« Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris

411: Are You Willing to Challenge Your Own Tribe? | Robert Wright

2022-01-12 | 🔗

Why, from an evolutionary perspective, is it so terrifying for many of us to contemplate challenging our own tribe? How comfortable would you be hopping on social media and questioning the deeply held convictions of your closest friends and colleagues? Even if you don’t want to be public about it, are there ways to have more empathy for somebody whose views are different from yours? Robert Wright believes the future of civilization hinges on our ability to get better at this. 

Robert Wright is the author of the bestselling book Why Buddhism Is True. He also writes the Nonzero Newsletter, is host of The Wright Show podcast, and his newest mission is something he calls the Apocalypse Aversion Project. This episode explores: how mindfulness meditation can help us overcome our biases; how we are often manipulated by natural selection; the concepts of confirmation bias and attribution error; the pain and joy of pushing back against the conventional wisdom of your own tribe; the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy; why Robert is a big believer in talking to people with whom he disagrees; and the importance of making friendships across ideological lines. 

This episode is the second in our weeklong series about bias. If you missed Monday's episode with the excellent journalist Jessica Nordell, you can listen here

Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/robert-wright-411

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the ten percent. Have your podcast, I'm Dyin Harris, hey hey! Why, from an evolutionary perspective, is it so terrifying for many of us to contemplate challenging our own tribe, how comfortable you be having on social media and questioning the deeply held convictions of your closest friends and colleagues Tribalism becomes more deeply entrenched in modern culture suspect. Many of us find this prospect to be increased we on appetizer, but are there wasted? with some modicum of safety, or even, if you don't want to be public about it, their ways to have more empathy with somebody whose views are different from your own. My guest today believe the future of civilization hinges on our ability to get better at this.
No Robert right from his best selling book with the audacious title. Why Buddhism is true. I love that book. but also rights the non zero newsletter and his host of the right show podcast. I I'm a subscriber to and fan of both the newsletter and podcast by the way Bob's. Now, mission which you can follow. If you subscribe to, the aforementioned newsletter is something he calls the apocalypse aversion project, as I mentioned, he believes deeply that, in order for this species to overcome the massive challenges confronting us from tribalism to climate to nuclear proliferation, we need to take the next step in our evolution as gonna hear Bob has put his money where his mouth is in this regard. In this country when we talk about how mindfulness meditation can help us over I'm are biases how we are often manipulated by natural selection the concepts of confirmation by us and attributions error,
the pain and joy of pushing back against the conventional was of your own tribe, the difference between cognitive, empathy and emotional empathy, how we can be compassionate towards people and still think that, as a practical matter, they, be in jail and why right is a big believer in talking to people with whom he disagrees, an making friendships across ideological lines. This is part two of it. We ve long series we're doing unbiased if you missed Monday's episode with the excellent journalist Jessica nor Del go check that out we'll get started with rubber right read after this. hey, it's Dan Harris back in two thousand, for I had a life changing event in the form of a on panic attack on live television from that moment. Onwards. I knew I had to make some changes so as a curious sceptic, I turn to meditation a little bit reluctantly and that journey turned into a book in a podcast and the ten percent happier app where we
he tried to meditate without any of the bells and whistles that can make the whole thing harder, confusing or off putting the ten percent have your it is available to download wherever you get your ass rapid right thanks for coming on. Well, thanks for having meeting pleasure, I am a big fan and avid consumer of all things. Bob right from your do letter to your pipe cast to your books and I'm in particular interested they get you talkin about What seems to be a big idea, big thesis on your mind, about humanity right now, which is something to be effective. We As a species are not going to survive, unless we are able to transcend the lesser angels of our you're in particular, our not so helpful, evolution early evolved, biases yeah, I think that's affair
summary I mean I dont want over dramatize a situation I do think asked. billions of years of evolution and hundreds of thousands of years of our species being around? We ve gotten to a point where its essential that we get better at overcoming what are sometimes call cognitive biases at which I think our kind of built into us by evolution- and I think the reason we need to get over them is because more and more the people of the planet collectively face problems that taken together can be called Ex essential. I think including climate change, which people are well aware of, but also including v Yes, other challenges, arms control in various realms. I could go on.
