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Welcome to another episode of Conversations with Coleman, my guest today is Sam Harris. Sam needs no introduction on this podcast. He was the first. And I'm happy to say he's my first guest. Last time I talked to Sam about reparations and cancel culture, this time we focus almost entirely on psychedelics, meditation and spirituality aside at the beginning where we talk about Trump and the W. by popular demand. So without further ado, Sam Harris.
OK, Sam Harris, thank you so much for coming back on my show and happy to be back. Congratulations on persisting. Not all podcasters survive. It's I think there's a million podcast now, so. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, good to see you, too. And so it's been it's been a while since we last spoke and a lot has happened. So I went out on Twitter to see what people wanted us to discuss. And it seems.
That there was the most interest in you and I discussing two topics, one was Trump and your alleged Trump derangement syndrome, and the other subject was to the other people in the so-called intellectual dark web. And it occurred to me that I'm pretty uninterested in talking about both of those things at this moment with you. So I'm going to just ignore. For the audience, I'm going to ignore the audience to do the make a very wise decision and ignore the audience or trust that actually a large portion of the audience is equally tired of those topics and just.
Talk to you about what I'm actually excited to talk to you. I think we've never got to talk about it at length, which is the subjects of meditation, spiritual life, psychedelics, and that whole sort of area of your work, which you've been writing about and speaking about and. Going on through in that form for many years, so I thought we could focus pretty much entirely on that, if you're game. Sure, yeah. Yeah, I'm happy to to if you want me to, in a very brief span.
First off, it's back on the shelf. I'm willing to do that, but I certainly said all that I think I need to say on this topic, something really ad nauseum on my own podcast. So. Yeah, the Trump derangement syndrome is a a term. And it's like, you know, Islamophobia or something has been invented so as to not have a certain conversation and in my view, the real Trump derangement syndrome is to not have recognized just how dangerous this man was.
And in some sense, from. It's just if you can't if you think that Trump was at all analogous to any other politician in the degree to which he lied or the degree to which those lies were toxic for our society, you're just not interacting with reality. As I see it, a conversation is virtually impossible if you're not going to acknowledge that, not you. But you know who your audience is. Not going to acknowledge that we were dealing with a level of dishonesty and conspiracy thinking and.
Doddery aspiring demagoguery that we haven't seen in our lifetime, and then that has consequences and that we should be worried about those consequences. I mean, that's really where I start and end with Trump. He's a profoundly uninteresting person. Such an uninteresting person could have achieved so much support from, you know, half of the country so as to form a kind of personality cult that would then export its delusion to the rest of us in the form of allegations of Trump derangement syndrome.
The whole thing has been so demanding of our politics, but for very different reasons than Trump's fans claim. So yeah. So anyway, I don't think there's much more to say about that or at least, you know, I've said a ton about that on my blog.
And I think the one thing. About it is that. I think a lot of people in my audience have the impression that because I care a lot about the dangerous new variety of anti-racism and critical race theory, it's spreading throughout American culture right now, really just dominating the culture. That and because Trump relative to Biden seems to be on my side of that issue for the most part, that I should therefore. Basically, a single issue voter and ignore Trump's attempts to subvert democracy and just all of the other obvious problems with Trump as a person and as a leader.
I've just never viewed myself as a single issue voter, though I do care very much about that particular issue and I'm not sure I'm not sure it makes sense to be a single issue voter on almost anything. I think people. Perception of you that you should be, because we tend to see eye to eye on that issue, on the goal of transcending race and the danger of critical race theory and. That therefore, it should be obvious that we're voting for the guy that's that's closer to that side of the issue.
Yeah, and he's closer to that side of the issue in one sense, but in another, he's he's the arsonist who's pretending to put out the fire. Right. I mean, he was inflaming the the far left, in my view. And I think it's going to be much easier now to actually. As a a real problem, because they can't point over our shoulder to the quasi white supremacist in the White House who's a, you know, seems to be the justification of all of their concerns.
Right. So now we have a. In office, and one who is pandering to to my eye to an intolerable degree to the far left, and we could we should just speak honestly about that problem. But it's a much easier task than having Trump and and a gaggle in power. And then to still have to message the Wolk's reaction to something like George Floyd is is mistaken in almost every sense. Right. Some that's that was that was I would been much easier under Biden than under Trump.
Passing that moment or so, I would expect, at least you certainly wouldn't be worse and yeah, and this actually connects to the other question that was raised, which is my criticism of other people in our orbit. My criticism is simply on that point, that they've become single issue thinkers and they think that because welcomeness is so annoying, they should focus on that to the exclusion of every other issue, no matter how important it is to. And we can't do that.
There they're bigger problems until there's an asteroid headed for the planet, you know, being a single issue person on anything makes not much sense. Yeah. OK, so having got those out of. At the link that many people would have wanted, no, I would like to focus for the rest of our talk on the other side of your work, which I was introduced to, I think through your book Waking Up, which I read. 18 or 19 and thought it was very interesting, but, you know, a little over my head at the time, I had never meditated and I thought it was very interesting from a from an intellectual point of view.
And I could follow, you know, the sort of logic of. There in the logic of why one would meditate, but I hadn't yet had the sort of first person experience that suggested to me meditation was something useful. So why don't we start by talking about. Came to realize that meditation was something worth spending time on. Well, I guess it was about your age when you picked up waking up, I mean, I think I was 18 or 18 or 19 and.
So I had my first experience with MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy, or I guess Molly. Now, I don't know which is the most common term which I took at that point. No one in my circle had. Much less take anatomy was before the whole rave thing kicked off some years later, and so it was it was just this was just become schedule one, I think, a couple of years before. But it was still just this was a a drug that had been.
A psychotherapeutic community and probably still was, and I forget exactly how it was even framed to me, but I just knew that this was not a party drug. This was an opportunity to discover something about the nature of my life. And so I took it very much with that expectation. And that's what happened to me. It just I had a. A very clear view of how much more sane I could be. I had a. A picture of what was possible, it certainly didn't include feeling things like unconditional love or feeling radically free of all of my psychodynamics, you know, as I.
Order in which I was swimming and I had no real reference point to even think about what might be beyond it, but it is an experience I think many people have on MDMA. It's just I think if you're at a rave or at a party, it may not be as clear. At the time, but the two lessons that came out of it were that, one, it was possible to feel much better about everything than I was tending to feel and much saner and that this wasn't.
Patients of this were not merely that MDMA is an amazing drug or, you know, the drugs are interesting or that you know, that psychopharmacology is a real thing. No, it was actually that there was a. Shin to my moment to moment experience and a kind of an ethical engagement with the world in a way of thinking that was causing me not to feel this good or see my place in the. As my default, so I recognized it was possible to have a kind of firmware upgrade of one's mind that didn't entail just taking more MDMA or any other drug.
