160 Alan Watts Quotes to Help You Live In the Moment

This collection of Alan Watts quotes is all you need to live in the moment!

These daily reminders will help you identify the root of your anxieties, and in turn, get you to fully live in the present.

We’ve gathered 160 quotes from Alan Watts’ literature and teachings that will give you insight into understanding yourself, finding balance in life, and seeking the essence of zen.

Read the full collection below.

And don’t forget to check out these Lao Tzu quotes and Marcus Aurelius quotes.

Best Alan Watts Quotes

Alan Watts Quote - The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.

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

2. “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.”

3. “You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”

4. “The menu is not the meal.”

Alan Watts Quote - Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up.

5. “Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up. Now try to imagine what it was like to wake up having never gone to sleep.”

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

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

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

9. “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.”

Alan Watts Quote - We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own.

10. “We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

11. “Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of Ram Dass quotes.

12. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

13. “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.”

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

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

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

16. “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.”

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

18. “Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”

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

Alan Watts Quote - Life is like music for its own sake

20. “Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.”

Related: Neville Goddard Quotes

Alan Watts Quotes – Understanding One’s Self, Emotions, and Love

21. “The first thing to discover is what indeed you do love, and you will find there is something.”

22. “Love is not something that is a sort of rare commodity. Everybody has it.”

23. “This is one of the peculiar problems of our culture—that we are terrified of our feelings.”

24. “Most problems that are solved in a rush are solved in the wrong way, especially emotional problems between people.”

Alan Watts Quote - There are no wrong feelings.

25. “There are no wrong feelings.”

26. “Creative people can stimulate creativity in others by osmosis.”

27. “My image of me is not at all your image of me.”

28. “That, you see, is the most difficult thing to do—is to accept oneself completely.”

29. “Our image of ourselves is completely inaccurate and incomplete.”

Alan Watts Quote - The physical body is the body as examined by others; the subtle body is the way you feel yourself.

30. “The physical body is the body as examined by others; the subtle body is the way you feel yourself.”

31. “What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously.”

32. “To remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. Running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought. There is no escape.”

33. “One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.”

34. “To put it more plainly, the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

Alan Watts Quote - The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.

35. “The world is filled with love-play—from animal lust to sublime compassion.”

36. “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.”

37. “Other people teach us who we are. Their attitudes to us are the mirror in which we learn to see ourselves, but the mirror is distorted. We are, perhaps, rather dimly aware of the immense power of our social environment.”

38. “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.”

39. “So then, the relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself.”

Alan Watts Quote - If you cannot trust yourself, you cannot even trust your mistrust of yourself.

40. “If you cannot trust yourself, you cannot even trust your mistrust of yourself. So that, without this underlying trust in the whole system of nature, you are simply paralyzed.”

41. “I am what happens between the maternity ward and the crematorium.”

42. “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.”

43. “Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.”

44. “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.”

Alan Watts Quote - I find that the sensation of myself as an ego inside a bag of skin is really a hallucination.

45. “I find that the sensation of myself as an ego inside a bag of skin is really a hallucination.”

46. “Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love.”

47. “I owe my solitude to other people.”

48. “People become concerned with being more humble than other people.”

49. “Indeed, one of the highest pleasures is to be more or less unconscious of one’s own existence—to be absorbed in interesting sights, sounds, places, and people. Conversely, one of the greatest pains is to be self-conscious—to feel unabsorbed and cut off from the community and the surrounding world.”

Alan Watts Quote - You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes.

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

51. “Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure—attractively packaged but inferior in content.”

52. “Like love, the light or guidance of truth that influences us exists only in living form, not in principles or rules or expectations or advice, however widely circulated.”

53. “We know that from time to time, there arise among human beings people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat.”

54. “No work or 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.”

Alan Watts Quote - I have no other self than the totality of things of which I am aware.

55. “I have no other self than the totality of things of which I am aware.”

56. “Society is our extended mind and body.”

57. “Human desire tends to be insatiable.”

58. “When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of, nothing is left but to love.”

59. “Genuine love comes from knowledge, not from a sense of duty or guilt.”

Alan Watts Quote - People can't be talked out of illusions.

60. “People can’t be talked out of illusions.”

61. “I am basically an eternal existence momentarily, and perhaps needlessly terrified by one half of itself.”

Alan Watts Quotes on the Meaning of Life and Finding Balance

62. “The world is precisely the relationship between the world and its witnesses, and so if there are no eyes in this world, the sun doesn’t make any light, nor do the stars.”

63. “Things and events have only a verbal reality.”

64. “This whole world is a phantasmagoria—an amazing illusion.”