but yeah you're right, I think we need to move to a higher plane and to put it in buddhist terms, I would say I think that we need to move at least some increment in the direction of enlightenment. I think of enlightenment is being on a spectrum kind of like. I know I'll, never get to fall on enlightenment. I don't know how many people have, but I think all people can make at least baby steps toward it, and I think lots of people need to do that if we are going to pass these tests as a species, how look practically this process of inching our way down the enlightenment spectrum more wisely up, as I've heard you describe Does that mean everybody stars meditating stat, or how do we get to the future that you think would be most helpful and promising? Well, I certainly think meditation can be a valuable tool. I dont think people have to meditate
to become more aware of some of the psychological impediments and biases I'm talking about and try to surmount them, but I do think mindfulness meditation is very well suited to the challenge. You know, I think, general Buddhism, deserves credit for having diagnose the problem with being human, pretty early on and been
the game and a lot of ways, and even gotten to some insights that western psychology has only gotten to recently. If I were talking to an audience of people bitterly opposed the Buddhism. I might talk about other paths to the goal, but I think your audience probably is pretty favourably disposed to meditation and I have to say I think that can be a really powerful tool here now. I think what s great about mine from his meditation is that it can focus your attention on some really kind of subtle but powerful levers for kind of attacking the problem. I give you one example: okay, so one famous cognitive bias is confirmation bias we all are naturally inclined to notice and embrace evidence can
system with our pre existing views and not notice or reject or critically interrogate evidence that seems incompatible with them and that can get us into all kinds of troubles I like. If we have this idea that some group of people is bad, add or their intrinsic I am forever enemies and we're gonna look for evidence to sustain that, and so this can be really big problem and I think we're meditation can help here. Is that the phrase cognitive bias is kind of a misnomer? The warrant cognitive sounds so kind of detached from emotion and feeling, but I think what really drives these biased his feeling. So in the case of confirmation by us, like imagine your on social media you're on twitter or something and somebody tweet something
what somebody kind of in your ideological tribe and they tweet something that confirms your worldview and you see it well. If you pay attention, you'll notice that you actually, you feel a favourable disposition towards you actually have an affection for that evidence right and that's why you critically embrace it in May retweeted, and on the other hand, if you see evidence it seems at odds with your worldview. If you pay enough attention and meditation helps you pay attention to things like this. You ll notice that there is a kind of hostility towards the evidence. It sounds kind of an aversion to it. You want to push it away and because your hostile towards a critically interrogated me want to say wait a second. Where did they get this? I want to see the study that claimed to find this. U dont naturally do that with the evidence. It seems to support your room, you just
tweet it right because you like it and I think the first step towards being more careful about what we do and don't retweet and what we do and don't accept is to recognise the feeling that accompany the inclined she too retweet or not to embrace or not. And I think, if you go about your social media, business well you'll, be a better citizen and I think mindfulness meditation, I'm sure you'll agree can help. You be attentive to exactly that kind of thing. I do agree its fashionable these days to beat up on social media, can't say that I entirely Disagree with that impulse. Where do you stand on whether social media is helpful or hurtful in terms of the survival of the species? Well, in a way to moot point, I think we're stuck with it. I mean you know, humans are so strongly draw
toward it and bring so many things we like that. I think it's kind of not going to go away. I mean people have always use the available information technology to associate with people. They have things in common with the share information, that's important to them and so on, and so I think it's going to be around social media. I think there's things they can do to make it more productive, but I think in the meanwhile, it's up to us to use it in ways that are more constructive and I think happily, the goal of being a good citizen. social media, largely coincides with the goal of being. You know
happy person is not going crazy. The kind of equanimity Emily you try to cultivate would mindfulness meditation. I think, helps in both of those regards. So what does it look like a bit? I get that it might look like in part noticing the voracious urge to retweet any piece of news that is bad for the opposite tribe and then not giving into it might also Look like gently questioning things that you're fellow tribes, men and women and people are saying. I know you ve experimented with that a little bit I have often on? I think that's the great challenge right now or a great challenge is bucking your tribe. When you see something that your ideological kin are embracing uncritically you see them taking a needlessly uncharitable attitude toward
people in in oh and the other idea logical, try or vc them doing. Something is very common on social media, which is to act as if the most extreme person on the other side is typical right. Like a look at this look at how this look at how these conservatives are reacting in his when I say it's only about seven people in a given weaker freaking out in a supermarket over a mask mandate, or something in our not that many people are actually doing it's not easy to step out and say wait a second folks. We shouldn't over general eyes and so on, and that takes what I guess you could call courage and I think we are mine. This can come in there is, you know the impediment to courage is fear right. It's like you fear of what people
whose esteem you want will think of you right. People in your biological group there's a kind of fear. You have to overcome to step out and say something that may be unpopular and fear like any problematic emotion. Is something that can be addressed through mindfulness right by observing it. You can loosen its grip on you. I also think there little tricks like sometimes if I tweet something that I fear is gonna get me blow back. I guess I tweet it turn off. My computer go do something right because it can be really in a roller coaster, ride to sit there and see what people are thinking of real time. There be virtue and engaging the conversation engaging a blow back, but I think there's also virtue and just coming back to an hour later in replying to the people who you think should be replied to how's it going for you. When you push back against
