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How to Train a Happy Mind book launch conversation with Scott Snibbe and Vicki Mackenzie

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[00:00:11] Scott Snibbe: This is an exciting episode for the podcast because my book, How to Train a Happy Mind, comes out today. To celebrate its release, we’re sharing a conversation I had with best-selling author Vicki Mackenzie a couple of weeks ago at a book preview event in London, in front of a live audience.

This podcast is where I developed most of the ideas for the book, based on more than a decade leading meditations that eventually formed many of our episodes. I want to thank all our listeners for your feedback and support over these four years. You’ve helped me develop the book’s simple eight step program that combines Tibetan Buddhism with modern science and psychology. I’m excited to hear what you think about it.

If you’d like to buy How to Train a Happy Mind, you can find it anywhere you buy books. I’ve donated all my proceeds from the book to the Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment nonprofit. So your purchase helps support this podcast. If you end up enjoying the book, please consider reviewing it on Amazon or Goodreads, which will help other people discover it.

Conversation with Vicki Mackenzie

[00:01:24] Ven. Thubten Drolma: Hello, everyone here in the temple and online, my name is Drolma. I’m the Center Director here at Jamyang and on behalf of Watkins Publishing and Jamyang, we want to welcome you for this event tonight. It’s the pre-release event of Scott Snibbe’s book that we’ve been really, really looking forward to: How to Train a Happy Mind. We’re really delighted that Vicki Mackenzie is going to be interviewing Scott tonight. The book is coming out on March the 12th, but we’re fortunate, those of us who are here, we can get our early copy.

Tonight he’ll be interviewed by Vicki Mackenzie, who’s also a dear friend of the community. Vicki Mackenzie is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. She published a wonderful book, which I really recommend, Cave in the Snow, which is a story of Tenzin Palmo and propelled her on the scene and really inspired people around the world, including myself.

Scott’s religious background

painting on church ceiling

[00:02:52] Vicki Mackenzie: Thank you, first of all, I’d prefer to think of this as a conversation, rather than an interview. Before I get on to that, I think I’m going to ask a bit about Scott. Before we get into the meat of the matter. Scott, tell me a bit about your background.

[00:03:30] Scott Snibbe: I’m ethnically Jewish. My parents converted to be Christian scientists when I was born because my mother had an awful experience in the hospital. Christian scientists don’t go to the doctor. They believe they can heal themselves through prayer, which I personally don’t believe. But there was a beautiful aspect of Christian science, that believes that everything is mind and that the material world is like a shadow or a reflection of the mental, which is very close to what’s called the Mind Only school in Tibetan Buddhism.

I was raised with a Mind Only school, which is very close to the, what’s called the Madhyamaka, what’s in this tradition is seen as the highest school of understanding the nature of reality. But I left that church. I never joined that church because I kind of saw what the Buddhists saw, that there’s sickness, aging, and death. Nobody escapes death.

But it’s quite a long story, I was kind of lost in my 20s, like a lot of people, feeling a hunger for spirituality. I snuck off to Sunday school as a Christian science school just because I liked the feeling of talking about everything that’s invisible. It has always fascinated me more than the visible.

[00:04:49] Vicki Mackenzie: That’s the mystic side of things.

[00:04:51] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, that’s the mystic side. But I found Buddhism when I was about 30, when my brother became a Buddhist when I was 26 or so. I was nervous that by becoming a Buddhist, he would lose his personality. He was kind of a skate punk, photojournalist, skateboarder. But after four years observing him, I saw that it didn’t. He still had personality, but he was kinder and gentler.

I invited him to see the Dalai Lama as a kind of gift. I wasn’t interested in becoming Buddhist, but knew how much my brother liked it. I thought we’d have fun together. I could sit through anything. I was like, I can sit through a Dalai Lama. But the instant I saw the Dalai Lama in the year 2000, I said, I want what he’s having.

The instant I saw the Dalai Lama in the year 2000, I said, I want what he’s having.

