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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast, Dan Harris. Hey, guys, Sam Harris, who, by the way, has no relation to me, although I wouldn't mind it, Sam has had a formative impact on my contemplative development. He was one of the first, quote unquote, normal people. At least that's how I computed it back when I was still a rather judgmental skeptic. He was one of the first normal people I met who was really into meditation, which gave me a lot of courage and inspiration to pursue the practice myself.


Sam later helped me get into my first meditation retreat with his old friend, Joseph Goldstein, which was a massively important event in my life and the beginning of a deep and an important relationship for me with Joseph.


For those of you who are not familiar with Sam, he is a neuroscientist, philosopher, author, podcasts and app founder. He first came to my attention in the mid aughts when he wrote a best selling book called The End of Faith, which was a jeremiad against organized religion.


I was surprised to learn that notwithstanding his hostility to religion, he had spent cumulatively several years on meditation retreats, often in the company of Joseph. Sam later wrote another best selling book which touched on his meditation career and contemplative subjects. In general, it was called Waking Up. Waking Up is also the name of his meditation app.


But while he has one foot firmly placed in the contemplative world, he's also very much in the arena, mixing it up on Twitter and on his extremely popular podcast called Making Sense, with his controversial views on hot button issues from Trump to race to Islam, Sam believes that the future of civilization depends on our ability to have rational conversations on thorny issues. And he has a new book called Making Sense Conversations on Consciousness, Morality and the Future of Humanity, in which some of his podcast conversations are revised and extended.


So I wanted to have him on here to talk about the book and to explore with him how somebody who is so fiercely engaged in the public square uses meditation to guide and sustain him. I'll say before we dive in here that I suspect many of you may disagree with Sam on key issues. I know personally, I wrestle with some of his ideas quite a bit, but no matter where you stand, I think you'll find his answers to all of the questions I posed to him.


Fascinating. So here we go with Sam Harris.


Hey, Dan. Hi, Cousin Sam. So what's happening here? I got a million things I could talk about, but what what what are we talking about today?


Well, you know what? I'm just you know, I follow your podcast very closely and I follow your utterances on Twitter very closely. And I had a question for you that I've asked you in private that I wanted to ask you in public, which was given that you have such a long history with meditation. And given that you engage so ferociously in public events, how does one inform the other? Yeah, that's interesting.


Well. There are few answers to that or a few levels to that, I mean, one is on one level, some of what I do in public and I say certainly on Twitter, has seemed like a painful distraction at times from my my core interest in my my core values and then meditation or your insight into the the nature of the mechanics of my own. You know, mental suffering is an antidote to that problem. Right. So, you know, I recover from things I shouldn't have said and shouldn't have done, as anyone does by recognizing the real basis for mental ease and wellbeing.


And I'm just, you know, it's an absolute lifeline for me to have that training and have that awareness. So it's I mean, that's just just mission critical. But the line isn't where many people, certainly many Buddhists, many meditators, many Dharma people think it is. It's not that. I mean, so, for instance, you know, you and I both have meditation apps.


So we have many people who are aware that we're identified with this whole pursuit of just living an examined life, you know, amplifying compassion and wisdom, you know, both our own and other peoples and advocating for that whole project. And then, you know, our politics takes a a turn toward authoritarian capture, in my view. And, you know, I in this last week, I've been very active on Twitter, just hammering away on Trump and the misinformation we've seen polluting our public conversation.


And there are many people who see that and think, hey, well, it looks like you could use your own meditation app. What the hell are you doing? You know why? Who are you going to teach to meditate?


If you're so caught by politics, that's the wrong place to draw the line. Right? I actually think that emotions like outrage and anger and fear are salient signals that are worth paying attention to. And I'm not spending all my time or even much of my time angry and afraid when I am signaling on Twitter that something just happened that is outrageous, that we really need to pay attention to it. So it's like it's analogous to getting into, you know, a car and putting on your seatbelt.


And you do that because you don't want to die, right? You don't want to be needlessly injured. You're aware of all of the bad things that follow when you spend your life driving in cars without a seatbelt. They've been well advertised to us. And it is an awareness of all of that that causes you to buckle your seatbelt. But you don't actually have to be feeling afraid every time you get in a car to buckle your seatbelt. The norm is not enforced by a feeling of terror to, you know, of death and of dying in a car accident.


So people get a false sense of how. Just the nature of my mind is it's not that I never get bent out of shape or around the things I'm reacting to, but there's compassion and there's idiot compassion. Right? I mean, this is a phrase that, you know, one may have heard in various darma circles and. It really is there's there's a an idiotic norm of quiescence and nonengagement and both sides ism that can get tuned up based on a naive consideration of the dharma and mindfulness and the whole project of cutting through your identity with anything.


And it's important not to be captured by that. I mean, there are, you know, yes. Feeling compassion for someone like Trump is a reasonable thing to want to do. But that's not synonymous with failing to notice how dangerous his behavior is. Right. And so to be silent as the arsonist is busily lighting a fire to everything you are right to care about, that is a failure to understand what the sane project is of maintaining human well-being.


