29+ quotes from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

Quotes from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Sam Harris ·  256 pages

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“Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others. This might not be obvious, especially when there are aspects of your life that seem in need of improvement—when your goals are unrealized, or you are struggling to find a career, or you have relationships that need repairing. But it’s the truth. Every experience you have ever had has been shaped by your mind. 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.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“My mind begins to seem like a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or I can be killed in the same spot by the same monster, again and again.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“if, like many people, you tend to be vaguely unhappy much of the time, it can be very helpful to manufacture a feeling of gratitude by simply contemplating all the terrible things that have not happened to you, or to think of how many people would consider their prayers answered if they could only live as you are now. The mere fact that you have the leisure to read this book puts you in very rarefied company. Many people on earth at this moment can’t even imagine the freedom that you currently take for granted.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“There is nothing passive about mindfulness. One might even say that it expresses a specific kind of passion—a passion for discerning what is subjectively real in every moment. It is a mode of cognition that is, above all, undistracted, accepting, and (ultimately) nonconceptual. 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. Mindfulness is a vivid awareness of whatever is appearing in one’s mind or body—thoughts, sensations, moods—without grasping at the pleasant or recoiling from the unpleasant.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“It is always now. This might sound trite, but it is the truth. It’s not quite true as a matter of neurology, because our minds are built upon layers of inputs whose timing we know must be different.11 But it is true as a matter of conscious experience. 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. But we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth—overlooking it, fleeing it, repudiating it. And the horror is that we succeed. 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.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Some people are content in the midst of deprivation and danger, while others are miserable despite having all the luck in the world. This is not to say that external circumstances do not matter. 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 it.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Spirituality must be distinguished from religion—because people of every faith, and of none, have had the same sorts of spiritual experiences.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives. Mystics and contemplatives have made this claim for ages—but a growing body of scientific research now bears it out.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“On one level, wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Merely accepting that we are lazy, distracted, petty, easily provoked to anger, and inclined to waste our time in ways that we will later regret is not a path to happiness.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Each of us is looking for a path back to the present:”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“we are all seeking fulfillment while living at the mercy of changing experience. Whatever we acquire in life gets dispersed. Our bodies age. Our relationships fall away. Even the most intense pleasures last only a few moments. And every morning, we are chased out of bed by our thoughts.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“How to Meditate 1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion. 2. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel the points of contact between your body and the chair or the floor. Notice the sensations associated with sitting—feelings of pressure, warmth, tingling, vibration, etc. 3. Gradually become aware of the process of breathing. Pay attention to wherever you feel the breath most distinctly—either at your nostrils or in the rising and falling of your abdomen. 4. Allow your attention to rest in the mere sensation of breathing. (You don’t have to control your breath. Just let it come and go naturally.) 5. Every time your mind wanders in thought, gently return it to the breath. 6. As you focus on the process of breathing, you will also perceive sounds, bodily sensations, or emotions. Simply observe these phenomena as they appear in consciousness and then return to the breath. 7. The moment you notice that you have been lost in thought, observe the present thought itself as an object of consciousness. Then return your attention to the breath—or to any sounds or sensations arising in the next moment. 8. Continue in this way until you can merely witness all objects of consciousness—sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, even thoughts themselves—as they arise, change, and pass away.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises: Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“There is now little question that how one uses one’s attention, moment to moment, largely determines what kind of person one becomes. Our minds—and lives—are largely shaped by how we use them.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Every moment of the day—indeed, every moment throughout one’s life—offers an opportunity to be relaxed and responsive or to suffer unnecessarily.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“The feeling that we call “I” is itself the product of thought. Having an ego is what it feels like to be thinking without knowing that you are thinking.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“if you are thinking without knowing you are thinking, you are confused about who and what you are.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“As manuals for contemplative understanding, the Bible and the Koran are worse than useless. Whatever wisdom can be found in their pages is never best found there, and it is subverted, time and again, by ancient savagery and superstition.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“There is nothing novel about trying to become happy. And one can become happy, within certain limits, without any recourse to the practice of meditation. But conventional sources of happiness are unreliable, being dependent upon changing conditions. It is difficult to raise a happy family, to keep yourself and those you love healthy, to acquire wealth and find creative and fulfilling ways to enjoy it, to form deep friendships, to contribute to society in ways that are emotionally rewarding, to perfect a wide variety of artistic, athletic, and intellectual skills—and to keep the machinery of happiness running day after day. There is nothing wrong with being fulfilled in all these ways—except for the fact that, if you pay close attention, you will see that there is still something wrong with it. These forms of happiness aren’t good enough. Our feelings of fulfillment do not last. And the stress of life continues.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“I’m not denying the importance of achieving one’s goals, maintaining one’s health, or keeping one’s children clothed and fed—but most of us spend our time seeking happiness and security without acknowledging the underlying purpose of our search. Each of us is looking for a path back to the present: We are trying to find good enough reasons to be satisfied now.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“This is not to say that external circumstances do not matter. 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”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“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. Although science may ultimately show us how to truly maximize human well-being, it may still fail to dispel the fundamental mystery of our being itself.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“In fact, we can directly experience that consciousness is never improved or harmed by what it knows. Making this discovery, again and again, is the basis of spiritual life.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“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.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“Making distinctions of this kind, however, is deeply unfashionable in intellectual circles. 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. In many circles, to make invidious comparisons of this kind is to stand convicted of bigotry.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


“But if they don’t try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.”
― Sam Harris, quote from Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion


About the author

Sam Harris
Born place: in The United States
Born date April 9, 1967
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