Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Coming to Our Senses #1A

Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important

Rate this book
Welcome to a master class in mindfulness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is regarded as "one of the finest teachers of mindfulness you'll ever encounter" (Jack Kornfield). He has been teaching the tangible benefits of meditation in the mainstream for decades. Today, millions of people around the world have taken up a formal mindfulness meditation practice as part of their everyday lives. But what is meditation anyway? And why might it be worth trying? Or nurturing further if you already have practice?

Meditation Is Not What You Think answers those questions. Originally published in 2005 as part of a larger book entitled Coming to Our Senses , it has been updated with a new foreword by the author and is even more relevant today. If you're curious as to why meditation is not for the "faint-hearted," how taking some time each day to drop into awareness can actually be a radical act of love, and why paying attention is so supremely important, consider this book an invitation to learn more -- from one of the pioneers of the worldwide mindfulness movement.

240 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jon Kabat-Zinn

195 books1,775 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

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
158 (19%)
4 stars
283 (35%)
3 stars
220 (27%)
2 stars
102 (12%)
1 star
35 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 101 reviews
Profile Image for Erin.
3,095 reviews484 followers
April 29, 2018
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Whew! Flashbacks of Psychology courses from university are dancing in my head. Don't get me wrong, I loved those classes and I was curious to receive an in depth look at the whole mindfulness culture currently trending our Western society. But people, this was also one very dry read. Our author values meditation and his purpose is clear, but it's a very analytical and historical examination of meditation. Great for a person wanting to begin their exploration of the subject, but not quite the type of book that I like to read for pleasure.
Profile Image for Jared McDonald .
67 reviews
October 30, 2018
The whole idea behind this book is to try and bring the reader into a heightened self awareness of their true authentic selves. We often go through life almost as zombies,whether it be through work, our cell phones or any of the other countless ways we find to distract ourselves. Using a combination of Buddhist teaching and modern neuroscience the author challenges us to "wake up" and become aware of the life we're currently living and how we fit into that life not as a part but as a whole. It reminds me of Socrates preaching "to know thyself" as well as Tolstoy warning us about simply existing and not living in The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The author believes we can accomplish this through mindfulness based meditation or therapy. Mindfulness being that next level of awareness that allows to take stock of what's going on around us in a way that isn't just auto pilot. A pretty good read and introduction to these concepts, the next step being to engage in and practice mindfulness on a regular basis to improve your life. I think it would appeal most to those experiencing any type of pain whether physical or mental or those people who work too much although I'm sure it could benefit anyone regardless of where they find themselves in life.
Profile Image for Steven.
746 reviews6 followers
October 18, 2018
Sadly could not finish this book. Even for a meditation book,this one was hard to follow and altogether boring. His other books are quite good and I recommend them but I don’t think this one was necessary at all
Profile Image for Jeff.
23 reviews8 followers
January 7, 2019
Way too many incredibly long and run-on sentences kept me from paying attention - had to stop.
Profile Image for Mike.
33 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2019
The author goes on and on about why meditation is becoming main stream in the medical field, sports & business, but after hours of reading he still hasn't really said anything about meditation. Very tough slog. Didn't finish it.
Profile Image for Mike.
496 reviews7 followers
September 29, 2018
My take away:
1. The author founded a stress reduction program around meditation in a hospital before that was cool.
2. It did good stuff.
3. Meditation is good for you.
4. Modern life is bad for you.
5. Distracted parents are bad for you.
6. Multitasking is a sin.
7. You should meditate.
8. Everything you know is not that. Meditation isn't what you think it is. All that is, is not. All that has form has no form. "Me, My, I" is the enemy.

Was with you up to point 8 there pal...
17 reviews
March 31, 2018
Meditation Is Not What You Think: The Case for Mindfulness, is the first part of the book, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness originally published in 2005, updated with a new foreword by the author, Jon Kabat-Zinn. As research has proliferated and mindfulness has entered mainstream culture even more so since the original publication of this book and has become a water cooler topic, the title of this book is apt. As the pace of our daily life has only increased I found this book to be as relevant today if not more so than originally written in 2005. The book is divided into 2 sections. Part 1 “Meditation: It’s not what your think”, introduces meditation as not for the faint-hearted and a radical act of love. While the writing can be a bit dense at time, I found the stories and personal anecdotes really helped me connect with the ideas. I particularly enjoyed “the origin of shoes” a powerful tale I kept coming back to. While newer books may be an “easier read”, I highly recommend that people wishing to open their hearts and minds to mindfulness, read this book from a true pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of medicine and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction. The second part of the book, “The power of attention and the dis-ease of the world” focuses on the importance of paying attention in our 24/7 connected world. Reading this section, really resonated with what I am seeing in my daily life as technology continues to boom. What Kabat-Zinn wrote about over a decade ago has become even more prophetic today. I look forward to sharing parts of this book with my introductory psychology students and discussing it more in depth with my upper year students. This first volume is the “What” of meditation. I look forward to reading the other three volumes in the series focusing on the “Why”, “How” and “Promise” of mindfulness.

