November 3, 2010

Wherever You Go There You Are

This book by Jon Kabat-Zinn is subtitled "Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life." Ryan recommended it to me this summer. One of the best ideas I got from reading it is that your thoughts aren't reality- they're just thoughts. This idea really puts things in perspective for me and gives me a good reason not to take myself (at least my thoughts) too seriously.

The author explains a lot about mindfulness - being in the present. He says remaining in the present (which is his definition of meditation) frees your thoughts from the "tyranny of the past and the future." I could really relate to that - I judge things a lot by how they were before or worry about what might happen next. He points out that while of course the past is real and has consequences, all we really have to work with is the present, so we may as well focus on it.

He gives some good pointers on how to do that. One of them is not to multi-task. For a while I tried not to read while having lunch. I looked around, enjoyed the day, and paid more attention to my food. To keep your mind from racing around, Kabat-Zinn advises focusing on the sights and sounds around you, or just on your breath going in and out of your body. I've tried this at night when I'm lying awake and sometimes it actually puts me to sleep. I also have heard some cool things, like pinecones falling.

Considering I'm remembering all this from having read the book a few months ago, it surprises me that I didn't finish reading it. It's not a light or entertaining read, but it has some ideas that are really sticking with me and that give a whole new meaning to the word "practice." My brain falls easily into old habits.

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