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Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

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In this book, the author maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in one's own life. It speaks both to those coming to meditation for the first time and to longtime practitioners, anyone who cares deeply about reclaiming the richness of his or her moments.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Jon Kabat-Zinn

189 books1,724 followers
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria.

He is the author of numerous scientific papers on the clinical applications of mindfulness in medicine and health care, and of a number of books for the lay public: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Delta, 1991); Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion, 1994); Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2005); and Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2007). He is also co-author, with his wife Myla, of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Hyperion, 1997); and with Williams, Teasdale, and Segal, of The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Guilford, 2007). Overall, his books have been translated into over 30 languages.

His major research interests have focused on mind/body interactions for healing, clinical applications of mindfulness meditation training, the effects of MBSR on the brain, on the immune system, and on healthy emotional expression while under stress; on healing (skin clearing rates) in people with psoriasis; on patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation; with prison inmates and staff; in multicultural settings; and on stress in various corporate settings and work environments. His work in the Stress Reduction Clinic was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS Special, “Healing and the Mind” and in the book of the same title, as well as on Good Morning America, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and NPR. It has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into mainstream institutions such as medicine, and psychology, health care and hospitals, schools, corporations, the legal profession, prisons, and professional sports.

He has trained groups of CEOs, judges, members of the clergy, and Olympic athletes (the 1984 Olympic Men’s Rowing Team) and congressional staff in mindfulness. The Stress Reduction Clinic has served as the model for mindfulness-based clinical intervention programs at over 200 medical centers and clinics nation-wide and abroad.
Dr. Kabat-Zinn has received numerous awards over the span of his career. He is a founding fellow of the Fetzer Institute, and a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. He received the Interface Foundation Career Achievement Award, and the New York Open Center’s Tenth Year Anniversary Achievement in Medicine and Health Award (1994); the Art, Science, and Soul of Healing Award from the Institute for Health and Healing, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco (1998); the 2nd Annual Trailblazer Award for “pioneering work in the field of integrative medicine” from the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California (2001); the Distinguished Friend Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (2005), and an Inaugural Pioneer in Integrative Medicine Award from the Bravewell Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine (2007).

He is the founding convener of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, and serves on the Board of the Mind and Life Institute, a group that organizes dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists to promote deeper understanding of different ways of knowing and probing the nature of mind, emotions, and reality. He was co-program chair of the 2005 Mind and Life Dialogue: The Clinical Appl

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Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,023 followers
August 26, 2014

Dear Brother,

When you first asked me about how to practice meditation (was it last week?), I gave you a few vague answers and then dismissed it from my mind, thinking that while it is impressive that you consider it seriously, it is not really vital to you right now. But, yesterday when you spoke about how difficult it is to study for more than two hours continuously, I realized that there might be more to it. That conversation set me thinking about a concept called " Digital Natives ". You would definitely qualify to be one. Digital Natives are supposed to have shorter attention spans and a greater propensity to multi-task. They are more at home using technology or entertainment as well as education and even blend the two in exotic mixes. Most of the characteristics of the Digital Natives, like their appetite for knowledge, their openness to stimuli and their connectedness with this world of constant change, are all very positive traits. I too consider myself as a Native, even though, Tarun, who  introduced me to the concept would disagree and try to classify me as a Digital Immigrant.

Having said all that, we also have to consider if these so-called positive traits might not also have the negative effects that the older generation attributes to it? Could there be a fundamental fleetingness encroaching into our natures? Could small things like it being harder and harder to spend long hours concentrating and a lot of my friends complaining that they can hardly find the energy to read anymore be side-effects of this life-style? What can we do to keep the positive side of this information age and yet not lose our ability to concentrate and to put in focussed effort when required?

As I thought of these things, I felt that maybe meditation may indeed be the answer for you and many like you and also to myself. So I spent a few hours researching and browsing about on this and stumbled on this wonderful book about meditation. I kept you and sis in mind as I read this and I think I might have an adaptation of the ideas that might help in our daily lives that might help you enjoy your hours spent studying and also make them more productive as well as longer.

I hope you can find the fifteen minutes needed to read this rambling of mine. As I keep telling you, 24 hours is a long time and we all have more than enough time to do more than earn a living and worry about school during a day. We have more than enough time to read, to meditate, to sleep and dream and to take a quiet walk. Shall we start?

What is Meditation?

Think of this present moment as a mirror. A mirror reflecting the past and the future. You have to understand and accept this reflection of yourself in this mirror. You have to be aware of this present moment in all its depth and fullness. Do not judge it. Just know it. See it completely and entirely. Every. Single. Detail.

The present moment exists whether you like it or not. Whether it is enjoyable or not. And even if time passes, the mirror stays still. it is always the present moment in which you find yourselves. You cannot change it, you need not judge. You can only understand anad accept it. It just IS. If you can do this, only then will you know what to do next.

This practice is called "Mindfulness" and is the core of Meditation. I know the last two paragraphs might have been too abstract for your tastes, but indulge me and read it again please? Don't worry, even though I wrote it, I too don't understand it.

Unless we become "Mindful", we may never quite be where we actually are, never quite touch the fullness of our possibilities. Instead, we lock ourselves into a personal fiction that we already know who we are, that we know where we are and where we are going, that we know what is happening - all the while remaining enshrouded in thoughts, fantasies, and impulses.

To be "Mindful" is to wake up from this constant ignorance about yourself, your surroundings and your situation. To find your path in life, you will need to pay more attention to this present moment. It is the only time that we have in which to live, grow, feel, and change.

