In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Peter Attia about meditation and the nature of mind. They discuss types of meditation, the difference between pain and suffering, the difference between joy and wellbeing, the half-life of negative emotions, thinking and dreaming, the power of culture, the power of language, letting go of anger, MDMA, loving one's enemies, moral luck, the ethics of lying, and other topics.
SUBSCRIBE to gain access to all full-length episodes at samharris.org/subscribe.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the week
podcast. This is SAM Harris
things to cover in today's housekeeping.
You might not want to skip this one. I think it will be something of
in here. For most of you, first
The name of the podcast is changing the truth
is waking up was on.
Who is the wrong name for this podcast? As most of you know, I have a book by that title.
I now have a meditation app, which is a direct descendant of that book.
Dealing with all of the material I cover in it in greater depth, so there is now a fair amount of confusion about
What my app is and how it relates to the podcast so in
to protect the app and to put the pod.
On true or footing come
week in January, this podcast will be retitled making sense.
It will be the making sense, podcast or making sense with SAM Harris and
I think you'll agree. That name actually makes more sense than waking up, given all the topics. I
so there's nothing for you to do it
here on the same
rss feed everyone's
membership on my site and in my app will be as it is all the old episode
of the podcast will still be available, at least for now. I don't think
it's going to change their, but not quite sure
we're going to do with the archive, but all those
will still be under
same name, waking up in the same feed, but you
the new episode I released at some point in January will change over anyway just a change of name logo and indeed
okay, some new experiments and calm
station events to announce presale tickets for
Boston DC and New York are now available to subscribers
If you are a subscriber, you have already heard about that.
Only by email and tickets.
Maine for Detroit Milwaukee and Chicago.
You can find all that information at Samharris DOT, Org, slash events.
And more days will be hitting the calendar soon
trying to figure out how to alleviate some of the link
pain left by the dissolution of Pangburn philosophy.
So what we're doing here is that we're offering tickets to those of
who have fun refunded tickets for the day of reflect.
Conference in New York. I got cancelled in November.
If you are one of those unlucky ticket holders, please email us at
info infosamharris, dot org and will give you tickets to my upcoming show
with the Beacon theater in New York on March. First
So again, if you are holding underfunded tickets for the pangburn event, the day of Reflection conference, please forward
those confirmation emails to info at
Harris, DOT, Org and do this
by January 15th, because on January 16th, the remaining states will be released to the general public O. This is time sensitive.
I know this doesn't solve for all of you. I know many of you are traveling to New York for that conference. In fact, some of you
traveled only to find out that it was canceled. Needless to say, I feel terrible about this, but unfortunately can't make substitutions like this.
At other shows, this sort of thing is actually hard to workout with live nation, holding back hundreds of
it's for one of their events, I'm very
to do it, but unfortunately I can't do it for other shows on other dates. It just introduces too much chaos into planning this tour.
So. This is at least something
We can do in an attempt to clean up penguins mess. However, imperfectly.
Again, the event is at the Beacon theater in New York on March. First I've,
those of you in Auckland who are
holding tickets for that event, that pangburn canceled and we're not refunded,
Please get in touch when I announce events closer to you, I'm not sure I'm coming to New Zealand next year, but I'm almost certainly coming to us.
Probably in the middle of the year anyway, stay in touch.
come anywhere near you. Needless to say, I'll, be happy to give you tickets
to anything. I do down there. Ok, patris on.
As many of you probably know, I deleted my patreon account and
issued a brief statement which
those of you who are on my list received I'll just read
here, so we're on the same page. I have a little more to say. It's very brief. This is what I posted dear page
supporters. As many of you know, the crowd funding site Patrie on his band, several
prominent content creators from its platform. Well, the company insists that each
violation of its terms of service these recent excel
see more readily explained by political bias. Although I don't share the politics of the band members,
I consider it no longer tenable to expose any part of my podcast funding to the whims.
Atrians quote, trust and safety committee
will be deleting my patreon account tomorrow. If you want to continue
sponsoring my work, I encourage you to open a subscription at samharris dot. Org, slash subscribe.
As always. I remain deeply grateful for your support wishing you all
happy new year. Ok, so this is got a
our larger response online than I was expecting, most of it extremely supportive of Maine and some quite critical.
It is both the positive and the negative responses were somewhat unfair.
What I did here is not quite as selfless and act as many people imagine, but nor was I signal in my support for the alt right
so let me explain my thinking. A little more here, Patrion published, publish their own response
in the wake of my leaving, which further
muddy the waters here. So this is what happened? A few people were D platform, as I said in the case
that really caught my attention and which really
to bother many of you was the case of Carl Benjaman, otherwise known as Sargon of a card a prominent you tuber. He apparently had his account
deleted and there was no process of appeal offered to him. He just got
deleted and was told there was no recourse.
I'm not very familiar with Benjamin and
nothing I say here should be construed as a defense,
if anything he may have said or done online about which I'm unaware, but when it
so many of you complaining about this, I reached out to
Patreon CEO Jack Conte, and I asked him
what went into this decision and he told me that they have a trust and safety team that evaluates these things exhaustively,
as I said well, can you provide links to the examples of the speech that sealed Benjamins fate with the team.
And he did that he sent me the transcript of what he said
and links to the audio on Youtube and the transcript was
really opening. He was using the n word with apparent, abandon and using other slurs, but then I click through to the offending audio and honestly, it took me about forty five seconds
to determine that the context really mattered here. How was he
within was Benjamin was being attacked by white
premises in an online chat, and he was
castigating them in terms that he thought they would find offensive, and while I don't support his tactics here,
none of it sounded good and obviously could be used against him maliciously. The truth is, there was simply
no indication that he would use these words in other contexts to express his own bigotry. He was
appearing on someone elses channel right. So therefore, this forum wasn't even
funded by his own patreon page, so it
very hard to see how he was in violation of their terms of service and the fact that it took me less than a minute to understand these things.
While patrion claims to have done this exhaustive review made
worry about the degree to which political bias is clouding the company's judgment. So, as I thought it was clear in my initial email,
this really wasn't a pure case of Maine communicating
Solidarity with Benjamin or anyone else. It was important that
certainly from what I can tell what was done to him was deeply unfair. But
honestly, I was also motivated by my own self interest here. As I said, I can't allow any significant part of my podcast funding to exist at the
pleasure of a bunch of millennials who can't figure out
which way is up when someone
taboo string of syllables, and given that I frequently touch controversial topics,
I'm making a considerable effort to create a space where I can do that, it just seems prudent for Maine to secure one hundred percent of my funding through my own way.
Tony white. That's not adding much to Myra
statement, but those are the facts.
And as many of you into it, this does come at some significant economic cost. There's certainly no guarantee, though
all of the nine thousand people who are supporting me on Patreon are going to make the jump to my own site. Certainly
not all of them have made the jump thus far to the.
If you have I'm very grateful,
obviously to those of you who supported me
this time on a tree and I remain extremely grateful.
Nobody status with respect to their account changes. If you
never supported me on Patreon, you have access to my site. Most
will have lifetime access to the waking up course.
You got grandfathered in before launch, so nothing.
Dangerous are there, but, needless to say, if you still want to support the show, I encourage you to do that through my website. Okay, so much house,
There's a special reddit AMA, just on the topic
meditation on Friday, the 21st
I believe a day after this podcast drops.
Otherwise it will be archived there. So you can see
and go to the meditation
subreddit to see that.
A few more words about the waking up course again. If you
of course valuable, you can give it as a gift for the holidays. An it is a special
good to give us a gift now, because the price is changing
And all of you who have subscribed or given gifts at the seven hundred and ninety nine introductory price will be grandfathered in at that price for as long as your subscribers, but
the price is nearly doubling on February. First.
Two one thousand four hundred and ninety nine month, and I will also say
if you do the first fifty day introductory course right. The first fifty meditations.
And you do them in some reasonable time frame like the first ninety days and
don't get value from that and you want a refund will. Then
we will be happy to refund you. So that describes your
experience on the a please reach out at info at waking up com. What else here, I think,
that's it! I forgot anything. I will tell you next time and now for today's podcast.
Today I am speaking with Peter Attia.
This is one of those episodes where someone is interviewing main foreign
podcast, but I thought that
rotation was valuable enough to broadcast on my show as well.
Peter is a physician who
this is an longevity.
Peter earned his medical degree from Stanford any
holds a degree in
nickel engineering and applied mathematics as well.
It rained for five years at Johns Hopkins Hospital in
surgery, and he also spent
years at the NIH training in
surgical oncology at the National Cancer Institute,
and it's really one
it's interesting doctors, I've met. You should definitely listen to his podcast, the dry,
where he goes very deep into conversations on longevity and he has a lot to say about
Trish and an extra
is physiology and sleep and cardiovascular health.
He did a great interview on Rogan's podcast,
where I learned that when he was
thirty years old, he did not know
swim and went from
learning how to swim to being, if I recall correctly, the first person ever to swim from,
was it the big Island to Maui and back again something insane
and he's done. Many swims of that sort anyway,
give you some indication of what kind of guy he is, but here
he's talking to Maine about meditation, mostly
and interviewing me for his podcast again, his podcast
call to drive,
and I highly recommend it. So we talk about various
meditation. We talked about the difference between pain and suffering, the difference between joy
and well being, and we talked with a half
life of negative emotions, the nature,
thinking and dreaming the power of culture to shape our minds. The power of language talk about
this drug experiences MDMA in particular the
the psychological prospect of loving one's enemies,
phenomenon of moral look. We get into the detail,
those around the practice of the past Nanso Jen and the difference is there we touch on
ethics of line, an other topics any.
I enjoyed the conversation, and now I bring you Peter Thiel
will SAM thanks so much for making
time today, yeah yeah fresh for me, I'm coming to someone elses studio to record yeah. Well, let's get in the game long enough! This is the way it happens. Well, I really appreciate it there's so much. I want to talk about today, but I also want to be thoughtful about pulling out threads that I think, are most valuable.
Two people. I take care of in many ways that sort of an undercurrent of what I like to talk about on podcasts is things that I can then share with my patients and things like that.
If you remember this, but I
just a year ago, I called you or I emailed you
said, hey man. Do you have time to talk and you said yeah and it was like. Actually, I know when it was right after Christmas, it was like the day after Christmas. It was the sixth of December, and I said I want to talk with you about mindfulness meditation.
You said great, and we have done it called you remember this discussion yeah. I think I think I remember the one you're referencing
So I had a very profound experience and, prior to that
I had been this somewhat familiar, I think, would be the the the most generous way of saying it, but somewhat familiar with meditation, primarily focusing on concentration based meditations, like mantra based practice, but I just come.
Back from basically a rehab facility, where you were sort of out in the middle of nowhere. You had no electronics, you weren't even allowed to have books or anything like that, and you were really sort of stripped down into. I guess what could only be viewed as sort of your most fundamental basic elements of self, and I had an epiphany about ten days into that which was
I realized at the time what must be the first moment in my life that I was present and it's weird to be almost forty five at the time and to think wow here I am ten days of having every stimulus removed from my life plus going through this very
sort of therapeutic stuff, and I remember exactly where I was sitting. I was sitting in the common room of this place at the edge of the couch and in a moment the only thing that mattered was exactly what I was perceiving around me. So the light coming in through the window and the you know the way in which it made the room sort of light up. This is the the faint scent of you know something that was being cooked in the kitchen. You know, if you, you know yards away or whatever and I'd I'd,
why I just felt like well. This is the first time right. I am actually really think I'm not thinking about something that has happened or worrying about something that is going to happen and the other thing. It was odd that that entire time I was there was there was it was that they allowed us to exercise which was a big deal. I was really pleased that I was still permitted to exercise, but you couldn't have music, you don't have a phone or anything. It was also the first
in my life I exercised only being able to listen to the sound of my breath yeah. So every morning I would run
in the woods, and you just heard the sound of the wind blowing by you, and you heard your breath and when I was doing pushups or whatever is the same sort of thing and of course, I'd already read so much of your work. But the reason I wanted to speak with you that day, as I wanted to understand, hey is: am I getting a glimpse of what one might get if they meditate? If they,
move to a mindfulness based practice and what you said was well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is, I've got this app, that's going to be coming out soon. It's going to help you with this at the bad news.
It's only in beta yet, but you can start right away. There's only you know, I think that I'm there maybe be a dozen meditations
the bad news, is going to take years for me to produce this thing? I'm completely incompetent! No, but come on. The thing actually is out now yeah and it's fine. It was a little longer than you wanted but near, and I very quickly put as many of my patients who are interested on the beta version. You guys were so gracious and what all of my my my folks on
This thing and in many ways I view that is one of the most important transitions of my life. I think of you know. Life is a handful of direction, changes that you know some of them, that you look back at the past and say well that was sort of a meaningful insight that came to me.
So you've talked about this idea of noticing what is arising versus not noticing at all. Can you elaborate on this? Yes,
So I guess I I should define mindfulness, which is really the the target state that one is trying to cultivate in. At least this probably was
most popular type of meditation now and there are different, as you alluded to their different types, there are two basic
types of meditation where the distinction is
between being lost in thought and being
really aware of whatever the object of meditation is so that that's true for all types of meditation
really is the the obstacle one is overcoming
is learning to meditate are our natural? Our default mode is to just be lost in thought, we're telling ourselves
story all day long and we're not aware of it. So once one begins to meditate, one is trying to pay attention to something, and this is where the two different types.
Diverge. The first that you alluded to that you, like a mantra based or a concentration based object of focus, is the attempt to
pay attention to one thing to the exclusion of everything else. You want
attention to be absorbed in that object and
in many of those practices the explicit goal is to do that. So
all that thoughts no longer arise right, so you
trying to get rid of thought in some basic sense.
The rising of thought in that context is a sign that you're not
meditating hard enough for one pointedly enough. Those types of practices can produce extraordinary,
active states of mind that you can feel bliss and rapture and- and you can actually.