So as I watch you post on Twitter, or as we those who follow you, watch you post on Twitter or listen to you holding forth many times quite strenuously on the podcast. We should know that your mind is reasonably economists even as you take these steps. Yeah. Or that when it's not economists, I recover quickly. For me, maybe there is some state of enlightenment where you never feel anger again. That just doesn't seem like what's happening from my point of view.


I see that what happens is something will you know, something in the world occurs that it is appropriate to be. Worried about, concerned about, outraged about, I mean, depending on, you know, a fearful of depending on the the nature of the case. Right. You know, if a lion escapes the zoo and winds up on your doorstep. Right. It is appropriate to see that as a kind of emergency. Right. And to respond to the emergency the way you would.


I mean, either you run or you grab a gun or you something has to happen unless you just want to be eaten by a lion. And the question is, how bad do you have to feel to have an appropriately motivated response to real danger in the world and danger that not just impacts you, but impacts everyone around you who you care about. Now, granted, it's possible to be confused about what's really happening in the world. You can be the victim of misinformation and disinformation.


You can be paranoid, you can be biased. All of that's true. And any of that might be true of me at any given moment.


I mean, I'm fairly careful when I decide to go to the mat. You know, I live in perpetual fear that I might be wrong about a pitch that I'm taking a really hard swing at because I do all of this publicly and I'm very quick to apologize and correct errors when I in those cases where I am wrong. But the truth is, I am rarely going to the mat for something unless I've made a lot of effort to make sure that the likelihood that I am completely mistaken about what I'm now going to bang on about the likelihood is fairly low.


And and again, I'm it is you know, my master value here is intellectual honesty. I mean, I think we really do have to apologize when we get it wrong, even when the target of our errant blow is genuinely contemptible, as I think, you know, someone like Trump is. Right. So if I say something about Trump that is wrong, I will correct it, even if the thing is in the direction of something I know to be still true.


Right. You know, it's just it's important not to exaggerate this man's flaws. He has so many flaws, right. That it's unnecessary to exaggerate them, but it also just destroys your credibility to exaggerate them. So I try to be very careful there. And honestly, I spend even more time, as I think, you know, criticizing the far left than I spend criticizing Trump. Right. So I'm right. You know, I'm right in the middle of it really is a kind of high wire act where, you know, on both sides, I notice the capacity for serious error.


And, you know, I don't want to fall off the wire. Yes.


I'm aware that you spend a lot of time inveighing against the far left as well as against the current occupant of the White House sometimes. And again, this is something I've said to you privately. Sometimes I watch it. I'm thinking, why are you putting yourself through this? You know, like given this prolonged pronounced interest you have in mental well-being, contemplation, cultivation of mindfulness, wisdom and compassion.


Why make yourself a target? I've heard you answer this privately, but how would you answer it publicly? Well. Making myself a target isn't. The concern from my point of view, I do spend a fair amount of time rethinking many of these moments of recalibrated my engagement with social media in particular, I use Twitter up until the last week and up until the election. Really, my behavior on Twitter had completely changed for, you know, at least a year, you know, if not more.


I just was not looking at what was coming back at me. I was never engaged with anything. I would just put out what I thought needed to be put out. So I feel a responsibility having a reasonably large platform that when or where I think I can discredit bad ideas or amplify good ones. I feel a responsibility to do that in the same way that I feel a responsibility to say something that makes sense on my podcast. It's just like we're in the game of trying to influence public opinion to the good.


Otherwise, you know, what are we doing having conversations in public anyway? Right. But. I definitely have course corrected because I was noticing that I was yeah, I was just not intelligently curating the contents of my own mind. I was just spending a lot of time thinking about things I don't actually have to think about that I couldn't really influence much for the better. And it was painful to do it, but. Even the stuff that is necessary to do, which I you know, after thinking once and twice and three times about it before doing it, that stuff makes me just as much of a target as anything else.


Right. So it's like that being a target is no longer something that I need to think about. It's just goes with the territory. You say something on these topics ever in public, you will have an army of people who think you should be cancelled for it on some level. And the real correction for that, at least in my life, has been to make myself very hard to cancel. I mean, that would be quite a feat at this point.


Not to say it's impossible, but it's just, you know, I am I have deliberately for a couple of years, you know, inured my my whole operation to the prospect of cancellation. It never feels like a significantly reckless business decision to say what I think in public. And, you know, I'm sensitive to the fact that not everyone can achieve that in their lives. And that's why I you know, I can't say that people should draw.


That everyone should follow my example, because I don't know what my example is really, you know, practically speaking for many people is just, you know, people have to worry about getting fired. They have to worry about getting these platformed. And those are real concerns. And so, you know, I'm trying to create a space. And this this signals, you know, much more of my criticism of the left here. I'm trying to create a space where it is safer and safer for smart, well-intentioned people to speak honestly in public.


And if they do is just, in fact, the case that they will violate many taboos now that are harming us all in. And so I see that as a you know, one of my primary roles is to have kind of shored up my own spaceship against the obvious leaks so that I can actually make sense at scale and make it safer for other people to travel in this direction. But in terms of why you do it, why you to use my terms, put yourself through it.


