Top 20 mindfulness quotes for everyday life



I’ve recently finished reading the brilliant book above called ‘the things you can see only when you slow down’ (available here).  Its author, Haemin Sunim (@haeminsunim), is a Harvard educated, Zen Buddhist teacher and New York Times bestselling writer from South Korea.  His book comprises a collection of several hundred mindfulness quotes and short passages, mostly written by Haemin himself, which aim to inspire, comfort and provide hope.

With over three million copies sold, it was definitely worth a read.  However, I find the biggest problem with reading wonderful quotes is that I’ve forgotten most of them a week later.  When reading this book, I therefore found myself turning the corners of those that most struck a chord so that I could refer back to them in the future.  In this blog post I thought I’d share my top 20!

The quotes are ordered by chapter and are written by Haemin Sunim unless otherwise stated.

Chapter 1 – Rest 


“‘Everyone appears as buddhas in the eyes of the Buddha and everyone appears as pigs on the eye of the pig.’ (Buddhist saying).  The world is experienced according to the state of one’s mind.  When your mind is joyful and compassionate, the world is, too.  When you feel overwhelmed and busy, remember that you are not powerless. When your mind rests, the world also rests.” (p.13)


“Would you like to make your child happy?  Then get off work a little early today.  Wait for your child in front of school. Horse around together on the playground.  Let your child choose where to go for dinner.  And shower your child with your loving attention.  On your way home, pick up ice cream for the family. 

Your child will remember this day forever.” (p. 33)

Chapter 2 – Mindfulness 


“If you are sincere about reaching enlightenment, you can learn from even a child, or from the person who insults you on the street.  The entire world becomes your teacher.” (p. 54)


“Our emotions are capricious, like the weather in London.  One minute, when someone criticises us, we are offended and furious.  The next minute, when someone praises us, we feel proud and pompous.

Unless we recognise the still point beneath the surface of our changing emotions, we will feel we are hostage to their whims.” (p. 55)


“We can be consumed by anger for a long time without realising we have been angry.  Similarly, we are easily lost in thought without knowing we have been thinking. 

Even when we are awake we are no different from a sleepwalker. We do things without the awareness of doing them.

Just because our eyes are open does not mean we are awake.” (p. 66)

Chapter 3 – Passion 


We must ask whether it was worthwhile if we make each other feel unhappy or hurt in the name of defending our beliefs. Instead of maintaining the sanctity of our values, shouldn’t we care more about the person sitting in front of us? Isn’t it better to be happy together than to be right alone?

Trying to convince someone to adopt our views is largely the work of our ego. Even if we turn out to be right, our ego knows no satisfaction and seeks a new argument to engage in.

 Maturity comes with experience. One lesson of maturity is that we should not take our thoughts too seriously, and must learn to curb our ego and see the bigger picture.

Being right isn’t nearly as important as being happy together.” (p.90)


“Choose happiness, not success, as your life’s goal.  If you become successful but aren’t happy, then what is the point?” (p. 96)

Chapter 4 – Relationships 


“Do you have a lot of enemies?  Then be humble and stop speaking ill of people. 

Those who do not make enemies are more powerful than those who have the strength to fight them all and win.” (p. 114)


“When you lower yourself, the world elevates you.  When you elevate yourself, the world lowers you.  

When you arrive at the peak of your enlightenment, you will understand:  Your peak is the same height as your neighbour’s.  At the peak, you see everyone’s holiness.” (p. 130)


“No one is inherently good or bad.  Only the circumstance in which we encounter each other is good or bad.

A criminal who happens to stop a car from running over me is an angel sent by God. 

A Nobel Peace Prize winner who happens to bump into me on the subway is a jerk.” (p. 131)

Chapter 5 – Love


“One summer night, I look up and focus on one star out of many.  That star also chooses to look at me, out of all the people on earth. 

A meeting between two people is like this, a rare cosmic event.  It is one in a million, a billion, a trillion.” (p. 161)


“We do things for the one we love, but sometimes just being there expresses even deeper love.  Give the gift of your full presence.” (p. 167)

Chapter 6 – Life


“There are many more ordinary hours in life than extraordinary ones.  We wait in line at the supermarket.  We spend hours commuting to work.  We water our plants and feed our pets. 

Happiness means finding a moment of joy in those ordinary hours.” (p.176)


“Life is like jazz.  Much of it is improvised; we cannot control all the variables.  We must live it with panache and flair, regardless of what it throws at us.” (p. 190)


“Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.  Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviour.  Keep your behaviour positive, because your behaviour becomes your habits.  Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.  Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.” (Mahatma Gandhi, p.193)


“A foolish person thinks, ‘I already know that.’ He keeps anything new from coming into his mind.  A wise person thinks, ‘I don’t know the whole story.’  She opens herself up to even greater wisdom.”  (p. 195)


“A cruel irony:

The reward for someone who works hard is more work.” (p. 198)

Chapter 7 – The Future 


“Instead of building up a résumé only to land a job, enjoy the process of learning something new.  Don’t do it just for the end.  Delight in the means, too.” (p. 211)


“There is no such thing as being completely prepared.  Life is an adventure, through which we learn and mature.  Of course, we must consider all our options carefully.  But if we wait for 100% certainty, then it is often too late.” (p. 213)

Chapter 8 – Spirituality 


“If Jesus, Buddha, and Confucius were all alive and gathered in the same place, would they argue over who is right?  Or would they respect and admire one another’s teachings? 

Religious conflict can often be blamed not on the founders of religions but on their fanatical followers.” (p.241)


Perhaps if I read this book again in 10 years’ time, a very different ‘top 20’ will emerge.


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