Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Book Summary)

How regular have you seen yourself in a perfect circumstance – on holiday, for instance in a wonderful city, appreciating the sights; or sunbathing on a lovely beach; or walking through attractive forest. Anywhere it is, it’s precisely where you want to be.

Then you realize that you’re not all there. Instead, what is on your mind is about the laundry you have to do or that unfinished work assignment.

Our minds do this: they roam around and take us out of the moment. However, what if the moment is precisely where we want to be? How then can we remain there?

The answer to the question is mindfulness. This has become a very popular word for over the last decade, but then, how does it work and how does one really practice it?

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Well, it isn’t essentially an aim we want to accomplish, but something we have to practice that needs continuous work and attention. In this book summary, you’ll learn about the basics of, and some more advanced methods for, practicing mindfulness.

1 – Mindfulness means living consciously and appreciating the current moment.

In modern times, mindfulness has become a little bit of a slogan. However, what does it really mean? It is possible that you might have heard that mindfulness is an old Buddhist practice. As a matter of fact, mindfulness is for everyone, and for you to enjoy its rewards you don’t have to reject your earthly possessions or convert to a Buddhist.

Mindfulness is about overriding our automatic way of life. Our normal state of consciousness is quite limited according to a Buddhist perspective: we regularly do things unconsciously, without being completely present at the moment.

The mere fact that we’re continually doing something, while thoughts race through our heads without stopping, leaves very small room for us to just be. Therefore, in order to really accept the present, we have to systematically study who we are and observe our view of the world. This, basically, is mindfulness.

Therefore, why should you be mindful? Well, mindfulness is an instrument that enables us to understand the richness and possibility of our own personal growth and change. Nurturing it reunites us with parts of ourselves that we regularly ignore, paving new means of existing both in our own skin and in the world.

For instance, it can make us have richer experiences of joy, peacefulness, and happiness, and it can also improve our understandings of complicated emotions such as grief, sadness, and fear –meaning, those emotions in which we are regularly unaware of or the emotions we only show unconsciously.

Because mindfulness is very enlightening in this way, it’s also empowering. As we become more mindful, we become more conscious of who we are, which releases our creativity as well as intelligence and it provides us with clarity.

The nurturing of mindfulness and meditation is mostly confused with things such as relaxation, stress relief or self-development. Though mindfulness isn’t about targeting a specific feeling, neither is it about reaching somewhere or becoming a specific type of individual. Instead, it’s about clearing the mind, becoming still and enabling ourselves to know who and where we are already.

Your practice begins in the following chapter.

2 – Mindfulness is nurtured by being in the moment and focusing on one thing at a time.

Cultivating mindfulness is as easy as integrating some practices into your day-to-day activity. Let’s look at some of them.

First, instead of doing all the time, start moving into being mode. This is how you can do that: either sit or lie down and, once you are in that position, imagine yourself as timeless. Study the current moment without attempting to adjust anything. Engage your senses and concentrate on what you see, hear, feel or on whatever is happening around you. Try to fully accept this moment.

During exercise, if you catch your mind drifting, slightly cajole your focus back to your breath. Concentrate on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body without making your mind too involved or trying to adjust anything. This exercise will improve the moments of your typical active mode, influencing the choices you make and offering guidance.

Other practices that will be beneficial allies on your path to mindfulness are embracing the moment, focus and voluntary simplicity.

Concentration is the foundation of mindfulness. When you’re completely focused, your energy is channeled toward deeply experiencing one thing or one moment. Every other thing falls away, as well as other thoughts, feelings, and the outer world. People frequently deeply appreciate this feeling, because it enables them to experience inner stillness and a feeling of uninterrupted peace.

Also, you can attempt voluntary simplicity which means engaging in one activity, or with one thought, at a time. For example, If you’re playing with your daughter and you receive a text, you could ignore your phone intentionally, instead of bringing your whole concentration to enjoying the game with your child.

It’s essential not to mix non-doing with doing nothing. Consciously stopping, with the aim of nurturing stillness and appreciation, is non-doing – however, it is not doing anything!

3 – In order to become more mindful, patience and generosity can help.

