Not Taking Our Thoughts Personally


I thought I’d share the following excerpt from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners because it has been very helpful for me lately. I’ll be sharing more quotes and excerpts in the next weeks and months. Feel free to share your favorite passages, as well.

2530447234_08c45773c2_bIt is a big step toward reclaiming our lives when we realize that, no matter what their content, good, bad, or ugly, we do not have to take our thoughts personally.

We do not have to believe them. We do not have to even think of them as “ours.” We can recognize them simply as thoughts, as events in the field of awareness, events that arise and pass away very rapidly, that sometimes carry insights, sometimes enormous emotional charge, and that can have a huge effect for better or for worse in our lives, depending on how we are in relationship to them.

When we don’t automatically take them personally or believe the stories about “reality” that we build from them, when we simply hold them in awareness with a sense of curiosity and wonder at their amazing power given their insubstantiality, their limitations, and inaccuracies, then we have a chance right in that moment, in any moment really, to not get caught in their habitual patterning, to see thoughts for what they are, impersonal events, and instead be the knowing that awareness already is.

Then, in that moment at least, we are already free, ready to act with greater clarity and kindness within the constantly changing field of events that is nothing other than life unfolding — not always as we think it should, but definitely as it is.

–Jon Kabat-Zinn


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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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3 Responses
  1. kdn

    Thanks for sharing this. I did not know about this particular book – I plan to take a look. I use mindfulness meditation on a daily basis.
    The mind changes moment by moment – one moment we may think we are perfectly happy and in the very next moment we can lose all hope. In practising mindfulness, we learn to understand this very nature of the mind. Some people maybe able to understand the following peer-reviewed article that describes how our minds change moment by moment – it is based on an ancient model of the mind:
    According to Buddhist teachings (the origin of mindfulness) a total understanding of one’s mind and reality (i.e., “seeing things as they are”) is called “enlightenment.” Also, according to these teachings, everyone is mentally unwell (to different degrees), until they reach full enlightenment!
    For people who are not interested in enlightenment – they can use mindfulness in order to not become ‘anxious about being anxious’ or ‘depressed about being depressed.’ When an anxious thought comes, one simply observes it without proliferating it. You notice how it comes, stays for a while and goes away. Then gradually these thoughts get less powerful, and you also get more skilled at letting go thoughts. But one needs to be consistent in one’s practice – it has to become a daily habit.
    Several studies also show that with mindfulness practice, the structure and function of the brain changes in positive ways.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Theresa you’re exceptional. This world is better because of you.
    You’ve inspired me to live a more service focused life. Giving back.

    It’s my Hope that you feel the love, respect & deep appreciation that I and multitude of others must feel for you!!

    You’re gifted. You’re Also burdened. Despite how hard life often is for you it’s clear that you have taken the high road.

    May you be encouraged & blessed this holiday season and always.

    I’ve added you to my prayers and will continue to do so. Miracles happen. I AM praying that you will be healed. ? Or at least blessed beyond your wildest dreams !!

    Reading your history will help countless others. Compassion. Hope. Realism & much Love.

  3. Mike

    I have read a lot on mental health – seeking solution to my depression/anxiety, and have come across no better writer on the subject than you, Therese Bouchard. You clearly “get it”. Thank you. Please continue.People like myself need you.