Book Review: Wherever You Go There You Are

January 13, 2011

I first read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are back in the mid to late 90’s. It was one of those books that opened my mind to the idea of mindfulness and it soon became one of my favorite books. Having gathered some dust over the years, I decided to re-read the book to see if it was still up there as one of my favorites.

I’d have to say, easily, that it still is.

“What’s the big deal about mindfulness?” you may ask.

First off, I am amazed how the simple act of focusing on your breath can have a calming effect. Through the years, focusing on my breath has helped me stay more calm when driving in rush-hour traffic, flying and during moments of stress at work. Focusing on my breath has also helped me to better focus on the present moment and helped me forget some of my anxieties.

The book is broken into three sections.

First, The Bloom of the Present Moment introduces us to mindfulness and gives us a bit of historical perspective.  We’re reminded of how important mindfulness is to to Buddhism and how we can find its influence in the works of Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman.  We also learn that mindfulness is about letting go, non-doing and non-judging among other things.

The second section, The Heart of Practice, focuses on meditation and some of the ways we can practice our mindfulness.  We learn that by focusing on our breath throughout our day, we can meditate while we walk, sit or lie down.  Zinn provides some great suggestions for meditation including my favorite, the Mountain Meditation.  In it, we can use images of mountains to help us practice stillness and help us feel more rooted to the earth (or wherever we are).  Most importantly to me, Zinn reminds us that there is no one “right way” to meditate.

The third section, In the Spirit of Mindfulness, focuses on how we can apply mindfulness in our everyday lives.  It explores topics like karma, anger and parenthood.  While I am not a parent, Zinn’s chapter on using mindfulness in raising kids and becoming a better parent is one of my favorites in the book.  I really like how he describes parenthood as an opportunity to practice and learn, which reminds me that any challenging situation in our lives is an opportunity to learn.

I also like the quotes that are sprinkled throughout the book.  These nuggets of wisdom from figures such as The Dalai Lama, Lao-Tzu, Thoreau and Gandhi provide additional insight and give the book an almost poetic feel.

There are plenty of books out there that explore the topic of living in the present moment.  I’d have to put Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are right at the top.

How about you…do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?