in ,

These 50 Alan Watts quotes will blow your mind

image of Alan Watts

If you’re looking for the best selection of Alan Watts quotes, then you’ll love this post.

I’ve personally scoured the Internet and found his top 50 most wise and powerful quotes.

And you can filter through the list to find the topics that most interest you.

Check them out:

On Suffering

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate from “I.””

On the Mind

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

On the Present Moment

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infintesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”

“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”

“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”

“…tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.”

“Zen is a liberation from time. For if we open our eyes and see clearly, it becomes obvious that there is no other time than this instant, and that the past and the future are abstractions without any concrete reality.”

“We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking and see that the past always flows back form the present. That now is the creative point of life. So you see its like the idea of forgiving somebody, you change the meaning of the past by doing that…Also watch the flow of music. The melody as its expressed is changed by notes that come later. Just as the meaning of a sentence…you wait till later to find out what the sentence means…The present is always changing the past.”

“For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.”

On the Meaning of Life

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

On Faith

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Artists

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

On Change

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.”

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”

“No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”

“Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.”

On Love

Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.

On You

“What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.”

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”

“The source of all light is in the eye.”

“You have seen that the universe is at root a
magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate
“you” to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The
only real “you” is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws
itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For “you” is the
universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that
come and go so that the vision is forever new.”

“You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes.”

“Naturally, for a person who finds his identity in something other than his full organism is less than half a man. He is cut off from complete participation in nature. Instead of being a body, he ‘has’ a body. Instead of living and loving he ‘has’ instincts for survival and copulation.”

On Technology

“Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.”

“Man aspires to govern nature, but the more one studies ecology, the
more absurd it seems to speak of any one feature of an organism, or of
an organism/environment field, as governing or ruling others.”

On the Universe

“We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”

“Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.”

“No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

“As you make more and more powerful microscopic instruments, the universe has to get smaller and smaller in order to escape the investigation. Just as when the telescopes become more and more powerful, the galaxies have to recede in order to get away from the telescopes. Because what is happening in all these investigations is this: Through us and through our eyes and senses, the universe is looking at itself. And when you try to turn around to see your own head, what happens? It runs away. You can’t get at it. This is the principle. Shankara explains it beautifully in his commentary on the Kenopanishad where he says ‘That which is the Knower, the ground of all knowledge, is never itself an object of knowledge.’

[In this quote from 1973 Watts, remarkably, essentially anticipates the discovery (in the late 1990’s) of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.]”
― Alan Watts

On Problems

“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.

On Decisions

“We feel that our actions are voluntary when they follow a decision and involuntary when they happen without decision. But if a decision itself were voluntary every decision would have to be preceded by a decision to decide – An infinite regression which fortunately does not occur. Oddly enough, if we had to decide to decide, we would not be free to decide”

On Enjoying Life

“For if you know what you want, and will be content with it, you can be trusted. But if you do not know, your desires are limitless and no one can tell how to deal with you. Nothing satisfies an individual incapable of enjoyment.”

On the Human Problem

“This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for the future is offset by the “ability” to dread pain and to fear of the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of the past and future gives us a corresponding dim sense of the present. In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.”

On the Ego

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate from “I.”

On Knowledge

“There was a young man who said though, it seems that I know that I know, but what I would like to see is the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know.”

On Letting Go

“But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run.”

On Peace

“Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”

On Meditation

“When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

“The art of meditation is a way of getting into touch with reality, and the reason for it is that most civilized people are out of touch with reality because they confuse the world as it with the world as they think about it and talk about it and describe it. For on the one hand there is the real world and on the other there is a whole system of symbols about that world which we have in our minds. These are very very useful symbols, all civilization depends on them, but like all good things they have their disadvantages, and the principle disadvantage of symbols is that we confuse them with reality, just as we confuse money with actual wealth.”

On the Purpose of Life

“No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.”

“Here is the vicious circle: if you feel separate from your organic life, you feel driven to survive; survival -going on living- thus becomes a duty and also a drag because you are not fully with it; because it does not quite come up to expectations, you continue to hope that it will, to crave for more time, to feel driven all the more to go on.”

On Belief

“Belief…is the insistence that the truth is what one would ‘lief’ or (will or) wish to be…Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith let’s go…faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”

“Belief clings, but faith lets go.”

On Travel

“To travel is to be alive, but to get somewhere is to be dead, for as our own proverb says, “To travel well is better than to arrive.”

Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

man at Buddha statue wondering what karma means

Karma meaning: Here’s what a Buddhist Master says

Statue of Buddha to honor teachings of Buddha

This awesome Zen story will teach you an important lesson about fear