The work of waking up from these dreams is the work of Meditation, the systematic cultivation of wakefulness, of present-moment awareness. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely, the path that is your life. Meditation may help us see that this path we call our life has direction; that it is always unfolding, moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens next.

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It is an appreciation for the present moment and the cultivation of an intimate relationship with it through a continual attending to it with care and discernment. It is the direct opposite of taking life for granted. It has to do with waking up and seeing things as they are. In fact, the word "Buddha" simply means one who has awakened to his or her own true nature.

All these ordinary thoughts and impulses run through the mind like a coursing river, if not a waterfall. We get caught up in the torrent and it winds up submerging our lives as it carries us to places we may not wish to go and may not even realize we are headed for.

Meditation means learning how to get out of this current, sit by its bank and listen to it, learn from it, and then use its energies to guide us rather than to tyrannize us. This process doesn't magically happen by itself. It takes energy. We call the effort to cultivate our ability to be in the present moment "practice" or "meditation practice."

The Practice Of Meditation

I know that you like to sit and meditate. But is it the only way? Not really. You can meditate while sitting, while walking, while standing or while lying down. Once you have some practice, you can even meditate while eating and while bathing and even while studying. That should be the goal. To be able to live every moment with that wakeful awareness called "Mindfulness".

How to start then? I know it is hard to start meditating. there is always a hundred other things to do. You could be studying or reading or doing something else. DOING something is SO important. Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are. You have to learn to "Stop". Literally. Just stop doing things. Could you stop wanting to do things? Stop wanting to improve or get somewhere in life? For five minutes? Surely?

Once you have accepted this and is ready to meditate, try to ease into it. You may want to go to the next room first, to the drawing room or the kitchen. Then walk slowly and deliberately to the spot you have decided to meditate in. Meditate as you walk. As you approach the spot, stand there for some time. Meditate as you stand. Now, slowly and with dignity sit down.

Walking Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "Peace is every step."

Sometimes it is very difficult to just sit down. Walking is easier. Try walking formally before or after you sit. Try a period of walking meditation. Keep a continuity of mindfulness between the walking and the sitting. Ten minutes is good, or half an hour. Remember once again that it is not clock time we are concerned with here.

The walking is just as good as the sitting. What is important is how you keep your mind.

In walking meditation, you attend to the walking itself. Walking meditation can best be done by imagining a river. Imagine that you are a flowing river. Steady and changing, moving in time, but always yourself. Aware of every boulder and every turn. Be aware of every step.

Standing Meditation

Once you have reached the spot, don't abruptly sit down. Remember that we are trying to keep a continuity of mindfulness between the walking and the sitting. Stand still for some time and try to meditate. Standing Meditation is best learned from trees. Imagine yourself to be a tree. Feel your feet developing roots into the ground. Feel your body sway gently, as it always will, just as trees do in a breeze. Sense the tree closest to you. Listen to it, feel its presence.

You can try standing like this wherever you find yourself, in the school, in the football ground, by a river, in your living room, or just waiting for the bus.

Sitting Meditation

Finally, sit down. But sit down with an intention. Sit with dignity. It helps to come to the bed or to the chair or to the floor with a definite sense of taking your seat. Sitting meditation is different from just sitting down casually somewhere. Sitting down to meditate, our posture talks to us. It makes its own statement. If we slump, it reflects low energy, passivity, a lack of clarity. If we sit ramrod-straight, we are tense, making too much of an effort, trying too hard.

To describe the sitting posture, the word that feels the most appropriate is "dignity." If you are told to sit like a king from Lord of the Rings, how would you sit? That is dignity. A Royal Posture. I try to tell this to myself when I sit down to work, or write. To sit with dignity. You should try this while sitting down to study too. It makes a difference in you attitude. When we take our seat in meditation and remind ourselves to sit with dignity, we are coming back to our original worthiness. That in itself is quite a statement.

How you hold your hands is also important. that too is a way of making a statement, to yourself, to your mind. The hand positions are called "Mudras" in formal terminology and they embody different attitudes. There is no one right way to keep your hands. You may experiment with different ways yourself in meditation. Try sitting with your hands palms down on your knees. Notice the quality of self-containment here. This posture might feel to you as if you are not looking for anything more, but simply digesting what is. If you then turn both palms up, being mindful as you do it, you may note a change in energy in the body. Sitting this way might embody receptivity, an openness to what is above, to the energy of the heavens. I personally prefer the hands kept together in the lap, with the fingers of one hand lying atop the fingers of the other, the thumb-tips gently touching as if I hold the universe in me.

All our hand postures are supposed to be mudras in that they are associated with subtle or not-so-subtle energies. Take the energy of the fist, for instance. Try making a fists as if in anger. Feel the tension, the hatred, the anger, the aggression, and the fear which it contains. Then, in the midst of your anger, as an experiment, try opening your fists and placing the palms together over your heart in the prayer position. This is probably what Gandhiji did when he was assassinated at point-blank range. He put his palms together in this way toward his attacker, uttered his mantra, and died.

Now, on to the meditation itself. In Sitting Meditation, the image of a mountain might be most helpful. Imagine yourself to be a mountain, invoking qualities of elevation, massiveness, majesty, unmovingness, rootedness - bring these qualities directly into your posture and attitude.