And so I'm curious about that, because I've done MDMA as well and had. About my experiences in a moment, but I'm curious what caused you not to interpret it as simply evidence that MDMA is a great drug that I should do more of because most people who have that experience, it doesn't suggest that. To somehow cultivate my mind when I'm sober, to become more like this. That's not obvious right from here.
Yeah, no, I actually had landed with a with a book. It was given to me in the same person who'd given me. Had given me one of Ramdas books, which I had never read, what was that good friend? Yeah, yeah. And I hadn't read it, actually. It had the book on my shelf for some years before I took the MDMA, but it was sort of the. Conceptually, having come from the same person and so after I had that experience, I read the book and then that put it in the context of some kind of path, you know, I didn't I guess to to.
A relevant one is I don't think what I experienced on MDMA is the the center of the bull's eye you see contemplatively or spiritually or you just it's not the thing that one should appropriately aim for, you know, in meditation practice, although that experience is there to be had, it's somewhat adjacent to what I think the goal is. But still, it was it was enough to get me started and. Yeah, and you know that the book, almost any book of that sort.
Worked at that point, anything that was situating that kind of change in conscious experience, in the context of any kind of traditional path of practice would have got me interested in and sort of the not the nondrug search for. To recapitulate that experience at that point, yeah, yeah, so I think I did MDMA for the first time when I was 19 or 20 and I really had no expectations going into it, but.
Clearly was, for the first time in my life, actually experiencing self-love and self acceptance and. Noticing how good it felt to just. And realize that. Surely I wasn't perfect, there was no sense that I'm perfect, I have no ways of I've no need to improve, but there was a genuinely felt sense of just accepting all of the parts of myself that I might normally loathe or be uncomfortable with. And then that was connected to the observation that once I loved myself, it became much easier to love other people.
Yeah, and then the related observation, that stuff. Virtually all of the things that bother me about other people, especially when they don't seem rationally grounded, just when someone is pissing me off for no reason. Just getting under my skin, it's in. Because they're reminding me of some aspect of myself which I don't like and with self acceptance just comes in ease with loving other people. Right. And that kind of that stuck with. I would say I've done the acid and shrooms as well, but something about the MDMA experience stuck with me in a way that survived my come down where I could remember at minimum what?
At level of self-love, and now I could notice in my sober life how far I was from that feeling, yeah, now serves as a reference point. So and this connects to. Tatian and the varieties of meditation that you can practice just to try to get at these feelings, but I think we should also talk about the other psychedelics here. You've had you've shared some stories in the past, some very interesting stories about. In in the wrong locations that I think are useful.
Yeah, yeah, so, you know, I view. You know, psychedelics has incredibly promising. I'm very happy that there are now being. I think they just the therapeutic potential is obvious, and the fact that we lost a generation and a half essentially in research is really been a travesty. But I do view the recreational use of any. You do have to tip bracket with some obvious warnings, right? I mean, this is not that these drugs are good for everybody and they're important differences among them that should be recognized.
I mean, for instance, MDMA, while it's the.
Well, it's not even a psychodelic, right, it's not it's the least distorting of your perception, and for that reason, the experience you have on it is can be a very clear reference point because it's just very easy to remember as an. Dreamlike quality to having been that altered, but it nevertheless is physically just more dangerous than than the proper psychedelics, like psilocybin or LSD. I mean, as far as I know, there is basically. Of psilocybin or LSD, I mean, you'd have to take so much that, you know, it's you know, you'd have to take the dose of a thousand people to get it anywhere near the lethal dose.
Whereas with MDMA, the effective dose is not so far from the. And then that Odean, isn't something you need to worry about, it is right, so it's you know, maybe it's a tenfold fold. I think the old 50 on MDMA is maybe tenfold the normal effective dose. So. Yeah. So you have. Taking in these in many places, all these drugs are illegal, most places that people would be considering taking them, they're illegal.
So it's you know, there's you can't just recommend that people to start self experimenting without any kind of caveats there, so. I offer those caveats, but for many of us. It is indispensable to be shown that experience can be far more different than its tending to be the tendency to wake up every morning.
We were yesterday and had to live within the range of those, you know, expectations for changes in your consciousness, that doesn't give you an indication really of just how much better your life could be. You made specific changes in how you pay attention and and what you pay attention to, and it really is and this is where meditation comes in and it really attention really is the cash value of.
To us right away, the way we pay attention or fail to in the present moment, the way we see the kinds of things that capture our attention and the and the intentions and motives and preoccupations that.
I mean, that is that is your mind, I mean, that and that is, you know, you're making your mind in each moment and you're effectively meditating in each moment. The question is, what are you meditating on? You're meditating on self concern and all the things you regret and all the things is about and all the things you hope will happen and. You know, that's that's most people's default. Operating system and meditation is, you know, this word can mean many different things, but the the version that I would recommend.
Not functions by a different logic, it's not an attempt to change experience per say you're not actually trying to improve experience. And this is why that the state one experiences in on something like MDMA isn't really the. Of meditation, although, again, that experience can certainly come along for the ride, but that the logic we we live by of trying to to improve our experience moment to moment is ironically, largely. It's our experience, right? It's largely what keeps us from recognizing that the present moment and and consciousness as it already is.
Admits of. Real. Of intrinsic well-being and intrinsic tranquility and intrinsic equanimity and intrinsic compassion and in fact, you know, unconditional love and many of these these very, very positive emotions that, you know, people talk about all of that. And sort of before anything changes in your experience, before you are in the right relationship, before you get the job you're hoping to get, before you, you know, get better from the the the illness, you're you're hoping to get better or whatever those contingencies are in your life where you think, if only I can solve this problem, you know, I'll be I'll be back to zero.
The truth is that that is a kind of mirage and most people never discover. So, right, we just live our lives seeking happiness and seeking to become happy. And that's the implicit in everything we're attempting to do. And yet there is this recognition, which is itself meditation. You actually can't become happy, you can only be happy, right, and what most people are looking for are good enough reasons, but by virtue of changing their life in the world to simply get off the treadmill.
At a time and recognize at the present moment is enough, if I can just you know, if if I had just bought GameStop at the right moment, you know, then I would actually be able to just relax and enjoy my life in the present. And that is a that is a mirage, even when it seems to happen for many of us, you know, something great happens and you're just high five and everyone around you, you know, that lasts for, what, 15 minutes, you know, five hours.
And then you're faced with the. Long emergency of just what do I do next and how do I. How do I scratch the itch that is now back, you know, and that really the answer to that is the. You know, the mechanics of being lost in thought, identified with thought, feeling, feeling no, recognizing no. Deeper context in which your thoughts arise and therefore your. I'm going to live out the implications of whatever you happen to be thinking, I mean, that's you know, the the bottom line here is that people are thinking virtually every waking moment and they're not aware of it.
