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Robert Thurman & Scott Snibbe: How to Train a Happy Mind

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In New York City, a couple months ago, I had the honor of sharing a public conversation with one of my Buddhist heroes, the renowned author and scholar Robert Thurman. In this episode’s conversation, we share an edited recording from that evening, talking about everything from overcoming self-hatred, enjoying pleasure without attachment, getting ghosted by the Dalai Lama, and how one might come to have compassion for someone as dangerous and deadly as Vladimir Putin.

[00:01:22] Robert Thurman: Nice to see you all tonight. I’m so pleased to have Scott Snibbe here. Maybe you all know who came, but he is a marvelous artist. He’s an artist originally, and then he got all involved in Buddha Dharma, and he is very knowledgeable. He’s very knowledgeable about science, and also he’s a skeptic.

I feel a driving motive of the book is that he wanted people to know that the tradition is there to help people cultivate their mind, not just a place you retreat to. It isn’t just emptying the mind, it’s actually cultivating and reshaping the mind, that is the specialty of Tibetan tradition. This book, How to Train a Happy Mind and the cover for this book, are wonderful. I really liked it. I kept thinking to myself, one person whose mind is happy is the person holding up the book because his smile is so wonderful.

It’s really marvelous. I’m just thrilled that he’s traveling, he’s doing a book tour to tell us what he’s been doing and how he came to write this book and what his hopes are for it and maybe reading something from it.

How to Train a Happy Mind

How to Train a Happy Mind by Scott Snibbe with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

[00:02:43] Scott Snibbe: I can tell you a little bit about the book for people who aren’t familiar with it. In the Tibetan tradition, the foundation of the practice is something called the lamrim, which means the stages of the path. It was created about a thousand years ago by Atisha and then revised about 500 years ago by Lama Tsongkhapa.

That’s actually a part I would like to read because I spent some time trying to make the lamrim sound very exciting and tasty. But the thing about the lamrim is that it’s steeped in the culture of Tibet and India. Tibetan Buddhism is really Indian Buddhism, it started at Nalanda University, this particular tradition, and it’s a tradition that really relies deeply on critical analysis.

Also, on a type of meditation called analytical meditation, which is almost the opposite of what you think meditation is. Because we’re used to mindfulness meditation, which is a type of meditation where you cultivate concentration and focus, and you become less reactive, you can let things just pass through your mind. It’s very beneficial, but mindfulness doesn’t necessarily tell you what to fill your mind with. It helps you to let things pass through your mind. But analytical meditation deliberately cultivates things to put in your mind.

One definition of meditation is bringing out your best qualities, a way of not just concentrating, but concentrating on virtue. That’s what I wanted to get at, there have been very few books for a non-Buddhist that explain this other type of meditation. In many ways it’s an easier meditation for very active Western minds to cultivate because it’s like a story.

Each of the meditations are like a story you tell yourself to bring out a specific quality, like love, compassion, patience, generosity, recognizing impermanence—I like to add humor. I’ll read this one paragraph about the lamrim because I think it’s a nice summary that I actually added kind of late in the book to be sort of tasty. It’s on page six.

The lamrim is a masterwork of metaphysics and moral philosophy that says nothing is random, everything both material and mental has a cause, and the mind works according to habit. Positive thoughts result in increments of happiness, while negative ones lead to increments of unhappiness.

The lamrim says that life is immeasurably precious, everything is constantly changing, and the universe is a miraculous, interdependent continuum of which we are an integral part. From practical mental habits to defensible universal laws, the lamrim gives us a path to transform our sadness, anger, and loneliness into happiness, compassion, and connection.

I wanted to give a little flavor of the tastiness to start. But the issue with the lamrim is it was developed in a culture that took past and future lives, karma, and other realms of existence, like literal hell and God realms, from birth. I don’t even take a position in the book as to whether those are true. It’s just that I tried to write a book for people who don’t believe those things.

[00:06:36] Robert Thurman: That’s what you’re doing. With the Dalai Lama, in the beginning of a lecture, he said, Don’t become a Buddhist. One of the first things the Dalai Lama said at the start of his five days of Buddhist teachings was, Don’t become a Buddhist. I like that very much.