How long should you sit like this? As long as you like, of course. It is quality not quantity that matters. Forming the intention to practice and then seizing a moment - any moment - and encountering it fully in your inward and outward posture, lies at the core of mindfulness. Long and short periods of practice are both equally good. In a line six inches long, there are an infinite number of points, and in a line one inch long there are just as many. Well, then, how many moments are there in fifteen minutes, or five, or ten, or forty-five? It turns out we have plenty of time, if we are willing to hold any moments at all in awareness.

Once you are sitting, there are many ways to approach the present moment. All involve paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally. What varies is what you attend to and how.

It is best to keep things simple and start with your breathing, feeling it as it moves in and out.

Sit and watch the moments unfold, with no agenda other than to be fully present. Use the breath as an anchor to tether your attention to the present moment. Your thinking mind will drift here and there, depending on the currents and winds moving in the mind until, at some point, the anchor line grows taut and brings you back. This may happen a lot. Bring your attention back to the breath, in all its vividness, every time it wanders. Keep the posture erect but not stiff. Think of yourself as the mountain.


Our breathing can help us in capturing our moments. It's surprising that more people don't know about this. After all, the breath is always here, right under our noses.

To use your breathing to nurture mindfulness, just tune in to the feeling of it - the feeling of the breath coming into your body and the feeling of the breath leaving your body. That's all. Just feeling the breath. Breathing and knowing that you're breathing.

Use your breath to help you to stay in the moment - feeling your own body standing, breathing, being, moment by moment. Thoughts will come up which will pull your attention away. Work with those perceptions, thoughts, feelings and impulses, memories and anticipations. Accept them. Reflect them in the mirror that is the present moment. See them clearly and let them go with the outgoing breath.

Ending The Meditation

Toward the end, if you are not particularly attentive, before you know it you'll be off doing something else, with no awareness whatsoever of how the meditation came to an end. The transition will be a blur at best. You can bring mindfulness to this process by being in touch with the thoughts and impulses which tell you it's time to stop. Whether you've been still for an hour or for three minutes, a powerful feeling all of a sudden may say, "This is enough." Or you look at your watch and it's the time you said you would quit.

As you recognize such an impulse, breathe with it for a few moments, and ask yourself, "Who has had enough?" Try looking into what is behind the impulse. Is it fatigue, boredom, pain, impatience; or is it just time to stop? Whatever the case, rather than automatically leaping up or moving on, try lingering with whatever arises out of this inquiry, breathing with it for a few moments or even longer, and allowing the moving out of your meditation posture to be as much an object of moment-to-moment awareness as any other moment in the meditation. Bring awareness to how you end your meditations. Don't judge it or yourself in any way. Just observe, and stay in touch with the transition from one thing to the next.

You may even do the Standing Meditation and then the Walking Meditation again to end the period of Meditation. Stand up slowly, imagine being a Tree. Become a River and flow out of your room. Go to the balcony, enjoy the breeze as a tree again and then come back refreshed for a fresh day of studying.

This technique of learning to transition slowly in and out of things might soon help you to do things that you consider "tasks" to be accomplished more easily. Adopt this attitude before you start your daily exercise, before you sit down to study, before you go jogging, maybe even as you sit down to write the board exams. Let a continuum help you shift gears into things, so that you don;t postpone or cancel them.

Also use the technique of examining your intentions when you feel the need to stop an activity. Imagine you are studying, or jogging, or exercising. You feel the need to stop. Ask yourself why. Are you tired? Whatever be the answer, breathe with it a few times. Breathe with this idea that you want to stop. Then continue the activity for some more time. The more your practice this, the more you will find that your attention span is increasing.

Everyday Meditation

In time you can extend this feeling of awareness and 'wakefulness' to everyday activities. Start slowly. Take deliberate small steps first. Maybe before you sit down to study?

Try to recognize the beauty of the present moment in your daily life. If you are up early in the morning, try going outside and looking (a sustained, mindful, attentive looking) at the stars, at the moon, at the dawning light when it comes. Feel the air, the cold, the warmth. Realize that the world around you is sleeping. Remember when you see the stars that you are looking back in time millions of years. The past is present now and here.

Thus, every now and then try Casual Meditation. Stopping, sitting down, and becoming aware of your breathing. It can be for five minutes, or even five seconds. Let go into full acceptance of the present moment, including how you are feeling and what you perceive to be happening. For these moments, don't try to change anything at all, just breathe and let go. Breathe and let be. Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are. Then, when you're ready, move in the direction your heart tells you to go, mindfully and with resolution.


Meditation can indeed be done at any time. Take a break from time to time. Maybe during the advertisements of a cricket match, maybe while reaching for a glass of water while eating. Remind yourself: "This is it." Remind yourself that acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation in the face of what is happening. It simply means a clear acknowledgment that what is happening is happening. Acceptance doesn't tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do, that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.

May Meditation help you in the full development of your true potential. It is a way of being, of living life as if it really matters, moment by moment by moment. Make it part of you daily life, rather than merely as a technique or as one more thing you have to do during your already too busy day.

The deepest of bows to you for having the courage and perseverance involved in throwing yourself wholeheartedly into this adventure of a lifetime. May every breath you take in mindfulness, in your everyday life, make you smarter, wiser, more compassionate and kinder. Moment by moment, breath by breath.