Right. You're having a conversation with yourself, as strange as that sounds. Aware of it, and even if you're if you're conceptually aware of it, even if, you know, you would say, oh, of course I know I'm thinking you're not vividly aware of the next thought that that is arising, that's capturing your attention. That feels like you. You know, I've been rattling on for a few minutes. And some people are thinking, well, what the hell is he talking about, like what I'm talking about is that voice in your head that feels like you are right, that isn't you.
Right. That is that is just a piece of language in the mind. And there is a. Around it and prior to it, that is consciousness and it doesn't feel vast when it's been trimmed down to this this conversation that is happening incessantly and which just seems like white noise until you pay close enough. And so meditation is a method of breaking that spell and discovering what the mind is like when you're not continually identified with thought. Yeah, I found when I started meditating one thing that helped me to see.
It as something then something other than who I am. Was to imagine a pair of lips saying every thaw that entered my head and then visualized that those pair of lips.
And another thing that was useful was to occasionally ask myself the question, am I thinking in complete sentences when I would ask that I would suddenly become aware of the. The rhyme and rhythm of the voice in my head and how it doesn't usually complete a sentence, it's completely schizophrenic and they call it the monkey mind in Buddhism and something about asking those simple questions or. As if it were someone else was a good way to just dissociate from it and see see it as something other than who I am and I initially.
Meditation, actually, through reading Dan Harris's book, which I found out about through you, his book, 10 percent happier. And at that particular time when I was 18 or 19, I was beginning to have panic attacks, very similar. What Dan had in the book, and it was right around the time my mom passed away, and I assume that probably had something to do with it. But I was you know, I was occasionally just getting this feeling of terror in my chest.
Thing to be terrified of. What what struck me as so useful and persuasive about Dan Harris's approach is that he was by Constitution skeptical of.
You know, of the aesthetics of meditation and the crystal beads and the whole kind of woo aspect of it. But actually found that it essentially cured his his panic attacks. That's what got me to take it seriously enough, because because there is this problem with which you've mentioned before, which is that if your life is good enough and things are, you know, you have your ups and downs, but, you know, you're not faced with an emotional crisis.
It can be hard to find the reason to actually say go to a meditation retreat for a week and be silent and just suffer through that harrowing but but useful experience. And I think for me, my mother died. It is being faced with that, faced with a death and and surprise and grief and panic attacks was the crisis that got me to take it seriously enough. And then when I began doing it every day and sort of. Like, the the relief I experienced was indescribable.
It was just it felt like magic. And there was this this paradox of no longer fight feelings, right, when when you feel fear for me, it was anxiety, right when this anxiety comes up in my chest. The idea is to welcome it, to just allow it to be and then paradoxically, it ceases to be a problem and fairly and, you know, it only took that happening once for me to be completely sold on meditation because I had tried everything.
You know, I tried all of the the toxic ways of trying to get rid of anxiety, like, you know, too much. Drinking too often, even too much caffeine, just all of these little toxic ways of trying to get rid of it, and then suddenly this method just basically works like a charm. And so so that was my. To to meditation, and since then, I've been on three retreats, the longest of which was, I think, eight days at the Insight Meditation Center.
And had some you know, some very interesting and. It is on retreat as well, I mean, one out, one I'll just mention is I think it was on my first retreat, which was only for only for a weekend. That at one point I was meditating and my entire body. Just. Tingle almost uncontrollably, like tingling, is even too trivial a word to describe it. It was like if there was a drug that could give me this physical feeling, it would be very hard to resist and.
Your pleasure, but it wasn't something that I was seeking in the meditation. It just occurred naturally for a few minutes and then went away. And this is the kind of thing that if you had told me as a South Park loving. 16 year old that this had happened to you, I'd be like, OK, you're full of shit. Get out of my face, but these kinds of things are possible when you meditate, so maybe talk a little bit about just what's possible.
Mindfulness meditation and how you get from being a total novice to, you know, someone like yourself who's who's quite versed in it. Well, I so I would say that Mr.. Of finding the gateway to to interest in this being the loss of someone close to you or experience with death, and that's obviously a very common story and certainly my story, because in a prior. My MDMA experience, my father had died, I had lost a best friend when I was 13 or so, so death was something that I had been thinking about.
A lot since fairly young age, and that is very much the. These things now, you know, I didn't study just within Buddhism, but, you know, Buddhism is the is the tradition where they really they talk about just the. The inevitability of old age, disease and death, you know, you know, old age, if you're lucky, right? I mean, you can you can all. And 13, right? And it just it demands that you ask yourself, what is life good for?
I mean, what are we doing here? What is what what would success look like when all. Baths are guaranteed to be on the menu and, you know, despite the the imaginings of some people in Silicon Valley are not going to be removed from the menu anytime soon. Just what is impermanence? What are the implications of impermanence? And they run very deep as you begin to pay attention to these things and, you know, it's impermanence is what accounts for one of the features of existence that I already mentioned is the mirage like quality of our satisfactions in life, the fact that you.
Getting what you want is insufficient and getting what you want over and over again is also insufficient. It's just it doesn't finally land in a way that's truly durable, right? There's no. Look for a real feeling of of satisfaction in life, you know, you can. And again, that's not to say that there aren't differences in in life outcomes that matter, right? I mean, obviously. It's better and nicer to get what you want. Much of the time, and to just suffer one disappointment after the next, you know, so I'm not ignoring that.
There are there are gradations of ordinary happiness that are that is Raschke. Want to. I fall on the right side of and the truth is, you know, the Buddha didn't ignore that either, right? Despite the fact that his philosophy is often summarized as, you know, life is suffering or life is unsatisfactory. So it's that's not. Due to what the philosophy is, but it's unsatisfactory if you're simply trying to to satisfy this protocol of grasp.
And holding on to it, because in the end, you actually can't hold on to it. And so if so, that is a very good reason. I'm certainly seeing someone die and die young. It's worth asking. You know, what is this for, you know, and how and what would it mean to live a life in the context of this much uncertainty that we don't regret? Right. And and that is as satisfying as it as it might be.
Yeah, so it can't be. Merely the search for more and more pleasurable experience, right, because I just think that leaves you on a treadmill, that that only moves, you know, as you as you keep. It running, going, and there's kind of an unexpected thing at your back, right? There's a sense that you're not comfortable right alone with yourself in a room. Right. Like the fact that solitary confinement is considered a torture.
Right, I mean, what what is also what's the problem, being alone in a room, right? I mean, why would that drive most people bonkers as it in fact does? Well, it's because our minds are completely out of control. Right. And we have this we have a notion. I have an understanding now of what it's like to train our bodies so as to to maximize our sense of physical well-being and health and, you know, that's fairly new.
