35 Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes That Make Life Better

Just who is Jon Kabat-Zinn and how will these Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes improve your life?

Well, he is an American professor emeritus of medicine.

He is also the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a unique approach to wellness and mindfulness that combined scientific findings with yoga and Zen practices.

He was a student of Zen Buddhist teachers such as Philip Kapleau, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Seung Sahn.

Eventually, he became a founding member of Cambridge Zen Center.

He is also the author of the book Full Catastrophe Living.

This book explains how mindfulness-based stress-reduction works.

Kabat-Zinn was born on June 5, 1944, in New York City. He graduated from Haverford College in 1964 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology in 1971 from MIT.

Keep reading through these Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes to help learn to reduce your stress level and improve your health and well-being through mindfulness.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Check out more inspirational quotes on our motivational quotes category page.

Helpful Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes about living life

1. “Wherever you go, there you are” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about life

Everyday Application: You are only going to get wherever it is you try to go. Now, you might not make it all the way to your destination, but you are going to be wherever it is you go. If you don’t take action and make moves, then you are going to stay where you are.

2. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”  – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about learning

Everyday Application: This is just one of those wise life lessons. There are going to be things that you have no control over. Your only choices are going to be quit, adapt, or learn something from it. Which choice will you make? Learn to surf or stay out of the ocean?

3. “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes and sayings

Everyday Applications: Be grateful for all the moments. The everyday little things are what make up our lives. They are the foundations for big things. The little things often bring us joy and comfort. Enjoy everything and learn from what is not enjoyable.

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4. “He who dies before he dies does not die when he dies.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about death

Everyday Application: When we do not live up to our potential or our purpose it can kill parts of us. Living life in a way that is not authentic to who you were meant to be can make us depressed, anxious, and sad. Live your life fully, and chase your dreams. Find happiness in the everyday little things!

5. “Breathe and let be.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about being calm

Everyday Application: Breathing can do wonders for your wellbeing, your body, and your mood. Accepting the idea that “thus it is” can be liberating. There are things you can change, and then there are things that just are. Take a deep breath and learn to know which is which.

6. “Intelligence is the door to freedom and alert attention is the mother of intelligence.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about intelligence

7. “You make a problem, you have a problem” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about problems

8. “Make a list of what is really important to you. Embody it.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

inspirational Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes

9. “From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment a special moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about meditation

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of meditation quotes about the power of daily meditation.

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10. “Give more than you think you can, trusting that you are richer than you think.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about giving

Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes about mindfulness and meditation

11. “Maybe the fear is that we are less than we think we are, when the actuality of it is that we are much much more.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: We talk a lot about the fear of failure (not being good enough). However, many people actually fear success (being more than we think we are). This is because this kind of success brings out our true selves, blows up our comfort zones, and forces us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses.

12. “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at the bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: Realizing where you already are and living in the moment is an important part of our mental well-being. To get started meditating you can download a meditation app, but you do not need to have one. All you really need a calm and quiet place to sit. Become aware of your body and your breathing for a set period of time. Notice when your mind wanders and get it back on track. Then when the time is up be kind to yourself!

13. “Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living. So there can be no one place to be. There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known. The particulars count.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: Live your life in the way that is healthiest for you. Do what puts you closer to living the life of your dreams. Love who and how you want to love (as long as it is consensual). Your life does not to match with someone else’s notions of what life should be like that. You control your own particulars! 

14. “You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: It is in our moments of challenges and strife that we unleash parts of ourselves that were previously unknown. Little tidbits of inner strength, and opportunities for growth. Always work toward discovering who you are capable of being, even when times are still and calm. 

15. “Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: Being mindful and living in the moment does all of these things! It also helps us feel happier. Living in the moment can also help us cope with pain in a more manageable way. Other benefits include reduced stress levels. It can even make it easier to handle negative emotions like fear and anger when they arise.

16. “If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing. If we don’t really know where we are standing… We may only go in circles…” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Everyday Application: Being aware of yourself is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. If you want to develop your self-awareness start out with some meditation. Connect with your mind and body. Then write down your plans and figure out what actions you can take daily. Writing down your plans is a great way to keep track of the progress you make, which in turn helps you be more self-aware. 

