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About the book

What if you could profoundly change your life just by becoming more mindful of your breathing? According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, you can. What if paying attention on purpose (and nonjudgmentally) could improve your health? Again, according to Dr. Kabat-Zinn–it can.

On Mindfulness for Beginners, this internationally known scientist, bestselling author, and teacher who brought mindfulness meditation into the mainstream of medicine and society gives you immediate access to a practice that can potentially add years to your life, and will certainly enhance the quality of your moments and your years.

Buy book: Amazon

Year published: 2006


Quotes from the book

Mindfulness for Beginners (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

  • Our lives are simply bigger than thought.
  • Nothing is to be clung to as ‘I,’ ‘me,’ or ‘mine.
  • Paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
  • Thinking seems to constitute our default setting rather than awareness.
  • In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.
  • If you are aware of what is happening, you are doing it right, no matter what is happening.
  • As long as you are breathing there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.
  • The Tibetans sometimes describe thoughts as writing on water, in essence empty, insubstantial, and transient.
  • It is the awareness that is of primary importance, no matter what the objects are that we are paying attention to.
  • Perhaps over time we can adjust our default setting to one of greater mindfulness rather than of mindlessness and being lost in thought.
  • Mindfulness reminds us that it is possible to shift from a doing mode to a being mode through the application of attention and awareness.
  • The entirety of our mind is by its very nature deep, vast, intrinsically still and quiet, like the depths of the ocean.
  • Attention and the awareness that arises from it are the doorway to true education and learning — life-long gifts that keep deepening with use.
  • If we are not careful, it is all too easy to fall into becoming more of a human doing than a human being, and forget who is doing all the doing, and why.
  • The challenge for mindfulness is to be present for your experience as it is rather than immediately jumping in to change it or try to force it to be different.
  • Awareness is at least as important and useful to us as thinking. In fact, it is demonstrably more powerful in that any thought, no matter how profound, can be held in awareness.
  • When you begin to question the narrative of yourself and inquire as to who is even doing all of this talking inside your own head, you may come to realize that you have no idea!
  • The challenge for each of us is to find out who we are and to live our way into our own calling.we do this by paying close attention to all aspects of life as they unfold in the present moment.
  • We can feel victimized by our thoughts, or blinded by them. We can easily mis-take them for the truth or for reality when in actuality they are just waves on its surface, however tumultuous they may be at times.
  • The discipline I am referring to is really the willingness to bring the spaciousness and clarity of awareness back over and over again to whatever is going on — even as we feel we are being pulled in a thousand different directions.
  • If you can’t entirely trust what you think, what about trusting awareness? What about trusting your heart? What about trusting your motivation to at least do no harm? What about trusting your experience until it’s proven to be inaccurate — and then trusting that discovery?
  • If you are completely preoccupied with what is already known, you can’t make the leap into that other dimension of creativity or imagination or poetry, or whatever it is that allows for seeing a hidden order in things which, until it is seen and realized, it isn’t seen at all.
  • All this can dissolve in a moment, when awareness apprehends what is actually unfolding … like the soap bubble being touched by the finger. Liberation from suffering in that very moment. Liberation from greed, hatred, and delusion. Now for the next moment, which, of course, is this one.
  • There are an infinite number of ways in which people suffer. Therefore, there must be an infinite number of ways in which the Dharma is made available to people. What he meant by Dharma was the universal teachings of the Buddha on suffering and the possibility of liberation from suffering.
  • We certainly do need a foundation in critical thinking and in analytical and deductive reasoning in order to understand the world and not be totally lost or overwhelmed by it. So thinking — precise, keen, critical thinking — is an extremely important faculty we need to develop, refine, and
  • It’s very important as a beginner that you understand right from the start that meditation is about befriending your thinking, about holding it gently in awareness, no matter what is on your mind in a particular moment. It is not about shutting off your thoughts or changing them in any way.
  • Each moment is an opportunity to see that we do not have to succumb to old habits that function below the level of our awareness. With great intentionality and resolve, we can experiment with non-distraction. We can experiment with non-diversion. We can experiment with non-fixing. We can experiment with non-doing.
  • You think of meditation as any way in which we engage in (1) systematically regulating our attention and energy (2) thereby influencing and possibly transforming the quality of our experience (3) in the service of realizing the full range of our humanity and of (4) our relationships to others and the world. Ultimately,