It seems to me that there is in your mind, the service aspect here that the world's troubled and. Voicing sometimes unpopular opinions and having difficult yet hopefully constructive conversations seems like a necessary act. Yeah, well, if you're thinking about human well-being and how to safeguard it and increase it. I think the longest lever we can get in hand ever is ideas. I mean, every idea, you know, good and bad is. Far more potent in the end than the individuals who traffic in them, the world is not filled with bad people doing bad things.


For the most part, it's filled with good people, people who could certainly be good in other circumstances, doing bad things or misguided things or dangerously stupid things under the sway of bad ideas. I am quite convinced that's the world we live in. It's not to say there aren't some bad people. For the most part, we're living in a world where people are incentivized badly, right? And this is where we can get immense leverage in discovering bad ideas and all the bad work they're doing and correcting them and amplifying better ideas.


You talked a while ago about developing compassion for Trump, given, though, that you contend with people on the left and on the right. Can you generate compassion for people with whom you disagree and if so, how?


Well, there are many ways. I mean, one is just to recognize that. Everyone. Is going to lose everything they love in this world, I mean, everyone is suffering or will suffer. Everyone is confused. Everyone is afraid to die. Everyone has is trailing just an endless series of disappointments. And, you know, we're all in a mess together. And I mean, one of the things that makes it so hard to feel compassion for Trump in particular.


Is he doesn't seem to be somebody who is suffering or capable of suffering in the normal range in which we experience that and notice it in others. Right. He doesn't seem like someone who has any. Ethical engagement with the world, and he doesn't seem like someone who's capable of deep relationships, so he doesn't even seem like someone who is capable of suffering all that much when the people close to him die. It's like it's like this is this. He seems like he's missing a module in his brain that is critical to the ordinary functioning of an ordinary person.


He does not seem like a normal person to me. There are very few people I've ever come across personally or seen in public life who I would say that about. And this is not, you know, granted, on some level, this is just my opinion. But it's an opinion formed by knowing a tremendous amount about him as a person. This person has been living in public view for, you know, almost as long as we've been alive.


Right. I mean, this is we're talking about decades of data on this guy. Much more of my conversation with Sam Harris right after this. A healthy lifestyle should be easy, right, eat veggies, drink green smoothies, exercise to get your heart rate up and do yoga to bring your heart rate down. All right. Well, maybe not so easy, but there is something that can help just about everything. And you can do it with your eyes closed.


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You have spent so much time cultivating compassion and in your own mind, and I just be curious to hear for those of us who are interested in doing the same, given the profound divisions we're facing in this country and in the world, how do you cultivate compassion in your own mind and how would you recommend to others do it?


Or the biggest. Lever for me is not the usual Buddhist one, I rarely, almost never do. Compassion meditation specifically, I mean, like, you know, Metta meditation and kind of bending it toward human suffering and cultivating compassion, for me, it's much more based on a. Philosophical and scientific. Understanding of the role that luck plays in everything, I recognize myself to be just fantastically lucky, right? And I recognize that everyone around me, the all the differences in outcome in life is advertising one or another degree of good or bad luck.


You know, being healthy is to be lucky and to have people around you who are healthy is to be lucky and to be born into a society where you can take advantage of opportunities to become wealthy is to be extraordinarily lucky. I mean, and to be born into a society that has a reasonably safe and functioning democracy compared to what's happening in the rest of the world is to be lucky. And no individual has created their own luck right now. You know, you didn't pick your parents, you didn't pick the society into which you were born.


And compassion is the only appropriate attitude to have toward all that. There's just no other. Code that compiles, right, there's just no you didn't make yourself or even the people who are as self-made as anyone. Can ever be right, the people who started poor started orphaned and then pick themselves up by their bootstraps and became entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and made tens of millions of dollars, you know, and no one ever gave them a handout of any kind.


Well, these people were almost certainly very intelligent. Right? They have zero responsibility for that. Right. There's like you did not create your own brain, right. You didn't create the fact that specific skills produce disproportionate advantages in our society, given the way it is, the fact that you happen to be good at software engineering. Right. That like that proclivity is something that could have taken root in you as a person. Is one something you can't account for?


And two, you didn't create the society into which that proved a massive advantage. Right. So it is just luck all the way down. Even if you literally climbed your way out of an orphanage and made it happen and built a billion dollar business in Silicon Valley. Right. So people are confused about that. And we have an ethic of kind of Ayn Rand in, you know, pseudo philosophy that is, you know, disproportionately influential in very wealthy, successful circles at the moment where it's just, you know, I I made a you know, I did it myself.


I don't know anyone anything. I've got nothing to apologize for. I don't want to pay any more in taxes. I'm done, right, you guys sort yourselves out, right? That's the libertarian vibe one gets among the the billionaire class rather often. And that, again, that's another thing that Trump tapped into. Right. It's a moral error because. Even for self-interest alone, it should be obvious that we all, no matter how wealthy you are, no matter how isolated you are from the moment to moment concerns of average people, I think you want to live in a society where you can walk the sidewalks and not have to step over the bodies of the homeless.


Right. Or worry about the rising levels of crime. Even the richest among us have to understand that their self-interest entails all boats rising with some tide here and compassion is readily available once you recognize just the nature of causality in this world. So it sounds like you're cultivating compassion through what you just described, looking at the world through the lens of causality and not doing it on the cushion per say. So what is your on the cushion practice look like?