Used as an object of meditation, specific states of
like loving kindness, which is called Meta in the buddhist tradition or sympathetic
boy or compassion or equanimity, you can cultivate specific attitudes which, if you can focus on them,
Exclusion of anything else, you're inhabiting that state to agree that most people would
find unrecognizable, but the second type of meditation, which is the type I have spent
much more time doing and is almost universe.
more fundamental or the deeper practice is often described as mindfulness, because that's that's the
the state you're using in the buddhist tradition to cultivate it mindfulness comes from a practice called the posener which which
insight meditation and there you are you're, not trying to
thing or another. You are trying to break the spell of being distracted by thought,
you're trying to be aware of everything without perceiving things through this discursive
here this conceptual lens in each moment, but
your attention can be
much more choiceless. I mean you can just notice what
in fact you notice you're, noticing things all the time sounds and sensations
moods and thoughts, but you're. Not
and then clearly, because your your thinking every moment of the day, my phone is begins for most people as a training on one object like the breath, but very quickly. It becomes something that you apply to the full range of your experience and what's nice about it. Apart from all the the benefits of doing that and all the things that can be realized by doing that,
this type of meditation is clearly coincident with any experience you can have, I mean there's nothing that is excluded in principle from the meditate
you're, not you can be
taken out or watching a movie, or I mean there's no
something that in principle does not admit of mindfulness and
that's not true of other types of practice. Yet
sharing one example, because the other thing that I remember you said at the time I I said you know SAM, I wanna really shift this practice in sort of. I want to figure out a way to experience that a you know more and more and you
she said: look there a bunch of apps that are already out there that are all pretty good. I mean obviously you're producing yours, because you think it's going to offer something additional and I'll just make my plug for it here. I've
every one of the apps out there and I do find yours at the best, but also
is that there's no one thing: that's the best. It's the way you explain things
resonates with me and it might not resonate with the next person, but the other
that I really like that you recommended was ten percent happier, which is Dan Harris is Daniel. No, no, no relation. Of course.
And even within Dans APP. There are many teachers, but there are a couple that I really like: Jeff Warren and Joseph Joseph Goldstein, Jessica, Lange, yeah and Jeff Warren has, I believe, a series of walking meditations there. He refers to sort of informal meditations and I remember the first time I did this, maybe it
The first time I met my been the second time it was pretty early. I realized for the first time that when you walk, if you're paying attention to it, you can feel the wind going past your finger. So, if you're, one
working with your hands in a position such that your thumbs
facing forward in your arms are swinging lightly
in a normal gate, you can actually feel the air moving past the leading edge of your hand. Yeah. I remember thinking how have I been walking for forty five years and I've never once felt this sensation, and now, when I pay attention to it, it's so noticeable. I don't know how it has
and distracting me, there's forty five years, yeah yeah and one might wonder why one would want to notice such a thing, but
what you discover when you begin practicing meditation, especially
pensively on retreat. Is that there's? No such thing as a boring object of attention, but boredom is, is simply a lack of attention, but we
into situations where we are convinced that we are bored because we haven't found something
well enough in our experience to capture are
mention, but what our attention is is so blunt, an instrument
that we we we need something that's made of thrilling,
terrifying or something to to fully get us to commit. But
what you discover when you learn to meditate is that what pleases us most
in those moments when we are fully captured by experience, is the state of complete attention to the present, and
if you can muster that on your own, if you can actually guide attention, irrespective of the object you're attending to the
anything, any arbitrary object, the feeling of wind on your hand, as you walk, can be an exquisitely pleasurable thing to notice. This is why, in that first type of
patient practice, concentration practice. It doesn't matter what you pay attention to. You can pick an arbitrary object can be around
sound TIM, be a mantra
with the mantra. Is it can be
candle flame? It can be a color on a piece of paper. It can be
random, sound in the environment. It can be in the sensation of a
a fly walking across the back of your hand, right anything that you can pay attention to
to the exclusion of anything else can suddenly disclose what it's like to have
very concentrated mind and concentration is intrinsically pleasurable, and this is why meditation can have the character of a kind of drug experience, mates and- and this is a a kind of a superficial character me you can you can get kind of addicted to the changes in state.
You experience in meditation and you can be misled by these experiences. You can think that it's about these changes,
rather than something more fundamental, because at any anything you experience by way of new found pleasure. That is bad
start. Having a very concentrated mind, you will lose because it's an impermanent state of your
z, ology and attention, and it's not the deepest practice but yeah. It's. It's amazing that concentration itself, regardless of the object, is incredibly pleasant. You know sort of going back to the why which you've you've started to allude to, and I can't I can't remember if I am I I know- you've said this site. I think many have said this, so I don't you know, I think, may
we have come to this observation, which is virtually all negatively valenced. Emotions are not rooted in the present yeah sort of
seems, like the the corollary of being present there for being able to concentrate on something in the moment can be quite pleasurable, and I guess that was sort of what I recognize. That first moment I experienced it, which was wow when you're,
when you're fully fully engaged in or envelope with in this present sensation. What you're, seeing what you're hearing, what you're feeling it becomes very difficult to be anxious or depressed or angry, or any of these other thing.
And for me that was the most interesting part of this witch lead us into taking us a very big step back. I'm trying to devote my life to figure out this problem with how to live longer. But if you ask me, how did I think about that problem five years ago versus how do I think about it today? There have been two fundamentally significant differences there, two things today that I could occupy much more of my energy with respect to longevity than they did. You know for five years ago, and the first of those two is this notion of being happy
which again, I think five years ago, I would have dismissed that is sort of a an afterthought like it is what it is and as long as those other things happen, you'll be happy. If you can
I did not die and how to be stronger and have better cognitive powers, but you'll be happy as a result of that. But, of course that seems to be not the case. The second that we're not going to get into it is a much greater appreciation for the type of physical body that is necessary to age well and how radically that differs from necessarily the physical body that we want to perform. Well when we're in our 30s or 40s, or even our 50s, but going back to the former which to me is in many ways your work in the work of people like you has had such a great influence on me. Is this realization, like none of this stuff matters, if you're miserable it doesn't matter? If you can live to one hundred, it doesn't matter if you can delay the onset of heart disease and stroke
cancer and Alzheimer's disease, if you're too miserable to appreciate it or if you're constantly in some sort of tormented state you might as well be dead. I mean that sounds extreme, but that's that's really how I started to feel about this yeah.
I think we also have inaccurate associations with terms like
happiness and where we haven't distinguished term,
that are different, like pain and suffering. There's nothing about
nation that gets rid of physical pain. Pain is just something that you're going to experience
and you can actually experience surprising degrees of pain while meditating, if you just
of not to move your body and it doesn't matter how comfortable your chair is. Eventually, pain is kind of a rise, and you have a guided meditation that takes us through that exercise. Yet that is, I feel like within two minutes: it's unbearable
the people who sit for hours and hours and every year twelve hours, you know just some billion it's
excruciating, and yet, when you get up you haven't hurt yourself is not synonymous with injury.
Now, obviously there are ways you could injure yourself if you don't move, but there
maybe a strange magnification of pain if you resolve to sit still for a very long time. But one thing you discover there, which is useful to discover, is that
there is a difference between pain and suffering. You can feel intensely negative sensory experience and you can, you can feel intensely negative
emotions, even you can feel anger and depression and sadness and if you can be, can
to simply be aware of those sensations or those moods or emotions. If you can recognize that con.
This is this the prior condition in which all of those things are appearing and you're. You are simply that
which is aware of these changing phenomenon. You can become interested in the
picture of a mood like sadness or a pain in the knee is actually possible to experience these states with
total equanimity, and one of the features is, as you said
not being focused at all by thought on the past or the few.
So I mean what one thing with physical pain we all experience is this sense that some sensation is intolerable
But there's this paradox because in that moment you've already tolerated it right I mean it's fully arrived
We've merely experience opinion of world you're worried about the future you're worried about how long this is going to go on, and it's certainly good to practice.
Finding a place of equanimity with pain.
I'm not saying you know. Obviously, there are pains that are conceivable that even the best meditator might fall
difficult to find equanimity with, but
there really is an image
amount of growth. One can have in this area where you just you, can notice this difference, but
reacting to pain contracting around it resisting it trying to.
I could go away wishing it away worrying about how long it will be there, and all of this happens. This cascade is just it happens so quickly.
That is you, don't even notice the mechanics of it. It's just you right. It's just you suffering, but the moment you can pick apart, the mechanics of it because you can pay a ten
to what is a rise in the feeling of resistance, the fear about what
and in the next moment and keep dropping
back into a position of merely witnessing all of this
things arise and pass away. Their experiences.
I've had in many have had in meditation, where an excruciating sensation become so intense.
Is that you actually don't know whether or not you're experiencing agony or ecstasy like it like the valence of the intense mental state? Is it just gets kind of wiped out? It's just. You know sheer intensity,
and there is a a fundamental cancellation of suffering in those moments, and this goes back to what we were just saying about the pleasures of concentration.
Nothing concentrates your mind more easily than pain, right answer, as if you're willing
you can get past your fear and just go into it. You can
experience a lot of mental pleasure. I mean this. Is you know I mean I'm not,
I don't think I've ever met, somebody who who
claim to be a masochist, but I can imagine that if masochism is possible, there's
reason why this is the case. This would be. This would be a reason why this would be the case that there is
I can only imagine they're experiencing intense concentration in various states that most people would find physically intolerable
but back to did the idea of happiness and and other states that are commonly associated with it. I think we all have this sense that happy
is a matter of being joyful. All the time miss a very,
and I just sort of the misconception that leads. Many of us think that well, that's not desirable, because if I were
for every minute of every day I wouldn't have the drive to do x, Y and Z, or I wouldn't be
open- quote real in some way, but but or if it is a matter of securing
some durable source of joy, then
can't absorb any of the other things in life, for which joy would be inappropriate. You know people die and there's just there are
their ups and downs in life, and I don't talk about or think about happiness
very much, I think about well being and and flourishing more and that those concepts for me can embrace all of the this is a two to five. Were you if you experience some serious long
in your life, there is a resiliency, a way of embracing that which is which brings
the wisest and most compassionate and most expansive parts of yourself.
That is another that is another component of well being.
The narrow conception of happiness that most of us have by default is something
with that. We are always try
to defend and shore up against all of the uh
things in life that are threatening
to undermine it. And the one obvious point is that it's just not it's not a safe play, it is perfect
under threat and any joy you can feel by virtue of its
dinner is and based on some causes and conditions. It's going to pass away. You just can't keep
any emotion going for days
or even hours at a time, and one thing you discover
when you learn to meditate is that in a negative emotion,
particular has a very short half life.
Many of us imagine that
stay angry or sad for some people.
Imagine days, I think almost everyone thinks hours at a time. It's actually impossible
if you are no longer lost in thought about
the reasons why you should be angry or sad, so this was one of the earlier. I can't remember if this was one of the lessons in your meditation a early on, or it was just a discussion you and I had, but I got to put it to the test shortly after I was in New York and
obviously in New York. It's everything is a hustle right. It's your running. Around people are rude, you're going to get bumped into, and one of my pet peeves in New York is
when you see somebody walking towards you and they're from
lost in whatever they're doing they're, usually down looking at their phone or something like that, I always think it's a reasonable courtesy to just not walk
into them, even if they are in your line of sight, you still sort of go out of your way to not bump into them, but for whatever reason, there's just a subset of people who love
of that opportunity to almost knock you off your feet so sure enough.
Today, I am about to turn a corner and this guy is walking and it was clear that he could
me- and I had looked down so my bad, but this guy plows right into me- and I had just had either had this discussion with you or just heard. You know this lesson about. How long can you actually stay angry, and so this happens and I immediately sort of observed this emoji
and this rise of anger in me right, which was like the desire to turn around and walk up to the guy and say something serves no purpose of course, but instead I decided well just watch this,
this emotion. How long does it last
so? I was walking somewhere that I was going to be in ten minutes and I was like: do you think this will last ten more minutes? Could you be angry for the next ten minutes? If you just observe this feeling- and the answer was no- I mean it was gone. Actually I felt like
in seconds yeah and to me that was like a really big ha ha moment for especially for someone like me who so easily prone to anger, to think that, by simply being observant of that emotional state, I could have some control over it, which is always felt like the opposite right. It's always felt like that. Emotional state has control over me right and it does it mean. The important point
never forget is that it has complete control over you as long as you're identified with the next angry thought that the rising in consciousness, if you have no perspective on the fact that you are thinking right well, then you simply become
thought for the period that it's it's captivating and you are pushed in whatever direction. It's aimed right. So if it is
getting you to say the angry thing, more physically assault the the person you
some level of metacognition in order to pull the brakes otherwise you're, just it is exactly like being asleep and re,
and not knowing that you're dreaming. This happens to us all of us every night we can we get into bed and then suddenly a movie starts playing
that weird, totally identified with or one of the characters in it and working
Pleat Lee unaware of this change right
and the most surprising thing about dreams. Is that we're not surprised when they arise right like this?
No, we didn't have the expectation that we would stay in our beds, apparently were not
prize at the laws of physics are being violated for our amusement and we're suddenly in the city,
oceans, where we are fully captive to a completely illusory,
seemingly sensory experience. But you know all of this is some kind of hallucination and identification with thought in the waking state. Has that character?
To some degree? Is it it's thought to be totally normal, psychologically right, 'cause, it is our default state, but
once you learn the alternative, which is to be mindful, you
then have a very different sense of what optimum mental health would be,
and so, when I find myself Losten thought and just you know suddenly
angry or anxious or
created or whatever it is, and I wake up from that. Experience
is a little bit like waking
from a dream or a hallucination
or it's hard to shake the sense that is, it is pathological. I was stuck in something
about which I had no awareness right and it was forcing me
to say and do and think and feel things that were
given my now current awareness or completely unnecessary. Do you see to me what's so interesting about this David Foster Wallace in his commencement speech in two thousand and five at Kenyon College? The this is water, which is one of my favorite
things to listen to. I burned a copy of you too, but now it sits on my phone and I try to listen to it at least once a month, if not more, and it did like, I even
I almost know it off by heart. It doesn't matter like I still get some benefit every time I hear it and when he talks about this he speaks specifically about the problem with this is that it is our default and that's the part that makes this so challenging so
do. We have evidence of other species like are we the only ones that are blessed slash, cursed with disability for rumination and constant thought? I mean do we? Do we have any evidence that a dog is spending any percentage of his or her time thinking about what happened the day before or the next meal? Where do we as humans stack up in
space. Well, it's important to acknowledge that we are blessed and cursed by this, because this capacity for linguistic, abstract, complex thought is what has given uh
everything that is recognizable human right it has given us culture has given us civilization. It's allowed us to
place? All of the learning of our ancestors in a a strata that is success
able to all of us into every present generation
so that we don't have to relearn everything
ground. I mean just just imagine what the alternative would be if there was no actors, no progress in civilization, yeah
and for the longest time that was true of humanity as well. You know he he called back fifty thousand years and then you decide to go back sixty thousand years that the differences are
are impressively nonexistent right. You know in terms of the the tool kit, anyone was working with, so that's interesting, SAM, so deep. If we go back to, I don't. I know,
there's some debate about when language was really codified, but to pick up
in time when we're pretty sure there was no language, we could say two hundred thousand years ago right, I think most neuroscientists would agree no language two hundred thousand years ago,
with the arrival of language, the arrival of this capacity or where did this show up yet
I think language is the.