With Gratitude to Jon Kabat-Zinn for his nourishing book and sharing his journey, netgalley, and Hachette for an ebook ARC.

Publication May 1, 2018
Profile Image for Christina.
392 reviews5 followers
January 24, 2020
So much of the book is spent saying the same thing, over and over, that I'm not even sure what the point was anymore. To save you the time: Mindfulness and meditation could cure everything.
Profile Image for Wrapped Up in Books.
87 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2018
An in-depth look into the theory of mindfulness. The first book in a soon-to-be four part series. The second in the series will get more into the practice of mindfulness, which I think will be more my interest. However, as a novice to meditation and mindfulness, I found this book to be useful in explaining to me how simple and beneficial it can be to practice mindfulness. My favorite chapter was Awareness and Freedom, which highlighted bringing awareness to moments of emotional or physical pain to lesson the intense feelings of pain. I was given an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Blaine Duncan.
108 reviews
December 12, 2018
In honesty, I didn't finish this book. I started it but put it back on the shelf to do my yearly Halloween readings in October. I never went back to it due to its utter, desert-like dryness. It's all written very matter-of-factly with no flourishes or fun, which is a shame because I've enjoyed Kabat-Zinn's other writings on meditation. It just read too much like a textbook. I'll leave it on my shelf for the time being in case I see a need to try to finish it, but for now, this one was a bust.
Profile Image for Lucia.
38 reviews
April 1, 2021
NON È l’odioso guru americano del self-help. È uno che ha praticato meditazione per tutta la vita è l’ha messa a disposizione, ormai negli ospedali di mezzo mondo, dei pazienti sofferenti per calmare depressione e ansia.
Profile Image for Meryl Landau.
Author 3 books107 followers
December 23, 2018
So many great insights, albeit written in the dense prose to be expected from an academic.
Profile Image for Epifania Rita Gallina.
375 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2018
“While meditation is not all about sitting still on the floor or in a chair, taking your seat both literally and metaphorically is an important element of mindfulness. We could say that in essence, it is a direct and very convenient way to cultivate greater intimacy with your own life unfolding and with your innate capacity to be aware—and to realize how valuable, overlooked, and underappreciated an asset that awareness actually is.”

This book was what I needed at this moment in my life, right now.
351 reviews3 followers
June 14, 2019
Gratefully detached from "how-to's" and claims of "fixes", this book ventures instead into delicate consideration of embracing the full capacity of heart and mind. Kabat-Zinn writes less like a PhD and more like a philosopher with each page offering poetry-like musings and intricate thoughts that would be best spoken out loud to catch the intonation, pace, and tone.
Profile Image for Ben Worsley.
181 reviews3 followers
November 28, 2018
I loved “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” This was not as good and the author got way out of his lane and went a little “You whipper-snappers get offa my lawn” when discussing ADHD.
Profile Image for Jessica.
363 reviews4 followers
January 24, 2019
This was a philosophy book rather than a how to meditate book. I figured out quickly that it was better taken in small chunks so that's what i did, reading a chapter or 2 every day.

This was my first book on mindfulness and I thought it was a good introduction. Some of the concepts here i had come to on my own through life experience and my yoga practice (and of course through my reading of Winnie the Pooh as a child :-)). I have used awareness as a pain management tool though i did not know that is what i was doing until i read this book. It was neat to have this validated as a legitimate technique. (Though I wouldn't quit doing it even if i wasn't validated!) I liked this: "If you move into pure awareness in the midst of pain, even for the tiniest moment, your relationship with your pain is going to shift right in that very moment."

There was a lot of talk about Buddhism and i could see that possibly turning some people off. However, the author makes the point that the Buddha studied the mind as a scientific inquiry. If we are going to practice mindfulness, then it is better for us to follow the maps of those who have already gone there. So i think it would not do the subject justice if the author were to discuss mindfulness without also discussing Buddhism. At no point did i feel this discussion assaulted my personal religious beliefs. In fact, if anything, it has enhanced the Bible studies that i have done since reading this book. This has opened my mind to the idea that Buddhism is not a religion in the traditional sense of the word.

There were many times that i thought this book was a bit too wordy. Sentences would go on for entire paragraphs and sometimes it was hard to remember the subject. Then you have to go back to the beginning of the sentence to get the subject again and in that way, you find yourself reading and rereading the same lines. Getting out my highlighter helped. I used that to focus on the sentences or parts of sentences that resonated with me the most. Looking back, i see i have a couple highlights in most of the chapters so i think that will be beneficial if i go back and reread the book.