Do you remember times when you were waiting for a friend who’s running late and your annoyance begins to change to anger? Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how useless that feeling is? Moving beyond feelings like this is a foundation of mindfulness. Choosing to be patient would definitely be better for your own sanity.

Patience and mindfulness are extremely related. Patience signifies that you admit things as they appear and that you know that events always happen in their own good time.

That may be well and good, however, how do you control your impatience and the anger that comes with it? In order to develop patience, compassion, and wisdom, begin by redirecting and working with anger and impatience.

Remarkably, the Dalai Lama appears not to be annoyed with the Chinese, whose government committed genocide acts against the Tibetan people. He comprehends that even if they have taken all the things from the people of Tibetan, he won’t let the Chinese to take his mind, too. Instead of directing his energy toward feelings of anger, he uses it to encourage understanding and patience.

When next you become impatient or angry, remember that wisdom is gotten from being patient and that what happens next is greatly determined by what you do at this moment.

Generosity is another quality that sets a strong basis for mindfulness. This needn’t be demonstrated in the giving of material goods; you can also be generous with your passion and trust, with your presence and compassion. As you start to share and give, you’ll find the richness of strength and energy you have at your hand.

When you give, don’t get absorbed bothering about giving too much, or worrying about your generosity going unacknowledged, or thinking that you won’t get anything out of it yourself.

Practice this by giving yourself the gifts of self-acceptance and a little bit of time each day.

4 – Formal meditation includes taking time to be still and concentrating on your body as well as breath.

Mindfulness can be practiced formally and informally. Let’s first look at some formal ways. Formal meditation involves keeping certain periods of time for the development of mindfulness and concentration. All the other activities are put constant or on put on hold.

Your posture is very important while sitting down to meditate. There is no specific right sitting position, however, you still have to sit in a position that shows poise. For a lot of people, this means sitting up straight, without being too rigid, and with your shoulders as well as face relaxed; your head, neck, and back should be aligned.

Also, your hands and feet should be positioned properly to direct the flow of your energy. Try focusing on your varying energy levels and the hand positions that complement those levels. There is no common definition of any specific position; it’s more about what the positions mean to you. For instance, sitting with your palms on your knees may signify that you’re only accepting what is while having your palms facing upward might signify being open to higher energy.

It is totally up to you to determine the time you want to put to formal meditation. Just ensure to come out of your meditation mindfully. As a general recommendation, the author found 45 minutes every day is a good standard practice; that was enough time to attain stillness, maintain attention as well as experience deep relaxation.

You will need an impulse to end your mediation at a point while you are meditating. When this occurs, you need to know where it is coming from first. Is it from tiredness, impatience, discomfort, or is it just the time to stop? When you identify where it arises from, remain with the feeling for a bit, breathe with it and then slowly come out of meditation.

Remember that there is no right or wrong meditation method. Hence, use the above stages as a guideline. The most effective way is to concentrate on what feels right to you.

5 – Informal meditation can be practiced through sitting, standing, walking or even lying down.

Formal meditation is mostly what comes to our mind when we think of meditation. However, that is not the only method of meditating.

If sitting still for a long period of time is really challenging for you, or if you want to complement your formal meditation practice, you can consider walking or standing meditation instead.

The aim of walking meditation isn’t to just reach anywhere. Hence, you might want to walk in a circle or back and forth.

The most important thing to do is to bring your focus to all the movement your body makes: like every footstep, and how you raise, move and position your feet. If you do a standing meditation, attempt this around trees, as trees are good teachers of stillness and calm. Also, you may want to close your eyes, stand still and imagine your feet are roots in the ground. Move your body just like how trees move in the breeze. Pay attention to your surroundings and feel the presence of nature.

Furthermore aside from walking or standing meditations, lying down meditations are also good practices in mindfulness.

Consciously release your muscles as you lie on the floor. This will enable your mind to be opened and relief any pressing thoughts. After this, imagine yourself sinking into the floor and bring your concentration to your body. You might want to focus on your entire body as if every skin cell were breathing and radiating energy as one, or on each part of your body separately. The latter is called a body scan.