wisdom in your tribe, you specific examples that might be worth a dissecting. Maybe this is a little bit of a cop out, but I have a tendency to try to point out to people things that are unwise. Tactically, a couple of examples: so one wise irony, member during the black lives matter protests. There was a briefing as video of some protesters going by a restaurant. These we were dining outside and protests, like, demanded that they hold their hands up in solidarity. Now, first of all, I find that completely abhorrent. Just the idea of subjecting people to any kind of heavy handed
pressure on the EU and are yet these. Sometimes elderly people, like dining and all these young, vigorous people combine a crowd and demand a show of allegiance. I find that abhorrent, but I also find a counterproductive, because that is exactly the kind of mean that is gonna as it plays out in conservative circles, convince them that actually we are the fascists right, and my inclination is two point that two people rather than to say I personally find this important and maybe that's a little bit of a cop out, but maybe get more traction without the other example, is defined. The police and Here I had an advantage, which is because my daughter had just been holding a defined the police sign in approach,
she had explained to me that it doesn't mean quite exactly what you might think. It means it means in or change the nature of policing, but anyway, I'm not in favour of taking oil from police departments, but also, I think that's just it terrible message it just strategically. It doesn't even matter what they mean by it. The phrase itself is just a sure fire political loser. That's what I said and to get back to your question. What is the experience been like of to do things like this, which I don't do nearly often enough. You often find out that there's more support for youth, and you would have expected, and some of it may come from people, on the other hand, the other tribes, so to speak, fine, but
or more people than you might imagine, who are aware of the dangers of being too reactive, two things, and yet, as everybody knows, that it can be incredibly painful to be on the receiving end of vitriolic disapprobation from p. whose opinions you care about- and I imagine maybe that's happened over to you and how did you handle it? If so, it has happened a little. I'm good it ignoring it. I mean, and maybe that's for confirmation biases, your friend, it's like you know when the people who tweet really unfair,
many things in reply, I'm kind of good dismissing them, they must be confused. They disagree with him. He right, I don't know if somebody becomes a real problem. I just I mute them. The other places has been an issue is on my podcast. I try to host a great diversity of views, including people on both the right and the left who are considered extremists by people on the other side, and there are times when people, basically there trying to deep platform the people and having on, and that can be hard because the accusation can be particularly nasty because when the trying to de platform somebody they tend to be, but I mean there's some people I wouldn't have on my podcast, but I think it's important to try to understand a very broad array of perspectives, and I think this is one of the most important strengths that needs to be cultivated. Cognitive empathy,
as for my hobby, horses, cognitive, empty being a little different from emotional empathy, you know motionless with being the got a classic kind of empathy, just kind of feeling their pain, so to speak. The carnival these just understanding the perspective, not a surly agreeing with it not necessarily having any sympathy for the person who holds it, but just trying to understand it, and I think something I really encourage people to work gone is. We cannot understand why they're doing what they're doing, there's a reason and you and you're better off understanding at the not. What do you recommend in terms of modalities, fur, cognitive empathy? I could keep getting back to meditation, but as long as we do have a meditation friendly crowd here, I found that mindfulness met it. Tations makes it easier to understand. Perspectives of people you might feel hostile toward whether for ideological or other reasons and the
Is it the hostility itself, can kind of a bait, or at least become less of a distorting influence on your card nation? And the other thing I found is it you know sometimes, cognitive empty can lead to the other kind of empathy it can we to a motion and force the other way around in a very natural way, I mean you may notice it. If there's somebody you're already inclined to feel and pathetic, Torreon, the classic sense. You know sharing their pain, you hope for the best. For them, it's usually not that hard to understand their perspective, the problematic cases of people you don't feel that way toward, so it can work both ways,
motion and petty can enhance cognitive empty. I think cognitive empty can enhance emotional empathy, but I still want to stress that understanding the perspective of someone, even someone, you think he's gonna Corinth things needn't mean absolving them of responsibility for what they ve done. Even if it leads to compassion, we can be compassionate toward people still think that, as a practical matter, they need to go to prison. Another way that one potentially could divide. Cognitive F, they perhaps ivy interested to see. We think about this is varying or media diet, whether its on social media or otherwise. Do you think that's a viable route yeah. I encourage that. I mean I honestly. I find Fox news moron When I see an orientation msnbc, partly because there is actual is there. Any news is oh, this is how events are being processed on that site,
I'd. I already know how their being processed on my side, you know, that's not news, and it's not me very interesting and, to be honest, I sometimes find a kind of disconcerting to see how the media, on quote my team, arduous spending so much time reinforcing our biases. I find it more interesting to listen to an outlet that informs me about how things are being processed by people who aren't like me, and that's also again, I think, that's valuable. I think it's always good for you to understand, what's going through the mind on the other side of the table, whether it's an enemy or a friend or, as is usually the case, some combination of there's a tweet. I sometimes quote from in bremmer from the Eurasia groupings, a writer on international affairs. I'm sure you are familiar with them. It used to be his kin tweet, but it said suddenly, the effective, if you're, using this website to only five
