Book Review | Wherever You Go, There You Are

03 October 2016

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn

Really comprehensive take on meditation.  There are so many approaches, and Jon Kabat-Zinn really prefers stillness, empty space, being fully present and aware.  Very similar to Eckhart Tolle's philosophies.  Compare this to Creative Visualizations by Shakti Gawain who's approach to meditation has more movement - drawing energy, visualizing your power, dreams, and light.  The latter type of meditation follows my approach more, but, I still enjoyed this book.  It was very much - take what I need and leave the rest.  Some parts were really insightful and others were dull.


Generosity - (I recorded this entire chapter.  Definitely a message for me.  This chapter alone will grant this book a slot in my bookshelf.  That's a hard place for a book to get :)

See if you can be in touch with a core within you which is rich beyond reckoning in all important ways.  Let that core start radiating its energy outwardly, through your entire body, and beyond.  Experiment with giving away this energy-- in little ways at first-- directing it toward yourself and toward others with no thought of gain or return.  Give more than you think you can, trusting that you are richer than you think.  Celebrate this richness.  Give as if you had inexhaustible wealth.  This is called "kingly giving."  I am not talking solely of money or material possessions, although it can be wonderfully growth-enhancing, uplifting, and truly helpful to share material abundance.  Rather, what is being suggested here is that you practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence.  Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.

Noticing the resistance to the impulse to give, the worries about the future, the feelings that you may be giving too much, or the thought that it won't be appreciated "enough," or that you will be exhausted from the effort, or that you won't get anything out of it, or that you don't have enough yourself.  Consider the possibility that none of these are actually true, but that they are just forms of inertia, constriction, and fear-based self-protections... which rub up against the world and cause us and others pain and a sense of distance, isolation, and diminishment.  Giving sands down such rough edges and helps us become more mindful of our inner wealth.  By practicing mindfulness of generosity, by giving, and by observing its effects on ourselves and others, we are transforming ourselves, purifying ourselves, discovering expanded versions of ourselves.

If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before.


[Concentration] is cultivated by attending to one thing, such as the breath, and just limiting one's focus to that.  "Onepointedness."

It is a great gift to oneself to be able periodically to cultivate [concentration] over an extended period of time.


I always come away from [angry feelings] feeling that there is something inadequate about anger, even when I am objectively on high ground.  Its innate toxicity taints all it touches.  If its energy can be transmuted to forcefulness and wisdom, without the smoke and fire of self-absorption or self-righteousness, then its power multiplies, and so does its capacity to transform both the object of the anger and the source.  So, if you practice purposefully expanding the context of the anger right in those very moments that it is arising and peaking, knowing that there must be something larger and more fundamental that you are forgetting in the heat of the emotion, then you can touch an awareness inside yourself which is not attached to or invested in the anger-fire... In this way, it helps us cook the anger, digest the anger, so that we can use it effectively.

Dignity - (another chapter that really resonated with me, and I wrote down the whole thing).

Sitting down to meditate, our posture talks to us.  It makes its own statement.  You might say the posture itself is the meditation.  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...  "Sit in a way that embodies dignity," everybody immediately adjusts their posture to sit up straighter, but not stiffen.  Faces relax, shoulders drop, head, neck, and back come into easy alignment.  The spine rises out of the pelvis with energy.  Everybody seems to instantly know that inner feeling of dignity and how to embody it.... When we take our seat in meditation and remind ourselves to sit with dignity, we are coming back to our original worthiness.

"The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is itself enlightenment.  These forms [sitting meditation] are not the means of obtaining the right state of mind.  To take this posture is itself the right state of mind."  Shunru Suzuki Roshi

Hand mudras can embody different energies.  Hands palms down on your knees - self-containment, not looking for anything more, just digesting what is.   Palms up - open to energy from above, making yourself available to higher insights, priming a willingness to resonate with energies we usually think of as elevated, divine, celestial, cosmic, universal, of a higher order and wisdom...  As you practice being more in touch with your hands in sitting meditation, see if this doesn't have on influence on the way you touch.  Opening a door.  Touching another person, with no gaining idea, just presence and caring.

Meditation in Motherhood-

You could look at each baby as a little Buddha or Zen master, your own private mindfulness teacher, parachuted into your life, whose presence and actions were guaranteed to push every button and challenge every belief and limit you had, giving you continual opportunities to see where you were attached to something and to let go of it.

If you are devoted to your own meditation practice, they will come to know it and see it, and accept it matter of factly, as part of life, a normal activity.  They may even sometimes be drawn to imitate you.  The point is, the motivation to learn meditation and to practice should for the most part originate with them.

"Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again."  -Thoreau

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."  -Oliver Wendell Holmes

"The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them.  She lets them go their own way, and resides at the center of the circle."  -Lao-Tzu

Bhavana translates as "development through mental training."  To me, this strikes the mark; meditation really is about human development.  It is a natural extension of cutting teeth, growing an adult-sized body, working and making things happen in the world, raising a family, going into debt of one kind or another.

Another way to look at meditation is to view the process of thinking itself as a waterfall, a continual cascading of thought.  In cultivating mindfulness, we are going beyond or behind our thinking, much the way you might find a vantage point in a cave or depression in the rock behind a waterfall.  We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent.

If you look up the word "spirit" in the dictionary, you will find that it comes from the Latin, spirare, meaning "to breath."  The inbreath is inspiration; the outbreath expiration.

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