I really was very skeptical about reincarnation, karma, other realms of existence. But I saw the result of someone who had lived through a genocide of his people and yet was so loving, kind, and compassionate. Something he said really struck me. He said, If we kill one Chinese person, then we make a hundred enemies. It just doesn’t make sense, you know? And he was so joyful and kind and wise, extraordinarily wise. That was why I became a Buddhist 25 years ago.

He said, If we kill one Chinese person, then we make a hundred enemies

Scott’s scientific background

science art, purple and pink explosion

[00:06:09] Vicki Mackenzie: It’s the best introduction. I’m a journalist, so I’m not an easy believer. You’re taught to question, and I loved it that Lama Yeshe kept saying, Check up, check up. It was what I was really longing to have, that kind of intelligence to say, We don’t just accept everything. You check up, which was just what I was doing in my job.

But now what I want to ask you, apart from your religious background, do you have a scientific background? Because when I read your book, you’re very keen on linking it always with science. I wondered if you have a scientific bent.

[00:06:48] Scott Snibbe: I am not a scientist. My wife is a scientist and she will double double confirm that. The thing is, I always was so in awe of what science taught us about reality. Like as a kid, I watched this show called Cosmos, with Carl Sagan, I think that was the beginning of seeing how vast the universe is and how short the human span of existence is, 200,000 years of humanity and 14 billion years of this vast cosmic evolution. I’m always digging.

You have to dig about 10 clicks in the New York Times to find the science section. It’s buried beneath all the politics and everything, but I’m always fascinated by that. I even started a company that I ran for a long time that did exhibits in science museums. It’s kind of like a hobby that I love science. Then it became a little bit of a career that infused my business and my art.

I’m not a particularly scientific individual. I am skeptical, but it’s very intense. I really admire the discipline of real scientists because they have to narrow so sharply their focus to perform a controlled experiment. I like to just enjoy the wash of all the results and allow that to give me that sense of awe that I think people who are more religious feel at the sense of God. I feel that, and probably many people today feel that at the a hundred billion galaxies of the trillions of living beings and entities in our bodies and so on.

[00:08:30] Vicki Mackenzie: Yeah, now I’m interested that you’re not that scientific because in your book, you talk a fair bit about the scientific proof. People want scientific proof, and one of the questions I was going to ask you later on, but it’s come up now, is that science can’t prove anything, because they just work with theory, right?

I don’t know anything about science, so I’m treading on very difficult water here, but science just does theory, comes up with theory, then they gather a lot of evidence, and then they go around trying to prove and measure what they have. But then sooner or later somebody will come along, and they’ll have improved the instruments that they’re measuring with, and then they’ll all change their minds. I don’t really hold science in that respect in very high regard as a proof thing.

[00:09:27] Scott Snibbe: The best scientists would agree with you. One of my very favorite scientists is a British scientist named David Deutsch and he works in quantum computing, quantum theory. He wrote an extraordinary book called, The Beginning of Infinity. In that book he explains how all that science does is move from more wrong to less wrong models of reality. True scientists are extremely humble like that. They all admit that everything they do is a model of reality, but it does come closer and closer.

It never touches absolute truth, but it gets closer and closer in a model to approximating it. I find it a very humble and beautiful view of reality. His view is that knowledge is infinite, that we will never discover the ultimate theories of reality. There’ll always be more to discover, more to learn. That relates some to the Buddhist view too.

His view is that knowledge is infinite, that we will never discover the ultimate theories of reality.

How would you define happiness?

happy girl smiling in living room

[00:10:29] Vicki Mackenzie: Yeah, it’s fascinating. Because there are many different types of scientists.

Let’s get on to your book. How would you define “happy,” that seems to be the goal?

[00:10:40] Scott Snibbe: It’s hard to find the right words in English for these, part of why Buddhism has been so hard to translate in the West is because we don’t even have the words for these states of mind. Contentment, in English, seems quite boring, but contentment is an extraordinarily good feeling in Buddhism. Maybe the better word is just to be absolutely satisfied. That’s a good word for it: satisfied. To feel absolutely satisfied with your life and with the world, accepting everything as it is.

Then have an enormous amount of energy to keep transforming yourself for the better and to try to transform the world for the better. A lot of people think it’s internal, that the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to be still and peaceful in a cave at the top of a pinnacle and ignore everything. But it’s very engaged.