The main variable there
it's the main variable, with respect to being able to abstract being able to represent anything, that's
currently present or not currently happening. It's the basis for
dictating anything of substance to anyone else and storing a kind of cultural memory of anything, whether it's just by virtue of an oral tradition or or you know, once writing
came along so language necessary for all that, I'm just to be able to articulate the concept of time. You know the concept of a past where the causes of the present or stored
and a future, which is yet to arrive that needs to be planned, for that can be better or worse. It's something that I think other species probably have in
very primitive form. That is not associated with conscious thought, and I think that a dog, for instance, learns very associate,
comes with stimuli right there. I pavlovi and response is that these animals can experience
and they may recognize people,
so I mean they recognize. People are gay,
we better than any other species other than than the human, so
they can have real relationships and there's no question that
emotions and they have references and all of that, but in
as of forming a notion of the future
or notion of the way in which the world might be different. There's one thing too:
signis your friend wreck it or in the case of a dog, recognize your owner and preferred
person to somebody else. It's another
going to have any concept of having had a past with that person. Now the fact that you recognize them indicates that a past right, but all of that could be preconscious
a dog. It's just there's just this kind of binary difference between recognition and not so, let's use an even more obvious example
and I'll tell you where I'm going with this, because then I want to understand this, which is, as I observe my three children. There is a distinction
in what I see in the younger ones that they seem to always be present so which isn't to say that
get upset. I mean you only have to look at a toddler for ten seconds to watch with that they can get upset you, but I doubt that they're upset about anything other than what they are experiencing in the moment right there hungry their diapers dirty whatever they fell. They hurt themselves something like that. But if you look at you know a teenager or a ten year old, a preteen they are now starting to suffer from this quote: unquote: disease
too much thinking too much distraction so somewhere from the moment, you're born until let's just make it easy and say you until you're thirteen you acquire this capacity, but yet an infant like the dog recognizes the parent. There is some sense of
history with an individual yeah again I I don't know even what the relevance is of this other than to say the inability to recognize how distracted we are seems to be one of the greatest drivers of misery.
There are three quotes. I love and I love them because they're basically all saying the same thing across one thousand seven hundred years, so in the first century, Seneca said:
We suffer more in imagination than in reality. In the 16th century, Shakespeare wrote in hamlet.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. I have that on a t, shirt that I love to remind myself and then, of course, in the 17th century. Pascal said distraction is the only thing that consoles us from miseries. Yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries. Descartes says something very similar. I mean this is something that's been acknowledged for so long,
And yet it's so ingrained in us that it just strikes me as like. Is there some evolutionary basis for this,
or is it just that evolution wasn't even trying to optimize for this equanimity and instead the benefits, as you've pointed out of being able to do these things, the progress we've been able to make as a society our ability to leap, frog
ahead of other species has more than made up for this difficulty, or is it simply that look evolution wouldn't out select this because it is it's? Not it's not interfering with your reproductive
fitness, yeah yeah. I just don't understand why we suffer so much. I guess my question. The crucial point there is that evolution doesn't care about your well being as long as you reproduce what did care yeah, and so, if there's some path by which
we survive an reproduce in a
date of misery, evolution is perfectly happy with that path.
If that were
a more reliable algorithm for reproduction and survival
then we would be get will be getting more and more miserable, so is so where we want to slip the the logic of evolution, because it it just it simply doesn't care about.
Right, and we have an virtually everything we want as a species. Now at some level
is matter of breaking the connection
too many of our evolved tendencies, and we have a very strong evolutionary capacity for tribal violence right, but tribal violence is obviously something we want out grow as quickly as possible,
and there are many other examples of this. I think that language is
You can see it when you're raising your kids,
you have a two.
Half year old and a three year old, where they're talking to you, but then
we're talking to themselves as though they're talking to you speech becomes something
where you're narrating your experiences, though you're talking to a parent, and this seems to get internalized so that
conversation you just you know enough to keep your mouth shut, but you are really talking to someone who isn't there all the time. I think that
probably the the origin of it for every individual that we languages is so useful. It's so
central to everything we do that. We just have this superfluous,
level of discursive iti that from
again from a survival advantage,
there's no reason to ever turn it off.
For my well being point of view, it's
the character of it is almost you
universally unpleasant. Most of the time. For most
I mean there are some people who are very lucky and they have an entry
take level of happiness. That is just kind of off the charts where they're just they're, basically happy all the time.
They recover very, very quickly from disappointments and losses, and they just don't really see a problem
and many of these people are not very reflective about the human
right, they're, not living necessarily examined lives because they there's not much of a reason to but they're just
you know they get up in the morning and then just stoked to be alive and you
you can know if you get enough of the the conditions for ordner
levels of happiness together. Annual
enough to be able to maintain them fairly, effortlessly,
you're, wealthy and you're healthy and you're, surrounded by happy creative people who
the best for you and your just by dint of good luck. People
close to you, haven't died and you had you haven't suffered any collision with reality
and yet you can, you can be conventionally
very happy and still be talking to yourself all the time and not notice it. But there's
significant limitation even to that when you do develop this more
find way of noticing what it's like
could be you, which is what we're calling meditation is now
that learning this
insight into the mechanics of your own suffering and the media
ordinary transient states of of pleasure. It's not that that is at bottom
incompatible with living an ordinary fulfilled pleasure seeking life.
You can enjoy dinner just as much having learned
meditate. As you know, anyone who's gluttonously attached to
sensory experience without without any kind of metacognition about what's going on, but the difference comes in
how you respond to problems that arise? I mean this is actually both right. I mean, I think, that
mindfulness, clearly makes it easier to indure unpleasant things. So you know I was
to come over here today, because the to get to your place, which should have been an hour, took two hours and,
and that is normally something that would drive me- bat shit, crazy, just by by way of process like. Why is it so inefficient like? Why are there
many cars on the road blah blah like I would get into a woe. Is me narrative about this, which is of course ironic because, like why am I more special than every other car on this road right, like everyone is equally in the same situation of it's taking two hours to get somewhere that it should take one hour? And actually, I have used traffic, because when you live in southern California,
put your time in New York, you get plenty of exposure to traffic I've actually used. This is an amazing tool for mindfulness and
no longer. Let it really get to me instead, I just sort of observe a look you're feeling a little bit self important today, like your feel,
take your time is more valuable than everybody else's time. Let's examine that. Is that really true, not really? Okay, what is happening in this exact moment? The sun is shining this way. You know the thing so so in many ways, if nothing else, it's simply a hack to allow me to be less miserable, yeah yeah, but on the flip side, I actually do think there is a way to enjoy a certain moments. More and- and I've certainly noticed this, the most with my kids. I think that you know I have it the our our middle
son who's. Four he's just that's what for like a four year? Old boy is just going to be more prone to chewing up the air in the room when it comes to doing bad stuff, and I find that and to be clear, they're not all days that I can do this. There are some days when he's acting crazy, that it just drives me nuts, but more often than not, I'm sort of able to actually reflect on it pleasantly and think about like what's happening in this moment. Right, ok, he's he's yelling. He screaming he's throwing a temper tantrum. He hit his brother he's done this he's done that, but
this moment. Is there anything? That's really that bad about any of these things. I mean like it's not like he's going to be doing this when he goes to college, like what am I really worried about here, yeah and in fact I can turn that into a positive thing, which is one day he will be in college and he won't be a cute little four year old
who loves me so much you'll miss this moment I'll, miss this moment. So so I have found that
yeah. I use the word hack because I it's such an elegant way to describe it, but it's basically a tool to
take me a little bit more aware of where I am in a given moment and whether that produces happiness or not. I mean I sort of agree with you, the semantics of happiness or too cumbersome for me to explain. You know people talk about the dip happiness is simply the difference between reality and expectations. I mean that's vague for me. I'm not smart enough to fully understand what that means, though I understand the concept, but clearly there's some component of expecting the world to be a certain way and it not being that way producing an emotional state or valence that is negative. One way or the other and and- and so I think Well- is as bad as wonderful as mindfulness is to offset that there is this moment at times of.
Taking a bite of food and rather than thinking about the next bite or what you're going to eat later, like actually thinking you know we're observing the sensations, as they are occuring in that moment kind of slowing things down in a way yeah yeah, yeah 'cause. I don't know why I just tend to always live in a fast forward mode. That is my default, is to be full fast for
Well, it's most people's default. I always say it's everyone's default who's, not being mindful, because you're.
You're constantly, even when you're getting what you want, even when you are in the very act
ratifying a desire, you're still suck
really inclining toward the next moment. You're not actually
landing on each moment of experience with full attention and,
paradoxically, you can discover that many of the things you think you want.
You don't want all that much if you pay attention to what is actually like to gratify those desires, maybe with food. This is very clear, so you can
eating something you can think you want dessert. You can have a real sweet tooth and if you pay very close attention to what it's like to eat, that sweet thing, you're, fine,
gorge in on more often than not, you discover it's just a little too sweet there's something about it. That is unpleasant and
your pleasure in that moment.
Predicated on your being able to take a drink of water in the next right, like if you have to buy a candy bar or something this candy is made for kids, delivers this insight to me very
It's like the moment I buy. I think I want some
I mean at the movies, whatever it is, a mm's or something that is hasn't changed for
for the last forty years and I'm eating it and
begin to notice that I'm eating more of it as a way of just get,
rid of getting rid of the events in your palette yeah the last moment of taste. That is just too chemical Laden, too sweet, and you know if I,
have a drink of water. You know this. This would actually be an unpleasant experience and it's not what it seems when you're, not paying attention
and then this is not to say that there's nothing! That's truly pleasure
there's all kinds of pleasure and again being able to really
connect with the present moment delivers its own
intrinsic pleasure. But your sense of what matters can definitely change the moment. You begin to pay closer attention to him too. What experiences
actually like. I think it was in one of your lessons, but it it might have been in a podcast where you talk about. Imagine you're, playing a video game and it's
same video game every time and you always get killed by the same monster at the same part of the maze or whatever it is.
And I think about that a lot every time I falter at predictably, you know
known understood, things that get under my skin and it's very discouraging right. It's sort of like a there are like a dozen things that I just know if they happen so I mean one of them is there's certain types of questions that if I'm asked really irk me, you know when people ask questions that are to which the answer is. Very
complicated, but they ask through the lens of just give me the one word answer that just irks me like. I don't know why it just bugs the shit out of me, and I know that and yet over and over again, I find myself getting upset when that
happens right. I feel like the guy that you're describing a video gear losing the boss fight at the same place every time every single time. I know where the Boogie man is. I know what weapon he's going to use to kill me and I just walk over there and out comes the machete and I'm dead your thing and then I'm back to the starting block again and I'm one one fewer lives in the game
right, what what you can recover faster each time you lose
getting angry is not the
azure of having LOS right now, you, obviously you can aspire to a time where
you never get angry again or you never get angry in certain circumstances again, but the real practice is to notice as early as possible. What's happening,
and to let go of it. The difference between being angry for ten minutes and ten seconds, and one second, though
factors of ten are enormous right and I had the same,
thing going on, where is the anger or something that I very frequently feel
and I also noticed that it totally contaminates the experience of people around me,
my wife and my daughters,
an my anger for them is clearly toxic and I have this committee
to letting go of it at the moment. I can let go of it and it's against
that anger is never warranted
the energy of anger, can be useful, someone's attacking you on
walking on your beer in a self defense situation
at the moment where I would say, get rid of all your anger as quickly as possible. Right, I mean there's or sick
as we want to use that energy, but for the most part
you want to let go of it very very
quickly and then be in a position to decide what what
and whether or not it's appropriate to take some kind of confrontational path whatever it is.
By email or more, I a say the thing that that would convey your displeasure or whatever but
now I have my my wife and my daughters as a kind of feedback mecca.
And for me because they know my commitment. They know I can let go of anger on demand and they know I want to and they don't like my anger right and they detect it in the sun
So I ways so it's not it's not even
where a normal person
would classically think he was, and we don't have to wait till you raise your voice. They can see the mannerisms in the way you might move
or the way your answers become shorter,
yeah, yeah or it may just so, but, like you know, even mild frustration get
scored, as you know, kind of crazy
full of anger right so like. If I, if I say, wait a minute, I thought the
lumber was coming today. That's, like
you know, that's a four alarm fire right. So
one of my daughters will say: oh daddy's, getting angry right and they'll say that
so early now an it's fantastic, because it's I just let go
but way earlier than I used to. But if you can't be mindful, you actually have no choice.
Yeah you just you will be angry as long as you're, angry and
people around you who don't like it just have to figure out some how to put up with you.
It's not that there's no other hacks,
there are many other hacks, and sometimes sometimes there is important.
that is more global,
then being simply being relentlessly mindful of everything. That's coming up for you, like a different understanding of a situation, can
offer some kind of firmware, update to the whole operating,
and then you you just simply don't
go there anymore. So, for instance,.
Ok, so you're driving in traffic. There are many hacks for that, but one hack is just you discover that
you've got four hundred hours of podcasts. You want to listen to and you're
a great one and you you just yours, happy to be
listening and the fact that you're delayed an extra half hour or whatever is fine. You know and that's a totally useful
back, right, modulates, your state, your you're, just you just discovering the silver line into something. That's that would otherwise be negative, I'll share with you, and
'cause, I agree with that completely. That's a great one, the other one that I've taken on in the past year that has had surprising efficacy is any customer service experience you have. That is profoundly negative and if you fly as much as I do, you're pretty much guaranteed one of
as a week my friend, Jay Walker, who knows a lot about the aviation industry, said one out of six experiences with US aviation as a customer service. Failure to anyone who flies would agree with that, but so the next time, like the flight
and it's rude to you or the TSA person is sweating, you or being obnoxious or whatever. If you instead take a view of empathy which is God, this is a really hard job, you know I mean yeah. I have the
of getting to be, you, know, intellectually engaged in doing all of these things in boom boom. But this a really hard
job I mean most of the people that they are encountering are on some level dissatisfied movies showing up to their world. Hey and so like simply taking that '
posture completely changes the way you interact with that system. Yeah,
and it's interesting 'cause. It doesn't even really require a huge mindfulness insight, it's just sort of,
it's it's a condition. You want to walk in the situation with right. You wanna build a walk in with that in your mind, yeah it's a frame in effect, yeah, yeah and
and it doesn't entail mindfulness at all. You could get the benefit of that new frame in
without ever having heard of mindfulness. So you, if you do get angry,
will be as angry as you ever were, but right so that we have a different way of thinking about it. Yeah. The combination of these is powerful yeah when I think about one of the most difficult things too,
there are two things in my life that I have learned that I think we're very difficult and took a lot of time. The first was in the year two thousand. When I was finishing medical school, I had a really bad back injury and it's a long story, but
it basically free a year of my life. I was not able to move properly and for three months I was not able to move at all when I had that happen, it's not clear how it happened, but what happened
is a pretty bad outcome and I ended up having surgery but the surgeon operated on the wrong side. So it went from a very bad situation to a worse situation
and a whole series of cascading events led to it being what it was. I look back at that as I've described as before as the best worst Experi
of my life, because having been in so much pain for so long, I had to learn how to do everything from scratch. So I had to learn how to be able to brush my teeth without putting stress on my back, which most people wouldn't even thing.