people. You agree with your doing it wrong yeah and I think in Bremmer is firm. It's worth following. He is good at understanding the perspectives of the various players in the world. Speaking of understanding other people's perspective, I just wanna make clear to this audience may not value as closely as they should. You really do put your money where your mouth is. Every Friday you do a podcast episode with a gentleman by the name of Mickey Cow, sues along time, writer on politics and has in his later years as I understand it, become, if not a trump based at least Trump sympathetic, and every Friday you guys hash out the week's news from different perspectives and eight rarely and I'm enough listener. It rarely devolves into shouting or name calling or anything of that
sort yellow. The irony is when there is shouting it's me doing at night, the method of air, but, as one commenter said recently, this is why Bob needs to meditate Mickey doesn't because you know Bob's inclined to lose it, but yeah Mickey I've known him forever. We were New Republic together more decades ago than either. As cares remember, and yet you vote for term twice. I am happy to say that I think January six finally gave him since second thoughts, but we have very different for active- and you know the friendship- helps the fact that we known each other for too long. But I'm a big believer in talking to people that you disagree with and wondering of notices that actually talking to them can be a very
full thing in the sense that- and this is something I discovered early on- if you would bring together two bloggers who had written nasty things about each other and put them in a face to face conversation, they would have a much harder time saying nasty things about each other, so it there's a civilising effect to just often not always, but often to just face to face conversation. Three little thoughts came to mind as you were talking there, one as the old trope about how it's hard to hate up close and yes, probably true. The second thing is, Is this video, the comedian? I love named Tony Baker, his face very active on Instagram, I'm not even on Instagram. I don't have the app, but I will sometimes go through the website just to look at Tony's page, and he does these incredible. Like seven second masterpieces were healed
video clips of animals interacting and he'll do voice over is where he plays each character and very very funny in one of the clips as these two dogs who, each on the opposite side of the fence war rolling and snarling at each other it as soon as they opened the fence. They stop. It, does not close it again. They start growlings snapping at each other. That hats. I have two of those dogs I mean, I mean in terms of the way they made towards other dogs. I get that year. The third gave to minors as listen easy. There was. You talked about the fact that you and make you a friendship. And I might be mangle in his work, but the psychology dead writer, Jonathan, hide from an why you who never been on the show, but Jonathan in your cordially invited him a fan of your work has written about, our moral life, immoral, intuitions, being like an elephant
and a rider. The elephant is our subconscious in that the writer is our conscious and we think the riders in charge, but actually val of its running. The show and elephants are very hard to change, but one of the mechanisms by which we can change our elephants are subconscious assumptions and intuitions and urges is friendship. One of the ways we can do it is by having friends, so share those reflections, you can ignore them more pick up on them. If you want yeah, it's true energy use, friendship to its maximum potential you'll have to kind of not just trust your friendship instincts. So to speak. You know because what you see happening on social media is anyway, what's most natural uneasy, your friends or the people you agree with, and so
on, but absolutely you're, not making friendships across enemy lines can be a super valuable thing. I think it's almost a crochet at this point to say the country needs more of it, but more my conversations with rubber right come up after this. We were talking about forms of bias. Early on the conversation we talk about confirmation by us. Another form of bias is attribution error. Can you say a little bit about that? Yeah, I think attributions error is the most. Under raided cognitive bias and its relatively unknown well, here's way was originally thought toward the idea. Was that win?
We are explaining the behaviour of other people. We explain it too much in terms of their basic nature, their character there disposition and not enough in terms of circumstance or situations or in other words. You know if you see somebody a check, our line being rude to the clerk you think of it as a jerk and that's the natural reaction, and you don't think well, maybe, he had a horrible they. Maybe he found out that somebody loves her. Horrible disease. We just don't know, and the original idea was that we just ten to a tribute
more than is in order to disposition as opposed to situation, it turned out to be more complicated and the deal is with people who are our friends and allies. If they do something good, we attributed to disposition their good people. There are friends if they do something bad, we explain it away in terms of situation. You know they had had a bad day, but do not bad people whereas if somebody who classifies an enemy, it's the opposite, they do something bad. We go yet that's the way. They are that's her character once you ve got them in the bad box. It's very hard for them to get out. Buddhism is kind of anti essential. Is dead,
turn of emptiness witches you hear more about in my inner circles in terawatt circles, is the idea that we can do a tribute essence. Two things, trees, essence of tree in cars have essence of car in my car has a special essence, and the idea of emptiness is that essences projection. There is no such thing as act, in essence things are actually empty of essence. My view is that a essence tend to have a kind of an effective collaboration
that is more than we realise. There's a way that looking at my car makes me feel there's a way that looking at a tree makes me feel and that's part of the essence we attributed to something, but to get back to two friends and enemies. There is definitely a feeling of essence of enemy. I had an interesting experience of teaching freshened seminar Princeton on Buddhism years ago and before the class started, there was a woman whom the guest speakers class had brought along and she was actually notorious in progressive circles. and one of the students was talking to her before the class who didn't know she was, and then it became clear who the woman was used. This notorious rightwing woman and I later ass, the student I mean I was discussing with a class. I said what was them?
