NOTE: While the date of this post is 2008, it is regularly updated. Newer quotes are added to the bottom of the page.
I’m a quote-a-holic. I believe in the power of words to reshape thoughts, thereby changing our feelings and perceptions. Here are some of my favorites.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls the butterfly.
Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.
Shakespeare, Henry V
To be in harmony with the oneness of life is to be without anxiety about imperfection.
Zen Master Dzogen
I made a list of things I have to remember and a list of things I want to forget, but I see they are the same list.
From Linda Pastan’s poem Lists
The attitude of surrender is the best antidote to one’s own anger, anxiety, and fear.
Sally Kempton Yoga Journal
All of our emotions are our babies. Treat them tenderly, care for them. Be with them. Understanding and compassion will ultimately transform them.
Thich Nhat Hanh in Walking Meditation
There will be a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
Suffering is not the nature of our experience. It comes from misunderstanding our experience.
Ethan Nichtern in One City
The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.
The Buddha’s Five Remembrances:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation
All stress comes from resisting the present moment.
Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth
The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself.
Nicole S. Urdang
When Krista Tippett asked eighty year old Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche Communities, what he was doing these days he replied:
I’m doing what I’ve been doing for the past 40 years: learning to love reality.
Comparison is misery.
If I only had three words of advice I could give you they would be : Tell the Truth.
If I were allowed three more, they would be: All the time.
From Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture
Everyone, and everything, is our teacher.
One is one’s own refuge. Who else could be the refuge?
Nemo dat quod non habet. (Latin for: You cannot give what you do not have.)
We give what we desperately want. We say what we need to hear.
You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.
Forgiving before you are ready is an act of violence against yourself. And, you may never be ready.
Nicole S. Urdang
Never give the devil a ride, because if he likes the ride pretty soon he’ll want to drive.
The sun is always behind the clouds.
I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you. (Said to oneself.)
What would it be like if I could accept life, accept this moment, exactly as it is?
The best way way out is always through.
One of the secrets to a happy life is continuous small treats.
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday and all is well.
Dale Carnegie (with add-on by NSU)
I go out for a walk every day because the demons don’t like fresh air.
The choice is pain or paralysis.
That which you seek is already within you.
Expectations are resentments under construction.
There is no other person in the whole world more deserving of compassion than you.
It’s your life. If you’re not going to be enthusiastic about it who will be?
Nicole S. Urdang
One heals suffering only by experiencing it to the full.
Sometimes, you just have to let everything fall apart.
When you find yourself reacting to someone’s behavior, imagine that person as a seven year old. If you see their hurt and pain it’s easier to have compassion and move on.
Be here now.
Believing in life before death is hard enough.
“Shoe” in the comic strip Crow
Revenge is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.
When the horse is dead it’s time to dismount.
Attributed to Dakota Indians
We have all experienced abandonment. What we need to learn is to never abandon our own self.
Forgiveness means that it’s finally unimportant that you hit back–you’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have lunch with the person.
Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what is going on.
What we practice we become.
When we let go our hand opens and we are able to receive.
Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time your judge yourself you break your heart.
Rest is a sacred act.
A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.
Now that my ladders gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart
We can’t heal what we can’t feel.
barn’s burnt down;
now I can see
Haiku by Masahide
Tenderly, I now touch all
knowing one day we will
St. John of the Cross
He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way….
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
A Spiritual Journey
And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.
If you don’t risk anything you risk even more.
Referring to meditation, an old Chinese Zen Master once said, “Some of you are taking me literally when I say, ‘Don’t think,’ and you are making your minds like a rock. This is a cause of insentiency and an obstruction to the Way. When I say not to think, I mean that if you have a thought, think nothing of it.”
The heart, like the grape, is prone to delivering its harvest in the same moment it is crushed.
Transcending boundaries is one of the joys of life.
The Heart Sutra: Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
“Gone, gone, gone to the other shore beyond.”
You can’t escape from a prison unless you know you are in it.
When life descends into the pit
I must become my own candle
Willingly burning my self
To light up the darkness around me.
Sadness is information from the soul.