One of the first things the Dalai Lama said at the start of his five days of Buddhist teachings was, Don’t become a Buddhist.

Actually, one time he was giving a lecture, where I was present, and he said, I wanted to be clear that in all of my time teaching and lecturing all over the world, I have never given a teaching to people who were not born Buddhists with the motivation of making them become a Buddhist. I really love that. I think you are fulfilling that very well. You want everybody to be a skeptic, right? That’s what Geshe Namdak wants.

Would you think being a skeptic will make people happy? Why would that make them happy?

[00:07:45] Scott Snibbe: Well, the right type of skeptic. I think a lot of people think a skeptic is a cynic or who outright rejects anything. However, if you look up skepticism, the roots of the term skepticism is actually an openness. It starts with openness. To be absolutely open and curious to everything, but to test it.

The roots of the term skepticism is actually an openness. It starts with openness. To be absolutely open and curious to everything, but to test it.

That’s where there’s this incredible overlap with Buddhism. Because the Buddha himself said, Don’t trust anything I say, test it like gold. I’m paraphrasing obviously. We were talking about this beforehand, Thupten Jinpa, who is a translator for the Dalai Lama, an extraordinary scholar himself, he says there’s two types of science. One type is the controlled experiment, the other is reproducibility.

It’s the more general idea of science, that’s existed for thousands of years, that if you can demonstrate something that someone else can reproduce independently, then that’s also a form of science. That’s what this book tries to do, because a very small portion of Buddhist practice has been validated scientifically. But all of it has been subjectively validated by individuals over the course of hundred years.

A very small portion of Buddhist practice has been validated scientifically. But all of it has been subjectively validated by individuals over the course of hundred years.

The Red Pill of Renunciation

The Red Pill of Renunciation matrix buddhism

[00:09:13] Robert Thurman: Stage six, The Red Pill of Renunciation, you want to read some of that? Page 135.

[00:09:25] Scott Snibbe: I’ll read a little bit of it, this is a good place to read.

There had to be a point in this book where I would bring up The Matrix, a classic cyberpunk film famous for exploring the nature of reality and the power of delusions. After meditating on suffering, there comes a profound turning point on the Buddhist path where you decide which direction you want your life to take: toward a continued pursuit of worldly happiness outside yourself, or toward an inner source of happiness that relies more on your mind. Metaphorically, you take the red pill or the blue pill. The choice Morpheus offered Neo in The Matrix.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, its hero, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is a small time hacker who meets a mysterious figure named Morpheus. In the movie’s most famous sequence, Morpheus tells Neo that everything about the world he lives in is a lie. A collective delusion that somehow exists only in his mind.

Morpheus gives Neo the choice of taking a red pill that will reveal the true nature of reality, or a blue pill which will return him to his dreary life. Neo decides to take the red pill. What follows is one of the greatest reveals in the history of cinema where all that Neo thought was reality turns out to be, spoiler alert, a computer simulation run by robot overlords to enslave humanity.

The choice Neo makes between the red pill and the blue pill is a powerful metaphor for the choice we make to either continue blaming our suffering on external events unwillingly imposed on us or face up to the true sources of suffering: our delusions of attachment, anger, and ignorance.

[00:11:14] Robert Thurman: I love that. That’s great. I always refer to it. I hope you’ve all seen The Matrix. If you haven’t, it’s homework for Buddhist studies. It’s so wonderful.

[00:11:25] Scott Snibbe: I use it for renunciation instead of emptiness. Renunciation sounds quite masochistic. It’s the point where you start to realize you can’t be satisfied by nice meals, money, even a nice relationship with your partner; they all lack a permanent ability to satisfy you, for many different reasons, most of all because they don’t last.

How do you find a lasting form of satisfaction? In our form of Buddhism, that comes from Tibetan Buddhism, renunciation doesn’t mean giving up ice cream or even making love with your partner. It means giving up attachment, anger, and ignorance. It’s the way your mind gets very tightly thinking that something outside of yourself will make you happy. Or that if only that thing would stop happening right now, we’d be happy. It turns out that that’s not true. Even if you get those things, and even if the thing stops, something else comes along.