Alan Watts Quote - Dying should be one of the great events of life.

65. “Dying should be one of the great events of life.”

66. “Everything in this universe depends on everything else.”

67. “Choice is not a form of freedom in the sense of the word; choice is the act of hesitation that occurs before making a decision.”

68. “Every manifestation of life is impermanent—our quest to make things permanent, to straighten everything out, to get it fixed, is an impossible and insoluble problem.”

69. “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. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

Alan Watts Quote - If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you'll spend your life completely wasting your time.

70. “If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.”

71. “And people get all fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as if it were words—as if you had a meaning, as if you were a mere word, as if you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. You are meaning.”

72. “Not hurrying, the purposeless life misses nothing, for it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.”

73. “Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.”

74. “To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words—to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue.”

Alan Watts Quote - It's better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.

75. “It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

76. “In reality, there are no separate events. Life moves along like water; it’s all connected to the source of the river—connected to the mouth and the ocean.”

77. “Philosophers, for example, often fail to recognize that their remarks about the universe apply also to themselves and their remarks. If the universe is meaningless, so is the statement that it is so.”

78. “It is hard indeed to notice anything for which the languages available to us have no description.”

79. “There are, then, two ways of understanding an experience. The first is to compare it with the memories of other experiences, and so to name and define it. This is to interpret it in accordance with the dead and the past. The second is to be aware of it as it is, as when, in the intensity of joy, we forget past and future, let the present be all, and thus do not even stop to think, ‘I am happy.’”

Alan Watts Quote - No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve as it goes along.

80. “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.”

81. “For there is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one cannot live anywhere.”

82. “We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.”

83. “We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

84. “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.’”

Alan Watts Quote - You will never get to the irreducible definition of anything because you will never be able to explain why you want to explain, and so on.

85. “You will never get to the irreducible definition of anything because you will never be able to explain why you want to explain, and so on. The system will gobble itself up.”

86. “Nothing fails like success—because the self-imposed task of our society and all its members is a contradiction: to force things to happen which are acceptable only when they happen without force.”

87. “Do not let the rapidity with which these thoughts can change deceive you into feeling that you think them all at once.”

88. “Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.”

89. “Life requires no future to complete itself nor explanation to justify itself. In this moment, it is finished.”

Alan Watts Quote - A world which increasingly consists of destinations without journeys between them.

90. “A world which increasingly consists of destinations without journeys between them, a world which values only ‘getting somewhere’ as fast as possible, becomes a world without substance.”

91. “If we are open only to discoveries which will accord with what we know already, we may as well stay shut.”

92. “For there is no joy in continuity, in the perpetual. We desire it only because the present is empty.”

93. “Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it persists forever.”

94. “Instant coffee, for example, is a well–deserved punishment for being in a hurry to reach the future.”

Alan Watts Quote - The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.

95. “The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.”

96. “The ego-self constantly pushes reality away. It constructs a future out of empty expectations and a past out of regretful memories.”

97. “There is only this now. It does not come from anywhere; it is not going anywhere. It is not permanent, but it is not impermanent. Though moving, it is always still. When we try to catch it, it seems to run away, and yet it is always here and there is no escape from it. And when we turn around to find the self which knows this moment, we find that it has vanished like the past.”

98. “For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit—-to the ‘conquest’ of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature.”

99. “Most of us assume as a matter of common sense that space is nothing—that it’s not important and has no energy. But as a matter of fact, space is the basis of existence.”

Alan Watts Quote - Silence is the origin of sound, just as space is the origin of stars, and woman is the origin of man.

100. “Silence is the origin of sound, just as space is the origin of stars, and woman is the origin of man.”

101. “A man does not really begin to be alive until he has lost himself, until he has released the anxious grasp which he normally holds upon his life—his property, his reputation and position.”

102. “If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eyes permanently glued to the microscope; he goes away and works on what he has seen.”

103. “You do not play a sonata in order to reach the final chord, and if the meanings of things were simply in ends, composers would write nothing but finales.”

104. “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.”

Alan Watts Quote - There is nothing at all that can be talked about adequately, and the whole art of poetry is to say what can't be said.

105. “There is nothing at all that can be talked about adequately, and the whole art of poetry is to say what can’t be said.”

106. “What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”

107. “If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.”

108. “Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering, for there is no other way of discovering surprises and marvels, which, as I see it, is the only good reason for not staying at home.”

109. “This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness.”

Alan Watts Quote - For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax.

110. “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.”

111. “Paradoxical as it may seem, the purposeful life has no content, no point. It hurries on and on, and misses everything.”