I don't know if i will buy the other books in this series or move on. The author has taken what used to be 1 book and broken it down into 4. In some ways this shows and i think 4 books is not necessary, although i can see why the author feels he needs to do that in order to reach the ADD adults of America today. However, that is not me, and i think i could have handled more information in this book without needing to spend another $9 for the next book and so on. I found a copy of "Wherever You Go, There You Are" and that's a pretty great title so i think i'm gonna have to read that.. I also found a course called Masters of Mindfulness on the Great Courses so that might be worth a look as well.
Profile Image for Sierra R.
2 reviews
November 28, 2021
I don’t usually write reviews but I had some reasons why i gave this three stars that i wanted to share. overall, he made some great points! i enjoyed most of it and the way he explained some things. it was a very fast and easy read. however, there was sooooo much repetition. by the end of it i was saying, “really? this? again? we already know.” there was also a lot of fluff, explanations that really didn’t need to be there, lists, run on sentences etc. and don’t get me started on the chapter called ADD Nation. i was honestly really liking it up until this chapter. the way he talked about ADD/ADHD was totally degrading. he just made it out like everyone in the world has ADD cause everyone’s so distracted. ok yes, we have become generally distracted as a society, but distracted is not the same thing has having ADD or ADHD- totally degrading to people actually struggling mentally. then he went on to say that children don’t even have ADD, that it’s just them being kids and adults/teachers just say it’s ADD because they’re being a distraction…. are you serious? us as teachers spend a living with kids!! it’s our job! i can tell if a kid is just being a kid or if they are struggling with an attention disorder because i spend almost every day with them… i and most other teachers/child care workers know what we’re doing. mmm didn’t even mention that the rise in diagnosis could be because of the rising awareness and acceptance of mental issues, just went straight to saying the diagnosis are probably not correct essentially because teachers and adults are lazy. even mentioning ADD was not necessary, he could have just talked about being distracted, and then he went on to make degrading comments. very frustrating even though he made very good and interesting points throughout the rest of the book.
Profile Image for Carmen.
14 reviews
February 7, 2022
The title should be Don’t Think This Book Will Teach You Meditation. His basic and oft repeated argument is you should meditate because it helps…and he kind of leaves it at that. He doesn’t go into any detail regarding the experience of meditating or the various approaches and traditions and methods. It’s a bit like reading a book about the social and spiritual aspects of pitching a baseball with no relating aspects to how the game is played, the various teams and their techniques, or great pitchers and the experiences of baseball players. He also has kind of a flat style which made the book a bit of a slog.

It really brings to the forefront though the question can meditation and mindfulness in general really be separated from Buddhism and still be effective?

Slavoj Zizek often despises and criticizes the mindfulness movement for making people “mindfully accept the ravages of capitalism.” He’s got a point and I see it now. But I don’t think zizek would criticize Buddhism itself. For this reason: you can be a mindful ceo, or a mindful lawyer defending corporate tax shelters, or even a mindful mma fighter being present in the moment as he cracks someone’s skull open.

But there is no way you could be a Buddhist and still do all of the above. It violates what most Buddhists believe and commit to.

I think this is the last Kabat-zinn book for me. 200 pages of not really saying anything. I’ve read books on zen that were thought provoking and filled with wild insights(Natalie Goldberg, Brad Warner) but this was just meh.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
15 reviews
February 14, 2023
First, I highly recommend either skipping the 40+ page introduction or saving it until the end of the book. It's filled with more fluff and meandering sentences than most of the rest of the book. It was kind of a turnoff, but I'm glad I persisted and didn't give up before really starting.

I've read a book or two surrounding meditation in the past, but the general goals and framework was never properly explained to me. I've done some Headspace meditation with the goals of controlling fear and anxiety and depression, motivation, concentration and enlightenment, but I kept wondering how to achieve those things with breathing and body scans. This book offers a useful overview of some things that meditation is and isn't. It reframes the idea of self and the human condition in which we all live. There were plenty of great concepts to consider and continually revisit. I took some notes and I think reframing my mediative practice by revisiting concepts from this book will help me achieve my goals after putting in a lot of work and practice.

This book contains 5/5 content, but the writing style has some definite run-on sentences and pontification that make it hard to read and follow at times. That being said, it is also a book I think is worth the effort to concentrate and persevere through the tougher parts to get access to the useful bits. If you're interested in meditation or have tried it and don't really understand it, start with this book (but skip to chapter 1).
Profile Image for Jakub Janeczko.
14 reviews
April 4, 2023
Unfortunately, I am a little bit disappointed by the book, but this is probably because I had some expectations.
First I wanted to find some research references proving meditation works, but all the author said is that there are a lot of them. That's all. I guess I have to trust him, but I would prefer not, so I have to find it myself. At least I know where to start.
Secondly I was hoping to find some information about some exercises or any practical knowledge. But this is just an introduction into the topic and generic talk about mindfulness and self-awareness.
Additionally I felt that his book is an advertisement of the clinic he is founder of. Like "here in our clinic we do that" and "we helped a lot of people" etc. I get it, you help people there, it works, but it can be annoying if you repeat that so many times.
I could point some more negative sides, but I think that is enough.