Yours Truly,


PS. If interested in a slightly more detailed version, please visit here.
Profile Image for Dan Harris.
Author 96 books1,864 followers
March 1, 2014
I think this guy may go down as a historical figure. He was the prime mover in turning meditation into a mainstream, secular, scientifically tested way to rewire your brain for happiness. This is a great book for beginners and the curious.
Profile Image for Helynne.
Author 3 books44 followers
February 25, 2023
This is a particularly nice guidance book on meditation and mindfulness. I especially like Zinn's focus on "non-doing," which has nothing to do with being lazy or indolent, but the ability to "simply let things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way" (44). In short, this is the art of mindfullness, which Zinn says has to be kindled and nurtured because "you can only get there if you are fully here" (131) I also like his descriptions of "mountain" and "lake" meditations where one imagines that all sorts of activity may be churning beneath the earth or the water, but on the surface, nature remains beautiful and serene. So, too, can we imagine our daily lives. "In lake meditation we sit with the intention to hold in awareness and acceptance all the qualities of mind and body, just as the lake sits held, cradled, contained by the earth, reflecting sun . . which bring out and highlight its sparkles, its vitality, its essence" (143-43). One more quote from Zinn which I particularly like: "If you stop trying to make yourself more than you are, out of fear that you are less than you are, whoever you really are will be a lot lighter and happier and easier to live with, too" (239) . . . 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" (240). Okay, I have to add one more about what he says about giving, because this is so cool: "At the deepest level there is no giver, no gift and no recipient . . . only the universe rearranging itself."
Profile Image for Liong.
132 reviews83 followers
September 7, 2022
You can read this book if you are interested to understand more about mindfulness meditation.

A simple explanation of mindfulness meditation.

"Nothing happens next. This is it."

Mindfulness meditation. Nothing complicated.

This is it.
This is it.
And this is it.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,569 followers
May 12, 2015
A solid book for those interested in learning about and pursuing mindfulness. I have no experience with anything related to meditation aside from watching yoga commercials and hearing my mom talk about Buddha, but this book broke down my preconceptions and replaced them with tangible ways to improve my mindset. For example, this passage from an early part of the book discusses how mindfulness does not always mean suppressing brain activity; rather, it involves accepting things as they come:

"People who don't understand meditation think that it is some kind of special inner manipulation which will magically shut off these waves to that the mind's surface will be flat, peaceful, and tranquil. But just as you can't put a glass plate on the water to calm the waves, so you can't artificially suppress the waves of your mind, and it is not too smart to try. It will only create more tension and inner struggle, not calmness. That doesn't mean that calmness is unattainable. it's just that it cannot be attained by misguided attempts to suppress the mind's natural activity."

Jon Kabat-Zinn also provides tangible steps to improve one's mindfulness, including practicing voluntary simplicity, doing non-doing, focusing on one's breath, appreciating each moment, and more. While these actions might seem a little far-fetched or impractical, Kabat-Zinn writes about them in thoughtful and intelligent ways. He gives practical applications alongside his more theoretical passages, and he also zones in on alternative ways to meditate based on one's specific life circumstances. All of his ideas contribute to the thorough and well-honed quality of Wherever You Go, There You Are overall.

Recommended to those who feel any curiosity about mindfulness or who want to learn how to practice living in the moment. I know I will need time to adapt Kabat-Zinn's perspective into my own life, but I do feel excited to try. I will end this review with a final quote I found meaningful:

"It turns out that we don't have to succumb to the addictive appeals of external absorptions in entertainment and passionate distraction. We can develop other habits that bring us back to that elemental yearning inside ourselves for warmth, stillness, and inner peace. When we sit with our breathing, for instance, it is much like sitting by fire. Looking deeply into the breath, we can see at least as much as in glowing coals and embers and flames, reflections of our own mind dancing. A certain warmth is generated, too. And if we are truly not trying to get anywhere but simply allow ourselves to be here in this moment as it is, we can stumble easily upon an ancient stillness - behind and within the play of our thoughts and feelings - that in a simpler time, people found in sitting by the fire."
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,421 followers
December 7, 2018
I have been so conflicted on how to rate this book. Its central message is that whatever you focus on now, whatever takes up your time and wherever your thoughts wander, is exactly where you are going in life. It is of little use to idly wish of a future vision for yourself unless you put in the groundwork to making it happen, right now.

Despite seeming rather obvious, when put in as so few words as this, I actually found it an extremely enlightening read. The initial section delivered everything I desired: it was inspiring, motivating, and yet everything it detailed felt accessible and in-reach, due to the tone used to convey its message.

The latter section, however, focused more on the practicalities. It told the reader, for example, how to mediate and why. These things I already know and found them of much less use to me. I can still see how invaluable this could be to a beginner in the area of the law of attraction, as it instructed on exactly how to manifest desires, and I am still grateful for all this book initially taught me, but still found my attention waning as the book progressed away from its initial message.
1 review3 followers
June 25, 2007
If you want to know how to actually live in the present moment, then this book is for you
I have become more midnful of my thoughts and actions, and the amount of time I spend daydreaming or assuming what someone or something else's reality is. Instead, I allow those thoughts to pass quickly, without judgement, and come back to the present, whatever it is I am doing that moment be it playing peek-a-boo with my son, cooking a meal, having a talk with my husband or friend or running a few miles.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
May 7, 2020
“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

So I like the title of this book that the author, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, reading it aloud in a ten year anniversary edition, tells us has been translated into more than ten languages, and has been an international bestseller. In spite of the fact that I am meditating and reading or listening to a few of these books I knew about in my, say, less meditative years, and am seriously trying to de-stress, lower my blood pressure and so on, I am ex-religious and am also hungry for a little Saturday Night Live (SNL) self-mockery to undermine all the Dead Seriousness these books generally have about them (having read some Christian self-help books left around my house while growing up and having casually watched some religious programming my parents encouraged me to check out.

