be interested to learn more about the personal life of Jon Kabat-Zinn—what inspired him to dedicate so much effort to meditation and educating people about meditation.  I also find it interesting that he is rather professionally accomplished, which seems at odds with a serious meditative practice (at least at first glance).

Ideas per Page:1 3/10 (low)

Related Books: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana; The Dhammapada translated by Gil Fronsdal

Recommend to Others: Only with pre-existing interest

Reread Personally:  No, I think other Buddhist sources first or reread Plain English first

Quotes:

11 If you did die, all your responsibilities and obligations would immediately evaporate. Their residue would somehow get worked out without you. No one else can take over your unique agenda. It would die or peter out with you just as it has for everyone else who has ever died.

26 One practical way to do this is to look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.

47 These inner qualities which support meditation practice cannot be imposed, legislated, or decreed. They can only be cultivated, and this only when you have reached the point where your inner motivation is strong enough to want to cease contributing to your own suffering and confusion and perhaps to that of others.

55 part of our mind is constantly evaluating our experiences, comparing them with other experiences or holding them up against expectations and standards that we create, often out of fear. Fear that I’m not good enough, that bad things will happen, that good things won’t last, that other people might hurt me, that I won’t get my way, that only I know anything, that I’m the only one who doesn’t know anything.

59 If we are unaware of what we are doing a good deal of the time, and we don’t particularly like the way things turn out in our lives, perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention, to be more in touch, to observe the choices we make and their consequences down the road.

61 See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation—to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.

62 practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.

76 It doesn’t mean trying to change or be different from how you are, calm when you’re not feeling calm, or kind when you really feel angry. Rather, it is bearing in mind what is most important to you so that it is not lost or betrayed in the heat and reactivity of a particular moment.

88 This means in part acknowledging that sometimes, often at very crucial times, you really have no idea where you are going or even where the path lies. At the same time, you can very well know something about where you are now (even if it is knowing that you are lost, confused, enraged, or without hope).

94 Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself. The watching is the holding. By watching your thoughts without being drawn into them, you can learn something profoundly liberating about thinking itself, which may help you to be less of a prisoner of those thought patterns—often so strong in us—which are narrow, inaccurate, self-involved, habitual to the point of being imprisoning, and also just plain wrong.

109 This includes a deep knowing that whatever is present, whatever has happened to shake your life or overwhelm you, will of itself inevitably change,

115 But he had trained himself to march to the drumbeat of his own growing vision of what constituted wise action.

183 I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.

196 Look virtually anywhere and you will find broken relationships, broken families, broken people—wanderers with no roots, lost, going from this place to that, this job to that, this relationship to that, this idea of salvation to that, in the desperate hope that the right person, the right job, the right place, the right book will make it all better.

238 everything is interdependent and that there is no isolated, independent core “you.” You are only you in relationship to all other forces and events in the world—including your parents, your childhood, your thoughts and feelings, outside events, time, and so on.

239 We might begin by taking things a little less personally. When something happens, try to see it without the self-orientation, just for fun. Maybe it just happened. Maybe it’s not aimed at you.

240 you can stop taking yourself so damn seriously and get out from under the pressures of having the details of your personal life be central to the operating of the universe.

255 Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.     –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters

262 meditation really is the one human activity in which you are not trying to get anywhere else but simply allowing yourself to be where and as you already are. This is a bitter medicine to swallow when you don’t like what is happening or where you find yourself, but it is especially worth swallowing at such times.


1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.

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