like when you found out who she was, and she said, yeah like one moment she was nice old woman and then It was transformation I found out is rising, wasn't and suddenly he was this bad person. She had essence of badness and I do think more than we realise. We tribute different essences to people that reflect our experience with them and they can be useful as a practical matter to navigate to social landscape. We, the kind I have a feel for who are friends, are in that's fine, but I do think that if you ask what is it that derives this particular attribution air? What is it that steers our thinking about why this person did this thing, whether it was disposition or circumstance? I think it's driven by this sense of essence. You know that
feeling the essence gives us its effective cooperation, and this is just another example of how I think you know Buddhism. has been ahead of the game all along and appreciating how subtly our feelings, shape our cognition and our perceptions and sometimes destroy It strikes me that these biases unchecked on addressed unexamined, really make us vulnerable to manipulation. Yeah, I mean ran, were kind of doing them an upswing herself. In a sense I mean my first thought was you were being manipulated in a sense by natural selection right than designer of human nature, but what you're thinking of his is also true, which is that, for example, somebody who wants to increase their followers count on twitter can find somebody
Try doing something crazy, say something about it: that enrages people in my tribe and I cannot fall for debate. Cosette first feeling right, yeah there horrible and I re tweet it, and I increase the follower account of this person who is ultimately being kind of manipulative. You know this is one of the big problems of our time is, the way you increase your stature within your tribe, I mean is an eternal truth. Probably, but the way is playing out on social media is deeply diplomatic. The way you increase your follower account in your own tribe is too demonize the other trees, That's a really unhealthy incentive structure and you're right that if I dont have some distance from the cognitive biases that are shaped, my behavior and getting me to retreat or not retweet tonight I can be manipulated easily. This is what what Buddhism is about I'd. Awareness is liberation. Awareness can
liberation, as they say in Buddha circles, simple, but not easy right. It's a simple principle, Oh, but maintaining the awareness is challenging, guess at another little cliche. That, I think is useful here is there's a reason why we call it a practice Currently it's for me and ongoing challenge. Meditation is an ongoing challenge, doesn't come naturally to me, but you know life as hard as we can. We could agree on. That the Buddha would agree as well. You said something that I didn't wanna let slide there, which is that we are being met. violated by natural selection, can you say more about that? Well, You know what I mean is their kinds of two problems that human nature poses this with. The first is that natural selection didn't designers to be happy. It designed us to do things that got genes spread right so
I think in Saint Paul is the classic buddhist problem of town hall or craving the unsatisfactory nests of life? The fact that you know you gratified is craving, but almost immediately you want more, it doesn't last. You know this is designed into us by natural selection, because it's an obviously good way to keep on animal pursuing various goals it can get genes into the next generation. So there is the fact that we weren't designed to be happy and then there's a second factor. we're not living in the environment. We were even designed for so there is some forms of modern unhappiness, their product of that in a severe anxiety disorder, you don't find a lotta hunter gatherer with severe anxiety disorders, redefined anxiety, that's natural, that's a tool that natural selection built interest to get us to worry about things, but
it's only in a modern environment, then it can very easily get out of control in this completely different way. I think that's one way to look at what meditation is about is to a deal with unfortunate by proper So the fact that we are not living in the environment were designed for and be to deal with a fact in our design or didn't have our true interests at heart. To begin with, it just wanted us to spread genes. What is the apocalypse aversion project in crass commercial terms? It's kind of going to safeguard of the pay walled part of my newsletter non zero newsletter. I mean you know, there's or paid subscribers and unpaid subscribers. I like to think the project is visible to everyone who reads the newsletter and I think it is the idea is that again, I think we face a lot.