How much meditation is the guy running the meditation app doing? So, I mean, I occasionally sit, you know, formally, but I don't do it, I do it sporadically now, honestly, I mean, like for me at this point in my life. Erasing the boundary between formal practice and the rest of life is the whole game for me. It's like my practice for many years has been not to acknowledge it's conceptual difference between meditation and life.


Right. Because there really is no difference right now. There's a difference in certain kinds of meditation. Like it is true that if you're doing concentration practice, well, then. Success in meditation is obviously state bound, you're trying to cultivate a certain state, you're trying to not let other things happen, right? I mean, there's a kind of control of experience that is the is the actual method and the goal. Right. You're trying to get concentrated.


And in a situation like that, thought is the enemy, right? I mean, you're like like success is, you know, thought are no longer arising in concentration, practice or the thoughts apart from the one thought that you might be using in something like Meta now. But even they're ultimately thoughts are no longer arise. And your one point and now that's as you know in Vipassana, that's not the practice one does, but there is still an illusion that gets ramified for many of us, which is that.


Yeah, I get that, you know, ideally, there's no difference between practice and life, but boy, that must be a long way off, right? Like, that's you know, you've got to do a lot of practice before you can even pretend to be talking about there being a difference, that there be no difference between a formal session of practice and the rest of life. And that's not strictly true. I mean, there's there's no good reason why that's true.


Descriptively, it may be true for many of us. And I have done obviously, I've done a fair amount of practice and I've logged my ten thousand hours, certainly, but. There are just many illusions that get endorsed. Around this difference between formal practice and other ordinary moments and, you know, this kind of a course grand one is the the difference between retreat and the rest of life. You know that we've all noticed that you're on retreat.


You have a whole set of expectations and you go deep into this kind of cultivation of various states. Even when you think you're it's not about cultivating states. You know, you certainly notice the signature of success seems to be, wow, this is really different than me just being on Twitter in normal life. Right. I mean, this is very peaceful and it's a very expansive and oh, man, look how beautiful the sky is. And, you know, and then, oh, that was just a thought.


And now I'm just oh, this is mindfulness of a sort that, you know, man, if only I could link these kind of moments together in my normal life, this would I would be, you know, if not a Buddha would be maybe it would be good enough. Oh, what? That was just another thought. And so we get a kind of you know, there's a kind of drug trip quality to meditative states that becomes the signature of being closer to the goal and being kind of hitting the target like this is.


This is why I'm meditating. Right.


This thing I'm feeling right now now from a a non dual perspective, from his own perspective or from advice perspective, whatever the canonical non description is for you, all of that is. A symptom of confusion. And it's on some level, it's never too soon to realize that now again, many people conceptually realize it and that becomes its own deviation point. Right. And the truth is, it is necessary to actualize it. Right. You actually need to be experiencing non duality, not just thinking about it.


Right. But once I started doing this auction practice and this is now many years ago. Mindfulness, for me, became really synonymous with recognizing that the nature of mind is already free. There's no problem to solve here, really, in the sense that there is one is a dream that one just kind of fell back asleep into. And the next moment of mindfulness is really powerful enough to wake up from that dream. It really is a breaking of the spell.


Right. There was a story that I discovered recently. I talk about it in one lesson on my app, but I think it's more things like 10 years old or so, but. Now, I forget whether it was in Norway or Sweden, Iceland, somewhere in northern Europe, the story of a tourist bus that pulls into a rest stop and people get off the bus to go get something to eat in the bathroom. And one of the tourists, I believe she was an Asian woman who was described as an Asian woman, I'm not sure got off the bus and changed her clothes in the rest stop and everyone got back on the bus.


And at a certain point, someone recognized that someone on the bus was missing. There was an Asian woman who hadn't gotten back on the bus. And, you know, the word spread among all the tourists that someone was we can't leave the rest the there because someone's missing. Right. And this person didn't materialize into that. So a search party was formed to find this missing Asian woman. And the Asian woman herself joined the search party. Right.


So she was you know, surely there might've been a language barrier here, who knows? But she did not recognize the description of herself in this initial emergency and set out, along with all the others, to go find the missing tourist. Right. And this went on for hours and a helicopter was prepared to take off at first light, right at somewhere around like 3:00 in the morning. This woman realized that she was the missing person. Right now, this is just an amazing know found poem, right?


This is a perfect darma analogy, but it's an analogy that runs. Pretty deep, it's like when you think of what? That the fulfillment of that search was like, it's not true to say that they found the missing tourist. That's not what happened. The search evaporated and the search itself, its goal, the project itself, the logic by which it was prosecuted, the methodology, all of it was part of the problem. And on some level, it was the only problem.


Right. Like this confusion even in the proffered remedy here and. That, you know, it's again, it's just an analogy, but it significantly applies to the project of meditation. There is something that we cultivate that is an illusion here around the boundary between formal practice and the rest of life. So insolation is often recommended that, you know, rather than sitting long sessions that recommend many shorter sessions as a way of no longer falling into this pattern of feeling like, OK, here's the practice part of my life, and then whether it's an hour or two hours or whatever it is, and then now I get up and now I'm going on with my day and there's here's the Somsak portion of my life.