A lot of people think it’s internal, that the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to be still and peaceful in a cave at the top of a pinnacle and ignore everything. But it’s very engaged.

 It surprised me very much once because I asked, Venerable Sangye Khadro, who is one of our teachers, How do you measure if your meditation is going well? Because you can have very nice feelings in a meditation session, you can have amazing visions and feel very calm and concentrated then come out and come get in an argument with your partner. Which is something I’ve done.

She said, The measure of your success in meditation is that your relationships get better. That’s a quote from Lama Yeshe. That’s also something I would mention, a lot of people think of meditation as something kind of internal, personal, like an inner achievement, but really it’s something that should affect your relationships and also how you relate to the world and ideally make it a little bit better.

The measure of your success in meditation is that your relationships get better.

Lama Yeshe

Paradoxes, impermanence, and death

[00:12:28] Vicki Mackenzie: Yes, but isn’t it also something to do with suffering? We mustn’t forget that the Buddha’s whole quest, when he sat under that tree, was how do we relieve suffering? I would argue with you, that maybe suffering brings us closer to enlightenment, because it’s not just about having good relationships.

[00:12:59] Scott Snibbe: That’s the paradox, right? What I’ve found in Buddhism is that almost all the profound aspects of Buddhism are paradoxes. One of them is that, because I said satisfaction, maybe a better translation for suffering is dissatisfaction, unsatisfactory. That’s at the root.

What I’ve found in Buddhism is that almost all the profound aspects of Buddhism are paradoxes.

That’s normally how you start off in teaching Buddhism, but it doesn’t work that well for Westerners to start with the topic of suffering for some reason or another. But that is really the core of it, that the external aspects of even nice relationships are unsatisfactory. Even the very best relationship you can possibly have is impermanent.

[00:13:41] Vicki Mackenzie: Well, everything is impermanent, which you go into very well in this book. I do think that we do learn more from the hard times in life than sitting on a yacht drinking a martini, which some people think is achievement. Interestingly enough, I found this quote from the Dalai Lama, which surprised me. In his book, The Art of Happiness, he wrote “In Buddhism, there are four factors of fulfillment or happiness. Wealth, worldly satisfaction, spirituality, and enlightenment. Together they embrace the totality of an individual’s quest for happiness.”

I thought that was very fair. As my father used to say, with wealth you can be miserable in comfort. It can do a lot of good, wealth, and worldly satisfaction. But it’s interesting, maybe they are, increments towards spirituality and enlightenment, but they also count. Maybe we shouldn’t discount them.

[00:15:02] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, that’s a difference between our tradition and Mahayana Buddhism sometimes compared to like the Theravada Buddhism where some strains of Buddhism are absolutely renouncing material comforts and you try to stay away from a nice bed and so on; Mahayana Buddhism is different. It actually says you can enjoy those things, but you’ll actually enjoy them more if you realize they’re unsatisfactory.

[00:15:30] Vicki Mackenzie: Where they don’t last.

[00:15:31] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, you’ll actually better enjoy your meal, better enjoy your relationship. If you realize it’s impermanent, that it’s not going to last, that it in itself isn’t satisfactory, but seeing it’s impermanence is quite a nice feeling. Because then you’re completely present and you’re not like a junkie who needs more and more and more and more. You realize this could end. I’ll enjoy it for what it is.

[00:15:55] Vicki Mackenzie: Okay, so going back to the lamrim, which you’ve written about, certainly when I went to my first lamrim course, I took away I think it was three or four things that I thought were very useful that I could meditate on. But I want to know, when you first encountered lamrim, what were the things that struck you that were useful in your life?

[00:16:17] Scott Snibbe: Impermanence is really the topic that struck me first, and it’s also the topic that I would usually introduce to someone who’s never tried meditation at all. I’ll put this in a story actually, the time it struck me powerfully, it was right after the September 11th attacks. I happened to be in Boston visiting my brother. He has a Tibetan teacher too, Geshe Tsulga. That teacher gave a teaching the day after those attacks because everyone was very distraught.