SNL I recall fondly for The Church Lady (“Isn’t that special?”), Father Guido Sarducci, and Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey:


So I don’t want to be disrespectful of a generally well-written book on a topic with which I am becoming more familiar, but Dr. KZ reads this book in a kind of thin voice and--when he gets most serious--is accompanied by flute music and violins that reminded me of Jack Handey and made me want to stick my finger down my throat at times.

So it’s not so much the book, which has useful and familiar Buddhist/mindfulness themes such as live in the present, wake up, just stop and focus, breathe, renew yourself, be like a mountain and so on, and peppers throughout quotations from Kabir through Yeats through Thoreau.

(Okay, I admit I have always loved this Kabir quote: “Kabir says: ‘Student, tell me, what is God? He is the breath inside the breath.’”)

I thought when I was reading it that meditation and Being Present has a lot in common with serious reading that most of us here on Goodreads do. Dr. KZ places himself in the tradition of Joseph Campbell and Robert Bly and other twentieth century folks as much as he does Buddhist thinkers. And does in fact connect meditation with myth and story. Dr. KZ brought meditation into traditional medical practice and this is a good thing. We can control some of our reaction to the world and what happens to us.

“To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.”

Okay, so there are little moments of humor and better writing in this book than I find in other books that I appreciate. He opens the book for newbies to say that meditation is not about becoming a self-absorbed, narcissistic blob but stopping and getting down to conscious living. Good move, to disarm the skeptics!


“People ask me how long should I meditate?”
“How would I know?!”

And like I said, I like that title, which he know opens himself to ridicule, I pretty much like the guy when he turns the bleepin’ music off and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I guess it is maybe closer to 3.5 for me.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,549 reviews1,825 followers
May 5, 2020
I found this in one of those remainder book shops which sell off the unsellable at reduced rates, there I also picked up Pompeii and Cnut, this one did not impress me so favourably.

The author notes in a preface that it is his favourite of his own books, I can't see what he sees in it. I found it like a tasting menu in which the feeling grew that the tasting menu itself was denying me the opportunity to enjoy a full meal. When I offered a crumb or a flake of something that was good, the only certainty was that there would be no more of it.

It is divided into three parts, targeting those who maybe are starting or considering starting meditating, then those who have been meditating a while, and thirdly I don't know who or why.

Probably me and the book crossed each other several years too late or too early, I much preferred the book I read by Christina Feldman that though I made the mistake of lending to my sister, never lend or loan things that you'd like back - at least that is what I tell the bank, however, they are most unphilosophical.

Still I do like the title of the book. I noticed twice that the author mentioned that meditation would lead to people finding their calling in life. This I found passing strange, if one believed that everyone will find their patch of gravel to rake then one wouldn't need to mention it, though I suppose in our cultural context being seen to be doing something is felt to be important even though in the light of environmental degradation, economic recklessness and so, doing nothing would be by far the most reasonable course of action for many - or as this book put it - don't just do something - sit there!

May 2020
My intention was to say that after a second reading the book had improved immeasurably, but after finishing it I was not so sure that it had, but I certainly liked it more than I did the first time I read it.

In contrast to Nothing Special Kabat-Zinn stresses accessibility - anybody can do this anywhere, while Beck prefers to emphasise the difficulty of practise, but one can see that they are both talking about the same thing, but there is a flavour for everyone, the ultra Spartan will prefer Beck, the reader hoping for universal salvation will find Kabat-Zinn more to their taste.
Profile Image for Berengaria.
361 reviews64 followers
June 14, 2022
3 stars

Summary: Overly long theory of mindfulness, rather than how to practice mindfulness (as the title would indicate).

What this book does well, it does very well. But what it does poorly, is positively eye-rolling.

Let's start with the positives:
- great tone, conversational and sympathetic
- some very good examples of simple mediations that newbies can easily grasp and practice.
- doesn't shy away from saying that mindfulness takes WORK and DEDICATION. Not a cure-all.
- talking a bit about his mindfulness work with the impoverished and the incarcerated.
- short chapters

now the negatives:
- way too long. Could have easily been 100 pages shorter.
- examples and themes are highly repetitious as they are often very close in idea.
- preaching to the choir for the most part. Those who are already practitioners probably already know this.
- judging by the one highly sceptical review of this book on GR, it doesn't at all achieve its goal: which is convincing skeptics. Esp skeptics who see mindfulness (and possibly Buddhism, too) as laughable, unserious "woo woo".
- towards the end, you get (or at least I got) the feeling of being treated like you're stupid. Like he thinks the reader - after 2oo pages - STILL doesn't get what he's saying and he has to hammer it in just 50 more pages.

The first part of this book is a great review of the reasons why one would (not should!) practice mindfulness. That's helpful not only for those who do, but also when talking to those who don't and find it all a bit weird. With a few of the mediations attached (mountain, lake, tree), that would have been enough for a very helpful little book.

What I honestly was far more interested in hearing him talk about were the results of mindfulness and stress work with inner city poor and the incarcerated. If it helps people in THOSE situations, then it will help those who are in far less high-stakes situations.

