Waking Up
Waking Up

Waking Up

Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others. (Location 51)

Every relationship is as good or as bad as it is because of the minds involved. If you are perpetually angry, depressed, confused, and unloving, or your attention is elsewhere, it won’t matter how successful you become or who is in your life—you won’t enjoy any of it. (Location 54)

We are trying to find good enough reasons to be satisfied now. (Location 61)

How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives. (Location 63)

If I could have bestowed those gifts on him, I would have. Truly wanting him to be happy made his happiness my own. (Location 78)

I was no longer watching myself through another person’s eyes. (Location 84)

had viewed organized religion as merely a monument to the ignorance and superstition of our ancestors. (Location 96)

Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit. (Location 102)

Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world. (Location 134)

From both a scientific and a philosophical point of view, they represent a clearer understanding of the way things are. (Location 147)

The landscape of human experience includes deeply transformative insights about the nature of one’s own consciousness, and yet it is obvious that these psychological states must be understood in the context of neuroscience, psychology, and related fields. (Location 150)

It seems to me that I spend much of my waking life in a neurotic trance. My experiences in meditation suggest, however, that an alternative exists. It is possible to stand free of the juggernaut of self, if only for moments at a time. (Location 180)

But our pleasures are, by their very nature, fleeting. If we enjoy some great professional success, our feelings of accomplishment remain vivid and intoxicating for an hour, or perhaps a day, but then they subside. (Location 185)

Is it possible to be happy before anything happens, before one’s desires are gratified, in spite of life’s difficulties, in the very midst of physical pain, old age, disease, and death? (Location 191)

If there exists a source of psychological well-being that does not depend upon merely gratifying one’s desires, then it should be present even when all the usual sources of pleasure have been removed. (Location 201)

And yet contemplatives in many traditions claim to experience extraordinary depths of psychological well-being while living in isolation for vast stretches of time. (Location 206)

one has experiences that are generally unavailable to people who have not undertaken a similar practice. (Location 215)

The way we think about experience can completely determine how we feel about it. (Location 239)

Despite the beauty of our world and the scope of human accomplishment, it is hard not to worry that the forces of chaos will triumph—not merely in the end but in every moment. (Location 248)

And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, (Location 259)

All teach the same ethical principles; all urge their followers to contemplate the same divine reality; all are equally wise, compassionate, and true within their sphere—or equally divisive and false, depending on one’s view. (Location 275)

because most religions make claims about reality that are mutually incompatible. (Location 277)

Hindus are committed to specific metaphysical ideas—the law of karma and rebirth, a multiplicity of gods—that almost every other major religion decries. (Location 280)

free solo” rock climbing); some are safer but synonymous with violence (mixed martial arts); and some entail little more risk of injury than standing in the shower (bowling). (Location 286)

In my experience, people do not want to hear that Islam supports violence in a way that Jainism doesn’t, or that Buddhism offers a truly sophisticated, empirical approach to understanding the human mind, whereas Christianity presents an almost perfect impediment to such understanding. (Location 293)

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the human soul is conceived as genuinely separate from the divine reality of God. (Location 312)

To get started as a Christian, however, one must first accept a dozen implausible things about the life of Jesus and the origins of the Bible—and the same can be said, minus a few unimportant details, about Judaism and Islam. (Location 334)

It is always surprising when a person attracts legions of followers and builds a large organization on their largesse while peddling penny-arcade mythology of this kind. (Location 357)

We can easily forget how suddenly the world had shrunk and the cosmos expanded as the nineteenth century came to a close. (Location 360)

and yet the reality of unseen forces and alien worlds was a daily focus of the most careful scientific research. (Location 362)

Isaac Newton, squandered a considerable portion of his genius on the study of theology, biblical prophecy, and alchemy. (Location 364)

whether by magic or not, allowed Smith to produce an English version of God’s Word that was an embarrassing pastiche of plagiarisms from the Bible and silly lies about Jesus’s life in America. (Location 369)

Scientology, leverages human credulity to an even greater degree: (Location 371)

Adherents believe that human beings are possessed by the souls of extraterrestrials who were condemned to planet Earth 75 million years ago by the galactic overlord (Location 371)

They enable our hero to insert his tongue into his nasopharynx, thereby blocking the flow of air through the nostrils. (Location 391)

one could argue that India has survived as the world’s largest democracy only because of institutions that were built under British rule. (Location 407)

the doctrine has a practical and logical core that does not require any unwarranted assumptions. (Location 412)

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama. (Location 415)

the man is not above consulting an astrologer or “oracle” when making important decisions. (Location 422)

They are, rather, empirical instructions: If you do X, you will experience Y. (Location 429)

Buddha means “awakened one”—and Siddhartha Gautama was merely a man who woke up from the dream of being a separate self. (Location 431)

Focusing on training the mind to the exclusion of all else can lead to political quietism and hive-like conformity. (Location 435)

that your mind is all you have and that it is possible to be at peace even in difficult circumstances can become an argument for ignoring obvious societal problems. (Location 436)