On the positive side it has some valuable insights into current world problem like attention problem in people, especially children. But the author didn't go into this topic which could be more interesting.

I don't think it's worth reading if you want to get into the topic. You can only get references from this book and find better resources.
Profile Image for Ray.
25 reviews
June 30, 2023
Update: I ended up finishing the book but it is so mind numbingly verbose that I don’t remember most of what I read.
DNF. I was 63 pages in and couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not sure if the author has actually told me anything about practicing mindful meditation yet.
He loves long sentences that don’t seem to say anything. Here’s an example: And with a degree of sustained calmness in our attending, if we don’t cling to it for its own sake, invariably comes the development of insight, fueled and revealed by our awareness, by mindfulness itself, the mind’s intrinsic capacity to know any and all objects of attention in any and every moment—as they are, beyond mere conceptual knowing through labeling and making meaning out of things through thinking. What???
This goes on and on like this. In one sentence he can’t say, over and over again, he says, over and over and over and over again. So many wasted words. I’m wondering if he has a contact from his publisher to reach a certain word count?
On page 195 there is an ad trying to get you to buy a four book series, that I guess actually teaches you how to practice mindful meditation.
I get the impression that one has to be very intelligent to practice mindful meditation. Something that I admit I am not.
Profile Image for Seemy.
789 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2019
This is a good book (and much needed updated version of the authors work from my previous reads) on the importance of mindfulness in the world we live in today - especially seeing how it’s progressing at present with an even faster pace than before.

It really highlights the problems we face and what’s coming in terms of unique challenges that can only tackled by such a unique practice of meditation and mindfulness - this fact makes the practice of this skill more important now, than ever considered before in its 1000s of years of rich history ...

And that’s not the only thing you will learn and discover - a must read for anyone interested in meditation and mindfulness, so you treat this with the respect and value it deserves beyond just what you may think this is - because it really is not what you think ;)

To Our Continued Success!
Profile Image for Crystal.
10 reviews
May 26, 2021
It was good at talking about the practice of meditation and how it can positively impact your life. The 1 star was due to the antiquated statements about ADHD. ADHD is not a lack of focus and just an issue of mind over matter. It is an issue of brain chemistry. While I have used mediation to help with some of the issue like anxiety from my ADHD, nothing will cure it. When he started talking about how there is rise in ADHD diagnosis. And that it was as a result of a cultural issue. It was ridiculous. The reason there's an increase in diagnosis is cuz we no longer beat children into not showing their ADHD symptoms. Up until this moment in the book I thought it was decent but when he started expressing such ignorant statements on ADHD I returned the book.
Profile Image for Max Smirnoff.
39 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2023
I am a big fan of Jon's work. Though compared to all other Jon's books ( and I read and listened to most of them), this book doesn't feel as if it comes from Jon. Yes, he is narrating it, but it feels so rushed, solely focused on transferring loads of information and not on taking a reader on a meditative journey.
It feels that he does it with his heart not entirely in it—maybe it's because of the time limitation allocated by the editor on each segment of the program.
I actually had to manually slow down the audio playback in order to listen to it but still, it wasn't the same experience.
Also, there were some undertones of "wokeness" in the first chapters of the book solely criticizing Western culture.
Anyways, hope this helps you on your journey, my dear reader.
Love, Peace!
Profile Image for Nicole.
73 reviews19 followers
July 19, 2018
I read this book because it was the featured Hot Coffee Hot Book promo at Barnes & Noble and I wanted to give an informed description of it to my customers when the coupons started rolling out. As for a Good Reads review, let's just say that this was not my cup of tea.

I have no personal opinions on Jon Kabot-Zinn himself as I am not familiar with him or his other works, so if you're reading my review and considering this book: give it a shot. The author clearly values mediation and teaching the reader the purpose of mindfulness, and this book is an analytical and straight-forward read on the topic.

This book could be great for someone who is beginning their meditation journey.
Profile Image for Tonja.
263 reviews
July 26, 2018
I will preface this review by sharing that this is the first book I’ve read about meditation. I found the chapters on meditation for stress reduction (MBSR) especially informative. Especially the concept that meditation does not refer to a specific activity but is everywhere at any moment that one is present. It gives the reader much to contemplate and presents meditation as less of a mystery and more of a state of being. It is not a quick read and I must admit I was a little lost in a couple of the chapters but felt enriched by the read and encouraged to read more on the topic. Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Books for an ARC ebook in exchange for an honest review.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 101 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.