That would, IMHO, have been a far stronger argument than quotes from Emerson or a personal story of being emotionally overwhelmed by a passing flock of geese. Like: "Yo, it works in the Hood and it can work for you, too, dig?" (You have my attention, sir!)

A for effort and tone, but D for focus. Together: 3 stars.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,294 reviews21.7k followers
August 17, 2008
I was recommended this book - but I really struggled with it. The problem might have been increased by the fact that I found a talking book version read by the author. Authors probably should know better.

Anyway, it also had lots of that kind of music you might hear while getting a massage. I think that was also a mistake.

I just can't imagine myself sitting focused on my own breathing for any length of time - I do get what is being attempted here, but it just isn't me.

I also acknowledge that I have a range of prejudices associated with this sort of 'practice' (not least based on the sorts of people I have met in the past who are practitioners). I also find that talk of 'mindfulness' and other such notions - 'atonement with the fundamental oneness of the universe' for example - tend to immediately put me off. Just as talk of body postures and energy fields seem hard to take seriously.

But what I really struggle with is the implied (well, and explicit) 'spiritualism' of such ideas. My reaction to this sort of thing is, admittedly, over-wrought, but I really have to accept that as a core part of what it is to be McCandless.

I think I have decided that I would rather learn concentration by concentrating on something I can also enjoy - music, literature, books - and relaxation from walking, rather than concentrating on my breath.

I didn't finish this book - which I thought I would, and there wasn't much left to go. I blame the organ and the tinkling piano.
Profile Image for Jane.
121 reviews
August 31, 2009
"There is no running away from anything! The romantic notion that if it's no good over here, you have only to go over there and things will be different. If the jobs are no good, change jobs. If this wife is no good, change wives. If this town is no good, change towns. This underlying thinking is the reason for your troubles.
You cannot escape yourself, try as you might. Sooner or later, the same problems arise- patterns of seeing, thinking, and behaving. Our lives cease working because we cease working at life. We are unwilling to take responsibility for things as they are and to work with our difficulties. It's much easier to find fault, to blame, to believe that what is needed is a change on the outside.
There can be no resolution leading to personal growth until the present situation has been faced completely. You must be willing to let life itself become the teacher.
There is always something to dislike.
When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possiblilties open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness.
Mindfulness is simply the art of onscious living-in the moment."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine. His clinic was featured on PBS series Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
February 28, 2016
This is like the handbook for mindfulness, a great place for people new to meditation or other contemplative practices to start. It is written in tiny chapters, most useful read alone. In other words there should be a lot of contemplating and meditating on the book itself. There are practical bits on "how" and some thoughts on "why" and specific situations and scenarios to consider. My only beef with Kabat-Zinn is that he has a lot of dangling quotations, where it's like what he's including is so profound that he doesn't feel the need to add to it, explain it, connect it to anything. It kind of fits into his whole persona, and it doesn't render the text difficult, just kind of jagged.

To follow his patterns, here are my own dangling quotations.

"We are thinking virtually all the time. The incessant steam of thoughts flowing through our minds leaves us very little respite for inner quiet. And we leave precious little room for ourselves anyway just to be, without having to run around doing things all the time."

"It helps to have a focus for your attention, an anchor line to tether you to the present moment and to guide you back when the mind wanders... Bringing awareness to our breathing, we remind ourselves that we are here now, so we might as well be fully awake for whatever is already happening."

"All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment vital and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused." (Martha Graham, not Jon Kabat-Zinn)

"The practice itself has to become the daily embodiment of your vision and contain what you value most deeply. 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."

asking "Is there anything else you would like to tell me?"
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
September 22, 2014
If you're looking for something about meditation and mindfulness that's devoid of spiritual interpretations and the like, this is one of the closest approaches I've seen that still focused on the meditation aspect and not just generally being "more aware". It has some helpful suggestions for visualisation, including details not just of picturing things but of feeling things, like his suggestions for standing meditation of imagining yourself as a tree, the part where he mentioned approaching the practice with dignity, etc.

Overall, I doubt it's going to convince anyone who is highly sceptical to begin with, or help anyone start a practice ex nihilo. But it's worth reading, and sitting with, and thinking about, if you can put aside scepticism and just try it.

One thing I especially liked was that Kabat-Zinn doesn't have any thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots about this. There's recommendations, suggestions, but also reminders that any moment of mindfulness in the day, however short, is valuable.
Profile Image for  jd 지훈.
101 reviews58 followers
November 4, 2022
On my most recent appointment, my psychiatrist introduced me to the Seven Pillars of Mindfulness and encouraged me to integrate mindfulness with my cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation exercises as a way to help me manage my anxiety. It turns out that these aforesaid pillars are what Jon Kabat-Zinn tackled on this book. Can't wait to find the free time to read this one (and hopefully learn something substantial for my mental health). :D
Profile Image for Kate.
1,841 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2011
"Mindfulness is considered the heart of Buddhist meditation but its essence is universal and of deep practical benefit to all. In essence, mindfulness is about wakefulness. Out minds are such that we are often more asleep than awake to the unique beauty and possibilities of each present moment as it unfolds. While it is in the nature of our mind to go on automatic pilot and lose touch with the only time we actually have to live, to grow, to feel, to love, to learn, to give shape to things, to heal, our mind also holds the deep innate capacity to help us awaken to our moments and use them to advantage for ourselves, for others, and for the world we inhabit. Just as a garden requires attending to if we hope to cultivate flowers and not have it be overrun with weeds, mindfulness also requires regular cultivating. We call the cultivating of our own mind to bring it to wakefulness meditation. The beauty of it is that we carry this garden with us, wherever we go, wherever we are, whenever we remember. It is outside of time as well as in it.