It's it's only been a 100 years or. Or that has been a at all a normal thing to do, I mean, it used to be that the the the weird guy with the handlebar mustache at the circus was the only guy who would lift weights in American society. And so you were literally a part of the. But now, as strange and as arbitrary as it looks from the outside, it repeatedly picking up heavy objects for no other purpose than to to, you know, work your muscles doing that.
Alleged to be a totally rational thing to do and in fact, an indispensable thing to do, if you if you're taking fitness seriously or pointlessly running around a track or, you know, I mean, like this is this is this makes no sense to someone who doesn't understand. But once you do, you say, OK, this is a very wise use of energy, but training the mind is something that is only now becoming at all mainstream. The idea that you can actually do something beyond just.
First 18 or 20 or 25 years of your life and then just being kind of kicked out of, you know, the machine and, you know, asked to fend for yourself and, you know, struggle to be happy, the idea that there's nothing more to do systematically, that it ignores the enormous things that many people have known for thousands of years. Right. That we're only now just embracing in the West and. Part of the problem has been what you what you cite, you know, with in Dan's book, and that's why valuable, you know, he came from a totally skeptical.
Really allergic place with respect to the New Age and Eastern religion and all of the trappings of of, you know, the cultural affectations of. In a Western context, he didn't want to burn incense or hear about crystals or energy in the body or chakras or, you know, it's like all of that had to be bullshit, almost certainly was bullshit. And yet he was unhappy and having panic attacks. So what could he do and the truth is there are certain practices that.
Really don't require any translation to a modern, secular scientific context, because they really are just about paying. To the nature of experience, it's not you don't have to develop an interest in Buddhism, you know, the truth is I've I've you know, even in this conversation, I've said too much about Buddhism or, you know, and other traditional reference points for some people. And you don't need to really be interested. It's have to be interested in.
The premise that being lost in thought every moment of the day as a default setting may not be optimal. And and if you wanted to discover. Experience is really like if you if you could only see it more clearly, it makes sense to pay closer attention to it. Right. So just to take a moment and I mean, it's like here's the challenge. Like, you know, if I asked your on. You know, try to pay attention to anything, the breath or or a sight or a sound or even the, you know, the content of this conversation for a full minute without being lost in thought.
You'll find you can't do it, you know. But you were so lost in thought that you didn't even notice the cacophony that that is is going on in your mind each moment, right. So it's that's interesting or should be interesting to people because they added that automaticity, that mechanism of being captured by thought. And upon which, you know, all of your psychological suffering is being delivered, I mean, that is that is the place that is registering all of your anxiety and regret and dissatisfaction.
And, you know, why the fuck did she say that to me to. They're like, you know, what we want to know is you even to these conversations you have with yourself that have this structure of the I talking to the ME write the arguments you have with people who aren't even in the room. Right. You just you just had an argument with your sister. Your girlfriend or and then you're rehearsing it to yourself, right? You always crush them when they're not there.
You're recapitulating and you're saying the thing you wish you had said you're you're modifying that you're you're psychotic. Right. This is. The only difference between that and psychosis is, you know, enough not to say these things out loud, right? That's the person who says it out loud, who's literally talking to someone who isn't there is the psychotic who we all kind of step away from on the sidewalk. Or default expectations of human mental health and well-being are.
So impoverished that we just we don't have a basis to even appropriately expect what what is. And so meditation is the doorway into a different kind of sanity. Yeah, and the first step is just to notice that it's very difficult to pay attention. Right. Like if you're given the task of paying attention to the breath, which as one on. In mindfulness practice at the beginning, just noticed how hard that is, notice, you know, to try to follow your breath, just the sensation of breathing for a minute and see what happens.
And most people, you know, eventually will notice. A barely connected with it for more than a second at a time before they were carried away by it, by their thinking, they just they said, OK, well, I can notice the breath was nothing hard about that. Look, I'm doing it right now. What's what's this guy? They're not noticing that that voice that feels like their point of view is is completely subsuming their their experience in each moment.
It's it's coloring everything they think they're. Do so that, you know, the present moment is just buried under a pile of concepts and self talk, and in every subsequent moment it's diverting them to this sort of dreamscape of thinking. As you pay more attention to what it's like to be captured by thought, you begin to notice that it is fairly close to what it's like to be dreaming, to be sleep and dreaming and not know that dreams are again a kind of psychosis.
Right. You go to bed, you know, you what do you what do you expect? You get in bed, you pull the sheets over yourself, you get comfortable on the pillow, you're hoping to fall asleep. And then the next thing you know is that you're someplace else talking to people who, you know, may not exist or they may be celebrities or they may be dead or they may lie. And you're you're in some house that has a thousand rooms or you're in the laws of physics.
Suspended for your enjoyment or and there's and you register, no surprise, right, there's no you transition from your bed to some other place and apart from the case of a lucid dream where you actually recognize it to be a dream. Doing enough reality testing to notice the break in in continuity in your life, you have the mind is is capable of being totally diverted into some other circumstance without surprise. Right. And that. To everyone who is listening to this conversation right now with their thoughts, right, there's this there's this voice in the head, there's this stream of images, there's this inclination to to divert from.
Lose the thread of the present moment, and it has this dreamlike ability to be unsurprising, right. But how could a thought actually feel like yourself? Like the first it wasn't there. You're right, it's and it's just a bit of language, and yet it feels like me, right? That's that's the sense that this is that I am this voice in the head. It is a it's it is bizarre that. It's the strangest thing I can think of, really, that that is our default state, and yet it is and one of its properties is to not seem strange unless you've you've really learned to pay attention.
Media bias is one of the great problems facing our democracy. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how much time you spend consuming news, if your news diet is unbalanced, you are very likely developing a false picture of the most important news stories of the day.
To combat this problem, I've recently been using something called a ground news, ground news is both a website and a smartphone app that collects the most important stories of the day, along with the various articles that cover that story and then sorts the articles by their political bias in a user friendly way. So, for example, I'm recording this on November 21st, when the biggest story is that a federal judge threw out President Trump's lawsuit requesting that the results of the Pennsylvania election not be certified.
So I can click on that story and then get a collection of links sorted by political bias. I can then check out how the left is covering this story and how the right is covering it. But the most important part of this app is a feature called Blind Spot, if your news diet is unbalanced, then every day there will be stories that you simply don't see. There are whole topics that the right is not interested in covering and likewise for the left.
So, for example, today on Ground News, I can see that the left is more or less ignoring the fact that ISIS launched rockets into a residential neighborhood, killing eight people and injuring two dozen more in Afghanistan.
And I would guess the left is not so enthusiastic about stories like this because they are hard to square with the narrative that jihadist violence is an understandable reaction to American imperialism. Meanwhile, the right is barely covering the fact that covid-19 cases in the US have surpassed 12 million today and the virus seems to be spreading with a renewed vengeance.