Courage is the ability to create a relationship with the unknown.
Be happy for no reason.
The thread is spun under the tears, the cloth bleached with tears, the shirt sewn with tears; but then too it is a better protection than iron and steel….The secret in life is that everyone must sew it for himself….Then, there is peace and rest and comfort in sorrow.
Kierkegaard comparing the final stage of human consciousness to the shirt in an old fable.
Confidence comes from doing difficult things.
Man is what he makes of himself. And the courage to be as oneself is the courage to make of oneself what one wants to be.
In some ways the trauma of separation is a welcome contrast to the boredom that underlies many marriages.
The hardest experiences of our lives crack us open to that which connects us all.
To attain clarity, allow confusion.
The Tao of Healing, Haven Trevino
If you can’t get out of it get into it.
Saying from Outward Bound
Man is unhappy because he doesn’t know he’s happy. It’s only that. That’s all, that’s all! If anyone finds out he’ll become happy at once, that minute…. It’s all good. I discovered it all of a sudden.
Dostoyevsky, The Possessed
A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with all the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
We are all one, contributing our part to the wholeness of the universe. Each like a petal: unique, though an integral part of creating the flower’s beauty. Complete as we are, right this minute.
Nicole S. Urdang
When two people decide to get a divorce it isn’t a sign they don’t understand one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.
If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Buddhist Prayer For Peace:
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness—the children, the aged, the unprotected—be guarded by beneficial celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
If you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.
Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.
An emotional wound requires the same priority attention as a physical wound. Set time aside for mourning.
Melba Colgrove, Harold H. Bloomfield, & Peter Williams
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
Naomi Shabib Nye
I don’t know anything. Whatever I thought I knew was shattered. Whatever I anticipated never happened, and what I never anticipated did.
Terry Tempest Williams
Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.
Terry Tempest Williams
When you close your doors, and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone; nay, God is within and your genius is within. And what need have they of light to see what you are doing?
Epictetus (1st Century AD)
Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein to be content.
Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.
W. R. Inge
Far too frequently we see ourselves as doers. This means that in order to feel worthy in our own or [Spirit’s] eyes, we feel we must endlessly work and achieve. We have not always learned just to be receptive, to be in the presence of [Spirit] – quiet, available….
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The great error of this age is that activity has increased so much that there is little margin left in one’s everyday life for repose.
Repose is the secret of all contemplation and meditation, the secret of getting in tune with that aspect of life which is the essence of all things.
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Listen in deep silence. Be very still and open your mind…. Sink deep into the peace that waits for you beyond the frantic, riotous thoughts and sights and sounds of this insane world.
A Course in Miracles
You do not need to leave your room…Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Ultimately, healing is a coming to terms with things
as they are, rather than struggling to force them to
be as they once were, or as we would like them to be
to feel secure
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
Source unknown to me
Life is so short
We must move more slowly
Thich Nhat Hanh
You are a volume in the divine book
A mirror to the power that created the universe
Whatever you want, ask it of yourself
Whatever you’re looking for can only be found
Inside of you.
The deep attending to hard knots of holding is a powerfully compassionate act, a turning toward rejected parts of our being. As this newly compassionate observing occurs, the object of observation, the body/self is transformed and we move from denial to acceptance, from rejection to inclusion. This is the beginning of…loving kindness for the self.
Katherine Thanas in Being Bodies
All of our emotions are our babies. Treat them tenderly, care for them. Be with them. Understanding and compassion will ultimately transform them.
Thich Naht Hanh
Growth and forward motion continue whether we are vigilant or not. Pushing ourselves often slows the process: it stirs resistance in the healthy parts of us that are protecting the natural flow from being overthrown or interfered with. When things feel really hard, slowing way down allows the internal, organic balancing process to work its magic. When you get scared that you’ll never come out of this (or any other place in which you find yourself) remember that everything in us always moves toward growth and change–no matter how it looks to our outside eye.
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart.
Try to allow the questions themselves,
like locked rooms,
and like books that are written in a very foreign language.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually,
live along some distant day into the answer.
Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it.
What appears as bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism
is always a sign of things no ears have heard,
no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit
meets the bone.
For those of you still facing challenges, here’s something key I’d like to share that I’ve learned. Please know that a wholeness exists in you even in the midst of adversity. There is a light in you even now. You may not be able to see it at the end of the tunnel, but it is in you. Right this moment. A wholeness that’s untouched by what you’re facing. Maybe it seems very small. Maybe you don’t even believe it’s there. But it is. If you take a moment to close your eyes, feel it there. That’s the part of you that already knows how to face the challenge, that’s already transformed it and learned from it. It’s the part that will lead you to whatever other guidance you might need along the way. This in no way minimizes the challenge. It’s just that this other piece exists simultaneously and is with you always. And no matter how alone you feel, know that you are not alone. Others feel as you do. If you believe in spirit or the power of love, these are with you always, along with the wholeness inside you.
Grief is a form of loneliness.
Source unknown to me.
Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the over-fraught heart, and bids it break.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau
You are the thinker not the thought.
Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.
Temporary defeat is not failure.
Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Every breakdown is a breakthrough.
We can’t feel gratitude and stress at the same time.
Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
Even if we are determined to block the magic it will get through.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.
If God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it.
My vision can be so limiting. I often think the only possible outcomes are those I can imagine.
The Courage To Change, Al-Anon
It’s better to want something you don’t have than to have something you don’t want.
Denny Crane, Boston Legal
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.
The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.
If you can sit quietly after difficult news;
If in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;
If you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;
If you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate;
If you can fall asleep without a drink or a pill;
If you can always find contentedness just where you are – you are probably a dog.
The one who knows realizes that difficulties are a part of every human life.
It’s not your job to like me–it’s mine.
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.
I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.
Patience is the best remedy for every trouble.
Titus Maccius Plautus
The spiritual path is all about self-acceptance.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.
You have to know how to accept rejection, and reject acceptance.
Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us.
Charlotte Joko Beck
The wind of divine grace is always blowing. You just need to spread your sail. Whenever you do anything, do it with your whole heart concentrated on it. Think day and night, I am of the essence of that Supreme Being-Consciousness-Bliss. What fear and anxiety have I?
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Thérèse de Lisieux
I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.
What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.
Hecato, Greek philosopher
Repetition is the mother of transformation.
Every happiness is the child of a separation it did not think it could survive.
Rainer Maria Rilke
I’m simply saying that there is a way to be sane.
I’m saying that you can get rid of all this insanity
created by the past in you. Just by being a simple
witness of your thought processes.
It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts,
passing before you.
Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging,
because the moment you judge, you have lost the
pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this
is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.
It takes a little time to create a gap between the
witness and the mind. Once the gap is there,
you are in for a great surprise,
that you are not the mind, that
you are the witness, A watcher.
And this process of watching is the very alchemy
of real religion. Because as you become more and
more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start
disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.
That’s the moment of enlightenment.
That is the moment that you become for
the first time an unconditioned, sane,
really free human being.
I have learned … tolerance from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind. I should not be ungrateful to these teachers.
We might also ask: Given my present situation, how long should I stay with uncomfortable feelings?
This is a good question, yet there is no right answer.
We simply get accustomed to coming back to the present just as it is for a second,
for a minute, for an hour—whatever is currently natural—without its becoming an endurance trial.
Just pausing for two to three breaths is a perfect way to stay present.
This is a good use of our life.
Indeed, it is an excellent, joyful use of our life.
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you, you just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it.
What is at the end of any plunge but solid ground?
Nicole S. Urdang
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
“Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”
Joseph Campbell Quotes from A Joseph Campbell Companion
Wisdom’s not cheap, we pay for it.
I can’t go on. I’ll go on.
If it’s out of proportion to the moment it’s probably about the past.
…But loving-kindness toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. It means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.
Relaxation is who you really are. Tension is who you think you should be.
Before you heal someone ask him if he is willing to give up the things that make him sick.
May you discover it is you you are yearning to love most and you who will show you how. It is you you are most longing to know.