You need some internal way to be happy; give up those delusions and start to look at the impermanent continuity of existence. Also, your interdependence, that you’re not separate from the world and nature.

You need some internal way to be happy; give up those delusions and start to look at the impermanent continuity of existence.

[00:12:46] Robert Thurman: It took me a long time to realize, more than 20 or 30 years, we all are afraid of renunciation in our culture. We think that people are really being hard on themselves when they renounce things. I was determined to be a monk when I first encountered Buddhism. Then I was that for a few years, and then I resigned from that and so on.

Basically, it’s a way of reordering one’s priorities. Deciding that there’s some higher type of success rather than just accumulating things that don’t ultimately have meaning. It’s actually rewarding yourself.

Translating Buddhist terms

[00:13:40] Audience member: Can I say one thing?

[00:13:52] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, you’re saying a great point. Geshe la is saying that in Tibetan, renunciation means wishing yourself to be free from suffering and its causes. This is a really important point that I talk about here because normally in the Buddhist path the term self-compassion doesn’t appear, but we talk about it a lot, especially in the West, because this was something that was new when Tibetan Buddhism first encountered the West, is that Westerners had such a sense of self-loathing and self-hatred.

Geshe la is saying that in Tibetan, renunciation means wishing yourself to be free from suffering and its causes.

I asked my different teachers, as I was thinking about this, where does self-compassion occur in the path? Then I thought, Oh yeah, it’s in renunciation because you’re finally thinking, what are the real causes of happiness and suffering and how do I cultivate the cause of happiness and let go of the causes of suffering?

Then I asked my teacher to confirm. And yeah; Lorne Ladner and Venerable Sangye Khadro, both said the same thing. It also can be called the determination to be free, it’s not at all masochistic. In Mahayana Buddhism, it doesn’t ask you to give up nice things in life, it just asks you to give up the attachment to them.

In Mahayana Buddhism, it doesn’t ask you to give up nice things in life, it just asks you to give up the attachment to them.

Then strangely you enjoy the meal more. You can enjoy a walk outside. You can enjoy a kiss from your partner much more when you see it more fully, that it’s impermanent, that it could be the last time. It might be the last nice sushi meal you have, a kiss from your partner and it doesn’t make you neurotic.

[00:15:31] Robert Thurman: Yes, and the Western words for monasticism don’t fit well with the Tibetan. We use the word ordination when you become a monk, but in the Tibetan, the word is more like graduation. Like you’re really escaping from taxes, paying tuition for children, raising a family, fighting in the military, doing all social duties, you are exonerated from all of these things.

The society lifts you up to seek a higher purpose of developing yourself and educating yourself in a certain way. I think we expect in our Western society, you have to be productive or you’re worthless. I think they’ve seen that renunciation as a self-reward. It’s a privilege actually. Buddha, historically, is accused by modern feminist academics, of being a male chauvinist.

Twice he said, No, we don’t need to have female monastics. We don’t need nuns. Then his foster mother and his ex-wife insisted. Then his nephew went to him and said, Look, you really have to let them, if they want to, you owe them this privilege. He said, Okay, the reason I was hesitant because I was scared that they would seek that privilige in huge numbers, and they did. It was like a stampede, because the patriarchal family system in India at that time—which is not a mystery to us, I think we still have it, even in America.

They were doing all the work, so the women were more ready to reward themselves with a life of education. I’ll never forget the one woman who wrote this poem, Oh, Buddha, I really like you. Thank you. I just had lunch. I begged the lunch. I didn’t have to cook it. I don’t have to wash the dishes. I only have the one bowl. I cleaned it out, put it in my little sack.

I’m sitting under the tree and I had this free lunch. I’m so grateful to you, Buddha. You liberated me from three crooked things. From my crooked rice pestle pounding thing for husking the rice. From my mother-in-law, my bent over old mother-in-law who used to scold me all the time about everything. And from my hunchback husband. If this isn’t nirvana, it’s good enough.