This obviously does not make America or the Trump administration look very good. So the right is not so interested in it. So that's the kind of thing you can learn every day with the ground news app. This is a great tool to have if you're interested in having an accurate picture of reality, so I'll put that link in the description and you can all try it out.
Yeah, so a lot of places we could go from there. One thing that occurs to me is. You know, the observation that. Pleasure seeking an even. The endeavors in life that are viewed as more meaningful, you know, starting a family, having a meaningful career. All of these things. Ultimately unsatisfactory in the sense that you described that there's, as you put it, you're looking for reasons to just sit back and be happy and they never come.
Or the moment you reach that attainment, it ceases to mean a. I remember. When the first time I got an infusion of many thousands of dollars into my bank account, I observed. How happy I was and how long it lasted, and I think it was seven minutes. Minutes before I was completely back to the state I was in, before I saw the zeros in my bank account and just thinking about how anxious I was about an essay I had do the next day.
And you know, that's just one that's just a particularly. Of, you know, every other experience I've had in life of succeeding at something or pleasure or and as I said, it goes with you because you've got six extra minutes there.
Yeah, exactly. Could have been worse, but once you make this observation, how is it possible to continue pursuing life, happiness in life in the way most people understand it? How is it possible? To make plans to say grow your podcast or whatever plans that you have for your your app and your business and. How do you relate to those goals, if at all, differently because of. The premise that you accept about. Them ultimately being unsatisfactory.
Well, so there are two answers to that. One is that, you know, you're very unlikely to fully break this spell. You never captured by it again. I mean, you're very unlikely to become a Buddha in order to become fully enlightened by virtue of your efforts in meditation or certainly any time soon. So actually, there's an analogy to physical with the weight training here, which. Seems apropos, so some people well, when you tell them about working out or you recommend that they work out, you'll occasionally hear that somebody say, well, I don't want to get too big or I don't want to.
It's on the wall, I don't wanna look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in being a predator or whatever and Conan the Barbarian without any awareness of just how like that does not happen by accident. You know, I just what that entails. You know, how. For how much, you know, in that case, how many how many anabolic steroids, how much talent, how much persistence, how much of kind of reorienting of your priorities would be entailed in delivering that result?
And so be. You become so.
Economists and so free of the ordinary concerns of ordinary life so as to lose any ordinary incentives, ordinary motivations, ordinary aspirations, that's just not that's not the common case.
Right. I mean, that's the that's the unusual case. So what's much more likely to happen is you'll be able to punctuate your dissatisfaction and search with moments of clear scene and freedom from it. And those will be restorative and and useful for resetting or useful for extricating yourself from. You know, things you don't need to be mired in. It just becomes a kind of super power in an otherwise ordinary life, right? So, yeah, you do care how much money you make.
You do care that you're you know, that you married the right person or that you get out of the wrong relationship or you you know, you certainly want to be healthy. I like all of these, you have the ordinary set of priorities, and yet in every moment where you become destabilized by not getting what you want or getting what you don't want, you have this other gear. And which is I know what it's like to be economists, even when everything seems to be on fire, right.
Or I know, I know, I know that there's an illusion here that I was that just a moment ago I was taken in by. But now I see clearly the. I can actually I can be happy right now, even with. Everything around me not yet sorted out, you know, a thousand fires to put out and I can recognize. All right, this is this is the moment where either. Talk or not, and, you know, that's much more where where I am, you know, I'm I'm certainly a work in progress.
You know, as much meditation as I've done and as much as I focused on these issues, I spend a lot of my time lost in thought. It's a certain character, you know, it's it's often totally mediocre and totally focused on things that that are not bringing me much happiness, not bringing the world much benefit. They're just what I want to eat for dinner. And and I have know. Thing versus the other thing, and I'm frustrated when the one thing isn't available and the other thing is and so it's like it's just the dream continues.
But for me, it's punctuated by hundreds or more times a day with this very clear scene of the nature of my own mind, which is, you know you know, I talk about, as you know, in the context of the waking up, I talk about it as non dual mindfulness. Right. I mean, the thing that I'm being mindful of in that moment is that there's no in the middle of experience, there's no subject in the head.
There's no thinker in addition to thoughts. Right. And that through a fair amount of practice and good luck, I've managed to to learn how to see that clearly. Right. And to not have to struggle. Not something I'm waiting to have happen to me. I don't have to take a drug to have it happen and I don't have to formally meditate to have it happen. It's just it's just the way consciousness has been recognized to be. And it's always there to be recognized.
By some tendency, that is still. You know, has a half life of its own and the dynamics of its own, I am still capable of overlooking it in the next moment, I I'm still capable of being captured by thought. And so. Yeah. I view life as a practice to kind of continue his practice, to break that spell and so the question but then the other piece here is. You can find better motivations and other motivations to.
Same things that you were tending to do, so I so, for instance, be a part of my motivation in, you know, building my podcast, say, is not the the crassly ambitious, merely selfish one of just wanting to. So wanting to have more influence or wanting to, you know, wanting, wanting, wanting, it's the the the far more satisfying motivation of actually wanting to help solve certain problems. Right. Wanting to have conversations that actually do somebody somewhere some good and and so and wanting to earn more money is is now, you know, fully mingled with a motive of wanting to give more money away.
That that matter, right? And it took to prioritize my my use of resources in a way that is kind of just clearly an ethical project to figure out how to how to solve problems and mitigate human suffering and. And. Mitigate things like existential risk, and so, you know, I'm using my podcast and my app and the other things I'm doing to make my career just consciously more and more along those lines of just trying to. If direct resources in ways that mitigate suffering and it's the kind of risks we face, I mean, like I'm now doing a podcast with a with another person.
This guy, Rob Reid. He has his own podcast, the after on podcast, he sort shown. Yeah, he's great. And he's he's he's part of what I've what I was doing this week is producing his podcast on on pandemic risk and. Biology and just the risk or running here, which, you know, covid should be a a dress rehearsal for and certainly a wake up call. And given how badly we've responded to it and so focusing my.
And problems of that sort seems like the right thing to do and then any of the other previously merely selfish concerns like building a bigger platform, bigger. Essentially purified in having a different motive to build a bigger platform, you know, I'm not trying to become a, you know, an Instagram influencer, right? It's like it's not it's not a matter of being famous. In fact, I actually I've become famous. We don't want to be famous, right, I mean, like this is, you know, one reason why I don't do a lot of video is I love not having my face out there all the time.
You know, it's just like just just being a voice for me is much better than than being a face. I have the same exact. Despite the fact that I've that I do video, yeah, yeah, I mean, there are idiots for doing video. I mean, the reason one reason I do video is you actually do reach more people. And insofar as reaching more people is part of the impulse to to help people and to spread good ideas and.