One can, for instance, spend long periods of time in contemplative solitude for the purpose of becoming a better person in the world—having better relationships, being more honest and compassionate and, therefore, more helpful to one’s fellow human beings. (Location 440)

This is not to say that Western medicine is complete. In a few decades, many of our current practices will seem barbaric. (Location 453)

Nevertheless, most of our knowledge about the human body—and about the physical universe generally—emerged in the West. (Location 455)

Their traditions have spawned many of the same pathologies we see elsewhere among the faithful: dogmatism, anti-intellectualism, tribalism, otherworldliness. (Location 460)

We are merely talking about human consciousness and its possible states. (Location 467)

Children need to become autonomous, confident, and self-aware in order to form healthy relationships. (Location 471)

The reality of your life is always now. And to realize this, we will see, is liberating. In fact, I think there is nothing more important to understand if you want to be happy in this world. (Location 485)

We manage to avoid being happy while struggling to become happy, fulfilling one desire after the next, banishing our fears, grasping at pleasure, recoiling from pain—and thinking, interminably, about how best to keep the whole works up and running. (Location 487)

The quality of mind cultivated in vipassana is almost always referred to as “mindfulness,” and the literature on its psychological benefits is now substantial. There is nothing spooky about mindfulness. (Location 500)

The four foundations of mindfulness are the body (breathing, changes in posture, activities), feelings (the senses of pleasantness, unpleasantness, and neutrality), the mind (in particular, its moods and attitudes), and the objects of mind (which include the five senses but also other mental states, such as volition, tranquility, rapture, equanimity, and even mindfulness itself). (Location 513)

however, is that the totality of one’s experience can become the field of contemplation. (Location 517)

Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience; it is the act of experiencing more clearly, including the arising of thoughts themselves. (Location 521)

flow of experience in each moment. The principal enemy of mindfulness—or of any meditative practice—is our deeply conditioned habit of being distracted by thoughts. (Location 525)

Most people who believe they are meditating are merely thinking with their eyes closed. (Location 529)

What remains is consciousness itself, with its attendant sights, sounds, sensations, and thoughts appearing and changing in every moment. (Location 531)

With practice, mindfulness becomes a well-formed habit of attention, and the difference between it and ordinary thinking will become increasingly clear. (Location 535)

Most of us spend every waking moment lost in the movie of our lives. (Location 540)

We crave lasting happiness in the midst of change: (Location 545)

cherished (Location 545)

Our attachment to the good things in life and our aversion to the bad amount to a denial of these realities, and this inevitably leads to feelings of dissatisfaction. (Location 546)

True mastery might require special talent and a lifetime of devotion to the (Location 550)

task, and yet a genuine transformation in one’s perception of the world is within reach for most of us. (Location 551)

The goal is to come out of the trance of discursive thinking and to stop reflexively grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant, so that we can enjoy a mind undisturbed by worry, merely open like (Location 560)

few of us have any illusions that they guarantee happiness. (Location 590)

Even while living safely between emergencies, most of us feel a wide range of painful emotions on a daily basis. (Location 593)

And when we look at what makes it so, we see that we are all prisoners of our thoughts. (Location 597)

death, which defeats everyone. (Location 597)

The first strategy leads to a life of conventional worldliness and distraction—we merely strive for pleasure and success and do our best to keep the reality of death out of view. (Location 599)

which assures us that death is but a doorway to another world and that the most important opportunities in life occur after the lifetime of the (Location 600)

It is quite possible to lose one’s sense of being a separate self and to experience (Location 619)

a kind of boundless, open awareness—to feel, in other words, at one with the cosmos. (Location 620)

The near goal, therefore, is to have an increasingly healthy mind—that is, to be moving one’s mind in the right direction. (Location 633)

above all, she will no longer feel identical to her thoughts. (Location 642)

She would no longer feel that there is an inner self who is a thinker of these thoughts. (Location 643)

The crucial point is that you can glimpse something about the nature of consciousness that will liberate you from suffering in the present. (Location 647)

Contemplatives have long understood that positive habits of mind are best viewed as skills that most of us learn imperfectly as we grow to adulthood. (Location 669)

But it is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train (Location 673)

preserves our scientific skepticism but acknowledges that it is possible to radically transform our minds. (Location 678)

According to the Buddhist view, by seeing things as they are, we cease to suffer in the usual ways, and our minds can open to states of well-being that are intrinsic to the nature of consciousness. (Location 683)

No doubt certain people can derive mental pleasure—and even experience genuine ecstasy—by behaving in ways that produce immense suffering for others. (Location 689)

In my view, the realistic goal to be attained through spiritual practice is not some permanent state of enlightenment that admits of no further efforts but a capacity to be free in this moment, in the midst of whatever is happening. If you can do that, you have already solved most of the problems you will encounter in life. (Location 696)

