10 Quotes From Alan Watts That Will Improve Your Life


Alan Watts was born in London in January of 1915 at the start of the first World War. In 1957 he published his bestselling Way of Zen, and by the late sixties he had become a counter-culture celebrity who travelled widely to speak at universities and growth centers across the US and Europe. By the early seventies Alan Watts had become a foremost interpreter of Eastern thought for the West publishing many influential books and articles.

I find the voice of Alan Watts immediate and compelling and his Western approach to Eastern thought certainly makes a lot of the more complex philosophies much more accessible. Use these quotes for your own journey – print them out, stick them on your mirror or your computer, read them every day and see how they can help.

1. On The Present Moment – A reminder of the very popular ‘Power of Now’ truism and a way to appreciate the present moment with the respect that it requires.

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.

2. On Impact – Although a Brit, Watts spent most of his life in the States and obviously enjoyed a Yin and Yang relationship with its core culture and values.

In known history, nobody has had such capacity for altering the universe than the people of the United States of America. And nobody has gone about it in such an aggressive way.

3. On Connection – Many of our leaders simply do not get this and carry on as if they are the centre of the universe. Their attitudes are as pointless as your own limbs fighting with each other.

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

4. On Boldness 

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

5. On Poverty – Doesn’t it amaze you that we still have the levels of poverty and malnutrition in this world and yet we can travel at the speed of sound, take pictures and movies on a phone, and speak to someone on the other side of the world for free. Where the hell is our imagination?

The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money… they don’t know how to enjoy it, because they have no imagination.

6. On Futility

What the devil is the point of surviving, going on living, when it’s a drag? But you see, that’s what people do.

7. On God

You don’t look out there for God, something in the sky, you look in you.

8. On The Self – I love this. Taken from ‘The Book’ which is a complete treatise on this subject and has a whole load more on the taboo of knowing who you really are.

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.

9. On The Secret Of Life

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.

10. On Meditation

We could say that meditation doesn’t have a reason or doesn’t have a purpose. In this respect it’s unlike almost all other things we do except perhaps making music and dancing. When we make music we don’t do it in order to reach a certain point, such as the end of the composition. If that were the purpose of music then obviously the fastest players would be the best. Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. 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.

If you haven’t read any Alan Watts before then check out his work as soon as you can. Feel free to post a comment below if you found any of these quotes particularly resonated with you.