You wouldn't think that there's a right and a wrong way to brush your teeth. You wouldn't think that there's a right and a wrong way to get out of your bed put your shoes on or get out of your car. It turns out there is.
You can only learn it when you were in such a fragile state that you've lost every ounce of strength in your back and because I experienced that for so long
a year it allowed me to make this transition, which I want to, of course, apply to meditation. The transition is going from being unconsciously, incompetent to then being consciously incompetent to then consciously competent and, of course, the goal is to one day get to a point where you were unconscious
competent. I don't think I'm unconsciously competent at a single thing. I do including movement
but I'm now consciously competent at moving around and not hurting my back, but I couldn't have got there. If I didn't have that feedback loop, that allowed me
through it. The other thing other learning how to swim. As an adult. You know you throw,
adult in the water have never swum before they are so in comp,
but they don't even really understand what it is, and so the first active learning how to swim is learning to feel what's making use
figuring out what it is. That is actually dropping you to the bottom of the pool, and then, of course you want to be able to correct that, in with great effort over short periods of time exercise some capacity to fix that, I would say those two experiences have been by far the most difficult, but they pale in comparison to mindfulness. Now I don't know it just makes me
hard case. But and- and maybe it's you know, the other thing I was thinking about when I was reflecting on this- is having a back injury. You don't get a time, you don't get a time out from it.
It's every minute of every day, you're immersed in that exposure, that stimulus and that feedback loop
early once I dedicated myself to swimming, I swam four hours a day
and I think maybe the issue is because I don't meditate for four hours a day. It's just going to take
lot longer to do it, and I know you and I've spoken about this and your belief is that something real.
Happens when you go on a silent retreat, and I remember once asking I said: hey SAM, I see this retreat it's
days, you think I should go, and you actually said no, I wouldn't go for a four day. Retreat I'd, wait till you can do ten or fourteen days.
He had uh. Oh, I guess I would modify that slightly. I think a week to ten days is the the shortest I.
I can recommend without caveat. I think the first three
These are so over a traitor more or less the hardest for for retreat of any length.
If you do a three day retreat or a four day retreat, you're almost guaranteed to
I have a lot of restlessness and just resistance to the whole project. An
you may not touch anything on the other side of that you can just be kind of unhappy
the whole time and then just relieved to be getting off retreat, where,
if you have ten days just seems like an eternity once you put yourself on retreat and your
shut down your connection to everything. There's no talk,
there's no! Writing! There's no reading is
you and your attention and each moment ten days seems like an eternity, and so as you move through those first few days of resistance.
A day three you're still so far away from the day that you're going home, that it is much more common to just surrender at that point and really get into it. Just decide that you can you you'll just pick up your life as
left it when you get off your tree Dan, that for this period, there's just nothing worth thinking about your just need to pay attention to whatever is appearing in your breath.
Sounds that movement of air on your hand as you walk your first experience in this was sort of comical. The way you describe it right. This was when you were,
I believe. Oh no, that was my first experience of solitude,
Well, I guess it would have been a retreat. I was on outward bound and outbound. I assume they still have it, but
then they had something called the solo, which was three. It was
three day period of cam.
In hiking and and kind of outdoorsman, but maybe day eighteen or so
they put you in isolation for three full days where you would fast and do nothing right, so
couldn't go hiking and do anything that would distract you and
I think that the reason for that was not based on any meditate
have agenda that they had. It was just they don't want a bunch of
not fully trained people wandering around the wilderness while fasted, so they just park you in some place. We were by this lake. It may be nine thousand feet an
you just camp with a water bottle, and that's all
you just have your your sleeping bag, your water bottle and you have a journal journal. Yeah. You can write in your journal and I found the experience just intolerable. It was just you were sixteen yeah. I was
teen yeah, so I open my book waking up with this story because it was the first moment
in my life that I realized.
That I was on the wrong side of some
understanding about the nature,
of my own mind and then the possibility of finding a durable source of happiness in this life.
So so I was alone in an absolutely beautiful spot.
And totally miserable, based on the fact that I did
have any of the usual distractions and if you could have just swap places with Maine
inhabited my consciousness, I was spending
All my time fantasizing
the things I was going to do when I got off the gate when I got out of those God Damn mountains and got back to my life in the world, and you know
the friends I would see and the foods I would eat, and I would just it was just a continuous advertisement
for everything that I missed. You know it was just. It was like a
meditation on loneliness and boredom and grief. Ultimately, I just it was just
should be separated from everyone. I cared about and every fun thing I could do and every tasty thing I could eat. It was just a source of perfect misery for me. So
when I came off the solo and met all of the other people who had also been on their solos, I was astonished
discover that many of them had had
profoundly happy experiences and then,
were you one of the youngest people in this room, yeah yeah. So I was, I think I was the youngest, so it was, I think, the cut off. I don't know if this is still the case, but the cut off
for outward bound was sixteen and a half, and I was just sixteen one slash two.
So you know there are lots of people who are ten years old or so, and so they were
different places in their lives and many of them just had kind of breakthrough experience. I mean they just it was just
the best time they'd ever spent alive and
they were going to radiantly hey, you know, for
we had just done eighteen or so
days of brutal hiking, I'm interested in it kind of just fourteen
our days of hiking with sixty packs, and you know we had this full
ordeal of learning how to to function
in the back country, and then it all stops and you're
just alone by this alpine lake. So
any of them had come out of that feeling that they had touched something profound,
and I had no idea what they were talking about. It was like, being
all that you know I I guess got Rina run over by a car. It was the greatest things ever happen to me, it's like it's admitted I had come
out of. There haven't had a harrowing experience.
Oh what happened when you went back home after that. Did you look back and reflect on that, or does that basically just become a footnote into a broader story that really didn't factor into your your ultimate search for, for you know, call it enlightenment color,
you want. It took a little time I saw it was probably a year and a half before. I then had an experience with it with psychedelics that put all of this in perspective for me, so it was your first experience with Psilocybin or else.
Strangely, I had taken Psilocybin as a teenager. Before I
add what really was the kind of breakthrough
hearings for me on MDMA, when I was eighteen yeah, you wrote about that as well. Yeah yeah, that would that's in waking up.
I taken silicide by ever, I smoked
marijuana and I had taken mushrooms few times as a teenager
and they never, they never say,
hold anything profound to me about the nature of the my
or they never indicated a path forward. Apart from just this sense that these drugs produced interesting experiences, I had no
framing for the what I experienced on these drugs. You experience the altered state, but there was no altered trait to borrow from the title of the same book.
Yeah and Anne also just no sense that there could be altered traits. There was no project associated with
changing your experience. In that way, it was just it was kind of fun. So I guess you know some of the experiences had also been unpleasant on Psilocybin, but it's just these were drug experiences.
You know, and it is like getting drunk like if you get drunk you don't come
From that experience thinking, I wonder if this indicates as possible
feel kind of natively feel like I've had six beers
and do you know what I can just be more, that sort of person by some other method that has nothing to do with drinking beer all the time right, it's a but but with
MDMA in my first
variance on on ecstasy? I had this epiphany that this is what consciousness was
like when it was no longer in Cumberland by myself, concern by my ego centricity by my and because you were eighteen, I mean was it so much about like I'm, try to reflect on what it was like to be an eighteen year old boy. But I think, if I recall, you wrote about just sort of the empathy that you had for your friend, because it was you and another friend right yeah, and was that the part that was so stunning to you, which was all my god like the last eighteen years, sort of not thinking about it through somebody else's eyes or what? What? What was it that you
experience. If you can recall that at least showed you were perhaps was the thin end of the wedge. That said, there is now an altered state of consciousness that could exist outside of this state that I'm in that might be desirable. It was.
A recognition that what was she
changing for me, while I was coming on to the drug, was that I was
Losing my concern about myself so that I, as
talking to my best friend somebody who's, who I already
and and connected to and have positive feelings for, but what was happening is that I started to punch through to this level of
connection with him, that I had never felt before, despite the fact that we were great friends and it had a kind of structure to it or it was, it was Dice
ACT in a structure within my mind that I had never had any cause to notice, which was my
won't state, was normally that if I'm
talking to him, some amount of my attention is bound
stop in a concern about what he thinks about me price of it. You know if it if I see some change an expression on his face
based on what I just said. I'm reading into those changes some message about Maine some message about how I'm doing and there
any other features. To this I mean there's also a sense of a kind
give zero some aspect too.
My own statue,
the world and my an my feeling of well being
in light of other people's success and happiness so, and it's something you can discover in yourself.
Imagine those times where you have a friend who has some massive success
right, you're struggling in your life to be as successful as you want to be. If you're like most people, you
haven't arrived yet and then you have a friend, you know who's
winning some version of the lottery, and when this is being
headed to you, you're asked to celebrate with them essentially, and you can discover in yourself a kind of
grudging feeling whether it's in
the or there's a limitation on your capacity to experience what it's called sympathetic joy in Buddhism for that person and that's a ugly character
check out the mind. Here's someone who you ostensibly really care
there's someone you really love. This is some
who you think their windfall did not come at your expense right exactly, and yet you there's something in you that can't actually celebrate for them,
because you're so bound up
with who you are and what you want for yourself and how you think they may think about you, and I mean this horror, show of self reference
and this miserly spirit with respect to the
come stands urine with everyone O. What happen
for in this first MDMA trip is that I just punched through all
that all that was just gone
and there was no associated inebriation. I mean there's just my experience.
That's that's the thing with MDMA that makes it sort of quite distinct in special from some of these other agents. Right is, there is no sense of altered consciousness,
it can be kind of speedy and it also depends on whether you're getting
if you're, tired or MDMA as yeah yeah, of course, when they connect with stimulants it's a different story but yeah, but really pure
may doesn't seem to really alter your consciousness in any way yet way that LSD would
yeah I mean, there's no psych, it's not it's not considered really a psychedelic. It doesn't have any of those visionary or or
Yes, we do more than in pathogen versus entheogen, correct, yeah, yeah, so.
Having lost all that. I just I recognize that one.
How much I loved him and how that was,
synonymous with wanted him to be happy and in some basic sense his happiness would be my own right, so that the capacity for envy, which is completely went out the window, there's just no way to feel a zero sum contest with some
who you love in that way, but then I
recognized that if a strain
sure had walked into the room at that moment,
well. The mailman shows up. I would have
the same way about him. It was not contingent
on having had a history with this person, I was in a state where I want it all beans
to have their dreams realized. I wish
nothing but happiness on every conscious system.
Efforts for a moment, so you can explain the neurobiology of that I've experienced. It is well with MDMA and I find it to be the most joyous state I've ever experienced to have such I. Don't I don't possess. I don't, unlike you, I don't have the vocabulary to even describe what it feels like other than terrorists.
You love everybody in obviously a very non sexual way. It's just a male
female are all the same. It sort of becomes this. You just want the best for everyone, so so what is
about the neurobiology or neurochemistry that can produce that state and I'll? Tell you what the follow up question is going to be. Is there anything we can do outside of taking that drug to even
get part of that? Well, yeah. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to the neurobiology, I'm not sure it is known. I think I think most of these drugs are serotoninergic,
but but the subtlety they clearly are different, which subset of the receptors they're hitting. Is you don't exactly understand their causal relationship between the
After being yeah I mean- and I'm a you know frankly, I'm not up on the literature on MDMA, so there may be some clue
who's that I'm not aware of, but
Also add the caveat that some of these drugs, I think, there's reason to be concerned about in terms of the physical effects of taking the
too often or or he made it so MDMA is something that was profoundly useful for Maine.
I remain somewhat concerned that it is potentially
neurotoxic like you. I wouldn't want to take too much of it. I haven't taken it for years and I have much less of a concern for other
academics and I think I think LSD is there's, there's no evidence that is neurotoxic, for instance, having spoken with people psychiatrists who have taken care of patients who have probably taken too much MDMA the two things that I have learned from them, which echo what you're saying is
it's generally safe, but it it's very important. Like any drug, I mean these aren't regulated compounds right, so right, you're, always running a risk when you take these things of other things that the drug is cut with an rock city that can be amplified as a result of that, in the second thing that I've been told is anything over a frequency of about every three months and you start to run a risk of these serotonergic toxicities down the line. So you know you can take that for what it's worth I mean I'm, certainly not providing
guidance on that other than to echo your point that I think one has to be very careful with these agents now, at the same time, I'm not following the work of maps that closely. So I'm not sure what doses are frequencies they're, using with the vets that they're studying
yeah, and I think this is really they've worked out some of these kinks as well yeah. But frankly,
it would be worth it even if it were neurotoxic
degree in the right,
additions for their adverse. If you had debilitating PTSD, yet maybe a little bit of
long term, consequences or short term toxicity is worth it to cure that but yeah yeah. So then, back to the second question, which is when you think about that profound empathy in that moment that you had at the age of eighteen has your meditative practice, which is obviously evolved greatly. Since then,
allowed you to either transient Lee or otherwise experience or re experience that phenomenon yeah well, there is a practice that targets that meant
data actually mentioned earlier. Yeah meta practice I met is the poly word for loving kindness and yeah. There
people who do that practice almost
exclusively or or it's almost impossible for the listener. Unlike mindfulness, where you are
letting go of any agenda
for what your experience should be and you're just reconciling yourself to noticing. However, it is, and if you do,
that your experience does change and reliable ways, many of which are quite pleasant. They can be
amazingly pleasant, but it's not about securing those changes or amplify those changes here, just 'cause it 'cause that be in so far as that creeps in your not being mindful you're doing something other than merely witnessing
happening and doing that that an expression of your own own attachment and attachment an you're trying to change your experience and that's that's different than than simply being mindful of it. But with a practice like meta, you do have a goal
trying to feel this feeling of loving kindness as intensely as you can feel it as durably as you can feel it, and you're trying to do is trying to acquire a state
but you're also trying to acquire a trait change. In that you know your default
two toward other human beings
or even other any other conscious system would be just well
and and and good good vibes. So and there's no question: you can train that attitude and it comes
both a framing effect and from and uh
version in this change of state that you can kindle in meditation
and then keep humming along based on concentration, so that the same kind of
the same faculty of mind they could become one
pointedly focused on a mantra or a site like a candle flame,
can become one pointedly immersed in the
of love for all humanity and it's initiated by thinking thoughts about other p.