I was very surprised on the topic he chose because he didn’t choose the topic of mindfulness, which is the most popular Western topic of Buddhism. He didn’t choose compassion either, although he did express compassion. His main teaching was in impermanence. He said, Listen, nobody thought that building was going to fall yesterday. If you’re honest with yourself, you thought it would stand forever. He said, And that is the thing to take away from this moment is to really get it into your mind as a realization that everything is impermanent.

When you, right now we look at this building, this building could come down tomorrow; just like those twin towers. It could last 500 years. It was conceived and built by people hundreds of years ago. To look at everyone in this room and remember you were born, think of that moment when they came out of their mother, and how precious that moment was and difficult that was to the mother and to think of the moment that each of you is going to die. Also, to see things like that all the time.

[00:18:05] Vicki Mackenzie: But did you think that you were going to die? Did it teach you that you were going to die?

[00:18:10] Scott Snibbe: Absolutely, I was someone always very fascinated, not in a morbid way, with death. As a child, and up until the age of seven or eight, the moment I woke up every morning, I had a very profound feeling that I had lived forever, and I’m going to live forever. I can’t explain that feeling. In Buddhism, we might explain that as your karma or something.

[00:18:41] Vicki Mackenzie: What did you mean by live forever?

[00:18:44] Scott Snibbe: I don’t know what I meant. I just felt it. I just felt it kind of down to my core. I was never really afraid of death, I was kind of born unafraid of death, so I was kind of cheating. I like to just admit that.

[00:18:59] Vicki Mackenzie: It changed my life, my the death meditation. I think that’s really important because hopefully everybody will get a personal feeling from the meditations. So when I was given the death meditation to do in 1976, it came home. I was never afraid of death either, but what it did is it rearranged my whole priorities of how I wanted to live.

I changed then. I went freelance so I could write the stories I wanted to write, and I began to write about things which I’d been taught about in the lamrim. The Buddha said that birth was part of the unsatisfactoriness, and the baby went through, and it was difficult, and I thought, Wow, that’s an interesting idea, because everyone has such a romantic idea about birth, it’s all this romantic thing, life coming in, and it was the time when or the new birth, without violence and water birthing.

I thought I’m going to go and interview those people and those mothers and see if the children had any different, and whether they had it. So I did that, that was the first story I did, and I did that from the Kopan Death Meditation and the Birth Meditations, and actually the Sunday Times took it and gave me half a page. It radically changed my view on how, that’s what I’m really asking you, whether or not death had any . . .

[00:20:39] Scott Snibbe: So we study, I do it in a much more gentle way in this book, because I led the Death Meditation once. A lot of reasons why I wrote this book is because I was asked to teach the lamrim over and over again.

[00:20:53] Vicki Mackenzie: You don’t actually include the death meditation! That’s a surprise!

[00:20:56] Scott Snibbe: I do it in a different way because I felt like it was just too scary for people. When you’re ready you’ll go home and do this meditation, but when I first learned it, we did it for six weeks, and you really get it into your skull, and it’s very gruesome. You imagine every possible way you could die.

[00:21:16] Vicki Mackenzie: I know, I did. It is very powerful.

[00:21:19] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, but people just aren’t ready for like this horror, it’s like a horror movie starring you, that you meditate on.

[00:21:26] Vicki Mackenzie: Well, I don’t agree with you there. I think you should frighten people.

death, cemetery photography, black and white shot

[00:21:29] Scott Snibbe: I agree, we should, but I don’t think that most people are ready. What I saw in the Buddhist Center, Vicki, is that people would come in, we’d advertise, welcome to everyone, you don’t have to be a Buddhist, learn the lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment. The very first topic talks about karma, rebirth, other realms, like having been a ghost, a turtle, a god.

It was not meeting people where they were, or even the promise of what we were saying. I tried it once, the death meditation. I felt like there were people who came in, and that was the first and last time they ever meditated. It’s just not the right time. If someone has never tried lamrim, it may be better to start with impermanence; thinking about that people were born and everyone’s going to die. Things are changing right now, I might not have this meal again, so let’s enjoy it. That’s a good way to start. The horror movie starring you is maybe for a few years out.