17. “Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Calming Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes

18. “To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: What would your life look like if you were able to let go of things this way? The ability to allow things to be as they are is crucial for inner peace. For many of us over achievers, doers, and creatives, this can be a struggle. However, the benefits of embracing the way life is can be numerous.

19. “Just watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

20. “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: This is a good reminder to be deliberate in your words and actions. Do things purposefully, both in your career and your personal life. Question why you do the things you do and say. Be awake and aware about what is happening within you and in your daily life. Don’t just go about on auto pilot.

21. “For men and women alike, this journey is a the trajectory between birth and death, a human life lived. No one escapes the adventure. We only work with it differently.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

22. “Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own. You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

23. “Discipline provides a constancy which is independent of what kind of day you had yesterday and what kind of day you anticipate today.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: Discipline is the ability to follow through with your plans, principles, and routines without becoming influenced by other things. Maybe yesterday was a terrible day where everything went wrong, and you are not your usually motivated self. This is where being disciplined will help. Conversely, maybe yesterday was a big win for you and now you want to happily ride the wave and feel like you can take a break. Discipline will help you stay on track!

24. “Perhaps we just need little reminders from time to time that we are already dignified, deserving, worthy. Sometimes we don’t feel that way because of the wounds and the scars we carry from the past or because of the uncertainty of the future. It is doubtful that we came to feel undeserving on our own. We were helped to feel unworthy. We were taught it in a thousand ways when we were little, and we learned our lessons well.”

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25. “look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them…. Without knowing it, we are coloring everything, putting our spin on it all.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

26. “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.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Application: Take up space and do not feel bad about that. Each of us has equal right to let our light shine and our presence to be known. Your unique self offers something to the world and the people around you. Are you muting yourself for the benefit of others? That is one of the quickest ways to start losing yourself!

Inspirational Jon Kabat-Zinn Quotes

27. “We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair when they come up and face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

28. “Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

29. “Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

30. “One practical way to do this is to look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

31. “At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient only the universe rearranging itself.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

32. “If you stop trying to make yourself more than you are, out of fear that you are less than you are, whoever you really are will be a lot lighter and happier and easier to live with, too.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

33. “Acknowledging that sometimes, often at very crucial times, you really have no idea where you are going or even where the path lies. A the same time, you can very well know something about where you are now even if it is knowing that you are lost, confused, enraged or without hope.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

34. “Awareness is not the same as thinking. It is a complementary form of intelligence, a way of knowing that is at least as wonderful and as powerful, if not more so, than thinking.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

35. See for yourself whether letting go when a part of you really wants to hold on doesn’t bring a deeper satisfaction than clinging.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Interesting things about Kabat-Zinn you might not know

He earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT.

While at MIT he discovered what he called his “karmic assignment.”

Kabat-Zinn found himself leading a campaign against military research at the university.

He also protested against the Vietnam war.

Kabat-Zinn met Philip Kapleau, a Zen missionary who came to speak at MIT.

He introduced him to the concept of meditation.

While he first used the Buddhist teachings and mindfulness principles in his book, he later removed them and put the MBSR in a scientific context.

Let us know what your favorite Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes are in the comment section below.

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  1. Kirti Dube

    July 18, 2021 at 7:36 AM

    “What you don’t know, but you don’t know that you don’t know, is beyond blindness” – Jon Kabat-Zin

  2. Jaime Carlo-Casellas, Ph,D.

    March 3, 2019 at 2:30 PM

    What I learned from Jon: “The right time to be happy is now, the right place to be happy is here, and as long as you are breathing there is more right with you than there is wrong.”

    Dr. Kabat-Zinn taught me how to be mindful back in the early 1980s. That kept me from falling into the dark abyss of discontentment. I now help those suffering from PTSD, C-PTSD, and addictive behavior by teaching them mindfulness interventions. Jaime Carlo-Casellas, Ph.D. Author of Mindfulness for the Common Man (2019 in press).

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