Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Professor of Medicine Emeritus and Founding Director of Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society

"Love and kindness are here all the time, somewhere, in fact, everywhere. Usually our ability to touch them and be touched by them lies buried below our own fears and hurts, below our greed and our hatreds, below our desperate clinging to the illusion that we are truly separate and alone."

"Mindful inquiry can heal low self-esteem, for the simple reason that a low self-estimation is really a wrong calculation, a misperception of reality."

"Parenting and family life can be a perfect field for mindfulness practice, but it’s not for the weak-hearted, the selfish or lazy, or the hopelessly romantic. Parenting is a mirror that forces you to look at yourself. If you can learn from what you observe you just may have a chance to keep growing yourself."

"The elusive nature of a concrete, permanent, unchanging self is quite a hopeful observation. It means that 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. By recognizing and letting go of selfing impulses, we accord the universe a little more room to make things happen. Since we are folded into the universe and participate in its unfolding, it will deter in the face of too much self-centered, self-indulgent, self-critical, self-insecure, self-anxious activity on our part, and arrange for the dream world of our self-oriented thinking to look and feel only too real."

"Our happiness, satisfaction, and our understanding, even of God, will be no deeper than our capacity to know ourselves inwardly, to encounter the outer world from the deep comfort that comes from being at home in one’s own skin, from an intimate familiarity with the ways of one’s own mind and body."

"You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness?"

"The willingness to harm or hurt comes ultimately out of fear. Non-harming requires that you see your own fears and that you understand them and own them. Owning them means taking responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means not letting fear completely dictate your vision or your view. Only mindfulness completely dictate your vision or your view. Only mindfulness of our own clinging and rejecting, and a willingness to grapple with these mind states, however painful the encounter, can free us from this circle of suffering. Without a daily embodiment in practice, lofty ideals tend to succumb to self-interest."

"Our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation."

"We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are inter-connected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves."

"All faces resemble each other, yet how easily we see in each uniqueness, individuality, an identity. How deeply we value these differences... Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living. So there can be no one place to be. There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known."

"Most of us are so absorbed in anticipating the future that we spend little time enjoying the present."

"Ultimately, it is our mindlessness that imprisons us. We get better and better at being out of touch with the full range of our possibilities, and more and more stuck in our cultivated-over-a-lifetime habits of not-seeing, but only reacting and blaming... We can all be imprisoned by incessant wanting, by a mind clouded with ideas and opinions it clings to as if they were truths."

"Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, a seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous. If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense... Perhaps the most ‘spiritual’ thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness."

"The spirit of inquiry is fundamental to living mindfully... Inquiry doesn’t mean looking for answers, especially quick answers which come out of superficial thinking. It means asking without expecting answers, just pondering the question, carrying the wondering with you."

"Voluntary simplicity keeps me mindful of what is important, of an ecology of mind and body and world in which everything is interconnected and every choice has far-reaching consequences. You don’t get to control it at all. But choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more."

"What is required to participate more fully in our own health and well-being is simply to listen more carefully and to trust what we hear, to trust the messages from our own life, from our own body and mind and feelings."

"You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

"The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little."

"Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking, although it makes no use of thinking, honoring it's value and it's power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking, helping us to see and know our thought as thought rather than getting caught up in them as reality."

"Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living. So there can be no one place to be. There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known. The particulars count."

"You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom."

"Discipline provides a constancy which is independent of what kind of day you had yesterday and what kind of day you anticipate today."

"Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now."

"We are simply inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now."

"Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done."

"Wherever you go, there you are."

"Intelligence is the door to freedom and alert attention is the mother of intelligence."

"When experience is viewed in a certain way, it presents nothing but doorways into the soul."

"If we are honest with ourselves, most of us will have to admit that we live out our lives in an ocean of fear. "

"The habit of ignoring our present moments in favor of others yet to come leads directly to a pervasive lack of awareness of the web of life in which we are embedded. This includes a lack of awareness and understanding of our own mind and how it influences our perceptions and our actions. It severely limits our perspective on what it means to be a person and how we are connected to each other and the world around us. Religion has traditionally been the domain of such fundamental inquiries within a spiritual framework, but mindfulness has little to do with religion, except in the most fundamental meaning of the word, as an attempt to appreciate the deep mystery of being alive and to acknowledge being vitally connected to all that exists."

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."

"Stillness, insight, and wisdom arise only when we can settle into being complete in this moment, without having to seek or hold on to or reject anything."

"Nothing is isolated. Each event connects with others. Things are constantly unfolding on different levels. It's for us to perceive the warp and woof of it all as best we can and learn to follow our own threads through the tapestry of life with authenticity and resolve."

"Healing is a coming to terms with things as they are, rather than struggling to force them to be as they once were, or as we would like them to be, to feel secure or to have what we sometimes think of as our own way."

"How we see and hold the full range of our experiences in our minds and in our hearts makes an enormous difference in the quality of this journey we are on and what it means to us. It can influence where we go, what happens, what we learn, and how we feel along the way. "

"More than anything else I have come to see meditation as a radical act of love, an inward gesture of benevolence and kindness toward ourselves and toward others, a gesture of the heart that recognizes our perfection even in our obvious imperfection, with all our shortcomings, our wounds, our attachments, our vexations, and our persistent habits of unawareness."

"Maybe the fear is that we are less than we think we are, when the actuality of it is that we are much much more."