And tomorrow, you know, in the morning when I've had my coffee, I'll do the practice part of my life again rather than that. The framing is to punctuate every period of the day with actual practice, and ultimately it's to. View, I mean I mean, more and more I'm viewing my day to day life, and this is actually this has been I hadn't really thought about this, but I think this has been enhanced under covid because, you know, for now, nearly nine months I've been functionally locked down.


Right. I'm almost on like a spaceship. I'm literally like I almost never go out of my house. Right. So it's a very weird circumstance, but it feels a little bit like a retreat. Right. And, you know, it's not a retreat that we're in. I'm practicing formally very much, but I'm viewing. Every moment in my day as one of these transitional moments where I'm like, OK, now I'm getting up, it's like the way you feel on a retreat where like now I'm getting up from the sitting session and it's going into the walking session.


I don't know how many times a day. My experience is punctuated with. This transitional, the next thing that I'm going to do is framed by. A really clear. And again, this is not so much so deliberate as it is sort of happening automatically, like a really clear moment of practice oriented framing of the next thing, whether it's checking my email, getting up to get something to eat, flipping on the microphone to do a podcast with you.


I mean, this just keeps happening. The truth is, I feel like I'm practicing. More than I ever have at this point in my life, but in terms of sitting formally, I'm not doing much of that at all. I mean, I'll sit for five minutes here and there, 10 minutes here and there. But I'm definitely not sitting for an hour in the morning or at any point during the day.


And what you're seeing in these little moments, you know, one of the maybe worth before I get to this question, may be worth clarifying some terms that paisano or.


Buddhist mindfulness meditation or insight meditation is a practice that many of listeners will be familiar with, where you sit, try to focus on your breath, and then every time you get distracted, you return to the breath. And that can then lead to variations of practice where you're specifically noting the things that carry you away. And then you may even drop the object altogether and just note whatever is coming up in your mind. Zogu Chen, by contrast, which is a Tibetan practice, but also very similar schools, grew up in Hindu advice to practice.


And and there are many people who subscribe to neither gender advice and just call themselves non dual practitioners.


That practice is more directly looking for who's the knower of experience, who's this illusory self. And as soon as you start to look, you see that there's nothing to find. So in those moments that you're describing of the short and in Zen, they often say the way to practice is short moments many times. And in this in the noticing you're doing, can you describe that experience that you're having many times throughout the day as you go from one activity to the next?


Yeah, so, I mean, this comes back to the difference, as I see it, between dualistic and non dualistic mindfulness. And this is something that, you know, I've sparred with our mutual friend Joseph about a bunch. I don't know that we actually disagree so much as which had very different experiences. Who sort of came to. This plays from very different routes, and we've drawn different implications from sort of the the path dependence or apparent path dependence of getting there.


But, you know, this will be familiar to many people. I think probably every person listening to us who practice in mindfulness, the place most of us start with mindfulness practice is to feel like we are a source of attention, you know, very likely in the head that can strategically point attention at various objects. You're told to notice the breath. Right. And that can be easy to do. It can be hard to do. But you feel like you can aim the light of attention very likely down at your nostrils or at your chest or at the abdomen and.


Then there's the problem that arises, because then you get distracted by thought and then the game becomes noticing that sooner and more often and thoughts are another strata of subjective reality that you can then pay attention to strategically. And so you find yourself aiming attention at thoughts and sensations and emotions. And ultimately, everything can become a kind of choiceless awareness where you're no longer fixating on any object strategically, but you're letting your attention point to various things, whether deliberately or spontaneously.


But it does feel dualistic. It feels like. You are the seer or the HERHER. Or the meditator in the end, and it feels like you're it's almost like you're standing on the bank of the river of consciousness, watching it flow by right there, the contents of consciousness flow by and you are on the edge of things and just many intrinsically wholesome and exciting and transformative things can happen while standing on the riverbank. I'm not denying that it is a kind of super power to notice.


A thought is a thought and unhook from it and notice negative emotions and decide to not give them energy and to and to feel more concentrated and to feel that positive mental affect that comes with concentration and all of that. But. The drama promise something more than that, it promises an insight into the illusory nature of the self, right. And so by the normal Vipassana path. You occasionally can have this experience of your noticing things go by clearly enough such that.


For brief moments. The sense of there being a noticer goes away or just collapses in the scene, there is just scene. There's no Seares and things seen in the hearing, there's just hearing. And so, you know, I was a Vipassana yogi early on and. You know, this kind of experience would happen to me much more on retreat than it would happen in normal waking life and hence the significance of the difference between being on retreat and being in normal waking life.


But it wasn't something I could bring on intentionally. And moreover, it was not something I recognized to be just always true about the nature of consciousness, whatever I was paying attention to. Right. It was just this was it seemed to be something that required. Fairly continuous mindfulness and some significant measure of concentration to have happen, right, and it's happening was haphazard. Again, it was not undermine any kind of control, couldn't be produced on demand.


And there seemed to be nothing in the. Not nothing. I mean, the teachings seem to be kind of confusing on this point, while, yes, this seem to be something that would be the nature of mind under certain descriptions. It was also true in the kind of straight Theravada presentation of a positive teaching under somebody like Sweida open data, for instance, this Burmese meditation master who many of us who know Joseph and Sharon in particular spent a lot of time practicing with it seemed to be the very logic of the practice was, you know, actually.