So you'll, just imagine someone who you love and it's important that
not be contaminated with your notion of romantic love, because so much of what we think of as love in a romantic context is desire
attachment. And it's not
the sound inappropriate objective. That type of attention yeah
how to friend a parent but said whoever in your life, you can have just an as uncomplicated
experience of wishing this person. Well wishing them to be free of suffering, wishing them happiness and the usual progression
is to start with something like that who you know who someone who's close to you and then,
transition to a neutral person. You know someone,
so you have no just kind of randomly pick person from the crowd or some public figure,
so you have no strong association with, but who you can visualize and
and you're. Wishing that person happiness wishing that they be free of suffering, you're, actually thinking these things,
it's in your mind as a kind of almost as a kind of mantra, but you're, not it's not the sound of the utterances is the
import of them, you're you're, trying to connect with so you're thinking. May you be happy? May you be free from
offering reiterating this year? You could have you know three or four ways of saying it:
you're saying it over and over again, but then connecting with the actual kind of energetics of the wish. They made
really do wish that this person, who you love, be free from suffering, and it can become this very
deep feeling of bad
skiing in this well of good intentions for everybody
right because and then you can, you can include not only a neutral person, but some
for whom you have it so so called anime, someone for whom you have a real negative association, and then you begin
see the importance of framing around all these things. Just like you said for the customer service situation. Maybe it just takes a second to realize. Wait. A minute here is a person who's been standing at this desk since
six hundred o'clock in the morning
meeting one disgruntled person after the next, and now she or he has just met me. Their experience is completely different from mine,
an which, by the way, is a beautiful cut to this sort of issue that David Foster, Wallace talks about. So much is every experience we have is only through our lens right, yeah.
It's that insight alone, which now you're giving a very tangible example of is so powerful just to be able to hit pause on that for a moment and say what you just said right. This person's been standing here for seven hours without seeing one Pist off face after another. What they're seeing?
How is totally different from what I'm seeing yeah yeah and your impatience, isn't helping and
We're so glad
that you are not in their shoes.
Right, like you, don't want their job. You actually feel compassion for their experience right.
And there are many you know hacks of this kind where you use your driving in traffic and someone cuts you off and your your default experiences. What an, but it just takes
Second to realize, wait a minute! You have no idea. What's going on with this person, you don't know if this person is in a rush b,
they have some real emergency. You don't know if there,
ninety years old, now you just huh
that some nine year old man or woman right and who's, the asshole now there's so many changes of frame.
I did the exact same experience, which just fundamentally change your interpretation of it. Eleven kindness practice is
based on a fundamental frame: change for more or less everything
you can encounter in human affairs, which is everyone is suffering.
Everyone was once a child condemned to now be the adult they now are right so
because there is no evil person who invented himself right there.
No, I get it, and this is something I've talked about with respect to Saddam Hussein in the past, and usually talk about this. My contact of talking about free will. But let me just look at someone like
the prototypical evil person. You know Saddam Hussein is about as good as it gets right. So you look at him as a as a
forty year old man he's just a terrify
evil sociopath who, if you're in favor
death penalty, it definitely applies to him, but you rollback his his life line by a few decades and a certain point: you see:
ok, here's a twelve year old boy who could have well been a ski
twelve year old boy, but you know
he's four years old, he's a four year old and he
four year old. Who has every strike against him? In the sense that he's guaranteed,
it seems to be a morally damaged human being he's living in,
society riven by sectarian conflict, the norms to which he's being pushed the ASP
nations he can form in this context are barbaric by any
standard to ethical standard that we would form today right and the kind of person who
can thrive in that context is someone who's
morally damaged by our lives and he didn't
parents. He didn't pick his jeans, he's not the
author of himself and yet he's going to become this evil person who,
after world or more will think is deserving of death at the end of it, it's possible to feel compassion. Even for someone like that,
on the same I mean that's a re framing that may be hard for some people to get there, but for someone who's practicing a state like meta, that's the frame, and if you can get there, you can recognize that there is this capacity for love
and well wishing that really extends without limit to every conscious system
you want. You want everyone to
be relieved of all their problems on some basic level, because the most
Lee behaved. People in the world are, for the most part expressing their problem.
Even when you have a truly sadistic person who seems to be driving pleasure from causing other people suffering and such people
What you're witnessing there is someone for whom all these other sources of pleasure and well being are basically unavailable.
On some level can't know what he's missing. You know this is a person who's.
It's never going to have good relationships of this
that you and I would demand for ourselves and everyone we love is the necessary ingredients of a life. Well lived, that's not to say you wouldn't want to put this person in jail because it's
no cure for this problem,
recommending that will not protect ourselves from malevolent people, but you don't actually have to hate them. I mean you feeling compare.
For these people isn't incompatible with taking the steps we need to take to keep society orderly and
If you know one thing I would recommend to anybody. Who's interested in pulling a little more on. This thread is to do a prison visit.
Yeah yeah you're right on that, but I heard you and TIM did that right him and I did it and- and I had a I did- a podcast, we gonna Corey, Mccarthy, who himself was incarcerated for seven years for attempted murder and a bunch of other stuff, and you know, there's a group of five three or four or five of us that actually went and spent a couple of days, a maximum security prison, and we played this game. There called the stepped to the line which I'm sure you've heard of, and it's you know it's a game. It's
made in many reasons. But the purpose is always to basically highlight our similarities in our differences, so on the one side of the line where all of these inmates now we're in a maximum security prison in California. So everybody in that
room. I don't know the exact numbers, I believe seventy percent of those men were serving life sentences is some staggering number of these guys were in there because
you know homicide or you know some something
more than like. They were trafficking. Some marijuana right right
and on the other side are all of us as volunteers, and then the game begins of stepped to the line. If, and some of the differences are are so humbling that it it, you can't be a you, can't be a reasonable human being
to be in that situation and not be moved by it. You know step for the line. If you had two parents in your household and amongst the volunteers, you know maybe sixty percent step forward and amongst the inmates. I think one step forward.
You know, yeah step to the line. If someone close to you died before you were ten, you know and or died a violent death before you were ten. You know these sorts of things and stuff for the line. If you grew up in a home that had more than five books and those of us as volunteers, most of a step forward and of the inmates five step forward out of fifty like I'm writing right, and it's to your point right. It's like we're. We're not going to excuse the mistakes that took place and there's you know. Society has said: there's going to be a price that
has to pay for one mistakes, but boy you realize pretty quickly the randomness that allows you or me to be standing on one side of that line and not the other. Oh yeah yeah. No,
If you were in precisely that other person situation
genetically environmentally, you would be that other person right this just
there is no daylight between all of those causes and conditions and
Even even adding randomness to me is how you know: Quantum mechanics doesn't get you out of this situation and I think of all the times I've been lucky like when I was in eighth grade. There was a kid that was a year ahead. Who was like my hero? You know he was the absolute toughest kid in the school I mean he was the bad, the bad and he took me under his wing. You know so I was like really lucky to be the eighth grader who this
super tough bad ask had really liked, and two years later he wound up in jail for armed robbery and I've often thought to myself. I was so impressionable that if I had been with him on that night and he said, look we're going to hold up a liquor store right, I'm not sure I would have had the common sense. The intestinal fortitude that, whatever the courage to say, do that's a bad idea. I'm not going to go.
Right. It's so easy that I could have gone along for that here and, as I learned later on once you get in that system, like you know, once you're sixteen years old and you're pegged for armed robbery like it's very hard to recover to Stanford yeah yeah. So but that's
that's a moment's decision and the and the lock is like, were you. There were not there right and, and I'm I'm, I have way more cards that are favorable in my deck. Then virtually all of these guys I met, and I yet I still could have easily slipped over that you know into that abyss of that and
This vicious cycle of one man, one knock after another until before you know it like you're forty years old and you're in prison for life yeah. I was so the philosophical in
site here goes by the name of moral luck, and I I think it originates with an essay that philosopher Thomas Nagel, wrote probably thirty years
We rarely recognize how morally significant differences,
luck or, and and and just how lucky you need to be to live a good moral life. Any one of those things could have
marginally different and you'd, be the guy who was
that's right, arm. Robbery right, I mean just think of how many times most of us have driven drunk or not one hundred percent and
bad happened. The difference between nothing bad happening and
somebody in a crosswalk
is enormous and just life to ranging stranger still 'cause. It's now. It's not even classed for most people as a significant risk, they're running texting
while driving, I mean, I would say most of the people listening to this podcast, I have not Totale shut down there texting while dry
right, they're, not they're, not even thinking of it as a grotesquely irresponsible thing to be doing right, because it's just it's too tempting
at a red light, but being at a red light and migrates into the first one hundred feet of your now respond
into a green light, and then there's the a
on the freeway and then and every day, there's
totally normal, responsible, upstanding person like you or Maine, who killed somebody's kid in a crosswalk because they were texting. The significance of that difference. In luck,
It's extraordinary and an these are, these are unrecoverable errors most of the time, so the
two sides to that one! You can get you to take
Karen all the spots where more care massively increases your odds of living, a happy fulfilling life.
But it also can give you this different framing that allows you to feel compassion for even the worst people on earth right. You could just recognize
we change enough of the variables you would be playing,
in game they're. Playing in this is that the I think it's so important SAM. I don't think I understood how important this was until I read something you wrote which I'm paraphrasing so I'll be bastardized in yet, but the gist of it was it's really the the caliber quality of our thoughts to determine the quality of our life, and I so, let's take a most extreme example. I had a friend who was killed by a motorist who was texting is on his bike. You could have been a safer spot actually and the woman you know, got to strike
good for a moment and kill them, and I was angry in a way that sort of felt like it was never going to go away and truthfully, a big part of it was selfish. It was, I don't want this to happen to me now. You know I'm at the time I was a cyclist. I was like I'm sick and tired of seeing cyclists get hit and some of the times they're getting killed, but they're getting hit all the time right and it's it always seems to be these, not always, but ninety percent of the time it's these distracted drivers, sometimes the cyclist just, does something stupid, but for the most part, if you get hit, if a road, if a cyclist in the road gets hit, the drivers usually at fault, interesting Lee and less alcohol is involved. Those drivers are never prosecuted right and I spent
so much time being so Pist off and part of it was just my own grandiosity, like my life, is too valuable: I'm not going to die on the side of a road, because some drivers too stupid to turn off their phone or blah blah blah blah blah. But then I I had you know after kind of reading something you wrote, I reflected on it years later and thought I've never once asked myself what that person is going through who killed Nik
yeah, but her life like today, 'cause there's no way she forgot that
there's no way she doesn't go to bed at night and think about the fact that she is such a tragic story. Not only did she kill a guy who's, just a beautiful soul who had you know a bunch of children. He was killed two days before his life insurance policy kicked in. He was killed on, I believe it was. May thirtieth, no was May thirty first and he had a policy that we didn't start till June. First I mean it's like you couldn't make this story up. It's so tragic, but it's too easy to not reflect on her pain. Yeah you could say, will Peter that's ridiculous. She doesn't
deserve any empathy put all of that empathy towards Nick's family, but it in the end, if I'm really optimizing for my own quality of life, there's no upside to just being up
set about this. Like know some benefit. I will accepting the fact that everybody here loses and if that makes me less angry and makes me hate that person less, isn't that
a good way to think about things well, yeah, but I would even put more strongly because I can
the driver was profound
only unlucky, because she was right
who is guilty of doing something that all of us have done. Everyone listening to this podcast has done and didn't pay that price war still
she's guilty of doing something that most of the people listen to. This podcast will continue
do even after hearing this podcast. This is a reset that I'm convinced most people are not quite ready for a certain point. Self driving cars will come to the rescue,
but the difference between being someone, who's texting and didn't even notice the danger, because nothing bad happened and B.
Someone who killed your friend is just luck. You know and so
yeah, and you can only imagine how awful it has been to be the person who was irresponsibly texting and who
killed somebody in the in the prime of their life just to hear the details and have been the person who initiated that tsunami of suffering.
Just imagine a website where you present the texts that were the proximate cause of death and how irrelevant they must have been. The juxtaposition
between what people were felt couldn't wait, another thirty seconds or thirty minutes, and
the tragedy yeah, it would be astonishing mean we can all
idk, what it would be, but the sick idea, but it's pretty damn good idea. Yeah yeah again, it's just
if you imagine what that woman went through its
we would not want to trade places with her. I want to shift gears from and go back to, the discussion
we could go with one of my friends: who's. A patient he's been really struggling. The last few months he's he's a he's. A father he's a wonderful guy he's, got two kids, three dogs and he's a guy with a really big heart. So he's he's he's one of these guys who, just I don't know you the the sense he could never be upset anybody. He could never, you know not want to take care of somebody around him and but his one of the dogs, which is the first
ever had died, had cancer and they went through a bunch of treatments and and the dog ultimately died, and I think for him losing that dog was was certainly on the specter of losing a child right. I don't think it's the same, but but I think for him it was very difficult and he's been unable to sort of get back in in the in the saddle. So to speak, and it's it's reflected in frankly is cortisol levels. I've never seen cortisol levels
hi, so his his degree of fiber cordage only MIA is, if you didn't know better you'd, think he had a cortisol secreting tumor. Actually it's so profound and we were talking about it and he confessed that he couldn't stop dreading the death of his other two
dogs who are you know aged six hundred and seven hundred or something like that. So these aren't dogs that are going to die tomorrow. In fact, these aren't even dogs that are sick in any way shape or form right, but as he's three months out from the death of this dog, that was probably fourteen or fifth
he's spending every moment now, dreading the loss of these dogs that are going to die in five years or something like that,
and it was very hard for me to try to console him because I didn't want to be dismissive of the pain. But I also wanted to remind him that you know that's the antithesis of being present right. It's like, but your children and your two
dogs are right here with you right now and their perfect yeah and
all the worrying you can do about when these two dogs die doesn't change the fact that they're going to die. But you don't know when you do.