[00:22:35] Vicki Mackenzie: Yeah, I got it. I’d never done any meditation at all. There were some things which I didn’t agree with and the karma thing I didn’t agree with. But I have to say that doing that death meditation helped me enormously when my father died and when my mother died. I knew if I hadn’t been prepared for death can happen any moment, and all the rest of it.

It would have been very hard, especially for my mother who dropped down dead next to me, standing next to me, walking into the kitchen. They are tough, and I think the lamrim is tough. I think we grapple. I grappled a lot as well. Karma I grappled with. Couldn’t take karma for decades. I thought it was ridiculous idea, the things that you’ve done in your past life with me that this baby would die when it was six months old. I thought it was just ridiculous. I just put all that on the back burner. I have to say that as I’ve gone on and on it, it has made more sense to me.

[00:23:47] Scott Snibbe: The thing is there’s a lot of asymmetries in Buddhism, because as an individual, it is very powerful to start to feel like, I’m not in total control here. There’s things happening to me I can’t explain, and I need to just accept them for one way or another. But the place it goes wrong is when we start to project it on others and say, Well, that person is poor due to their karma, that’s just their lot in this current life. That’s not how Buddhism necessarily teaches it, but that can be a misunderstanding.

[00:24:17] Vicki Mackenzie: It is definitely a misunderstanding. It doesn’t mean that you’re not sympathetic and kind and loving and towards the person who is suffering. But sometimes it can explain why totally inexplicable tragedies happen, not just to you. It might not be correct, but it is an explanation. What I think the lamrim does is they kind of cover every possible situation. They’ve got an answer for everything. Every single thing they’ve got an answer.

[00:24:52] Scott Snibbe: Oh, absolutely. Something that always confused me is why I would have a very strong reaction to strangers, just walking down the street? You see someone and you think I really want to get to know them, or yeah I would love to be their partner ,or whatever. Then you see other people like, who is that jerk? I just don’t like them for some reason.

[00:25:13] Vicki Mackenzie: No, you can walk into a room and suddenly you don’t want to meet.

[00:25:17] Scott Snibbe: Then other people are like, who cares? That to me is actually one of the strongest things that makes me kind of believe in karma, just the strength of reactions. Like when I met my wife—she’s the one. Why does that happen?

[00:25:33] Vicki Mackenzie: It also happens with places. Does it happen to you? I go to certain countries and I feel completely at home and I feel relaxed. Some countries, for absolutely no reason at all—they’re perfectly nice places—I’m on edge, I don’t like them, I’ve got to get out. I think there are inexplicable things and they certainly couldn’t be explained scientifically.

I think there are inexplicable things and they certainly couldn’t be explained scientifically.

But I think also in the lamrim where it’s so helpful is just as you’ve said, they’re brilliant. We said in Christianity, Love thy neighbor as thyself. But they didn’t tell you how, especially when your neighbor was a pain. Whereas in lamrim, they actually give you, this is what you do, how you get to love everybody in the world unconditionally, and that’s an amazing. For me, it was an amazing thing, and I’ve worked with that because I do have a very difficult neighbor.

You can change your relationships. There’s no such thing as the total loved one, or the total enemy, or the total person you couldn’t care less about. It’s brilliant.

Equanimity, ego, and humility

two japanese women bowing

[00:26:48] Scott Snibbe: That’s the other one, like impermanence, the other one is equanimity, which is like the ground. This is rarely taught, and so I spend a bit of time on it in the book, that meditation was very profound for me, because I get very attached. My main delusion is attachment, although I get angry also, but that meditation on equanimity is extraordinary because you go through this meditation where you think about a friend and then you think when you first met them, and they were just a stranger, and you also think about friends who became enemies.

And you go all, all the way through that, enemies that became friends? That’s happened to me. That’s rare. But it does happen.

[00:27:40] Vicki Mackenzie: Especially if they do something nice for you.

[00:27:42] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, you’ve hated them forever. They say one nice thing, you’re like, Okay, then you like them. you’re in my camp now. But the thing is it’s systematic. Like in the lamrim, there’s a four-step version, there’s a seven-step version, there’s an 11-step version to feeling absolute love and compassion for all beings.