There isn't much to notice about the nature of consciousness in this moment that is redeeming or transformative other than to notice the evidence of your own enlightenment. You should just notice a Nicha, Doka and Ainata.


But the Ainata, you're noticing the selflessness, you're noticing it's not any kind of fundamental freedom from self, you know, radically cutting through the illusion of the self. It's more. Selflessness by virtue of impermanence, it's not by virtue of a nature. So you're noticing everything arise and pass away and you're drawing the implication that there can't be a stable self in this clockwork because where would it be? Right. It's like it is a kind of inference right now, nondurable mindfulness or Zen practice or the insight.


You know, I'm convinced that the insight into advice in the Indian tradition is the same thing, although it is a different methodology. And, you know, in some ways it's a there are pitfalls, Danny, teaching really. I mean, this again, there's a needle in a needle that has to be threaded here. I mean, in a inviter, you can get the sense that really there is no methodology beyond just talking about this stuff endlessly with a guru.


And either you get the point or you don't. And if you get the point, there's never a reason to practice. And if you don't get the point to your practice is always hopeless. So it's like there is a it's too steep a path as often taught. And it seems to me that Dogen has really is really about the best. Compromise there between these two messages, the one message being, yes, you really are unenlightened and you got a lot of work to do.


To dig yourself out of this hole and mindfulness is the rope you could climb here to actually get out. You can do it at one moment at a time. Who knows how long it's going to take you. Big project. Almost nobody gets out of this hole. Good luck. Right. So the message is, while that you don't there's no point in worrying about any of that. It takes as long as it takes. You do absorb the impression that really the project is to kind of spectate on the evidence of your own enlightenment in each moment as a quantum leap as possible, as mindfully as possible.


Recognizing the mind of the Buddha right in this moment is not actually in the cards, right? That's not you, right? You're going to have you got a major spiritual adventure in front of you before that. Anything like that is true, right? You know, this the analogy that open data used on retreat often was the project that you're rubbing two sticks together to get fire. Right. In the moment you stop rubbing, they cool off. Right.


So every interruption in the continuity of your mindfulness is this colossal failure that has real consequences, right? You're not going to get anywhere. You're not going to get fire if you keep intermittently rubbing these sticks together and then only to let them cool off right now. And as you know, this is predicated on that version of Buddhist psychology, which suggests that the progress of insight happens along this one path where you you have to have these cessation experiences to uproot wrong view and various defilement.


And that is the path of practice, right? There is no there is no other logic by which minds would get freed in this place now. There is a contradiction, but whether or not some semblance of that is ultimately true, that could be debated, but. What seems obvious from the Gondor side is that. Ordinary conscious awareness is already free of self, right, is already free of self. It's not like you figure out how to annihilate yourself through practice.


It's not like the really existing self gets uprooted through the progress of insight. It's not like the tourist who is lost gets found. Right. There was a false problem here. It was actually a false problem. It's not a real problem that got solved and. You can discover that directly, and so Nundle mindfulness becomes rather than being the person on the bank, the meditator, the locus of attention in the head, noticing objects go by. You recognize that you're actually the river, you're identical to it, you're not aware of consciousness and its contents, you're aware as consciousness and its contents, right?


You're not watching. Experience you are identical to, there's no place to stand. Where you are not identical to the sphere of experience, you know, you're not on the edge of it looking into it. Right, you are it. And that's a difference. There's a shift, there's a subtle shift there that is clarifying of an illusion that you, you know, you took for granted as being true, that you mean you didn't know was an illusion.


And it really is decisively clarifying. It's not like it's we can debate about whether or not one or the other is true. It's a shift. I mean, again, one region gropes for analogies here, but in all analogies have their flaws.


But a clear analogy for me in terms of this kind of binary in terms of the shift is that maybe we talked about this on a prior podcast. I don't remember.


I used this analogy a lot, but it is very much like, you know, in the days before covid, when one would go into a restaurant, you know, going into a restaurant and getting halfway through your meal. And suddenly realizing that the entire wall on one side of the restaurant. Was a mirror rather than a restaurant that was twice the size that you, you know, and in fact it is right what you thought was a room that was double the size was, in fact, just a floor to ceiling mirror that was unrecognized as a mirror.


Right. So something happens there. But what happens is not a change in your visual perception, right? It's not like the light changes or that, you know, it's just all the visual data is the same. But there is a shift and it's decisive. Like, you just you know, you don't go back to imagining that there's more people over there. Right. You see that those people are the same people as the people over here. And that's just a piece of glass.


And there's no depth to it. Right? There's just a light on a wall. And it's not a perfect analogy. I mean, the mirror kind of complicates things a little bit, but it captures the clarity of the difference and the kind of decisiveness of it had, the kind of the unforgettable ality of it. Right. You don't go back to thinking that the mirror might be the world and the simplicity insofar as you could overlook it. Right.


Insofar as you could be confused in any moment, the simplicity of recognizing it again. So it's like it's not like you really recognized it in that great moment on retreat six months ago. And now you can sort of dimly understand it right now. It's not like that at all. Like each moment of being mindful of it again is clear. Like you can touch the glass. You can't lose this thing. Right. But the clarity of it can be interrupted like you can.