To to direct resources in skillful ways, I mean, all that can be justified, but, you know, it's my motives now are less. Certainly less merely. Reacted than they've ever been because. I've insofar as I've gotten what I've wanted or thought I wanted, I see again the Mirage like quality of much of that. And, you know, fame is definitely something. See, the the downside of I mean, one of the people I know who are much more famous than I am, I don't want any of that.
Right. You know, it's like it's the kind of fame you want.
I've I've discovered the kind of fame you actually want, the fame you want it. The John Kerry fame, he's the perfect example of of who's he? Well, John, yeah, he's he just died. He was he was a spy novelist, you know, probably the most celebrated spy novelist.
And he wrote, you know, Spy and a bunch of other British spy novels, but nobody knew what he looked like. Right. So he's like he was a he had a level of fame where he could have sent a he could have cold called the White House at any point and the president would want to meet with. But he could walk into an airport or win a walk down the street and probably never get recognized. Yeah, that's that's the perfect level.
But now I know it's sort of considered a little bit Cringely to. Famous people, because, you know, they're supposedly so happy and so lucky and have a platform and power and so on, but, you know, even the very small amount of fame I've achieved has made it obvious to me how isolating it is by default. To a normal, psychologically normal person, to be very famous is just almost inherently isolating and alienating.
Yeah, well, also you and I are in the uncanny valley of fame where. Really famous, so it would be irrational to expect to be recognized wherever you go, you know, walk into a restaurant or, you know, would be checking into a hotel or. It would be delusional to think, OK, people are just people are going to know who I am, right. You know, so when you're when you're Tom Cruise or you're Jim Carrey or so you're somebody at a much higher level of fame.
They, of course, know wherever they go, people are going to be recognizing them. So that's so there's no surprise factor right there. They they know that the person they just met is now. Own internal reaction of, oh, my God, I've seen this guy, you know, five of this guy's movies and, you know, whether they're saying anything or not, they know that's happening and they don't have to they're not constantly ambushed by the discovery that somebody recognizes them.
But when you're. At my level of fame, you're you're by default, not assuming that you're anonymous, right, because why would you assume that this person knows who you are and yet you're constantly discovering that? Presence of someone for a half hour who hasn't said anything, but then at the end of the half hour, let's say, you know, there's the bartender or the the, you know, the person who was checking you into a hotel or, you know, a flight attendant or whoever it is or someone you're on a date with.
I recently had a done that, Natalie, and that she knows exactly who you are, right, that's even more interesting. Yeah, yeah. But yeah, then that you just and they tell you about, you know, by the way, I love the podcast. Right. And then you realize, OK, wait a minute, I'm an.
Do the last half hour, and I mean, this is actually a fascinating psychologically to realize that there's a distance between. Who you are, and I think you should be as an anonymous person. Who you would have been had you known you were the public person in that same circumstance, right? Like on some level you can discover, you know, what I think I discovered is that. I cared more about my. Persona by public reputation, then I cared about my anonymous one, right?
I cared. And so part of me was feeling like, OK, wait a minute, is there anything I need to regret about the last half hour? Was there any note I struck that I wouldn't have struck based on, you know, if I knew I was mean to had had the burden of maintaining my public persona or my public reputation and that, you know, that disjunction is also psychologically. And so I think that the way to to solve that is to collapse the one upon the other and actually just realize that that not for egocentric reasons, but you actually just you just want to be impeccable.
You want to be of a piece with your you you want to be your. Self, ethically and intentionally in each moment, and it's not a matter of maintaining your public reputation reputation, it's a matter of just realizing that every moment is is an opportunity to. Act, you know, and. Yeah, so but it's interesting. Yeah, but the uncanny valley of fame is not great for that reason because you're constantly ambushed by by because again, it would be irrational to expect to.
You get you get recognized, and that's weird, although I think I'd rather be in the uncanny valley than to not be able to just go to the grocery store or to the coffee shop. Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
There's a couple of things I wanted to revisit about. Shouldn't meditation retreats in particular? What I've noticed is when I tell my friends that I just got back from a meditation retreat, the first question I usually get is, so did you have a realization? And I think that's a misconception of what the purpose of a meditation retreat is, and it speaks to the. Poverty, or at least the unfamiliarity of. Western culture with. Actual goal of meditation is know people treat it like a therapy session where your therapist is supposed to tell you something about your relationship with your mother and it blows your mind, and then the riddle of your identity is solved and you're happy for the rest of time.
It seems like that's the expectation a lot of people have going into about meditation retreats, but I think the athletic analogy you made is actually it's so in the ways that you said, but also in this way, which is that you're really practicing a skill. And it's a skill that, like you said, you know, you shouldn't be worried about getting too good at because trust me, you won't. And I feel like a. Good at it, having spent having done a few retreats and spent, you know, almost every half hour, every day meditating for years, and I'm barely better than I was when I started.
But then in a third way, I think it's analogous to. Which is that you don't have to get very good in order to see huge benefits relative to before you exercised at all, you know, just like running two or three miles a day. You're not going to be notable at all, you're going to be a totally. Objectively, but it could seriously change your life for the better and meditation is like that. Like you don't have to get very good in order to see really massive benefits.
Yet I think there are two landmarks. That are worth specifying in advance to landmarks on the path that one crosses and the first is that is just going from zero to something, right. So it's like you're going from being totally sedentary to a week for 20 minutes. Right. Or whatever it is, whatever that first increment is. They're massive gains to be had there. I mean, doing something is so much more than doing nothing in the fitness space.
I don't know what percent of the gains are realized there, but it's it's a lot, you know, and so becoming mindful to the degree of just not knowing what the difference is between being lost in thought and not. Enormous benefit and. It's the thing that allows you to. Respond to negative emotions in a way that that. Without that skill, you're just condemned to be as as angry or as fearful or as anxious for as long as you'll be.
It's like there's no alternative. You know, something makes you angry. Some person says something that gets under your skin and. You are now angry for. Ten minutes an hour, 10 days away. How long are you going to ruminate about this thing? Until you can be until you know what it is to be mindful of thought and emotion and to just step off the ride for, you know, even just a few seconds. And to be able to do that is to find the muscle that allows you to do that, allows you to make that kind of internal pirouette.
You will just be angry or sad or again, probably just hostage to to that negative emotion for as long. And it will have all the life to ranging effects that it has, right? You'll be the person who's now kind of vomiting that complication on everyone close to you. And, you know, you'll be you'll be bad company as a result of all of your reactions to life. Know that's an enormous gain and that can be had before one ever really gets deeply into meditation, depending on on how lucky one is and how good the instruction is and whether one has a talent for it or it might require a first 10 day retreat where he.