If you start to do it every day, that’s the impact. It changes your relationships and then when your partner’s annoying, you’re like, Oh, it’s natural for me to feel that way. It’s absolutely guaranteed to change. If I let it be without having such a strong reaction to it, it will naturally evolve to its next stage.

[00:28:20] Vicki Mackenzie: It can change within the same friendship, relationship, work situation. You can go up on these different types of level, even in a day. You can change these, we’re not balanced. Tenzin Palmo, who I wrote about, she got on the Buddhist path because she was working in a library in the East End, in Bethnal Green. This book kind of fell out the shelf at her called The Mind Unshaken, and she grabbed it. It was a book about Buddhism.

It was how not to have this shaken mind, which goes up and down. We’re ridiculous, aren’t we? The sun comes out and we’re happy. The clouds come over and we go down. We go up and down, even with the weather. We can’t even keep a level mind at all.

Now, I was skeptical, totally, about all sorts of things, karma was one, the guru thing was another. Of course, a different hell realm, I just thought that was ridiculous, too. So was there anything that particularly you were skeptical about?

[00:29:39] Scott Snibbe: All of them, absolutely. The one about the guru is very good because in our tradition, you’re even supposed to see your guru as a Buddha, above the Buddha. So I think that was very confusing, certainly at first, even bowing down, like in our culture we’re taught that everyone’s equal, but a lot of the equality is that everyone equally deserves our criticism.

In our tradition, you’re even supposed to see your guru as a Buddha, above the Buddha.

I think that was one of the things that affected me most was the respect, like the respect and the devotion that you have towards someone who’s really realized these teachings you have to sometimes you see it instantly like you do with His Holiness. Sometimes it’s over years of observing someone. Like with Geshe Dagpa, one of my main teachers.

Some of the lessons I learned from him were not the deep intellectual things that he shared, but I remember someone questioning him over and over again. He was teaching, and the person said like, No, I don’t think that’s really true, then Geshe Dagpa explained again the point. They’re like, No, I don’t think that’s right. Then Geshe Dagpa, the third time he said, Maybe you’re right.

That was one of the most profound teachings, the humility of one of the most learned, accomplished, realized beings on earth to be so humble in the face of this very rude question asked three times. Those are the moments that really transform, because I thought, That’s how I need to be when someone I see as being rude to me or something. I have to be very humble if I can’t try.

[00:31:25] Vicki Mackenzie: That was one of the qualities which I really observed when I first saw Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. Not a kind of cringing humility, but they weren’t full of pomp. Lama Yeshe would walk into the gompa and just start thanking everybody. I was thinking, Here’s this extraordinary being who’s thanking me. Why? I haven’t done anything, but there is that lovely quality. I suppose it’s about really losing, which is the real purpose of the lamrim as it gathers its momentum on this journey that it takes us on.

It is really to get rid of that false sense of the ego. Not that egolessness means they’re blobs, because they’re very vital, but when you see these great beings, they are very vital, and maybe it’s not personality, but they’re vivid and different. They are individuals.

[00:32:37] Scott Snibbe: This is one of the things that kept me from Buddhism for so long, was thinking that you lose your personality, but His Holiness said, Everyone gets enlightened in their own way. Because I think a lot of us think we just blend into a universal consciousness or something.

Everyone gets enlightened in their own way.

It doesn’t sound fun at all. It sounds awful. You just lose yourself. It’s just a blur. But, Lama proves that though, he also proves it because look at him. He has a huge personality. He’s very teasing and funny and has a huge personality and no ego.

[00:33:15] Vicki Mackenzie: He’s completely himself, isn’t he? There are no airs.

[00:33:19] Scott Snibbe: He does, if you ask Thubten Jinpa, his longtime translator, he does get angry. He does get sad, but it just flows through, it’s like like Jinpa explained, the dialogue will just be, someone will come and tell him a sad story and he’ll just be bawling. Then the next person will come and instantly he’s joyful and happy. That’s the way you can be. That’s what really struck me about Buddhism over time, you don’t stop feeling things, they pass through you.