You know how, when you don't know any of these things, how would you explain to someone like that in not necessarily the most technical sense, but maybe in sort of an appeal to their emotion, why this effort isn't going to pan out and why there needs to be a noose?
energy for getting over this loss? Well, it depends on whether or not the person is living in
examined life of the sort that we've been discussing, so if this is a person who has no meditation
This is not interested in that mode. He is so right.
I've given him your books. He has been going through the meditation course that you have but
is still having a real hard time. Like all of us, I think in taking it from you know the example I use is like if you go to the gym and you sort of lift weights for one thousand five hundred and twenty minutes a day. You know that's that's great, but the whole purpose of doing that is to take those new muscles and be able to use them in the other. Twenty three one slash two hours right, so I think that's the transition is like. I think the theory makes sense to him, but it's now, how does one actually bridge that gap? So, let's for the purpose of the discussion, let's say he accepts
actually right value of this yeah well, so then to become sensitive to the actual mechanics of suffering. I mean that the only way to suffer this dog's absence is to think about it and not know that you're thinking about it right, so it is to be subsumed by this process of ideations and to have no
active on it and framing can help here. So you can omit you can say. Well, there were many experiences he had
with this dog alive with the dog. Wasn't physically present
the dog leaves the room. There's no
greater absence from a room, then simply leaving it
right now, it's an additional operation to think well, there's a big difference because I'll never see him again,
but everyone you love in the world.
Animals are the only person. I love who's in this lyrics, exactly right, they're all out of this room, so in principle
You know what it's like to be. Content in
moments. Where is the collapse in the physical absence of everyone? You love in this world it's possible and
the only way to make it intolerable
to be in a room with
out everyone. You love is to meditate on how intolerable this
that they're, not in the room with you right now,
and this is why meditation is such an amazing skill, because it is
contact with your your prison story. This a point I make several places. I think I make it my book. Waking up.
The amazing thing about meditation is that you know once
I actually know how to meditate it's possible to be alone in a room four
weeks and months and even years imagine several teachers. I've studied with had spent
early years alone in caves, where, in most people's lives, solitary confinement is considered a pun
and even in a circumstance where to be outside of that room is
surrounded by murderers and rapists, who you might have to fight right so, like even in prison.
People don't want to be in solitary confinement right because it's so intolerable,
be left alone. With your thoughts, there
evolutionary rationale. For this I mean we are clearly evolved to be social primates and a circumstance
where you find yourself alone, more or less forever is
not an optimum in evolutionary terms, but it's just
the fact of the human mind that it's possible to discover a form.
Well being that is not only survives contact with solitude, but it's just
totally undiminished by solitude, and
you can discover that even for moments at a time, you can then
enjoy the company of everyone. You love without this feeling that.
Your well being is at its core predicated on
able to have them at any,
but you you want-
or that is predicated on the totally
forlorn- hope that this circumstance is going to endure forever,
that no one will die that no one will leave you. We know that's not in the cards Ann.
You know what we need to find, whatever
form of well being as possible, given the fact that
we're continually changing your of your thought experiment or not. You mean more. That wasn't a thought experiment, but I I would it made me think of something was think of all the people who are thrust into solitary confinement and tragically in this country. It's it's an absolute
epidemic in the US prison system and for all of the realities of
inhumane. That is especially for the length of time people find find themselves in there. Do you think, there's a subset of people who inadvertently stumble into mindfulness without being formally taught so that the analogy would be like if I threw
sixteen year Old SAM into a waiting room, but I'd never shown him or forget a weight room into a basketball court. You'd never seen basketball before there is a basketball. There is a net, and I said you know you're confined to this room for a year like at some point. Will you figure out picking up the ball bouncing it?
I wonder if how hard it is to put that ball through that hoop over there shooting at all of those things I mean it seems unlikely right. It seems like on some level you would have to at least be shown
to do and then, even if you're left alone, if you could come back to that lesson, and so similarly you take a guy, and let's say you put him in solitary confinement for a year, he had no exposure to mindfulness. Is there a chance he's going to spontaneously figure out? Oh my god. This is far less painful if I'm actually present in you know the sensations of my body versus the ruminations and thoughts that are going to torment me or is that something that is just so counter intuitive to the ethos of who we are? That no way like you know, you're going to have to have had some exposure to this to at least be able to be thrust in that in
it's definitely possible because it is just the way consciousness is if you're paying attention so is. Is there to be recognized in each moment, but the odds are against
anyone doing it. I mean there are people who have spontaneously awakened. To this I mean they're, they're kind of famous, you know, add Epson. It certainly
eastern tradition, or there are also the western philosophers have had intimations of this, where Jean Jacques Rousseau has a story about
right in a boat on a lake I think and spontaneously spontaneously, into into some very, very
and non egocentric state of consciousness that we would recognize, but the
difference between having clear in
nation a clear map and now
we're having an erroneous one. It's just enormous, so
Oh, I wouldn't have been able to have done it like when I think about how counter intuitive, how difficult it is to practice mindfulness to go through the practice. Yeah, like I think, if you'd put me in solitary confinement for one hundred years, I would have never stumbled into that yeah. Fortunately, so it would have been confined to just been tortured. Also, worse still, it's Possib
To be practicing mindfulness and beyond retreat and not recognize many of the things
we really do want to recognize about
nature of the mind.
Is the way of mindfulness has been taught to. You is, however, subtly
encouraging of a kind of goal seeking practice.
Adam is something I write about in
my book and talk about in in in my app is possible to
practicing mindfulness in a way that is dualistic.
Ramifying of the subject, object, perception and therefore
the goal of recognizing the selflessness
consciousness and been relieved of this, the sense of ego at the center of the center that there's a meditator or thinker of thoughts or an experiencer of experience that that
it can be posited as the ultimate goal of some. We can
typically laborious spiritual path that just has to be traversed by increments over years,
and that's it that's an error. That's a mistake. I mean that's just not true.
It's already true consciousness. That ego
is an illusion and
that can be realized directly and the expectation that it can't be is, in some basic sense self, fulfilling for for most people
so yeah you can be in the most auspicious circumstance having
devoted a massive part of your life to just practicing mindfulness and still be in a kind of crucible
necessary, seeking and suffering, because you, just you, have a
Ronnie's understanding of what the path actually is. I went there couple what sort of semantics I wanna? You you've already alluded to a little bit that the the relationship between the pasanen mindfulness we're does Chan fit into this and like if you were to try to draw Venn diagram of these these these different concepts, how how would they overlap.
Also, the person a is the the name of the practice in terrified
it in the oldest tradition of Buddhism and is the
Prism of Thailand and Burma and Shree Lanca and.
Pasta, as I said, means insight and you're having insight into what I thought of as a fundamental and the fundamental characteristics of all phenomenon, and these are impermanence and selflessness and unsatisfactory. This is often misleadingly translated as suffering, rather than unsatisfactory, as so many to believe that the Buddha taught that life is suffering or that all experience contains some intrinsic suffering. That's not
Quite the message: it's it's that life is a circumstance where there is no unchanging, fully satisfactory basis for one's happiness, because everything is changing is by virtue of impermanence.
That the boat is always leaking right. We're always bailing water were always responding to some slow emergency.
You know where our health is always putting question are in this.
Always some new pain arise
in the body because we're simply not moving right. You always have to respond to something and our pleasures,
however, hard one are fleeting,
banishing even in the act of acquiring them, zero.
There's no place to land that is, is secure and that's largely by virtue of of the impermanence of sensory experience
but the the selflessness component is separable from those two other characteristics an well I should say so. That's that's the past
is a practice whereby you have insight into those three characteristics, and
this is the tool you use to have those inside
mind. The training in mindfulness is
training in a kind of awareness of experience, which is not
judgmental nonreactive you're not seeking to MAX,
pleasure you're not trying to make pains, go away. You just becoming interested in
open and focused way on what just what the character of every experience is. So if you're feeling
this was rather than try not to feel restless you're becoming into
recently aware of the actual characteristics moment to moment of restlessness, how is it that you know you're restless? Where is it? What is it I mean this? Is we're talking about
pattern of energy in the body that you you can suddenly wreck
prices are rising totally
its own and changing
based on his own dynamics? And you are merely the witness of that change in state, and so it is with any pleasant, emotion or experience
you keep dropping back into merely witnessing, and that is that is mindfulness
when you can do it when you're actually not trying to change anything you're, not judging anything and you're, not staying at the conceptual level.
No you're, not you're, not thinking about experience you're just experiencing experience more and more closely,
and so, if you're, if it's a matter of paying attention to sensations in the body, you're not staying
the level where you feel like I,
my hands are sweaty right now, you're, actually you're feeling
the temperature and the tingling an and the pressure so closely that the concept of hands and sweat disappear
right. So you're just feeling the raw data of experience and these changes can be pleasant to me,
is it even having a body can disappear while you're meditating, and just it just resolves into a cloud of sensation. So's auction is a tibetan practice
tradition, which is explicitly non dualistic and when what that means in this context, is it goes after the selflessness of the mind very
directly, so they could that most of us start meditating,
where we are in our normal states of cognition, with the sense that there's a there's a subject in the middle
of experience, there's a mind in the head and it is by definition separate from everything that it knows,
right. So there's the subject that can be aware of sights and sounds and sensations, and this subject is also a thinker as he is producing it in some sense. The author of thoughts
and it's me and I feel like I'm over here in my
behind my face.
I was wearing my face as a kind of mask right, I'm not identical to my face and behind my face and you're looking across space at me and your gaze
as an implication for me, because I can
I follow where you're looking I'm
over here and now
identical to my body right, I'm in my body, I'm a kind of passenger in my body I mean you and I I can say well, you know my hand, is I've got
an injury to my hand and you- and I can both look at my hand as a kind of object in space.
My hand is part of the world both of us yeah,
and you know, obviously I care more about my hand. Then you do 'cause my hand, but if something is
along with my hand, I'm still over here in my head behind my eyes, some distance from the hand- and I
imagine being without the hand right it could be. If I lost my hand in an accident well, then I would have one less hand, but I'd still be me up here
in my head behind my eyes right that locus of knowing that sense of
located in the head as a self as a an ego is the starting point
for everyone in meditation, and you can do Vipasana from that starting point. You can be taught the method of mindfulness.
Rotation, and you just begin to pay more more attention to what it's like to be you and you can notice these three characteristics of impermanence and selflessness and unsatisfactory unsatisfactoriness
Depoali is and get you a new gun and not to her that you're not doing too good. In that order- and
You can start from wherever you are an who knows how long it will take you to have this inside a fun
mental insight into the illusory ness of that starting point of being on a subject in the head. I was ten. You can't start until you've had that insight into the path of the ocean. It entails becoming
available to that insight in various ways, it is usually a matter of actually forming a connection with a what's called: does Ocean master in the in the tibetan tradition? As someone who actually point this out to you in conversation and for most people, meaning they can point out to you?
when you are falling to the illusion of ego, meaning they can
point out when you are defaulting back into that mode will know that they can point out
the intrinsic egolessness of consciousness in a way that
you can recognize it and and then practice that right because most people, they start meditating,
feel like there in their heads paying attention. You know it's that now, I'm paying
attention to the breath now, I'm noticing the diff
between being lost in thought an being mindful, but it had
and fundamentally cut through the sense that there
one who can be mindful right- and
you know you can have experiences where the distance, the apparent distance between subject and object and collapse, but they can
in a haphazard way,
were you. You don't know what how you had them. You don't know how you'll have them again right, so it can come by virtue of paying closer and closer attention to.
Sounds and sensations and
things that are arising and you can suddenly feel
Although in that moment of hearing that bird.
There was no me, and there was no bird that was just hearing that can collapse
again and again, and it did for Maine
when I was spending time on retreat practicing the pasta, but
I always associated it with the intense concentration of retreat and
it seemed unavailable to me in
ordinary moments of consciousness in offer, treat I'm driving in traffic or
working on my computer or whatever, like there's, no way, I'm going to touch that level of concentration. You know
I've been spending fourteen hours a day meditating, so this is kind of a peak experience that isn't isn't available
now well was ocean. You discover that the reverse is true. All the peak experience
is are no more empty of self than ordinary waking consciousness is, and you can recognize this about
consciousness in any moment, and it doesn't, it doesn't. Actually
they require. Previous
mean really counts for a lot here. So I spent a lot
time practicing with this one burmese meditation master, who Pandit aside side out and
analogy. He would often uses that progress in Posner Pasta is like rubbing two sticks together to get
fire the moment you stop the heat, dissipates and you're back to zero right says I get. I you'd, have the sense of you be on retreat with him practicing, for you know up to twenty
hours a day and trying to make your mindfulness absolutely continuous. So that's the difference
sitting and walking meditation and every other moment when you're doing a ton of city and walk
medications like sixteen hours
day of that. But
every other moment when, like you're going to meals,
anything else you wake up and
out of bed. In the morning every transitional moment getting a cup of tea you're, trying to link
every instant of conscious awareness together with mindfulness and whenever you would get distracted.
Part of you would begin scoring that as a failure to build
enough momentum to get to the goal of the of the fundamental breakthrough that was on offer by that path. So this frame
this idea that you're rubbing two sticks together. The moment you stop there cooling off and you've made no progress right, that's the opposite! Framing for production
the framing you need for dokkan is there's this something already true of consciousness. You're, trying to
use this thing, you're not trying to get rid of the ego you're, not trying to change anything about
what is your trying to recognize a feature of consciousness? That is already the case. An
it's actually nearer to you than you think it's
it's not a matter of going deep within and having some kind of breakthrough.
It's actually right on the surface of the most ordinary form of consciousness, it does
choir any pyrotechnics change in the in the contents of consciousness is not you're not actually closer to it.
If you take acid and all the colors begin to change- or you feel
changing your energy such that you know, you feel this again is kind of buzz of connectedness to all things as you, anyone who's taken acid can verify. That's that's on offer.
But all of that's interesting all. That's if I'm not discounting the power of those experiences, but.
Those experiences are no less empty of self than every state of consciousness mean just the precisely the state of consciousness that's compatible with,
Reaching for a glass of water and drinking it without
anything, novel intruding, you know, there's no bliss, there's no rapture, there's no profound or spiritual changes
date. It's possible to recognize
in that moment that there's no center to consciousness, and so was ocean is, is the path of discovering that there's no
and then taking that insight as your
only object of mindfulness, so that what you're
mindful of after is that there's no center to consciousness.
So whatever is appearing sight, sound sensations,
you are continually
dropping the implied center, it's kind of steep path.