Breakthrough and recognize what's on the other side of distraction, even at that landmark, to think in terms of. Kind of a durable insight that you don't lose right now, again, you're the character of your life. There is unchanged. You still have all of the things you all the hang ups and and preoccupations and. And weaknesses you had, but now you have this other perspective that you. The problem at this first stage is that it's still seem it still can be engaged as a kind of.
Antidote. To bad experience in a way that is. Corrupting of the whole enterprise making, because, as you know, you can't be mindful, truly mindful of anxiety, say so that it will go away, right. If you're feeling anxious and then you become mindful of the feeling of angst. It's not it can't be a strategy to to no longer feel anxious to push it away as quickly as possible, because that's that contains within it a kind of aversion and resistance to feeling anxious in the first place, which is part of the thing that is.
So to be truly mindful of any you know, any negative mental state, you actually have to be accepting of it. You have to be willing to feel it. You have to be open. It has to be a a kind of compassionate, curious, accepting non. Type of attention to the to the the physiology of anxiety or whatever it is. So you really have to accept it and it has a kind of self acceptance built into it, that is that does open the door to kind of self-love or self compassion that you.
That's the first stage, but it is hard like what when when your mindfulness is a mere antidote to a problem, you've got a problem. The problems continually resurface. You know, you're uncomfortable. This is a strategy that you're going to implement for a half hour a day or on a 10 day retreat or moment to moment in the middle of your life. It is it's easy to once again get captured by the same logic of seeking. Keen to put out fires, seeking to seeking something better, and it's it is kind of subtly corrupting of the whole project because the real project is to discover that consciousness is already free of the problem you would otherwise like.
There's another actually, on some level, there is nothing to improve. It doesn't it doesn't get freer of self than it already is. It's not like you you sound like you really have a self and you somehow annihilate it through successful meditation. Self isn't their right and the problem of having a. A self isn't there all the problems that are that are created around this, crystallized around this this notion of self aren't quite there, as they say. And making that discovery is a kind of a second step on this this path or a second landmark, which is you, at a certain point, your mindfulness becomes synonymous with arriving at the goal.
Right. So that the mindfulness is a strategy you're employing to get elsewhere. It's not a it's not a remedy. You're not is you're not in the shooting gallery of your neuroses and just knocking down your problems. Right? No, you're actually. At risk. We actually like you, you've turned about and you're facing just kind of the wide open expanse of no problem, and then every time you get lost in thought or every time you're made anxious or every time you get angry by something you've seen on Twitter.
What? Then your then your antidote, then your response of mindfulness is not this. It's not really a remedy in the ordinary sense, it's actually the direct relief of just putting down your. Illusion of your many problems in that moment, and it really successfully doing it so that it's true to say in that moment that you're not doing anything right, you're not seeking anything. You're not solving a problem. You're not you're not going anywhere. Right. You're not.
You know, this is the goal rather than the path, right? And so that is, you know, as I talk about much more. In waking up, that's the difference between, you know, what I would consider dualistic and non dualistic mindfulness, you know, do it dualistic mindfulness. I'm the one being mindful, right, I'm the meditator, I'm I can pay attention more clearly now to whatever it is. Right. Anxiety, and it's again as possible to get very economists there and to.
A real. Experience of freedom from out of the ordinary, capture by negative emotion and thought, right, so it is it's it's super useful. But it's not the same thing as actually. Breaking the spell and the logic by which you would you would seek to improve experience. Actually, one analogy that I often use, it seems helpful, is the first stage of mindfulness, dualistic mindfulness. It's often. As though it's like you're you're standing on a riverbank watching the water flow by and the water here is all of the contents of consciousness.
You know, your anxiety, your fear, your joy, your your the thought about lunch. What? You can watch things more. More and more clearly such that you realize that you're you're not really implicated in this flow in in quite the same way. Right. You're just standing on the riverbank watching it all go by. And there's there's definitely a peace in that family in that. But there's also an illusion in that, because the truth is there is no riverbank right in consciousness.
There's no there's no side. You're not you're not on the edge of your life looking in and. Is there really is just the river, right, there's just consciousness and its contents and, you know, again, I'm speaking as a matter of experience. I'm not making ontological claims about the universe. And so you say you're not a. Contents of consciousness. From some point of view outside of consciousness, right, you're sure you're aware as consciousness and there is you know, what you're calling yourself is another form of appearance there.
It's an. One, but it is a kind of kind of contraction of energy, a kind of a sense that there's a point of view, a sense of location in the middle of things that when inspected, goes away. And then there's just, you know, there's just the world or there's just consciousness a. And that kind of being mindful of that or being mindful as that. Feels different, right? It really is, it really feels like, OK, this isn't a this isn't a technique.
I'm not doing anything. I'm not to do anything. There's no place from which I would strategically aim attention at anything. There's nothing. There's just a totality. You know, as you know, the Buddhists use words like emptiness to describe, you know, this what remain. But again, these these words don't translate very well, you know, it sounds like a bummer, you know, why would anyone want emptiness? But it is it's the emptiness that that admits of every possible appearance.
Right. Is the vivid. Consciousness and every experience, no matter how positive or negative it's all appearing in the same, you know, open condition, and it's the openness that gets rediscovered when you're no longer captured by the. On retreat or just been meditating? In my normal life and and sometimes wondered whether I am achieving this non dual kind of mindfulness as opposed to. Painfulness. And I usually just notice that that's a thought and then keep meditating and and and then when I'm no longer meditating and sort of thinking about it.
You know, it's not clear to me that I have experienced. On dual mindfulness as opposed to dual mindfulness and. You know, I've always just come to the conclusion that whatever kind of mindfulness I'm practicing here is so useful that, you know, it's not even worth dwelling or. Getting to to the deepest kind. You know, whatever I'm doing, it's when I'm doing it successfully, it it just nullifies suffering. When I get the feeling in my chest that.
There's anxiety, it just feels like a feeling in my chest, I'm not sure whether I'm really I may still be sort of on the riverbank looking at it, but it's such a it just seems like such a more healthy way to relate to it. I try not to sort of get. Worry that I'm not. Reaching the deepest level, if that makes sense, I would not recommend that you be agitated about your uncertainty there. And it is, as you say, that there is a kind of superpower there, again, even dualistic, where, you know, to feelings to feel totally captured by the problem of anxiety and then to have to be able to step back and notice.
To the mere physiology of it, you know, just the feeling in your chest, right? And to become interested in that physiology and to notice that it has a half life, it is just when you're no longer captured by the thoughts that are that seem to be justifying it. Dissipate over the course of. Minutes at most. That is already so useful that, you know, there's no there's definitely there's no problem there. And the anxiety, you know, the anxiety has no meaning at.
A moment before it seemed like it was defining of the kind of person you are and in the next moment it becomes like, you know, indigestion or a pain in your elbow or like it like it becomes it can be unpleasant. And yet it has no implication for for who you are as a person, right, and that's a very break in that connection is is very useful because I mean, it's just interesting that we we read certain changes in state back.
