Quotes and commentary related to mindfulness.
note: we link to our free guide to mindfulness and meditation at the end of this article (no email required).
Every Wednesday, I publish quotes related to mindfulness, meditation, and the present moment. I often include my commentary on what they mean, and why they are important to me or my students.
The weekly quotes are a “reader favorite,” so I thought it would be interesting to ask others who teach or write about these topics to provide their favorite quote, and why it resonates with them.
Below are ten I think you’ll find insightful!
Submitted by Jon Wilde:
“Mindfulness asks us to simply see, to open to ourselves and, in so doing, to open to the world, learning to be with whatever presents itself.” — Saki Santorelli (Heal Thy Self)
This quote is my favourite definition of mindfulness. I first came across it when reading Santorelli’s inspirational book earlier this year (2015) as I was embarking on a mindfulness teaching course and beginning to come to terms with what mindfulness really means to me.
It’s less well known than Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition: Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. I’m fond of that definition and I feel that it admirably serves its purpose when one is first exploring mindfulness practice.
For me, Santorelli’s quote plunges deeper into the heart of mindfulness’ rich, infinite possibilities. It illuminates mindfulness as a true way of being, rather than a practice designed to fix ourselves.
When we see, simply see, having let go of the need for the moment to be other than it is, we’re able to surf the wave of this moment. In being with whatever presents itself right now, we’re able to connect with what we really are, what we already are. That invitation to connect is implicit in every moment. It’s always there, just waiting to be noticed, waiting to be touched.
Visit Jon at Everyday Mindfulness.
Submitted by Katy Allred:
“Worrying is a way to avoid what is so by thinking about what could be.” — Judith Hanson Lasater (Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life)
Though I’ve encountered many bits of wisdom in my extensive consumption of spiritual literature, it’s the simplicity of this quote that has stuck with me through all these years. This quote found me during a period in my life when I was deepening my yoga practice, but had only begun to delve into meditation/mindfulness practices. It was the first time I fully realized how futile worrying actually is, and how costly a price we pay when it consumes our lives. I finally “got” what it meant to notice a thought or emotion, and then simply choose not to engage with it. To this day I’m still in awe of the power we reclaim when we become mindful of our reactions, and that’s why I’m passionate about teaching meditation and mindfulness to children. Imagine what’s possible for a world where everyone knew these truths from such a young age!
Visit Katy at the mostly mindful mommy.
Submitted by Brian Loging:
“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” — Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain)
I wrote a friend about this quote — “I think longing for perfection leaves no room for the gift of acceptance of the myriad of things of which we have no control. For life to be our definition, version, of perfection is to not suffer. But some of our greatest lessons are found in suffering. We learn to treat others in the way we were not treated, to speak words of encouragement instead of insult, listen not condemn, understand not assume, embrace not push away, give not take, be lowly not arrogant, the servant not the master. Grace, humility, surrender to the truth of our powerlessness is only found in suffering.”
Suffering is a needed and necessary, albeit unwanted, part of our journey. To resist suffering, to try and control, force, manipulate, coerce, make the world and others in our image doesn’t eliminate suffering but intensifies it.
The lust for perfection comes from our ego. Suffering, if we allow it, can purge our sense of self-importance and replace it with a sense of peace and purpose in the midst of hardships and heartaches.
Visit Brian at TheWannabeSaint.
Submitted by Mike Kewley:
“Thinking is a function, not an identity.” — Mike Kewley
One of the most transformative insights available through mindfulness practice is that thinking is just something the brain does. It’s a natural function like breathing or digesting. When we begin to see that thoughts simply appear and disappear endlessly we stop taking them personally and mistaking them for our identity. Suddenly it makes no sense to call ourselves the owner of the 70,000 thoughts zooming through our awareness every day, and consequently the thinking process can be seen as just another dynamic aspect of being alive. There is an immense sense of freedom which comes from seeing that, actually, we are not what we think.
Visit Mike at MyFreeMind.
editor’s note — this sentence from Mike’s comments is one I’ll be quoting in the future: “When we begin to see that thoughts simply appear and disappear endlessly we stop taking them personally and mistaking them for our identity.”
Submitted by Sheila Bayliss:
“Relaxation is a reliable by-product of mindful attention. If you aim directly for relaxation, however, that effort can actually get in the way” — Arnie Kozak (Mindfulness of Breathing: A Primer)
This quote mirrors the way I teach. My classes attract a lot of beginners who have tried meditation before and found it “too hard.” I was the same before I found mindfulness. When I give my students permission not to feel calm during a meditation, just to be with their experience as it is — they often express feeling surprisingly relaxed!
Visit Sheila at Lollipop Wellbeing.
Submitted by Joelle Anderson:
“May you live all the days of your life.” — Jonathan Swift
It makes people think and realize what they are missing out on. At first it seems ridiculous, of course we are going to live all the days of our lives. But is being physically alive the same as living? Mindfulness helps us wake up so we get to experience life. We get to live, and for many students (and myself) it can feel like we are living for the first time in a very, very long time. The quote reminds us of the alternatives to mindfulness, but gives hope and love to the listener too. Plus, I love to see the change in my student’s understanding of it from when they first hear it at the start of my classes to when they are on their last session — this quote helps them realize how they have shifted, that they are now awake and living.
Submitted by Barbara Buck:
“Thoughts are not facts (even the ones that say they are!)” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
Every time I come across this quote I am amazed anew. It altered my whole life, which had been one of constant thinking. I was always anxious, a worrier, with a quick mind that raced from worry to worry, always one step ahead of myself, planning what I was going to say whilst the other person was talking; planning the future, from where I might park the car, to how I was going to manage my death; and worrying about the past, why I’d said or done such stupid things. I assumed everyone did this, that their minds were bursting with stuff they were thinking, stuff they wanted to say, all the time. Learning through meditation and mindfulness that it didn’t have to be like this, and that we could let go of our thoughts, has changed my life.
Visit Barbara at the Everyday Mindfulness Facebook page, which she organizes.
Submitted by Piers McEwan:
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
I chose this quote as I remember reading it towards the beginning of my mindfulness journey. I was still at the preliminary stage of figuring out what mindfulness and what meditation really were. The analogy of passing clouds, though, was something that very much resonated with me and helped me to understand the nature of my thoughts. It exposed me to the realisation that instead of chasing, following and in essence becoming that cloud, I could simply just sit there and watch it pass by, much like I might do on a crisp sunny spring day.
Visit Piers at One Thinking Man.
Submitted by Chelsea Leger:
“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” — Alan Watts
This quote always makes me feel both amused and liberated. Amused, because even though the present moment is quite literally the only one that exists, I never used to spend my “time” there. I was constantly projecting myself into the past or future, thinking about mistakes I’d made and mistakes I was convinced I would make. Judgments and predictions, regret and worry. When I discovered mindfulness and that these things weren’t even real — well, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself!
And that’s the liberating part, you know: the past and future don’t really exist. There is only “now.”
How can that not make you feel free?
Visit Chelsea at meditationSHIFT.
Submitted by Gareth Walker:
I think this distills the essence of mindfulness so beautifully and so powerfully.
editor’s note — I share Gareth’s love of this quote. I’m fond of saying “life is made up of moments that only occur right now, one at a time.” No doubt I was influenced by Emily Dickinson’s poem!
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