Instead, the birth of consciousness must be the result of organization: Arranging atoms in certain ways appears to bring about an experience of being that very collection of atoms. This is undoubtedly one of the deepest mysteries given to us to contemplate. (Location 727)

It has also been generally forgotten that many of the patriarchs of physics in the first half of the twentieth century regularly impugned the “physicality” of the universe and placed mind—or thoughts, or consciousness itself—at the very wellspring of reality. (Location 744)

It is true that, according to Copenhagen, quantum mechanical systems do not behave classically until they are observed, and before that they may seem to exist in many different states simultaneously. (Location 758)

First there is a physical world, unconscious and seething with unperceived events; then, by virtue of some physical property or process, consciousness itself springs, or staggers, into being. (Location 773)

doesn’t give us any inkling of how it could emerge from unconscious processes, even in principle. (Location 779)

have suggested that perhaps the emergence of consciousness is simply incomprehensible in human terms. (Location 789)

First, the left and right hemispheres of the brain display a high degree of functional specialization. (Location 895)

is divisible—and, therefore, more fundamental than any apparent self. (Location 970)

After surgery, you would tend to speak in a way characteristic of alexithymia (the inability to describe your emotional life), and you might also demonstrate an inappropriate degree of politeness. (Location 974)

would be unified in the only sense that consciousness is ever unified, as a single point of view, and unified in the only sense that minds are ever unified, by virtue of common contents and functional abilities. (Location 990)

It is one thing to say that you are unaware of a vast amount of activity in your brain. It is quite another to say that some of this activity is aware of itself and is watching your every move. (Location 1019)

One is evolutionarily older, unconscious, and automatic; the other evolved more recently and is both conscious and deliberative. (Location 1049)

When you find another person annoying, sexually attractive, or inadvertently funny, you are experiencing the percolations of System 1. (Location 1050)

make to conceal these feelings out of politeness are the work of System 2. (Location 1051)

Human beings can consciously perceive very brief visual stimuli (down to about 1/30 of a second), but we can no longer see these images if they are immediately followed by a dissimilar pattern (a “mask”). (Location 1054)

which further demonstrates that the meanings of words must be gleaned prior to consciousness. (Location 1060)

The acquisition of such motor skills occurs outside of consciousness in normal people as well. (Location 1067)

Consciousness is the substance of any experience we can have or hope for, now or in the future. (Location 1076)

these developments are matters of consciousness and its contents, whatever the nature of the unconscious processes that give rise to them. (Location 1079)

I have argued elsewhere, and at length in The Moral Landscape, that we have ethical responsibilities toward other creatures precisely to the degree that our actions can affect their conscious experience for better or worse. (Location 1083)

desirable or undesirable that did not depend upon some change in the experience of conscious creatures. It is not always easy to nail down what we mean by “good” and “bad”—and their definitions may remain perpetually open to revision— (Location 1089)

The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand—that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character in this moment—is a mystery, exceeded only by the mystery that there should be something rather than nothing in the first place. (Location 1099)

And yet, I glimpse what I will call the intrinsic selflessness of consciousness every day, whether at a traditional holy site, or at my desk, or while having my teeth cleaned. (Location 1120)

A surgeon rushes to his side to begin the work of saving his life, but the man resists these ministrations. (Location 1128)

Little has changed since the Buddha’s time. Many people claim to have no interest at all in spiritual life. (Location 1133)

Most of us feel that our experience of the world refers back to a self—not to our bodies precisely but to a center of consciousness that exists somehow interior to the body, behind the eyes, inside the head. (Location 1141)

In fact, I’ve forgotten most of what has happened to me over the course of my life, and my body has been gradually changing all the while. (Location 1147)

In a now famous thought experiment, the philosopher Derek Parfit asks us to imagine a teleportation device that can beam a person from Earth to Mars. (Location 1150)

It turns out that the technicians wait for a person’s replica to be built on Mars before obliterating his original body on Earth. (Location 1156)

To most readers, this thought experiment will suggest that psychological continuity—the mere maintenance of one’s memories, beliefs, habits, and other mental traits—is an insufficient basis for personal identity. (Location 1161)

And yet, the problem with teleportation is somehow not obvious if a person is disassembled before his replica is built. In that case, it is tempting to say that teleportation works and that “he” is really stepping onto the surface of Mars. (Location 1167)

“identity is not what matters”; rather, we should be concerned only about psychological continuity. (Location 1177)

There is no stable self that is carried along from one moment to the next. (Location 1189)

If “my” consciousness were suddenly filled with the contents of “your” life—if I awoke this morning with your memories, hopes, fears, sensory impressions, and relationships—I would no longer be me. I would be the same as your clone in the teleportation case. (Location 1195)

Whatever its relation to the physical world, consciousness is the context in which the objects of experience appear—the sight of this book, the sound of traffic, the sensation of your back against a chair. (Location 1203)

psychological continuity is divisible—and can, therefore, be inherited by more than one mind. (Location 1208)

both of which would be psychologically continuous with the person who is now writing this paragraph. (Location 1210)