Problems, some of them environmental problems, climate change in our various forms of pollution, some of them old fashioned, arms control, problems, nuclear weapons, some of them new problems by a weapons and some of them emergent problem. Weapons in space, artificial intelligence. Do we want to have an arms race and artificial intelligence among nations, or do we want to have an arms race in human genetic engineering right? You don't wanna have to think about these issues in this environment of kind of net always take fear right, don't just a lot of areas where you'd like to develop rules of the road with other nations, and I think we don't get those under control and we can be in deep trouble. I mean apocalypse in a slightly fanciful way, but at the same time I do think the problems can be called collectively, exe
central and when I say a version I mean both I'm averse to this outcome, but also how do you avert it? And I think part of the answer is a lot of policies at the international level. But part of the answer is the psychological obstacles we have to overcome. If we're gonna get to the point of developing wise policies at the international level and at the national level, you know we're gonna have to get over the things it the better dividing us. That's all show in that room. Is that that's when we get to meditation one of the beef that some people have with meditation and I'd love to get you to respond to this is that. Contrary to it's not going to help us ever any apocalypse. Actually woods gotta do is make us a bunch of complacent morons apathetic list out useless folks, well,
What does sound their barrier that actually, in and of itself might answer, sounds fine sounds fun. I mean more fertile honestly in some cases, that would be a more productive way being then adding super agitated in reinforcing tribal biases on social media But that's not my main answer that my main answer is. Let me know when you get to that point I mean, I think it's true that if you ask what would true enlightenment be like in the strictest sense, in the strictest old fashioned, sense of enlightenment and people are dead, ideas, about what enlightenment means, but yeah it might involve almost an indifferent to external conditions that was demotivating because you managed to maintain equanimity and bliss, regardless of what was happening. For me at least, the bigger challenge is, and I think for lots of you I know pursue
the passions we have the ideological passions. We have in a more constructive way away. That's better for world better for human beings and very often better for our own ideological tribe, I mean my job, I guess is, They interview a lot of people who are highly attained meditate or we will have been doing this for ten fifteen twenty thirty forty fifty years and I guess to common denominators, I've seen among these dedicated meditated. One is a sense of humor. They don't take themselves to seriously and the other is the absolute opposite of apathy, not an irrational enraged, engagement but a deep sense of carrier. What's going on in the world a sense of connectivity that seems to me, as as somebody who is not in their minds,
doesn't have a mind like that to be very supple and effective yeah. I think meditation first of all tend to make you compassionate towards more people. Then you might have been compassionate toward before, because it makes you less indifferent to the wealth. there are people might have been outside your circle as you, conventionally reckoned it you know, and if you're feeling compassionate to people that you know that's motivate, would be a bad world if the people with the best intentions were indifferent and the people are, the worst intentions were highly motivated, but right now what I see as a lot of people with good intentions, who would be more effective if they ratcheted the react in this down little much more. My conversation with rubber right come up
after this I want to give you a chance to make, and I think this is the right point to do what I want to give you a chance to make a point. I have heard you make elsewhere here which is something along the lines of the notion of enlightened self interest that this work, that you're calling on us to do. Transcend these ancient biases is not only good for the world, but it will make us happier yeah. I think, first of all the global problems I've talked about are what are called non zero sum problems, that is to say,
it's possible to have a win, win outcome and obviously, if we get there and solve these problems is good for us in that sense, and that, since I guess the Good NEWS is that all that is required for the sheer salvation of the planet, I think is enlightened self interest. Now. Enlightened self interest is not enough to solve all problems or problems of justice, for example, but I think it's good that at least enlightened self interest could, in theory, get us a change of keeping the planet together in. get out of the business of getting a lot of people killed in polluting the planet and so on, but in any event, it is the second thing we alluded to earlier, which is that the practice of becoming More aware and more effective in Europe since in wiser in your actions can make you a happier person and Anna gets back to what is kind of amazing, about when I think of his in some ways of fundamentals,
Buddhism, which is that you know the reason we suffer and the reason we make other people suffer is that we don't see the world clear That's why these amazing, if true things right what it suggests, is that this one key seeing the world more clearly can help you and can help other people simple, but not easy right to say, see the world more clearly, but at least if this claim is true- and I think it is at least that tells you where to focus your energies. Yes, everything you just said and just to build on it a little bit there's something about making friends with people with whom you disagree. That is, I think, when done well. Enjoyable, maybe even perversely durable, but I think actually kind of our joy on a wholesome way and uprooting and seeing ridiculous of your own biases, well painful on one level is at
I experienced quite enjoyable, and maybe it's just what you said- that it somehow feels good to see things clearly, even if that involves admitting, you ve been wrong for a long time. Well, yeah for one thing: according to kind of buddhist doctrine, the things that are distorting your vision are ultimately unpleasant things right. I think you are also right. It feels good to know. You ve triumphed over distortion and, as you said, it feels good to get to know an enemy and realizing the you now at least not all of the enmity was really in order. If you are you, you had exaggerated how bad they are if minimum it's a little like how good it feels if you're in a foreign country any no little little language and you actually succeed in communicating with somebody. That's just a gratifying feeling. You know over coming all these kinds of barriers actually feel good, and it's not.
Easy, because you do. There are valid moral judgments right. There are things people. That it is right to disapprove of. On the other hand, we are all doing something that its right to decisions in your problem, We gonna have more influence over people are doing things as right disapprove of if you're in communication with him, then, if your shouting at them, if just have one last question what apocalypse aversion, which is what is as we speak now, your level of optimism about whether the apocalypse, whether we use that term with seriousness or some level of fancy, as you alluded to before, do you think it can be averted? Well, first, or I should say I'm just not by nature an optimist, so you should really discount any pessimists. m you hear from me, I think total annihilation of all living things on the planet is very unlikely.