It's in in psychological terms as kind of defining of who we are and other changes in state just are just, you know, it's just that you ate a bad burrito at lunch, right? It's like like that that's. More sensory experience that doesn't have the same kind of meaning. Yeah, and that's one of the things you can discover through mindfulness is certain emotions actually feel the same in your body like like anxiety and excitement. Present the same in physically, for me, it's just completely depending on the context of how I'm framing it, whether it's extremely pleasant or extremely unpleasant.
This was known over 100 years ago in the William James. Wrote about this, and actually, I believe it's still called the James Lang theory of Emotion, that many emotions are similar or identical to one another in terms of they're just mere arousal and then they're framed.
Then there's the cognitive framing finds the difference between something like anxiety and an excitement, say consciously reframing experiences is another technique in the toolkit, which is incredibly useful. I mean, you can just decide to. Differently about. This experience that you a moment ago were suffering, you know, as a a real. Kind of impediment to your happiness, like they like to see you take something like. Stoicism as a philosophy is brilliant at this, just just reframing experience like so you just decide to rather than react merely negatively to all of the, you know, the unpleasant people you bump into online or the.
Hassles in your life, you know, machines break or, you know, you've you've got to do the dishes or, you know, you get you catch a cold or whatever it is, the things that are unpleasant that you normally would just be annoyed by from the stoic. Should view all of these things as challenges to your. Capacity for patience and resilience and grit and and equanimity and look forward to them, they positively embrace them like like basically to wake up every morning.
Your life is a video game, and at this level of the game, all of these challenges are going to present themselves. And so just how how are you going to lose these specific fights or are you going to win them in as elegant and as efficient away as possible? You know, the next fight is the cold, you just call it, or the dishes you have to do or the hassle you just ran into at work or the the annoying troll behavior on Twitter, like each one of those you you want to.
As possible and joyfully notice the degree to which you can be free of your or your ordinary reaction to them in those moments, right. Like actually be made joyful by the thing you almost. On Twitter will say, and, you know, my stoicism is the philosophy that essentially. Focuses just on that, just the cognitive reframing of all of the the unpleasantness in life I'm aware from having.
Two points like this before I ever tried meditation and just having the thought, well, you know, this guy just doesn't understand what I'm going through, if he thinks I can just reframe this to sort of think my way into being happier. And I remember. Are the source of my skepticism. When we were talking about anxiety as well, you know, the notion that it's already not a problem and there's a way there's a practice that will get you to realize that from the first.
An intellectual proposition, but just from first person experience, it can sound dismissive of the problem. But you know, what I can say from experience is that. All of the. Or it can be true if. You're properly positioned with the right, you know, way of learning these methods and. You know, it's only because, you know, I have to imagine there are some. Sort of thinking that is only because you haven't yet. You know, been able to do it once, that it seems like it's dismissive, right?
It's the moment it works. The first time is the moment. That this is merely a way of dismissing your emotional problem or hang up as as easy to overcome.
Yeah, I think most people can get their conceptually. If they. Actually try so it's like I mean, like like the stoic technique of negative visualization. I think it's something that most people can get in hands, like whatever your problem is. I mean, let's say you you know, you just got a you know, a scary. Medical diagnosis, say, or, you know, you just lost a ton of money in the stock market or whatever it is, you know, that like, yeah, take a moment to appreciate about one none of what I would recommend or any sane person would recommend.
Origins of just deciding what are the things you can intelligently do to solve your problem, I'm not I'm not recommending anyone become mindful or stoical and just wallow in their problems to no good end. So if there's something you can do to solve the. Do that right? So if you can have a scary medical diagnosis. Well, then what's the next thing you need to do along this path of, you know, medical adventure to solve this problem if it can be solved?
I mean, do you have to get, you know, some medical imaging done? Do you need a. Do you need to get surgery? I mean, what's what's what's the next thing to do? And once you decide what that next thing is, well then the question is, how miserable do you want to be every step along the way? Right. Like, what are the degrees of freedom here that you can. OK, to feel better, then you're tending to feel when you now, OK, now you have a surgery date on the calendar two weeks from now.
Right. And there's nothing more to think about. You've decided to have this surgery, right? And you're you're worried about the probabilities here. And you know that there's a risk with anesthesia.
And you've you know, you you unwisely went down the Google rabbit hole and you looked at all of the bad things that can happen and. You know, those are statistically problematic, but, you know, you are going to have whatever is. Not the the aggregate population level result, so the truth is, in most of those cases, there's nothing worth thinking about anymore. Once you've decided what you're actually going to do and then you are, then you will be.
What you are paying attention to and doing a mindfulness, you know, can be a superpower in in those moments, which are most of your moments, I mean, most of the moment is going to be, you know, waiting for surgery or waiting. To drop whatever that is and then dealing with the aftermath, which is, again, a lot of ordinary life punctuated by your or subsumed by your incessantly thinking about the past and the future and.
So mindfulness is is the great tool there, but something like, you know, a stoical negative visualization is also incredibly useful and I think most people can get their their arms around it, which is whatever is happening. It's so easy to think of. Something else that might have happened, which hasn't happened, which is so much worse and what just happened to other people. Right, which is happening to someone somewhere right now. And it's so much worse than the thing that you would consider all of your prayers answered if you could just be back where you are right now, this thing that you're currently suffering.
Right. So, you know, just if something bad happens to you, think of how great. It you know, it didn't happen to your kids, right, or you have one scary diagnosis, but there are so many other scary diagnoses that are much scarier than the thing you just got or you have you know, there's some chaos in your life. But, you know, you are not homeless right now, you know, and, you know, you have all you know, that the problems your your you're trying to solve are arriving in the context of so many other good things for which you actually are grateful.
Of them, you know, if you didn't have the relationships you have or you didn't have the whatever the economic situation you have, I mean, there's just there's just so many places from which to triangulate on your current circumstance and recognize that is generally true to say that some. Humanity in any given moment would consider their prayers answered if they could just trade places with you. I mean, that's the circumstance that most of us are in most of the time.
However bad things are, you know, for us and. It's just going to be very skillful to reflect on that and get a little more perspective, but as you know, I would agree with you that an insight into the power of mindfulness is the more fundamental a rewriting of.
And very useful. All right, so that seems like a good note to end on before you leave, can you point people in the direction of your mindfulness resources?
Yeah, well, for me, it's really just the waking up app and putting everything that. In there and now I have other teachers coming online and adding their curriculum, and so, yeah, there's a lot of great people who are not me who are already on it, and there's more to come. So, yeah, that's that's just waking up dotcom. All right, well, thank you so much, Sam. Yeah, thank you. Coleman, good luck.
Keep it up. Thanks. Keep going. You give me hope.