It's hard to start, you can't you can't really start and everything you're doing before you have that insight and can
notice it again on demand. Everything you're doing is, by
definition of a preliminary practice to that, because you need
enough mindfulness to notice what is to be noticed and to follow the instructions to start that path, but
It's you and me certainly don't have spent years on retreat to start that path, and so it's having
good information is is certainly better than than having misleading information there. This practice is, I said, is: is it's challenging? It's just not there's no two ways around it. I I think it's for some people, it's per
probably as difficult as saying to someone who's. Forty years old who's never exercised
really a day in their life. Ok, it's time to start
an hour a day in the gym and we're going to do
these new movements and they're going to be very uncomfortable and for many people you know a few weeks or months into that exercise. Routine they're still not finding any great source of pleasure, and there are some of us who love exercising like we just get a again going back to the lingo of states versus traits. Like the you know. I worked out this morning before I saw
you, and I mean I was in a new gym for the first time, and sometimes that is a little
sort of like I don't know where all the equipment is, or you know, blah blah blah, but but regardless it's just the actual state of exercise to me is so pleasurable, even if it didn't offer any traits that were advantageous outside of it. Of course
The real reason we exercise is not for the hour that were in the gym. Moving around these artificial pieces of iron, it's because of the benefit that gives us both metabolically and structurally beyond the time we're exercising right for. Is it safe to say that for most people the experience of meditation doesn't produce a state that is necessarily as pleasurable as say, the MDMA state was that you could describe and that really the reason this ought to be considered by someone who is not meditating is more the traits that come outside of the active meditating. The act of the practice yes
so it's possible to have extremely pleasant states arise in meditation, both ones that have a kind of ethical
like loving, kindness and ones that just are sort of the equivalent
you being on heroin right. So it's not necessarily pointed in any auspicious or pro
scroll direction. It's just you experiencing more pleasure than you've ever experienced, but none of those experiences
really can be the point because they're transitory, when
gone. There really are gone. I mean the.
Demeaning analogy to drugs is not inaccurate, like what's the point, if it's Joe,
just a matter of getting high
and you're no better person in the world. As a result,
I haven't had that experience.
It really is about having a fun,
different relationship to experience in general, all of the counter productive ways in which you grasp at the pleasant and push the unpleasant away. I mean just like that: Matt is the fairly buddhist framing of it, but I think it's it's appropriate. We basically it's about not suffering unnecessarily in the end right and then not broadcasting, your suffering to the rest of humanity, so it can't be about having an experience.
That's extremely pleasant and become becoming more and more attached to that experience, and so that's one of the things that's misleading and a potential
downside of getting very good at so called concentration practices or absorption practice.
This is that they don't have the power to give you a perspective,
is a fundamental antidote to ego, centricity and selfishness and even have starkly unethical
instincts in other areas of your life and
They really can be
fundamentally no more interesting from a kind of
Roger examined life perspective than the drug experience limited to take some clearing
there. There there been gurus who have behaved shockingly on eth.
Play in their lives and had the reputation is ruined and just just leave a wake of unhappy and and even destroyed people behind them who
It was no doubt or meditative athletes and in in many cases, focused on concentration practices. So I like, if you
you, had asked well what was it like to be these
cruise when they were meditating? Certainly not
all of them were frauds. Many of them were truly talented meditators, but
they were meditating in a way that was not. It was a separate game. They were playing
right and again it was a good game that was probably produced.
Men's pleasure while they were doing it, but it didn't fully undercut everything else about them. There was going to be
in a fairly monstrous in relationship to other human beings. This is where framing
or the the overall concept of what one is doing is pretty important 'cause. It's there are pathological states of pleasure
or even pathological states of spiritual pleasure, and I think the suicide
bomber before he detonates his bomb there in states of a kind of ecstasy. I mean they have a religious expectation for what
about to happen, which entails going to Paradise and experiencing more pleasure than anyone can imagine, and in almost every case,
that sincere and deeply felt and these people are about to
whatever they want, and they know the creator of the universe is happy that they're going to get it so that there's nothing about ecstasy per se.
That is good or even benign, because it can be
in the wrong direction.
I think we're miss all that doesn't necessarily come with a guidance system. Yeah and
people were looking for to lead
truly better lives across the board is something that is anchored to an ethics for lack of a better word,
our spiritual or or contemplative tools. Our action
making us better people across the
Ford and again
some bright lines here that I think are useful to draw, I mean so, for instance,
not lying is a business major variable
ethically, it's like you like, having formed a commitment to being honest in basically
situation that wasn't like a self defense situation. You may I don't think you have to be on
to the person who is attacking you right or seems likely
to attack you, but to put dishonesty
more on the continuum of violence and only
resort to it, or things have broken down so much that you're just not dealing with another person as though there are rational interlocutor that is massively simplifying of a person's life right now
a few people have made that commitment, but
having made it, when did you make that commitment? I know you've spoken about this, but when how old were you when you decided that
I was, I was eighteen, I was others freshman year in college. I took a course taught by the
great professor RON Howard not to be confused with
yeah. I not not the former actor now director this course was
an examination of whether it was ever ethical to lie.
Virtually everyone goes into that course more or less,
not even knowing what their relationship to line is, they haven't been sensitized to it as a significant
variable in their lives in terms of maintaining
relationships with their reputations or yeah.
I sometimes and say: they're white lies, and you know sometimes it's just too awkward to tell the truth or- and
you don't know how often you do it, but you know everybody does it and the
it could be no other way, and this course was just a machine for
supposing the dysfunction of that and more
it became as it was like a seminar where everyone was just kind of coming up with scenarios where it must be all right to lie. I mean. Surely this is a white lie that is better told, and the professor would shoot that down and most people left the course more
or less certain, that line was virtually always the wrong move for purely selfish reasons. It was just like it was
not creating the life you want and by not by being committed to not not lying. You were close
in the door to all kinds of comply
today and risk in both interpersonally
and reputationally that you
absolutely want to close the door to his almost analogous to texting while driving just decide, not
text while driving.
You will not care about all those texts? You don't have to worry about well I'll, only text at intersections or if I'm stuck in traffic, but we're not going that fast or whatever
I can assure you that you will never
really regret the texts you'd sent later
when you when you finally arrived at your destination. So how
were you when you met your wife, your now wife TH,
one? Ok, so you've had thirteen years of this practice of not lying,
and now you meet the woman you're, ultimately going to marry, who presumably hasn't taken this course or made this commitment at some point. Does that become a discussion which is by the way I'm going to be a little different than most guys that you've met in that? You know, if you ask me if you look good in that dress and I don't think you do.
Just going to say you don't please don't interpret that as I'm an insensitive prick. I just don't want to go down that like did you ever have that discussion, that sort of preface
Or maybe you're right the wrong example, but, like I mean,
as you know, writing this. I'm thinking about all of the lies I tell no, it was sort of you kind of
stumble into it. I mean you want to training the people around you to know what they're going to get from you
right and it's not not necessarily explicit it's just
in that case yeah. It mean she became very clear very quickly. Just what sort of
importance I put on honesty, and
there are a few hiccups in many relationships, but the gain
people notice very very quickly, which I don't think they would want to
forfeit to smooth over any other possible awkwardness, is.
They know you're never going to lie to them. They know that you're being truthful and so like. When you have said,
You know that you didn't like something
spot where most other people would have just told
I'm kind of white lie so as not to have to communicate that, then you are. Your praise
means that much more, you know if you're a creative person who's often need to get feedback from people.
The immediately discovered this when I give a piece of
writing to somebody and ask for feedback
who do I value more the person who is just going to praise me because I think that's what I want to hear and because they they
too awkward to deliver some bad news, because they they know I've said
a lot of time. Writing this thing word.
I want to hear from the person who is actually finding flaws in this thing. I've
and will now, because I'm
into them early well now has a chance to spare me the public embarrassment of broadcasting. These flaws
to all humanity.
Clearly, I value that the other reader more and
once you see the alternative, you realize you want the people who will be straight
and then you meet me me people who think they want feedback, but they don't want feedback.
You can have a more or less grown up relationship too
the opinions of others, the people who don't want feedback, who
I want to be told that what they did was fantastic well, if
surrounded by honest people, they very very quickly feel to cramp of that right there.
They want to be surrounded by liars and they'll curate their connections. As a result, you won't ask that same person again, if you,
the sort of person who didn't want an honest opinion and pretended to ask for one, is it possible for someone to let's pick an extreme example, but could one go into public office and take that oath? That I will never lie, I mean is it is that is that compatible with
politics, for example, is widely assumed that it's a deal breaker right
everything virtually everything is wrong with our politics is the result of the mismatch between interpersonal ethics of this sort and
works and what wouldn't work in the public sphere. I think it should be
addable with politics. I think dishonesty should exact date. A massive reputation
cost in politics, but now we're in this strange
mirror universe where the most dishonest person anyone has ever witnessed is the president of the country
and suffering, absolutely no reputational cost among those who love him for his dishonesty. Like I say it's not a bug. It's
feature. In my view, that is the most dysfunctional thing about the trump phenomenon. It's what
done too, the valley
you of honesty in our public converse
about politics at least one slash. Two of the electorate
get out that he's lied yet again is completely ineffectual with the people who don't care
he's lied, I mean they just they just assume he's going to lie. It's a very strange performance. It's like not even about
representing reality anymore. It's not that the people who love Trump are reliably duped by him. You know it's! It's that they're not
holding him to a standard of honesty at all right, Anne. His dishonesty, however obvious, is a different kind of performance.
Almost like I mean, there's been an analogy often drawn to professional wrestling, is a fake sport with fake violence and the fact that
Fake is actually understood by base
everyone who enjoys it. It's not
it's not like they're taking in five
resolve the time you're a teenager or whatever you sort of get that this is an act. Yeah they're still very athletic.
No go away from this skill require.
Oh yeah, I mean, ironically, that what they're doing is more dangerous than MA for the most part and they're getting horrific injuries, sometimes, but
There's no illusion that
these guys are just as tough as the people in the octagon right. So it's like there are people who watch both or in are certainly aware of both and they
clearly understand what reality is. Reality is what's going on in mixed, martial arts right there's things that are honest at the level of
the language of violence, and there are things that are pure fabrications.
Their lives and something
happened in our conversation about facts in the political domain, as he,
to some degree on the left for different reasons. But yeah. I didn't come back to your question. I think we're paying a massive price for not being able
tell when people are lying definitively like did not have a
lie: detector that forensic Lee can be relied upon.
Analogous to dna evidence. You know where you just know that someone's representing their state of knowledge erroneously,
And we're paying a massive prize for the fact that so many millions of people don't actually care
that they're being lied to that's the bigger issue. Right I mean I think politicians have always lied. I don't think that's what's new. It's almost like a threshold has been crossed where it's so so you go back to
Clinton's impeachment right, I mean in the end, I think the legal issue was less about whether he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The bigger issue was that he lie under oath right and in many ways that's what his impeachment came down to yeah, it's quite clear. He probably did right. I mean we could get into the semantics of sexual relations, but the I mean it's pretty clear. He lied under oath, but
the point you're making is that now it's almost a feature like now. It's almost.
I think it's gone beyond it that it's accepted, and now it's almost like part of the theater, but
I think that is a uniquely trumpian phenomenon. I don't know that anyone else will be able to
play it quite that way I mean it is a feature of politics that has been
so in other countries. For ever I mean it is a feature of authoritarian politics. Wait you mean
and didn't really do that well in golf right, right, yeah
several holes in one he doesn't defecate. I heard as well yeah yeah in a democracy, it should be harder to get away with with having one's lies
supposed, and it's got a it when you, when you look at what used to matter. You know when you look at the fact that so my Gary Hart
his campaign where he he said that he was faithful to his wife and encourage journalists to keep a sharp eye on him and then was caught having an affair like that was the end
right right. There is nothing like that. That's conceivable for Trump
matter how discordant
his behavior is, with his next utterance, his opponent, a
keeping score relentlessly like his life,
they're being documented every day. There are not thousands of them. People are keeping score.
It doesn't matter with at least forty percent of America, so
it might matter for another person for those forty percent. It really is a kind of personality cult phenomenon, where it's just for,
for whatever reason how he showed up what he represents.
He can get away with stuff that no one else can get away with an? That is what is so dysfunctional about having him in that role. From my point of view, so you have two daughters right, so we think so much about how do we prepare our kids for the world? That's out there that we can only say one thing for certain about which is we don't know what it's going to look like I mean I had this discussion with my daughter last night, actually or two nights ago, which was Olivia you're ten years old today. The only thing I can assure you of in eight years. I have no idea what the world will look like yeah, but there are a handful of traits
that I think will help you in life and they might seem somewhat arbitrary and they might seem somewhat ridiculous or even unpleasant, but the sooner you can figure out a way to put these traits in place the more well equipped you will be with whatever the future holds right. So when I was ten, no one could have predicted that the internet was going to exist and that somehow that was going to have all of these implications right with respect to all the stuff we've been talking about today, specifically with respect to choosing to live in, examined life choosing to live a life
We are not constantly being lived by our thoughts. How do you teach your daughters about what the
holds, and I don't mean that in like a broad sense, but I mean, but
from encourage Ingham to meditate and I'm sure it's some age, kids can learn mindfulness meditation. But how else do you try to influence your kids with respect to
the lessons you've learned, I mean they may never choose to go off on you spent such a significant period of your life on retreats. You've really devoted your entire life to this study. If they choose not to do that, you know they want to do something boring like going to Madison or whatever. How will you still impart some of these lessons on them, or will it be much more by osmosis?
Is there anything deliberate? First kids can be taught to meditate Anne Anne.
Actually, my wife has done
that were a lot. Kids yeah. She goes to school. What age does she start like five? Six
amazing I mean you can go very quickly. You can go from just the first class, which is just chaos too. A room full of six year olds sitting in silence
for fifteen minutes, so it's amazing yeah and they get real,
benefit from it. I mean they're, not it's not quite
the same as adults connecting with the practice, but it's it can be pretty
I mean they are becoming aware of their
social lives in the way, in a way that kids often aren't do girls develop easy
other than boys at that age. Generally speaking,
I consider them separate species. So yeah I mean they they do. My boys are
boys are wild, yeah yeah. I don't. I don't know how I could ever
indicate any of it. Yeah yeah. I think boys
have a harder time sitting still,
certainly earlier on. So it's amazing to see kids connect with the practice 'cause they
definitely do and they just become a
air of the linkage between emotion and behavior, or thought and emotion, emotion and thought. But on some level it just comes down to suffering and the end of suffering. And it's just like how much do you want to suffer
or suffering in reliable ways. Bay city
spend time then explaining the nature of this
yeah, I would agree completely. Nobody wants to suffer. I just think it takes many of us decades to even come to the realization of how much of our suffering is self imposed.