Total annihilation of the human species is unlikely, and I think if there were something anything king that we would probably emerge wiser, you know the two world wars were followed by Laudable efforts I mean We're one was followed by the League of nations. You know you have a global experience. They do league of nations. It turns out to be very flaw. It doesnt work world or to happens, they try to United Nations still flawed but structure. Only little better, whatever you think in these institutions its evidence that people learn from trauma right that that the species does reflect on bad things and try to do better. So I guess
Maybe it's not that I'm pessimistic in the longest run. I just hope it doesn't take some kind of epic trauma to get us to overcome nationalism and various other kinds of tribal ism. That's my hope, and you know, look there a lot of encouraging things. The sheer awareness of cognitive biases is encouraging. The spread of the word that you're doing so much of about mindfulness meditation is very encouraging as a whole. Lot of work to do
But we do learn as a species and it will say, look when you look at the process it created as natural selection, the only rule is whatever life form gets. The most Jean spread is the life form that wins it's gotta, maison that were where we are. You wouldn't have even predicted that we do have built in these feelings of altruism, which are built in even if their selectively activated and sometimes to selectively activated, but you know compassion. All these things are natural and these are assets. We can work with and in some respects our history of working with them is itself impressive. I'm almost talking myself in the Knesset than she had always thought. He forgets that internal, maybe bedewed, do much meditating so tell me about it. Are you doing any meditating these days do feel pressure to keep meditating. As you wrote, this holes best selling book about Buddhism, or actually, I think, that's a godsend. Nino most people I don't have a compelling reason to get on the cushion every day.
as you may know, you know what you're talking to talk. You gonna walk the walk, so yeah meditating. I mean this is, of course the least of the tragedies of the pandemic, but it has been problematic for me in the sense that I realized that I'd be, I become pretty dependent on going to a retreat week. Long ten days, every year or two to recharge my practice and now that by and large labour treat seen her in person. Treatment happening. I haven't done that and so that that has been challenging and I would say my practice has not been as obviously effective. I guess my coping mechanisms have been first of all lower my expectations when you come offer a treat your skills are there more. Finally, honed than usual answer: you, like you, ok, go through the routine books on the brain to attain this com. Stay in that. For me, that gets harder is, as it were,
receives into the past, so I have to, I think, become a little less dogmatic about particular paths. I've used and settle for a kind of a free form awareness. The other thing is started setting the alarm on my watch for an evening session where again low expectations doesn't have the last long, but I sometimes and I have cut a mortar work with so to speak in the evening than in the morning. You know by that time, you're you maybe agitated you may be. This may be that it's almost easier to be aware of something because the things going on in your your head or more salient they have more of an edge to them. Now I have to say it's funny. I know you did this pod cast with Alexis Santos. Is that his name is yes, it is, and it's funny this morning I taped in Absurdum Ipod CAS with Josh Summers
mine is also meditation teacher and a yogi teacher, he was pushing what I think is exactly that same thing: unease evangelizing. I think he invoke the same Burmese, meditation teacher, and so I have to look into this, I had initially misunderstood what Josh was saying to me. I think and taken it to me Well, whatever happens on the cushion, is success just get up and say you know you must have unawares. Something else is fine, don't worry, but after in him more and listen you're pod guest. I realise it is actually what is advocating actually away was more challenging and it's not trivially easy. This idea of going through the day.
Intimately asking yourself if your, where what your attitude awareness is and so on some an experiment with that and will see, but I am eager to be able to go to another retreat at some point in life. Justice fill in the blanks for folks who might out of her that episode on the show with Alexis Santos who set great meditation teacher and his teacher, the burmese gentlemen. You references named cider who Tasmania and the most famous burmese masters are kind of known, for maybe this is too strong a word, but us or militancy ergo athleticism in their practices of the very strict and me a little bit striving the more famous versions of burmese practice. Sire. rotation years, Greece Counter programming against that without More relaxed style dad instead of you know, being all
your breath like a mad dog or noting everything that comes up in your mind. Obsessively he's just you know, Canada has you relax and ask yourself a series of questions in your meditation practice on and off the cushion where, strict disease really strict about staying aware at all times, but the questions that you reference, our one is. Are you aware, or what is being? and right now, the way I usually do it. The second is what attitude. In my mind, right now, my trying to make something happened to my averse to something that is happening and the third is not a questions works payment that you may notice thought patterns, emotions come up and you can just say this is nature. Instead of attaching to it as yours or in essentially you just to notice area like any meteorological phenomenon, is arising out of a set of conditions and it doesn't have to be solidified in that way, and I found this to be great on retreat, because I didn't realize how badly I disliked until I did something different. I dont, like the the strict regimented form of practice,
that you must get on retreat and I find, in my daily practice, is much more enjoyable, so your practice is going well yeah I mean I went to a bit of an ark and I've been practicing for not that long frankly be twelve thirteen years, and I started out with five ten minutes a day, for about a year and then I went on a retreat, and that was. incredibly hard, but also really it gave me a lot of faith that there's a lot to this practice came out from that and started doing a half hour a day for a long time, and that I wrote a book about Imitation of my hair was on fire about it and still is on fire, of course, but I tried to do two hours every day, which was just saying- and I did that I remember So let us remember that phase of unilaterally of noxious phase in my life and then consider frankly did into two in particular my wife and