  • We see that thoughts, when brought into and held in awareness in this way, readily lose their power to dominate and dictate our responses to life, no matter what their content and emotional charge. They then become workable rather than imprisoning. And thus, we become a bit freer in the knowing and the recognizing of them as events in the field of awareness.
  • Mindfulness as a practice provides endless opportunities to cultivate greater intimacy with your own mind and to tap into and develop your deep interior resources for learning, growing, healing, and potentially for transforming your understanding of who you are and how you might live more wisely and with greater well-being, meaning, and happiness in this world.
  • There really is no place to go in this moment. We are already here. Can we be here fully? There really is nothing do to. Can we let go into non-doing, into pure being? There really is nothing to attain, no special state or feeling, because whatever you are experiencing in this moment is already special, already extraordinary, by virtue of the fact that it is being experienced.
  • It is a bit like television sports commentary. There is what is actually going on in the game, and then there is the endless commentary. When you begin a formal meditation practice, it is almost inevitable that you will now be subject to meditation commentary to one degree or another. It can fill the space of the mind. Yet it is not the meditation any more than the play-by-play is the game itself.
  • not get caught in their habitual patterning, to see thoughts for what they are, impersonal events, and instead be the knowing that awareness already is. Then, in that moment at least, we are already free, ready to act with greater clarity and kindness within the constantly changing field of events that is nothing other than life unfolding — not always as we think it should, but definitely as it is.
  • When we don’t automatically take thoughts personally or believe the stories about “reality” that we build from them, when we can simply hold them in awareness with a sense of curiosity and wonder at their amazing power given their insubstantiality, their limitations, and inaccuracies, then we have a chance right in that moment, in any moment really, to not get caught in their habitual patterning, to see thoughts for what they are,impersonal events.
  • In this way, clear seeing also means clear hearing, clear smelling, clear tasting, clear touching, and clear knowing, which would include knowing what’s on your mind, and therefore knowing both what you are thinking and what emotions are visiting, and therefore feeling what you are feeling, grounded in the body, whether it be fear or anger or sadness, frustration, irritation, impatience, annoyance, satisfaction, empathy, compassion, happiness, or anything else.
  • Sometimes shutting off the sound on the television can allow you to actually watch the game and take it in in an entirely different and more direct way — a first-order, first-person experience — rather than filtered through the mind of another. In the case of meditation it is the same, except your own thoughts are doing the broadcast commentary, turning a first-order direct experience of the moment into a second-order story about it: how hard it is, how great it is, and on and on and on.
  • The attitude of letting go, of letting things be as they are, of non-attachment, does not imply a condition of reactive distancing or detachment, and is not to be confused with passivity, dissociative behaviors, or attempts to separate yourself even the tiniest bit from reality. It is not a pathological condition of withdrawal adopted to protect yourself. Nor is it nihilistic. It is exactly opposite: a supremely healthy condition of heart and mind. It means embracing the whole of reality in a new way.
  • The future that we want – this is it. This is the future of all the previous thoughts you’ve ever had about the future. You’re in it. You’re already in it. What is the purpose of all this living if it’s only to get some place else and then when you’re there you’re not happy anyway, you want to be some place else. It’s always for ‘when I retire,’ ‘when I graduate college,’ ‘when I make enough money,’ ‘when I get married,’ ‘when I get divorced,’ ‘when the kids move out.’ It’s like, wait a minute, this is it. This is your life. We only have moments. This moment’s as good as any other. It’s perfect.
  • When you practice mindfulness, the first thing you are likely to notice is how mindless you can be. Let’s say you decide to focus on the feeling of the breath moving in and out of the body. It is happening in the present moment. It is important. You can’t live without breathing. It is not hard to locate the sensations in the body associated with breathing, at the belly or in the chest, or at the nostrils. You might find yourself saying, What is the big deal? I will just keep my focus on the breath. Well, lots of luck with that one. Because invariably, you will find that the mind has a life of its own and is not interested in taking orders from you about staying focused on the breath or anything else. So it is very likely that you will find your attention dissipating over and over again, forgetting about this breath in this moment, and being preoccupied with something else — anything else — in spite of your own best intentions. This is just part and parcel of the landscape of meditation practice, and it tells you something about the nature of your own mind.