I think you are giving the fruits of this to the people in our current cultural setting that is so great. You’re calling the Four Truths the Four Facts, I love that.

[00:18:34] Scott Snibbe: That I got from you, Bob. What they call the Four Noble Truths, which was the Buddha’s first teaching. But in the lamrim it comes later, because that’s the famous teaching that, Life is suffering, which is not a good translation. It’s more like life is unsatisfactory.

This is a place we disagree with Stephen Batchelor sometimes, but he translates the first of these four facts as embrace life, which is actually quite beautiful and maybe a little controversial. The idea of this first it is rather, but this first fact is just that things are unsatisfactory. Nothing satisfies you permanently.

Nothing satisfies you permanently.

The Precious Human Life

grandma and baby, The Precious Human Life

[00:19:18] Robert Thurman: Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living. But Buddha didn’t say that. Buddha said, The unenlightened life will be stressful. He didn’t offer that you shouldn’t live it, especially human life. What about the precious human life? Tell us about that.

Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living. But Buddha didn’t say that. He said, The unenlightened life will be stressful.

[00:19:39] Scott Snibbe: With this topic, what I tried to do is two things. One was, when I was young, in college, I read this quote by Voltaire, he said, It’s no more surprising to live two lives than one. That I thought was a nice basis. It’s so extraordinary to exist at all. I ground the precious life in general, in that idea. Thich Nhat Hanh says, We have 24 new hours to live, what a precious gift.

Part of it is very practical, then the second part of the precious life is very cosmic, but in a scientific way. I was really moved by Carl Sagan when I was a kid, when I saw Cosmos, that was my introduction. That’s the second part of the precious life meditation is how do you replace the awe that a Buddhist feels in the face of infinite lives with the awe in a current modern world? For me, that’s by looking at the actual history of the universe as we understand it.

[00:20:40] Robert Thurman: Beautiful. Why don’t you read it?

[00:20:43] Scott Snibbe: Page seventy, The Scientific Miracle of Life, that’s a good one.

Now contemplate your connection to the universe. You sit in the center of a universe 13.8 billion years old, with 100 billion galaxies. There are at least 100 billion planets in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, an estimated 100 million of them with rocky planets like ours circling their own burning star.

One of them is our own sun, 4.5 billion years old, where life on its third planet, the Earth, has existed for at least 3 billion years. Over that time, the scientific magic of evolution transformed simple chemicals into cells, worms, fish, snakes, dinosaurs, mammals, and monkeys. Humanity arrives at the tip of history, only 200,000 years ago.

Some 10,000 generations of humans passed by. So many of them struggling, dying at birth, hungry, violent, afraid. And then you are born. Now, despite its drawbacks, discomforts, and injustices, you are lucky enough to live in a world that is safer and more abundant for humans than it has ever been before. There’s no evidence yet for any other life in the universe.

What if humanity is the pinnacle of cosmic evolution? The sole way for the universe to know itself? If being intelligent and self-aware is unfathomably rare and precious, how should you spend your day? What’s the best way to achieve a happy mind and to live with dignity, meaning, and connection?

It may be nothing more than what you’re doing right now. Going inward, probing your mind, cultivating the true causes of happiness in the present moment through gratitude and self awareness. Soon you’ll go out into your day to deepen your connections with others and make our fragile, beautiful world a little bit better for everyone else who shares it.

Rest in these thoughts for a minute. In your profound connection to all the universe and all of history, your gratefulness for being alive, how will you make the most of this day?

My friend had me lead that meditation at her birthday, which was nice. It was my first meditation at a birthday party. She said, I don’t just want to have a party. I want people to really think about their lives, so she said, Would you lead this meditation at my birthday party?

Then some people came up to me afterwards, because many of her friends had never meditated, and certainly not analytical meditation or this type of meditation. A few people came up to me and said, I’m thinking of making some big changes in my life, if you really do these meditations sincerely, it makes you really reconsider how to live your life. It might not change anything external, but the way you feel inside and how you approach your family, your relationships, your job.