You can forget about it now. You can go to sleep. You can be bewitched by your meal or whatever. You can be distracted or you can be. There's no question that I spend. Much of my life distracted by thought, right, so that's true and that that that has consequences, right?


You know, I can be in much of my life, much of my practice is to be lesser or of the time. Right. I mean, this is still part of the project, but.


Every moment of mindfulness really delivers the goods, it really punches through to something that seems uncontaminated by concepts, it's not a remedial effort to calm down, to get some balance, to relax, to distress. And it used to be right. And it used to be even after I'd spent a year on retreat writing a cumulative I never did a year retreat. But, you know, three month retreats and two month retreats and one month retreats, you know, even after I had practiced Vipassana for a full year over the course of, you know, a few years, I was still the kind of person who couldn't say what I'm saying now.


So it took an additional. Pointing to this and I mean, that's what I'm trying to get across when I talk about mindfulness and this is available to people and it's available sooner than they may expect and the difference matters and.


Yet for most of us, most of life is still a matter of trying to be as mindful as we can moment to moment in every circumstance, and I see no reason to believe that that project is hopeless. Right. I think there may be, you know, some of the great meditation masters I have spent time with. I have no doubt that they were more stable in this recognition than I am. And I have no doubt that practice is part of that project, but it's also true that there is no boundary between meditation and this moment where there's no boundary between meditation and doing a podcast.


And so I'm really. In my own life, undermining the notion that there might be a boundary and so that's an covid is a kind of unusual experience because it is just is Groundhog Day over here? I mean, it's just very weird to be in. It's very much like retreat for people. This is another way in which I consider myself incredibly lucky, but I can't imagine.


What the experience is like for people who have never been on retreat, it's like this is having been on retreat, is is a great preparation for this totally bizarre experience we're all having collectively. I mean, this is just it's.


Yeah, as many silver linings as I have found in this personally, I will be very eager to get inoculated against this this bad borne illness and get out there and in a restaurant again. So I have a comment and an anecdote and then a question. The comment is, if people are interested in practicing this non dual mindfulness that Sam is describing, there are a number of resources out there. One would be Sam's app waking up. Another would be a book that Sam recommended to me many years ago, which was simultaneously blessed by the aforementioned Joseph Goldstein.


And that book is called On Having No Head.


By the way, speaking of books, Sam's book, Waking Up also has a lot of practices and one just simple way to think about this, and this is described very well in Sam's book and in on having no head, just, you know, the simple move of in any given moment.


Turning your attention back in on yourself and trying to find what is knowing or seeing or hearing all the data that's being taken in right now and just in that moment, you can see. That there's. There's nobody home, and that is. It just throws you right up against this mystery of consciousness and a really fascinating and I believe and have experienced kind of freeing way. So that's the comment that the anecdote in Sam, you made me you may ask me to exercise this later, but I have a very funny memory coming up in relation to the notion of retreat.


You and your wife and your daughters were over at the apartment. My wife and my son and I used to occupy until we escaped to the suburbs and we were having dinner one night. Joseph Goldstein was there and we were talking about the difficulty of going on retreat. And I said to your wife and one of your daughters, I said to your daughter, would it be OK if Mommy went on retreat? And she said, no. And I said, what if Dad went?


She was like, oh, no, that would be fine. My son feels the exact same way.


He's totally fine with my going on a retreat.


Yeah, I have not yet called her bluff, but I have no reason to believe it's not a bluff. I mean, you know, just measures the relative importance of proximity to mom and dad in the household. The truth is, I wouldn't. You know, I'm I'm very involved with my daughters, and again, we've been locked up in a house together for nine months and that's really been a great silver lining here. I mean, just to see them more than ever.


It's been fantastic. I can see the basis for being. Unhappy to notice that difference in attachment, but. There's also a basis for happiness in Imagists, you know, Armonica is such a good mom and it's just, you know, it's like it's obvious to me why my daughter would feel that way about one of us going on a retreat. If I could grab those dials, I'm not sure I would change the settings at all there.


No, I. I really do agree with what you're saying there. And then here's the question, which is the proximate cause of my asking you to get together and talk here.


Was that you not that long ago released a book about civilizational importance of conversations that we need to be able to understand one another if we're going to be able to coexist on this rock hurtling through space.


And you're trying to put on sort of a clinic in conversation, on your podcast, on the regular.


And I guess my question is, given your belief that in the supreme importance of conversation is that operationalize a bull for the rest of us in our own lives, you know, not being recorded, you know, how can we practice the importance of conversation in our own lives?


Well, I think it's just as important, but it is different. I feel a responsibility. To be absolutely clear and honest and as comprehensive as the medium allows in public in a forum like this and knowing that we're going to have an audience, and that's different from the way I would feel at a dinner party, like it's like one to one. Social conversation does not require that each of us go to the mat, you know, guided by nothing but intellectual honesty on the most provocative topics of the day.


All right. That's like that's not what I'm recommending. So even I will pick my moments and pick my battles and decide to privilege, you know, just civility above all in certain contexts. Right. But if someone is going to ask what I really believe, I'm not going to lie about. I think honesty is is a master value here and in public. I think we do have a duty knowing that, you know, knowing just the way ideas spread.