During your scan, concentrate on various parts of your body and then free them. Move systematically through your whole body, in any direction you which maybe from head to toe or from side to side. Use your breathing, directing it inward, into every part of your body, as if you were breathing into your toes or knees, for instance, when you inhale. As you exhale, release the muscles, letting that part to rest in stillness.

6 – Mindfulness can be practiced by questioning yourself during your automatic routines.

Being mindful isn’t a thing you achieve and then (check!) you’re ready for life. It needs regular self-inquiry.

However, asking yourself questions isn’t just about problem-solving. It’s also about remaining connected with life itself, with yourself and with your presence. It means carrying questions with you, thinking about them and being regularly conscious of them.

Although contemplating questions over in your mind will lead to a lot of answer-like thoughts, the main aim is to pay attention to the thoughts that your questions suggest.  Either your question is “What is disturbing me right now?” or “What is my aim in life?”, will help to think of yourself as an audience, watching and listening to your own thoughts and feelings.

Thankfully, no exceptional locations or occasions are required to practice mindfulness. You can do it any time you want. A lot of people find early morning as the perfect time. The peacefulness and privacy that is frequently more easily available at this period give you the time to contemplate and concentrate on being. An extra bonus is that you’ll begin your day in a peaceful, mindful way and then be more likely to take this peace with you throughout the day.

Definitely, creating time before you begin your day isn’t important; mindfulness can be practiced in the middle of daily activities such as climbing the stairs. Ordinarily, we do this in a haste, without a single thought about it. However, if you concentrate on the entire complicated movements your body makes as you climb the stairs, you’ll increase your awareness of the present and, when you reach the top, you’ll be relaxed and more connected to the next activity you involve in.

The essential way is to slow down, taking one step at the time, with the aim of increasing presence and awareness. There is nowhere you have to be and no moment that you have to sacrifice for the sake of being entirely present in this one.

7 – Your thinking mind and your selfing are some challenges you’ll face while practicing mindfulness.

By now you have a good image of what practicing mindfulness entails. Now let’s look at some of the most common challenges– and how to overcome them.

It probably appears as no surprise that, as mindfulness is entirely about the mind, your thoughts and ego are the biggest problems you’ll encounter. For instance, during meditation when you experience an important moment, you might begin to congratulate yourself on doing so well. Be cautious of such feelings, but that might be your ego wanting to take praise for being special or giving you a false sense of having “made it” to a higher stage.

If this occurs and you feel like the I or me is taking change, attempt to ask yourself where precisely you’re meant to get to, or if you’re using meditation as an instrument to get to a specific place. Remember that meditation is not about getting to a specific destination. It’s about understanding and appreciating the current moment to the fullest.

Another challenge you may face is self or selfing. Selfing is the ability to keep the mind and the concentration on the self, thus making each moment my moment and every experience my experience. This can divide into all parts of our lives, like my child, my view, my knowledge and so on.

But, when we notice that everything is interdependent, we realize that there is no isolated, independent me. The only me that happens is me in relation to all other powers and events in the world. For instance me in terms of my relationship to a child of whom I happen to be the parent.

With that being said, mindfulness isn’t about purging ourselves of our selfing tendency. It’s about balancing it, modifying its impact, seeing things as they are, understanding that everything is related and regularly evolving and, ultimately, learning to take things less personally.

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn Book Review

By continuously being on the move and cramming a lot of activities into our day-to-day schedules, we’re losing our ability to completely enjoy the current moment. Our minds are regularly concentrated on the past or the future, and we’re forgetting that the only time we actually have is now. Completely appreciating the now is a matter of pausing and bringing our focus to it.

Practice loving-kindness meditation.

Help other people and yourself by using and extending your heart-centered presence. First, center yourself and, from your heart or from your belly, summon feelings of kindness, love, and acceptance into your body. Let these feelings develop until they occupy your entire being. Once you feel them burning within you, you can remain in the moment and enjoy it, or channel these feelings outward to wherever or whoever you want to–maybe your family or even the people you don’t know. Picture them, honor them and wish them love and acceptance.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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