In this book, the author maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in one's own life. It speaks both to those coming to meditation for the first time and to longtime practitioners, anyone who cares deeply about reclaiming the richness of his or her moments."

I would like to reclaim my moments, to be become fully alive to time and the world. Most of the time I feel lost in a fog, blundering around and crashing into the furniture -- overturning tables and lamps shattering to the floor. The book promises me a road map to a quiet, well-lighted existence.

The author presents small, short blocks of instructions, or explanations, or illustrations -- all with the purpose of unfolding the the mystery of mindfulness. Exquisitely written, simplistic but hauntingly beautiful.
Profile Image for Samir Rawas Sarayji.
444 reviews85 followers
January 31, 2019
Oh... this text is an enormous collection of platitudes. The only useful chapter is the first one - 4 pages - that defines mindfulness and explains it's origin from Taoism and Buddism. Chapters are a few pages long, full of quotes/passages - mainly from Thoreau's Walden, other cited authors include Kabuir, Dalai Lama, some of the Taoist or Buddist masters, well... you get the picture. The author Kabat-Zinn basically repeats the message again with different words and explains why it's a nice message. That's all this book really is. Lots of fluff, no substance. There is hardly anything concrete about meditation techniques. If you want to meditate, this is not for you. If you want to understand meditation, this is not for you. If you want to have an idea about meditation, this is not for you.
However, if you like to feel good about reading on the 'goodness' of meditation, without any specific examples, then this book is for you.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews28 followers
April 10, 2013
I read this book a long time ago --(I had forgotten I read it until my friend, Karen, recommended it to me). I once took a 10 day retreat where the last 2 days were 'silent'. This was one of the books we read.

Hm?? Maybe I should own it --read it again?
Profile Image for Mark Dante Troiano.
2 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2010
My girlfriend in college suggested I read this book on everyday Mindfulness Meditation by Jon-Kabit Zinn - since then he has become one of my favorite authors on the subject. I approach every day as a meditation in movement. I'm currently working on being more non-reactive and awake and alive in the present moment without having any expectations of it and allowing the moment to simply "be" as it is. It is what it is. Good, bad, or indifferent - trying not to "force the river" - just allowing things to arise and fall as they will by Non-Doing. I practice this a lot in my guitar lessons with young students. Knowing when to intervene and when to approach and be helpful. Being present and caught in the flow of life is something that is reawakening in me as I regain my self-confidence, lose weight, and continue to face life head-on.
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews332 followers
January 20, 2012
The introduction tells us this book "is meant to provide brief and easy access to the essence of mindfulness meditation and its applications." By "mindfulness" is meant focused awareness of the "present moment." And meditation is "the process by which we go about deepening our attention and awareness, refining them, and putting them to greater practical use in our lives." The book is divided in three parts. Part One, "The Bloom of the Present Moment" seeks to give some background and definitions. It explains that meditation is "not about making the mind empty or still." Part Two, "The Heart of Practice" delves into the "basic aspects of formal meditation practice." Part Three, "In the Spirit of Mindfulness" "explores a range of applications and perspectives on mindfulness. "

Just before reading this book I had read The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, a classic book on meditation and Buddhist precepts published in 1975, and which made Kabat-Zinn's book seem rather superfluous. Consisting primarily of what was originally written as a "long letter" Hanh in its 100 pages tells you almost everything (and more) than Kabat-Zinn does in over 270 pages. Hanh's book is more succinct yet more detailed in its exercises and explanation of breath and postures, more lucid and insightful, and is the kind of book that though deceptively simple, rewards repeated reading. I felt Kabat-Zinn's on the other hand was filled with boilerplate New Age filler and stuffed with a lot of quotations by others such as Whitman, Tao-te-Ching, and especially Thoreau. About the only additional material were a couple of pages on the position of the hands during meditation, a suggestion formal meditation be practiced for 45 minutes every day when you can, and that it's useful to do yoga, and that his personal daily "core routine" contains "twenty or so postures." That's it. I just don't see the use of having both books, and I can't see choosing Kabat-Zinn's over Hanh's.
Profile Image for Ryan Michael .
100 reviews27 followers
August 13, 2016
My father is a practicing Buddhist. As such, this is the fourth book he has sent me on the subject (in one way or another) about practicing Buddhism. He described this book as Kabat-Zinn's way of introducing "Buddhism without the Buddha," which interested me, as, although Buddhism is most absent of certain things that usually turn me off from organized religion, this book would be a way of looking at the practice of mindfulness through more of a lens of human development instead of religious or soul-centric development.

This book, especially part one, framed the practice of mindfulness in such a way that even me, an average white male with an average IQ, could see the advantage of practicing mindfulness and being "present." I have described, to my father, what trying to understand what this practice really is; my metaphor is that it feels like trying to trap a young chicken in an 100 archer cornfield. However, this book made it feel like catching that chicken might be a little easier to do, if you are thinking about it in the right way. Rabat-Zinn does a remarkable job outlining and explaining what mindfulness practice can look like for any given individual looking to work on his or her human development. In part one, he parallels Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" with certain aspects of mindfulness practice, and I found this helpful in understanding the concept of "being present", as I have read "Walden" a few times over in the last ten years.