112. “Words can be communicative only between those who share similar experiences.”

113. “Like too much alcohol, self-consciousness makes us see ourselves double, and we make the double image for two selves—mental and material, controlling and controlled, reflective and spontaneous. Thus, instead of suffering, we suffer about suffering, and suffer about suffering about suffering.”

114. “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.’”

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

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

116. “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.”

117. “Hospitals should be arranged in such a way as to make being sick an interesting experience. One learns a great deal sometimes from being sick.”

118. “But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it.”

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

Alan Watts Quote - When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.

120. “When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

Alan Watts Quotes on Religion and Seeking the Essence of Zen

121. “To be implies not to be.”

122. “The positive cannot exist without the negative.”

123. “We do not ‘come into”’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves’, the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”

124. “Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”

Alan Watts Quote - How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears.

125. “How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.”

126. “If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith.”

127. “You have all eternity through which to live in various forms.”

128. “Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, openness—an act of trust in the unknown.”

129. “Really, the fundamental, ultimate mystery—the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets—is this: that for every outside there is an inside, and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.”

Alan Watts Quote - For man seems to be unable to live without myth.

130. “For man seems to be unable to live without myth, without the belief that the routine and drudgery, the pain and fear of this life have some meaning and goal in the future.”

131. “The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. It has shown that all systems of definition are relative to various purposes, and that none of them actually ‘grasp’ reality.”

132. “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.”

133. “Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names.”

134. “If this world is a vicious trap, so is its accuser, and the pot is calling the kettle black.”

Alan Watts Quote - We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past for any kind of situation.

135. “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 from the present.”

136. “Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior.”

137. “If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.”

138. “It is only through silence that one can discover something new to talk about.”

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

Alan Watts Quote - When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point.

140. “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.”

141. “The morning glory which blooms for an hour differs not at heart from the giant pine, which lives for a thousand years.”

142. “The point is to get with it, to let it take over—fear, ghosts, pains, transience, dissolution, and all. And then comes the hitherto unbelievable surprise; you don’t die because you were never born. You had just forgotten who you are.”

143. “The future is a concept—it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as tomorrow. There never will be because time is always now. That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only a present, only an eternal now.”

144. “Suppressing the fear of death makes it all the stronger. The point is only to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I and all other things now present will vanish, until this knowledge compels you to release them—to know it now as surely as if you had just fallen off the rim of the Grand Canyon.”

Alan Watts Quote - In looking out upon the world, we forget that the world is looking at itself.

145. “In looking out upon the world, we forget that the world is looking at itself.”

146. “The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security. On the other hand, the more we are forced to admit that we actually live in the real world, the more we feel ignorant, uncertain, and insecure about everything.”

147. “Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency.”

148. “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.”

149. “The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.”

Alan Watts Quote - He who thinks that God is not comprehended, by him God is comprehended; but he who thinks that God is comprehended knows him not.

150. “He who thinks that God is not comprehended, by him God is comprehended; but he who thinks that God is comprehended knows him not. God is unknown to those who know him, and is known to those who do not know him at all.”

151. “Belief clings, but faith lets go.”

152. “Stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction.”

153. “Only doubtful truths need defense.”

154. “The discovery of this reality is hindered rather than helped by belief, whether one believes in God or believes in atheism.”

Alan Watts Quote - Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.

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

156. “My death will be the disappearance of a particular pattern in the water.”

157. “Great power is worry, and total power is boredom, such that even God renounces it and pretends, instead, that he is people and fish and insects and plants: the myth of the king who goes wandering among his subjects in disguise.”

158. “For we have never actually understood the revolutionary sense beneath them—the incredible truth that what religion calls the vision of God is found in giving up any belief in the idea of God.”

159. “Every individual is a unique manifestation of the whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree.”

Alan Watts Quote - The common error of ordinary religious practice is to mistake the symbol for the reality.

160. “The common error of ordinary religious practice is to mistake the symbol for the reality, to look at the finger pointing the way and then to suck it for comfort rather than follow it.”

Which of These Alan Watts Quotes Makes You Want To Live In The Now?

Alan Watts was a British philosopher and writer who helped bring Eastern ideologies and wisdom to the West. He focused on helping people understand and cultivate zen—teaching us to remain in the present in order to attain true happiness. After all, man’s frustrations and anxieties stems from our tendency to constantly think and live for the future, when in reality, what we need is to live in the now.

Which of these Alan Watts quotes made you mindful of how you live your life? Are there any other quotes from Alan Watts that you’d like us to include? Let us know by commenting below.


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Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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