“Meditation is Not What You Think” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I picked this book up on a whim. I was at a Barnes & Noble café getting a coffee, and they were offering $5 off this book with any café purchase, so I could not pass it up. I had not read any Kabat-Zinn books, but had heard great things about him and was eager to read his work.

Overall, I really liked the book, a lot. It is the first in a four-book series, and was originally published as part of a larger book called Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. It seems like it is the appropriate length, and that it might have lost some of its impact if buried within a bigger tome.

In his introduction to the book, Jon eloquently expresses something that I have been feeling, that humanity is at a crossroads, or a threshold, and that the collective choices we make now will impact the course of humankind.

I don’t know about you, but for myself, it feels like we are at a critical juncture of life on this planet. It could go any number of different ways. It seems that the world is on fire and so are our hearts, inflamed with fear and uncertainty, lacking all conviction, and often filled with passionate but unwise intensity. How we manage to see ourselves and the world at this juncture will make a huge difference in the way things unfold. What emerges for us as individuals and as a society in future moments will be shaped in large measure by whether and how we make use of our innate and incomparable capacity for awareness in this moment. It will be shaped by what we choose to do to heal the underlying distress, dissatisfaction, and outright dis-ease of our lives and our times, even as we nourish and protect all that is good and beautiful and healthy in ourselves and in the world.

(p. xxiii)

While there is a wealth of insight and information in this short book, for me, there is one critical paragraph that, although long, really encapsulates everything that this book coveys: that collectively, we need to slow down, become more mindful of our thoughts and actions, and begin to shift the direction of humanity toward the kind of sane, sustainable, and supportive future that we so desperately need.

As the pace of our lives continues to accelerate, driven by a host of forces seemingly beyond our control, more and more of us are finding ourselves drawn to engage in meditation, in this radical act of being, this radical act of love, astonishing as it may seem given the materialistic “can do,” speed-obsessed, progress-obsessed, celebrity-and-other-people’s-lives-obsessed, social media-obsessed orientation of our culture. We are moving in the direction of meditative awareness for many reasons, not the least of which may be to maintain our individual and collective sanity, or recover our perspective and sense of meaning, or simply to deal with the outrageous stress and insecurity of this age. By stopping and intentionally falling awake to how things are in this moment, purposefully, without succumbing to our own reactions and judgments, and by working wisely with such occurrences with a healthy dose of self-compassion when we do succumb, and by our willingness to take up residency for a time in the present moment in spite of all our plans and activities aimed at getting somewhere else, completing a project or pursuing desired objects or goals, we discover that such an act is both immensely, discouragingly difficult yet utterly simple, profound, hugely possible after all, and restorative of mind and body, soul and spirit right in that moment.

(pp. 71 – 72)

Our paradigm is about to shift in a huge way, and I for one will do everything I can to attempt to make this shift a positive one, and that begins by changing myself. I have made a lot of conscious changes in my life over the past couple years, and continue to examine myself honestly to see where I can continue to grow and improve. Meditation and mindfulness practice have played an important role in these personal changes. I encourage you to pick up this book and begin to manifest changes in the world by changing yourself, if you have not already begun to do so. If you have already started on this path, I encourage you to continue. What we do today is important.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my musings.

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9 Comments

Filed under Spiritual

9 responses to ““Meditation is Not What You Think” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

  1. Beautiful. I love Kabat-Zinn’s work. Thanks for this post.

  2. Thank you for this. I have one of his books on my shelf too. I so totally agree with what he says here: “[The world] will be shaped by what we choose to do to heal the underlying distress, dissatisfaction, and outright dis-ease of our lives and our times, even as we nourish and protect all that is good and beautiful and healthy in ourselves and in the world.”

    Another Tao quote I love and believe: “we create ourselves out of our innermost intuitions.” And our world as well.

    • Hi Deborah! Thanks for your comment, especially the Tao quote. Yeah, I suspect I will be reading more of Jon’s work. I think we might have Full Catastrophe Living on the selves here. Hope you are having a great weekend.

  3. Hi Jeff, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book and about mindfulness. I think a lot of people have trouble thinking that change begins with yourself and that power is in the combined change.

    • Hi Barb. I suspect a lot of people look around and feel hopeless as they see the insanity unfold. But collective insanity is the result of individuals accepting the same paradigm and thought pattern. And it is easy to say it’s the others as we sit and watch events unfold on the news. But we are participants in that reality just by watching and partaking. To actualize a paradigm shift, all it needs is enough people to start thinking and acting differently. I want to be a part of that.

      Sorry for the long, early morning rant. Hopefully I made some sense prior to drinking my morning coffee – lol.

      Cheers!

  4. Greetings, Jeff.

    Thanks for sharing the excerpts and your own reflections and musings. I’ve been noticing and sensing, feeling and reflecting2 similarly, so your post is timely. It really can feel overwhelming these days, with so much seeming crazy, chaotic, and/or out of control (with not very healthy or positive effects).

    I appreciate each sentence, and this snippet stood out: “… intentionally falling awake to how things are in this moment, … and by our willingness to take up residency for a time in the present moment in spite of all our plans and activities aimed at getting somewhere else ….”.

    Someone gave me this book, and then someone else asked to borrow it within minutes, so I’ll look forward to browsing it when (and if) it returns. 🙂
    Cheers!

    • Hi Jamie. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! From what little I know about you based on your blog and our online discussions, I think you would really connect with this book. That said, I am glad it is circulating, and is hopefully making a difference out there. Cheers!

      Jeff

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