Yeah, so is. It is part of it just getting them to realize that sooner yes,
and again to point out many of the things we've discussed here, where it's like the power of framing by the in the power of
Dictation. So I'll often point out to my daughters, even the youngest is just turning five, but for the most part, the oldest is just turning ten that the mismatch between her expectation of how something
was going to be and how it was right. It's usually a negative expectation. She was worried about something happening, I'll save a doctor's visit or gay
in blood drawn or getting shot, and the actual experience that was far less traumatic than she was worried that it was going to be and to point out that all of the time spent suffering. In anticipation of this
thing was wasted. There's a lesson to be learned here, like the thing she thought she was sure was going to be awful turned out, not
be so awful or not in some cases, not awful at all, right or even net positive right, because she had the experience of sort of overcome
in a fear or initially felt stronger as a result of that thing, that just happened so take the expectation is so often
not only a bad guy. That's just
is no God at all to what is
I happen, and yet people
suffer in advance over this thing that they're expecting to be negative. Even if, even if it's going to be negative, you can decide to suffer once or twice. Yeah rightly, kids can get lessons like that, and I think it's good to give them
as early as they can get them a lot of. It has to do with framing and had just how one thinks about one's life, but mindfulness for a kid can be at the first
pass just more awareness
over what they're, feeling and thinking young kids
can be sad and they don't know that they're sad or angry, and they don't know that they're, angry and just
that level of awareness can be
major gain for a kid and then that's something to build on and then they as they get older than the kind that you know. I I think, certainly as it once are ya,
Teenagers can have a more or less grown up relationship to observing
what's going on in their minds. But I think about how much effort I put into.
Worrying about whether my daughter is learning well enough, the sort of standard metrics that we care about you know math and science and English and sports, and all those things I feel like. Probably I'm not paying enough attention to those things as well, especially for someone who has spent so much time suffering inside his own mind like I ought to know better right. Yeah there is, there is no prison like the one between your ears, yeah and yet yeah when you frame it that way, bye,
So it makes me think I really need to start investing a little bit more time in that that prep, but I want to be mindful your time, so I kind of I know we both have to get somewhere this evening. Are you writing a book? Any at the moment? Are you working on anything
I'm the worst author publisher can have. At this point, I keep pushing back my deadline. I am supposed to be writing a book, but I'm so busy podcasting and doing other things that what is the book about? Well, I have actually have two books that I'm supposed to be writing. One is just a digestive podcast conversations just
because now I have sort of like what TIM did with yeah, I'm not quite sure what the format will be, but something based on the podcast.
Probably going to be more like just updated transcripts of significant parts of the conversation,
and then I have a book with a
title making sense, which is just it was going to be a kind of manifesto
about intellectual honesty and how we have hard conversations about. No,
general topics, whether it's race or gender, or the opposition between science and religion, or many of them
I said I touch my podcast we're paying a price for not being able to talk about the most
consequential and taboo and dangerous
device of things
in a way that is conserving of
intentions and honesty and allows for
compromise and allows for breakthroughs and
opinion. I think all the norms around talking about these things or skew, but you just can't have a conversation about
the differences between men and women, say.
Are men and women exactly the same? No they're, not great, but what do we do with down that path? Generates I or like you can imagine yeah
an careers are lossed over slight misstatements
right and there are people who say things that were ill considered that they then
subsequently apologized, for they recognize that the real considered and yet the apology, however heartfelt I'm, however, abject, isn't sufficient.
Stop their career from being destroyed. You had an example of this recently where you on your podcast, where we talked about the
She was a dean at Claire Mechanic with College
Claremont. Mckenna well, actually is a more recent example, which is even more amazing and it's in its own way, so like like Megan Kelly's,
We in blackface comments. Right was so you know she obviously couldn't hear well how the phrase black face would land with many people. It's easy to see
the the way she spoke about. It was a constituted, a mistake. It's.
Pretty obvious, it
was not an expression of racism on her part right, she's, not saying
African Americans haven't suffered a massive inequality in the past or she was just saying what,
if you going to dress up like Diana Ross, why can't you put brown makeup on your face and essentially that was those weren't her
words, but that was the sentiment. That's ab
lutely, something we should be able to talk about yet she said
the wrong thing and then clearly received a ton of pressure to apologize for
her apology. I don't know if you saw her apology, but her apology was afraid. Someone was joking on twitter. This is just like on Twitter. That said, it was the closest thing. You've ever seen, the hostage, video minus the newspaper right, yeah, it's like just you gotta hold up the newspaper as proof of life
it we didn't actually hear what she said or anything, but it was a by all signs that says
an apology is, as a person can muster, it was complete if
it didn't strike the right note for you. Well, then, maybe you have superhuman expectations for what someone should be able to muster in the context like that.
It did not seem insincere at all right, at least to my eye, and yet still this was a a
rear wrecking event. It seems
now we're in a situation where
people are calling for the district
action of other people and celebrating the effects of that when these people
actually do lose their shows or suffer some massive penalty an yet.
I think it's true to say that most people who were
for her to be fired
would recognize that,
in her initial statement was not actually conveying her own racism,
who is conveying her obliviousness to the significance of this phrase,
people, but it was not conveying that
he was somebody who wants to
live in a society where there's there's a lack of political equality. Right I mean that's zero
evidence of that. I don't think anyone even alleges that that's her view of the world, but worse than that, once she recognizes the mistake. She's
no apology is sufficient right.
So do we really want to live in a world where you miss speak on a fraught topic and it is impossible to add.
I apologize right. You recognize that you know you use the word say right and
then you get feedback that wow
oh really find that offensive their kids with mental
stability is, you know like if you knew what it was like to be a parent of a kid who was suffering this. You would recognize
offensive. That term is and then like. Why would you ever use that term on a podcast right? Imagine it being in
possible to apologize for that, it's over for you right. What's so interesting, bring it back to the prison stuff. I remember when I spoke with Kat Houck about this, so Catherine Hoke is the woman that used to run this organization called defy ventures and now she's spinning up something that's going to be even better actually to which I've suggested to her, and I don't think I'm unique in this. A lot of people have suggested that this this idea ought not just be something that's sort of a non profit like there is such a benefit to the volunteers. To going into this experience that it almost needs to be sort of a corporate development program like people need to be paying to go and have this experience it's so profound right, but it gets
Question of like. Can you be for? Is there something for which you cannot be forgiven? What is the crime? What is the sin? What is the moral defect for which there is no forgiveness, and I don't know if you're familiar with any of this stuff she's she's spoken about, but you know at some point she had to make a decision about whether or not people who were sexual predators would be permitted into the program. So if you rape, somebody if you'd molested a child and you're now serving whatever term in prison, could you be a part of this rehabilitative program and in the end she said? Yes, I mean. Basically, it really comes down to the degree of which a person person shows remorse.
And their willingness to change, because the idea is like whether you choose to never forgive somebody and whether it's Megyn Kelly or this rapist, it doesn't change the fact that something was said or something was done. That is, in some cases, probably not really that ridiculous and in some cases, is really tragic. But it's you have two choices as a society, how you move forward from that yeah and it seems we're definitely caught in the place of an inability to reconcile the good that can come from moving on, which means acknowledging mistakes that were made acknowledging remorse looking for ways to get better. I mean we. We really don't seem to like that that that
That seems a bit too softap for people or so it's I don't know Softas right word, but there's something about that process that people don't like yeah yeah and in extreme cases they are forced to excel
did I mean one? Societies have just become completely.
sectarian, violence of or political dysfunction of one kind or another. Then you need things like truth and record
creation commissions in places like Clean
Africa, Rwanda, where it's, then people who are guilty of objectively horrible things can get a pass.
Actually just by coming forward and telling the truth and apologizing yeah. I think
Actually I brought this up on my podcast not long ago. I was thinking about this is very problem
terms of, like an ethical event horizon it means there something so bad that you could do or say that
no apology would be sufficient to to pull your reputation back out of that singularity.
It is a kind of unrecoverable moral error and I don't think so.
I think the the physics of an appropriate acceptable APOLLO.
G are that it be sincere and believable.
And that the measure of it being believable is that it has to be clear how you could have changed enough for it to be sincere, so for an apology to be accepted,
You have to stand in relationship to that thing. You did in the same place where the other people, who are horrified by what you did stand.
And they have to be able to see how it is that you have
understand where they are now in order to accept your apology. So if I transfer
isn't believable for some reason, if there's no path,
I wish you could have had this epiphany that contextualize your prior bad behavior, you know put it in a box which you disavow will, then it will see.
It will seem insincere, opportunistic you're, a sociopath is just
get out of prison game the program and and those people exist. There's no question there.
The an insincere apology for
calculated reasons his you know that that's as old as we've been
speaking to one another and that will continue for as long
people can get away with it. So there's a genuine concern if you're talking about how to operationalize these kinds of insights, but
just it just again the path out
that darkness has to be intelligible to people, and I think
this will stumble on this once we have break
throughs in Psych
Knology in neuroscience that admit of real change,
as in people's
social and ethical lives, made just take the narrow case if
never understood, psychopathy, clearly enough that we could cure it right. So you,
someone who's from a very early age, just torturing, animals and and showing zero empathy for other people, and they they
roll up into the scary adult that one would predict and if we ever get to a place where there's a cure for that,
well, then psychopathy would be will be viewed as a a neurological condition. It won't be a moral problem. They'll be these. Are these are malfunction, robots that need the new module and just a
imagine if we had that cure.
We'd be no more judgmental in how we applied it, then we are when we cure any other disease. I mean you're, not
thinking about when you're, giving diabetics, insulin,
you're, not thinking. Well, you
you're lucky, I'm giving you this insulin, because you
I don't deserve it. You will hear
functioning pancreas, you're lucky,
I'm so tolerant that I'm willing to give you this insulin, there's zero
culpability in having a bad pancreas. If we actually understood the neurochemical Neuro anatomical basis of even the worse
behavior, it was discreet enough that it it is made of a of a cure. We would sell. We just got a. We got to fix that problem
and it would be an hold out hope for that's amore- is that Sci FI I mean you're a neuroscientist, so you can speak to this with much
for clarity or authority than than I could ever speak of it. I hold out hope for it in certain spots.
That case is yeah. I mean we know it's true. I mean
we've already stumbled upon it in cases where
you're talking about a brain tumor that is causing a problem but causing a problem which
shows up as unknown
mobile rage war
feel yeah or I mean cases are cases where it's like. The classic case is Charles Whitman, who, in nineteen sixty four
killed. Fourteen people at the University of Texas, an he just had a glioblastoma,
pushing on his amygdala, and the amazing thing is that you might know the story as I've talked about it, but I mean he suspected.
We had something wrong with his brain and he he knew he was going to be killed by the police and he recommended that they perform and uh
to say to find out what was going on in his head and yeah. He had he had a tumor, which was arguably totaly exculpatory and was just in precisely the place that you would think. Ok, this
he's got you can't control his impulses and he's feeling uncontrollable rage, and this tumor explains it.
I think, there's virtually no one who hears the whole story who thinks Charles Whitman was evil. He just seems profoundly unlucky and on some level.
A complete understanding of evil would reduce it to that same species of
that is an amazing thought, it's hard for me to imagine, because obviously the mass effect's are the obvious ones right. These engines versus much more diffuse neurochemical process
We're gonna have dinner tonight, so I know what we're gonna keep talking about men. We got so much to keep going on yeah for folks who are listening to this on my part, because you might not know you as well as they ought to is SAM Harris DOT, Org, basically where they can find everything. Your podcast, your dog, your books, all sorts of,
things yeah and as far as my meditation app, it's just waking up dot com, but you have both websites
of us like me or lucky enough to have got it for free 'cause. We were supporters of the podcast before it came out. Yeah yeah is it available, for
just now on both the on apple and on and running again- and it's not quite out you know- is that is out as of yesterday. Okay, so fantastic, because I know I had a patient who went to search for an android a few weeks going
was coming soon. No no were born on both platforms. Ok! Well, congratulations! Sam! It is.
I mean I just want to say. I want to thank you personally for the effect and the impact that your work has had on me. I find myself, like I said, spending so much time, thinking about
How to help people delay the onset of diseases that kill them Ann
and in many ways, you're doing
doing the same thing, but in a in
some ways are higher stakes, arena, which is how to prevent people from suffering so much which in some ways is just harder to measure. We don't have the same.
That's on that right. I can rattle off all the stats on the probability is that you're going to get cancer by the time you're? Seventy and
the likelihood you're going to make it to ninety without a heart attack and ball. I can rattle off all those things, but we don't keep the same stats for how much we suffer and I I think, of your work as among the most
important things that have helped me in and now by extension, some of my patients who are willing to go down this path with me to reduce that burden of suffering nice. And I as well glad to hear it.
Thank you thank you, don't make, can make, and so much time this afternoon, yeah yeah. I was a pleasure and congratulations on the podcast. You are one of these few examples of somebody who goes from a conversation of
you know. I think maybe I want to start a podcast. I should I should I say
cast and then I turn around and
three weeks later you have this amazing podcast. That is more
my produce than mine and people love.
If you don't know you and your team deserve a lot of credit for that. I know I've said this before, but but of all it's it's always worth repeating. I mean, I think, that you, an
im were probably among the two most vocal along with probably Patrick Oshaughnessy, but I think you and TIM the most really 'cause. I honestly I was just so intimidated by the
work. I saw you and TIM doing. I was like well there's. No God Dam way. I can do that like that's, that's just above my pay grade, so I still think my podcast pales in comparison to yours and TIM.
But I am happy to be in the arena and it it has turned out to be much more enjoyable than I would have ever predicted. Yeah
so I do regret having not done it two years sooner when
you are harping on me, internet harping on me, but better late than never, and it's an honor to have you as a guest on my little knife. Fighting podcast well, keep it up,
thanks man. If you find
making a podcast valuable, there are many ways you can support it.
You can review it on Itunes or Stitcher or wherever you happen to listen to it. You can share
on social media with your friends, you can
talk about it or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you
do this by subscribing through my website, at Samharris, DOT, org and there
find subscriber only content, which includes
ask me anything episodes you also get access to advance tickets
to my live events as well as
video of some of these events and
get to hear the bonus questions from any of
These things and more you'll find on my website at Samharris dot. Org. Thank you for your support of the show
Transcript generated on 2019-10-24.