then I cut down to an hour and then from there. I just started to realize you know it. I have enough momentum and I enjoy the practice enough. I'm gonna sit every downy to count the minutes. I'm gonna said whenever I get the opportunity may be one big said: maybe a series of small states may be both and that attitude plus the approach that Alexis brought to the table for He has made my practice way. More enjoyable doesn't mean I dont struggle with distraction or uncomfortable physical sensations are emotions struggle is a little less freighted yeah, that's good! You know they're all different kinds of meditation. I may I think, there's always value in going to retreat and gonna going deep, but same time. You not going to be able to sustain that depth is a practical matter in real life, and you need a way of sticking with the basic practice, the basic concept
in everyday life. I mean that's. Where really pays dividends, I think you sometimes have to rethink in the way it sounds like you've rethought and I'm I'm in evolution in that regard. Everything is changing all the time. That's one of the fundamental observations of Buddhism in that's true for your meditation practice in something my work for you for a while and then it's always worth not obsessive labour once in a while Swarth reassessed? and try something new. Another thing that I added into my practice in a much more systematic way about three years ago, was a lot of loving kindness practice. Your recent repeat these phrases. I've done to ten day retreat. of just that- and I do a lot of it and my daily practice and that for me for some people's very challenging practice for me thus far, it has been a very enjoyable brackish, produces a lot of the concentration which can feel good physically, and so it actually makes me look forward to practice
in a way that much more motivating to get me out of the cushion in so that's been very helpful to Well, I'm one of the people that has not come easily to, but I guess, if you can do loving, kindness meditation. Maybe that means I can do it. maybe I should work on that. I mean I do find it just plain old garden. Variety, mindfulness meditation! Does make me more compassionate towards more people. It does cultivate. In that sense, loving kindness. I've always had trouble, maybe with the beginning part like we're supposed to feel love torn yourself. That's right. mean that's Hartwell. Isn't that awaits yes, it's beginning, isn't he does? I am sorry to interrupt you. I just got excited the shift in the way I had to talk to me by great teacher
Her name is Spring Wash Emma. I did all nine day actually work retreat with her just kind of one on one was a great privilege, and instead of starting with sending good wives yourself, she starts with an easy person, and so shall have you do days of just one I did too easy people, my son and our cat, and it was dreamily easy to send good wives, cities to beings and enjoyable, and there is a lot of concentration that got built up in the lot of like physical sensations, go along with that which can be a little narcotic frankly and as soon as you get the the in raft. In that way. Springs technique is to shove yourself in and then It will get dry because we're hard and then you have acted easier. and that was very very helpful for me. I think our
Something like that. I mean right before you said your cat. I was thinking well, I would start with my dog's. You know dogs are so easy to love. So maybe that's what I need to start. So maybe I'm salvageable on the 11th. Front. I believe you're salvageable on all fronts, and I would just close by saying that, in terms of averting the apocalypse, marvellous meditation foursquare in your camp- that that would be very helpful. I would just say that this kind of practice to can turbo charge the whole system, because you're starting to ring in the first all having a kind of relationship yourself, changes, changes, the game and some pretty giving ways, and then that can allow you to bring in people who use. regarded as an enemy and without condoning their behaviour, to start to see it to start to see them in a more sympathetic like yeah, I used to be disdainful of the idea of,
self compassion, I guess, but I'm more and more come to see the wisdom of it yeah. I don't think self compassion. I think just sometimes people say you need to love yourself before you can love other people. I think that's that you can prove that not to be the case. We all know people who are very hard on themselves and are extremely kind and effective in the world. I do think it makes it much easier to be kind to other people. If you are kind of yourself and the science run self compassion, Zeno seems to be from what I can tell them: convincing and having to road test and a lot of these techniques, both on the cushion in my sort of free range life. I am a deep believer, yeah more nor I am too, I'm always stood behind a fifth status It is also demonstrably false. But before we go, can you please plug all of your offerings? Your books, your PA, Cast Slash video blog, your newsletter, I'm glad,
Do that the news owners called Nonjuror newsletter, its sub sacking the title comes from book. I wrote called non Zero, which I also undiscouraged you from checking out. The Buddhism book is somewhat obnoxious titled. Why Buddhism is true. I mean some people find it. I'm not yes, but it's not dogmatic annoyed. Sounds I like to think so. The pod guest is called the right show. I really appreciate the chance stand to engaging crass self, even though the self doesn't exactly exactly Bob. Take you for coming to push it. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks a lot Thanks again to Bob and thanks, of course, everybody who makes this show Samuel, Johns, Gabriel's, Ackerman, DJ, cashmere, Justine, Davy, Kim Baikonur Maria were tell and gent point, and we get our audio engineering from the good folks over it. Ultraviolet body, see while on Friday for very special bonus, we're gonna be.
dropping an entire episode of our newest ten percent, happier show it's called child proof, its incredibly good. First Yasmine com is amazing. so what's your Friday. For that,
Transcript generated on 2022-01-12.