Wherever You Go, There You Are
By Jon Kabat-Zinn
Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson
The rest of the title is; ‘Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life’ and though it was written in 1994, the concept is pretty timeless. And since the political landscape has gotten so charged, I figured it would be helpful. Similar to Eckhart Tolle’s book, ‘The Power of Now’ author Kabat-Zinn stresses the importance of being present.
Not being a present as in gift, but stepping into your life with clarity and presence of mind is the key element discussed in this guide. This is harder than you may think. One of the linchpins that the author shares, and I find useful, is to focus on breath. Don’t worry that you have to have a fancy chant, use some kind of shrine or bang on a gong. You don’t. But you do have to breathe. The author says it best;
“Think the grass is always greener somewhere else or life is better in someone else’s shoes? If so, life will constantly disappoint you. True contentment comes from within—and you can uncover the spiritual treasure buried within you through meditation.”
“Blending Western thought and Eastern practice, this is the book that introduced meditation to America…you can learn the simple practice of breathing and focus to keep yourself in the present…to let stress wash over you rather than try to shut it out…find strength where you least expect it and even take charge of your health by adjusting your perspective.”
One aspect of this book/guide I did find a tad confusing was the explanation of just exactly what is meditation. Being a semi-normal dude I want to know how it’s done, right? As if there’s this exercise that I can latch onto and power through and when I’m done, and catch my breath, I’ll have this sudden clarity. Well, it’s not as simple as that and this is why the author spends a great deal of time using metaphor and quotes to give the reader examples of meditation.
“Meditation is more rightly thought of as a “Way” than as a technique. It’s a way of being, Way of living, a Way of listening, a Way of walking along the path of life and being in harmony with things as they are.”
In other words, it isn’t something you do in physical terms, though breathing is pretty important, it is a state of mental ‘being-ness.’ Put another way, meditation isn’t a way to change how you think by thinking more. It’s the act of watching, observing thought. This is where so many who want to bring this practice into their daily lives seem to get stuck.
Being ‘mindful’ is another way of considering this.
“TRY: Setting aside a time every day for just being. Five minutes would be fine…Sit down 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 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 to the breath in all its vividness, every time it wonders…Think of yourself as a mountain.”
• Mindful groups are forming all over
• Take a walk
• Be present