In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are, he lights a path in the reader’s everyday life so that they can discover the simplicity of practicing mindfulness meditation. The book itself consists of three parts and several dozen concise chapters in which he lays out the foundation of meditation practice, provides instruction on a variety of mental exercises, and finally, delves into how we can immerse ourselves into the heart of the present moment — whatever that may entail. The practice of mindfulness is found in Buddhism and is not effortless; rather, it requires discipline, and in return, provides enlightenment and freedom from deep emotions that we may be choosing to ignore and bury in our consciousness. At the beginning of his book, I really like how Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally.”1 Learning how to be present and mindful gives the reader and meditator the opportunity to wake up from our fast-paced, always going and always doing cultural mindset.
While reading his book, I found that I could not simply read straight through from beginning to end, but instead I followed my intuition and found myself gravitating to specific lessons. The first chapter I jumped to was Anger, and the lesson he wrote wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but the next chapter, titled, Cat Food Lessons was precisely what I was seeking. The author tells a personal account of how he hates finding dirty cat food dishes left to soak in the kitchen sink, and how he becomes so angry every time it happens even though he’s asked his family very nicely not to do this. I laughed out loud when I read this because I can completely identify with becoming irritated over dirty dishes stacked in the kitchen sink, and how my husband thinks I’m being compulsive and ridiculous; they are just dishes.
The author first experiences revulsion followed by anger, then betrayal whereas I become irritated, then angry and hurt. His feeling of being betrayed is the same as my feeling of being hurt. I am not angry because there are dirty dishes. I am hurt because I have repeatedly asked my husband not to do something, and every time he does it, I feel that he is disrespecting me when that is not his intention at all.
At the end of the Cat Food Lesson, Kabat-Zinn gives the reader (in this case, me) an opportunity to try to watch your own reactions in situations that annoy you and to, “observe the ways in which your feelings are creations of your mind’s view of things, and that maybe that view is not complete. Can you allow this state of affairs to be okay and neither make yourself right or wrong? Can you be patient enough and courageous enough..? ”2 Since this was the first bit I read of the book, I have had several weeks to practice being mindful about my view and notice whether I am just wanting to be “right” or if I am being impatient.
That said, I then read the chapter on Patience, which ended up leading me back to anger. Kabat-Zinn wrote, “Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger.”3 What he asks you to try with impatience is to notice when it arises and attempt to allow the scene to open and blossom without becoming angry; breathe with it, give it to time and allow patience to ultimately come in. I found this lesson to take too much effort and work. It seemed like I was trying so hard and that it wasn’t unfolding naturally.
Within the second part of the book, Jon Kabat-Zinn gave some mental and visual instruction on practicing meditation. I read the chapters, The Mountain Meditation and The Lake Meditation, and then would occasionally drop into my own practice using those visuals, but often found myself being guided by my breath alone.
Wherever You Go, There You Are is a great introduction to Mindfulness Meditation, and even though I prefer to sit with a different method of meditation, I will keep practicing what I learned about anger when it comes up. I feel that Mindfulness Meditation, in the Buddhist sense, requires so much effort and I am really seeking effortlessness in my life. All in all, I learned that being mindful takes a lot of practice, and since I am a parent, I have opportunities every day to learn from. The silver lining that I found on my path through this book is that the author, Jon Kabat-Zinn along with his wife Myla, wrote a wonderful mindful parenting book that I am really enjoying.
1 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (1st Ed.) (United States of America: Hachette Books, 2014), 4.
2 Ibid., 245-246.
32 Ibid., 48.
Over the course of this enlightening meditation class, I followed my intuition more so than I have in a long time and I think it really did me good. If I could take this class continuously all year long, I would because it gave me the opportunity to stop doing and sit still with myself. As a first-time mom with post-partum depression, I was given a prescription medication to take to alleviate my anxiety, but I learned that taking a break from life a couple of times a day and meditating was what I really needed. I had been longing to find the ‘right’ meditation practice for myself for a few years so when I was taught about Transcendental Meditation in this class, my whole being lit up like a field of fireflies on a summer night. At the same time as learning about TM, I was reading a wonderful parenting book utilizing Mindful meditation. The only challenge being that mindfulness requires a lot of thinking which translates to work and meditation should not be work. Not only did I discover a new part of me through TM, I also had my mind blown wide open by trying an even faster approach to enlightenment by taking a dip in a sensory deprivation tank. Without reading any material or watching any videos about ‘float tanks,’ as they are often referred to, I had an amazing life experience which resulted in me losing the feeling of my body and merely floating among the other stars in outer space. It was one of the single most beautiful moments of my life.