That’s what really struck me about Buddhism over time, you don’t stop feeling things, they pass through you.

[00:33:48] Vicki Mackenzie: Yeah, they definitely got through you.

[00:33:50] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, but they don’t irritate you. They pass through you.

Is there a danger in secular Buddhism?

woman sitting on grass looking into mirror

[00:33:58] Vicki Mackenzie: It’s very lovely to see. Okay, so one thing I wanted to discuss with you is do you think there’s a danger in this more secular type of Buddhism that is coming up? It’s another method of self-improvement, not that that’s contradictory, because Buddhism is all about self-improvement. But it’s another kind of how to become a better, shinier me, which goes against this humility we’re talking about which is so attractive in the really high practitioners, like it’s another accomplishment, another danger of self absorption.

[00:34:45] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, I’ve seen that in myself, as I practice and it seems to appear in some people that I know too. It’s hard because in the West, we treat everything like an accomplishment. I think that’s why these measure of meditations are really important. I had a person come and talk to me and explained a really cool experience they had in meditation. They said, The only way I can explain it is enlightenment.

I was like, Okay, our tradition we has a few ways to measure that. That’s why I like this very firm advice that the measure of success in your meditation is that your relationships improve, that your behavior becomes tamed, gentler, and kinder. I hope that’s one of the messages of the book is like, this isn’t just a cool experience. Generally, you can have very cool experiences in meditation.

Whenever I went to my teachers like Venerable Renee, and other teachers, and said, Oh, I have this cool experience, I saw this, I felt this, I could concentrate for this long. Then they would just say, That’s very nice, how’s your relationship with your partner and how do you feel when you don’t get what you want? That’s the measure of your success in meditation is how you’ve tamed your mind. It’s not just a cool thing that happens to you.

[00:36:17] Vicki Mackenzie: Especially today, lots of people are going for meditation to be relaxed and less anxious, which is very good. If that can provide that, excellent. But I think we have to be careful of the fireworks. Although they’re very nice and encouraging.

[00:36:42] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, that’s why it’s nice to explain analytical meditation to people. A definition of meditation is bringing out your best qualities, although calm and peace are part of it. But meditation is bringing out your best qualities and then learning what are your best qualities.

A definition of meditation is bringing out your best qualities, although calm and peace are part of it.

We were talking about this before, the absolute foundation of Buddhist ethics, the very first principle is nonviolence, the next one is kindness, the third one is understanding your mind. Very few people would list those three things as like the foundation of ethics, but that’s the ground of Buddhism.

With this book, it’s a little different than others, because there are other books like Stephen Batchelor’s books and so on. This is a little different because I’m actually not saying karma doesn’t exist. I personally do believe in these things, but it took me quite some time in my own way. What I’m saying is, if you don’t believe in those things, here’s a way to practice.

[00:37:55] Vicki Mackenzie: Exactly, you’ve been a bit sneaky writing that. I noticed you snuck it in. There is this idea about rebirth. There is this idea. But you’re completely right, it would put off a lot of people. I say blow it. Let them be put off, but at least give it to them.

[00:38:16] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, and that’s Robert Thurman. There’s room for all of these different approaches. But mine is very gentle. It’s just, Hey, I’ll meet you where you are. It’s for like my friends, you know, who have asked me for 25 years, What book should I start with? I didn’t have one to give them.

Then I finally wrote it. There are so many people that will never believe anything other than what science says about reality today and that’s a very reasonable position to hold. Those people also want a spiritual path, and here’s a way to get started.

[00:38:52] Vicki Mackenzie: You bridged it very well, very tactful.

[00:38:59] Scott Snibbe: I try to be respectful and gentle to both sides.

Thanks for joining us for my book launch conversation with Vicki Mackenzie, about How to Train a Happy Mind. The book is available to purchase anywhere you buy books. If you end up enjoying it, please leave a positive review at Amazon or Goodreads to help other people discover it. I’ve also donated all my proceeds from the book to the Skeptic’s Path nonprofit.


Hosted by Scott Snibbe

Produced by Annie Ngyen

Marketing by Isabela Acebal


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