I would recommend this book to any person, no matter what your religious views (or no views at all on religion) who is interested in at least reading something that could, potentially, give you a bit of a different perspective on individual human development through mindfulness practice. It might sound a little intimidating, but I promise, it is described in such a way that I feel as though lots of people can relate to.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 14 books96 followers
September 21, 2020
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, published in 1994, remains a good overview introduction to meditation and its uses. Meditation, obviously, has not changed in the ensuing years, nor have its many facets and their application to contemporary life. I say "obviously" because the fundamental truth is that meditation is about sitting by oneself, concentrating on one's breath or a mantra, and detaching oneself from the anxieties and yearnings and dissatisfactions and worries of "life." So there you have it.

Why such a long book, then? Well, it is quite amazing how resistant people are to letting their mind-talk go...not filling it up with more mind-talk...or simply allocating 15 or more minutes a day to doing what would appear to be nothing.

Kabat-Zinn has all kinds of good reasons for meditating and tips on how to do it, from one-minute dashes to weekend-long retreats, but for me, the most useful thing he has to say is that if you meditate, don't talk about it, i.e., don't tell people you are "meditating," don't brag about "meditating," don't go on and on about the stuff you harvest from your quiet mind with the passion some folks discuss the pro's and con's of their favorite swim goggles.

So this is a book for people who need to be teased or put at ease with the practice of daily meditation; it is far more than a primer, and it is a bit too talky about meditation.

Ultimately, it seems to me that meditation teaches you the world can go on without you, and you can go on without the world.
Profile Image for edward.
3 reviews
September 29, 2007
If I could only have one book, this would be it. Not a novel, but a really great short chaptered book that teaches more than meditation. It asks the big questions about life and incorporates a lot from Thoreau's Walden with quotes and passages. A good mix of Eastern philosohpy and transcendentalism makes this a great book to read a chapter at a time. It will always be by my bedside.
Profile Image for Ying Ying.
272 reviews112 followers
February 19, 2017
This is a peaceful reading. It feels like going to a meditation session with the author. You are invited to bring mindfulness into the now, to practice mountain or lake meditation, to understand that you are connected with the whole, to minimise harm and cultivate generosity, love and patience, and to accept whatever is coming.
January 10, 2022
I read this book over one year, partly because I was in a reading funk and partly because I found the excerpts or chapters with the little ‘try’ endings a way to incorporate newness into my daily/weekly mindfulness practice. During the early months of reading this book I thought to myself this is a must read for every human being on earth and was telling many about it. Getting to the end, Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness practice is not really something to push onto other people, but to be lived ourselves and so the motivation to practice is found individually - not by advertising mindfulness.
Overall, I think it inspired me and helped me to see meditation practice in a different way, so I’m definitely happy to have read this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Brian Johnson.
115 reviews242 followers
September 17, 2015
“When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self-absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, “space cadet,” cultist, devotee, mystic, or Eastern philosopher. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely, the path that is your life. Meditation may help us see that this path we call our life has direction; that it is always unfolding, moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens next.”

~ Jon Kabat-Zinn from Wherever You Go, There You Are

For the last several decades, as a Professor of Medicine and the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jon Kabat-Zinn has been one of the leading pioneers in bringing meditation into mainstream medicine.

“Meditation is the process by which we go about deepening our attention and awareness, refining them, and putting them to greater practical use in our lives.”

I’m excited to share a handful Big Ideas:

1. The Practice of Meditation - Cultivating our mindfulness.
2. Samadhi Muscles - Let’s strengthen them.
3. What’s Your Why? - Gotta have a compelling vision.
4. Practice Every Moment - Not enough just to sit.
5. Becoming Fully Human - That’s the ultimate training.

Here’s to embracing our practices that help us most fully plug in so we can shine with an uber-bright radiant enthusiasm that lights up our world.

Here's my video review:

And click here to find 250+ more of my reviews:

26 reviews
August 16, 2008
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the pioneering medical professionals to integrate east/west practices. This book is a very easy read - yet full of insight and depth. I enjoyed the book immensely due to the luminous knowledge he provides regarding the practice and understanding of meditation and the synthesis of impressions held by various thinkers. I highly recommend this book due to his objective style and candidness, allowing for any faiths, lifestyles, or ages to perceive the truths within.


“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.”

“If you miss the here, you are likely to miss the there. If you mind is not centered here, it is likely not to be centered just because you arrived somewhere else.”

“When we are in touch with being hole, we feel at one with everything. When we feel at one with everything, we feel whole ourselves.”
Profile Image for aarthi.
41 reviews15 followers
April 7, 2011
Favorite quotes, and To Do's:

"look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.... Without knowing it, we are coloring everything, putting our spin on it all."

"At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient... only the universe rearranging itself."

"Make a list of what is really important to you. Embody it."

"Our ability to touch love and kindness 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 separate and alone."

"Read Gary Snyder."

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor." - Thoreau
Profile Image for Veek.
17 reviews
May 22, 2010
I'd avoided Kabat-Zinn's works in the past, lumping them into the airy-faerie category of new age fluff. Then I read about him in another book (Bill Moyers' dusty but still relevant Healing and the Mind) and was impressed with both his credentials and his views. This book is targeted to clients whose health issues (such as chronic pain) may benefit from learning to let go of hurts from the past and worries about the future, and live more fully in the present moment. Breathing, imagery, relaxation.. all good solid practices for improved self-regulation.
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