We have a duty to be as honest and as clear as we can be on important topics and to not run away from them. And it's all too easy to do that. So I do think that the rules of the game change a little bit in public and in private, again, not with respect to honesty, but with respect to whether it's worth having a specific conversation at all. You know, but yeah, I mean, this thing to notice about conversation is that it really is the only tool we have to modify other people's behavior.


And to converge with me to have an open ended entanglement with other human beings, you know, friends or strangers that stays cooperative and creative and onward leading rather than just an engine of conflict, random conversation, is it? We have to be able to persuade other people to share our values or to be persuaded ourselves to adopt their values. And we have to converge. And conversation is the only method of conversation in all its forms, you know, face to face written.


It doesn't have to be. You can be asynchronous, right? You know, reading a book is being party to a conversation, but. Other than that, we have violence, we have coercion, we have, you know, stop doing that and we'll put you in jail. You know, we've got laws, we have force and. It's a pretty stark opposition between those two things and. I don't see anything else on the menu. So it's like there.


That's it, you know, always. And so when things really matter, right, mean what is the society going to do with its resources? It's just it's a we're often faced with these apparently zero sum contests that have to be resolved and we have to get better and better at resolving them through conversation. And this is why dogmatism and identity politics in particular. Are obviously the wrong algorithms or they're just not the kind of like I mean, this is why the work that has been done in philosophy actually matters and it matters that we have these intellectual tools to draw on.


So like someone like John Rawls, who's a political philosopher who famously gave us this notion of what he called the the original position and the veil of ignorance behind which one can decide whether a certain society is just or fair or just, you know, how could how should what should we do know? What shall we do as social policy? You know, he argued that the way the algorithm you want to run to decide whether something is fair or just is to.


Think about it from what he called this original position where you don't know who you're going to be in that society, right? You don't know whether you're black or white or healthy or sick or young or old or gay or straight. And then from that position, virtually all of us will be able to converge on what sounds like a fair situation right now. There'll be some outliers. There'll be some people who are not up to having this conversation. There will be.


But even the truth is, even psychopath's in that situation when they're just trying to figure out their own interests. If they don't know what their identity is in that society, they will tend to land on a reasonably fair alternative just just based on game theoretic grounds. Right. So that's not the last word on how to think about justice or fairness, but it is so much better than any group saying. You know, this is because we're women, this is because we're black, this is because we're white.


This is because we're Asian. This is this is we have primacy because of our identity here. I mean, so like, we can't have in a society where we have to keep doing the algebra of identities, you know, where it's just this game of Dungeons and Dragons. And we keep rolling the dice to see who's got more hit points against the other. It's some that can't be. The way we get out of this mess and so, yeah, I mean, I think most of what I'm doing is standing at the intersection between.


Philosophy, you know, often moral philosophy and philosophy of mind and science and this other area of concern that you and I just talked about in the at the end here and just what it means to. To truly live and examine life, what it means to live a life that we really couldn't possibly regret, you know, and what will it mean to die without regret? How do we put ourselves in position? To be have that sort of mind, right, and how do we make a society where the most people can do that?


Those are my concerns. And again, you know, on my podcast and in the app, the app part of the app is essentially another podcast. I wasn't really aware of Spawn in another podcast, but I have this conversation section in the waking up app where I have conversations just, you know, with meditation teachers or scholars on topics related to the topic of practice mostly. So, yeah, I'm more and more I spend my time talking to people or talking at people and not writing, you know, which is much to the consternation of my book agent.


I'm a terrible writing a client at this moment.


Well, I spent a lot of time writing and never completing, so I guess that makes me equally bad, but or maybe worse. Is there something I should have asked but didn't ask?


I don't think so. I think we covered a lot of ground.


Well, really, I took way more time than I was planning to take of yours. And I'm grateful. So thank you.


Always a pleasure and honor. And we always have more to talk about. So let's do this again.


Be careful what you offer there, because I'll take you up on. Big thanks to Sam, really appreciate him coming on the show. You've just heard from two similarly named but unrelated sources, me and Sam, about how meditation can help you stay engaged in what's going on in the world without losing your mind if you're looking for a sign that you're supposed to actually start meditating if you haven't already.


This is a sign and you can bring a friend or family member along for the ride for a limited time. If you buy yourself a subscription to 10 percent happier, we'll send you a free gift subscription to share with anybody you'd like. Of course, nothing is permanent and this offer is no exception. Get it before it ends by going to 10 percent dotcoms. December. That's 10 percent. One word all spelled out dotcom. December. We'll put that link in the show notes.


Before we go, a big thank you to everybody who worked so hard to make the show a reality. Samuel Johns is our senior producer, Jay Cashmeres. Our producer Jules Dodson is our A.P. Our sound designer is Matt Boynton of Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator.


We got a massive amount of incredibly useful input from fellow teachers such as Jen Plante, Nate Toby, Ben Rubin and Liz Levin. Also big, thank you to my ABC News conference, Ryan Kessler and Josh Kahan from ABC. And we'll see you on Wednesday for a great episode with Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, a best selling book, really a landmark book that is celebrating its 25th anniversary. That's coming up on Wednesday.