[00:24:15] Robert Thurman: It’s quite lovely, I love it. I think one of Scott’s excellences is how he articulates the different Tibetan shapings of the mind, in a way that interacts very strongly and forcefully with our current situation. You were talking about equanimity as a human right.

[00:24:45] Scott Snibbe: Yes, in the Buddhist path, compassion comes at the end because it’s quite difficult. In Mahayana Buddhism, it’s very important to color your meditation with a wish to benefit others. Even though it comes later in the path, these ideas about love and compassion, you actually want to color every single meditation with them from the beginning.

In Mahayana Buddhism, it’s very important to color your meditation with a wish to benefit others.

One quick way to do that, once you know them, is these four steps, these four immeasurables: immeasurable love, immeasurable compassion, immeasurable equanimity, and immeasurable joy. They come in different orders, depending on the text. But what I love about Buddhism is that it’s very difficult to define love from a Western perspective, it seems very wrapped up with attachment, wanting something from other people.

But in Buddhism, love has a very simple definition, which is wanting others to be happy. That’s it. There’s this incredible expansive love that you call, great love or immeasurable love, which is wanting everyone to be happy. Again, this is one of these practices you can do every day. They say at the beginning of every practice is, May all beings be happy. You can think of it in every single way. You can imagine freeing everyone from war and violence and offering everyone food and so on.

In Buddhism, love has a very simple definition, which is wanting others to be happy.

joyful kids running outside

Then the next one is compassion. Compassion is wishing others not to suffer, to take away their suffering. Then equanimity is evening the canvas, actually seeing that all your relationships are changeable, that you’re actually quite biased. That you mostly feel love to the people very close to you. You feel negativity towards your enemies.

In the equanimity meditation, you try to think about how relationships change and you think about how almost everyone you love was once a stranger, everyone you have a fight with, was also once a stranger. It’s quite often the person we love most in the world, when we break up with them, becomes our greatest enemy and our greatest source of pain.

You go through that meditation on equanimity and it helps to make your mind less biased. Then the immeasurable joy, there are many different interpretations, but one is that people eventually perfect these qualities and never experience suffering again, only happiness.

How do you love your enemy?

[00:27:23] Robert Thurman: Then if you’re going to be equanimous, then you need to be able to love your enemy. How do you do that?

[00:27:32] Scott Snibbe: This is the hardest place in the path for a lot of people because in Buddhism, and also just common sense, you realize that everyone has the same needs. That’s part of this meditation, is you just think that everybody needs a place to live. Everybody needs food. Everybody needs to be loved. Nobody wants a bomb to fall on them. You think that not just for the people you like, but the people you don’t like, including like Vladimir Putin, for example. Let’s just take like one of the hardest examples.

It’s very hard for a lot of us, because when you look at that person, you see only bad, most of us. But you try to acknowledge, Okay, that guy, he wants his country to be secure and safe. That’s it. He wants his people to be prosperous. He believes that people shouldn’t own things. That’s a nice aspect of communism, that people shouldn’t own things, it should belong to everybody.

All that’s quite nice about Vladimir Putin, so his needs are reasonable. It’s the strategy he’s taking to get those needs that’s utterly misguided of conducting a war, killing people, lying, and oppressing his own people. That’s how you can generate at least a feeling of neutrality. They really want the same things as all of us, but they have utterly misguided strategies to get them.

If that person were happy, like if Vladimir Putin were really happy, he wouldn’t do those things. Wish him to be happy because he would call off the war immediately. Someone once asked Matthieu Ricard, If you could just spend a day alone with anybody, who would it be? He said, Vladimir Putin, because I’d like to have a nice conversation with him and talk to him about the true causes of happiness and suffering.

[00:29:38] Robert Thurman: That’s very good. Although I’m afraid Vladimir Putin might not tolerate someone who just wanted him to be happy. There’s a funny story, McFaul, who was an American ambassador to Russia, took Hillary to visit Putin a few years ago when she was Secretary of State, during the Obama administration.

The ambassador told Hillary to just let him talk and let’s hear what his story is. They tried to hang out with him for a day, but all he did was complain. They didn’t know how to interrupt his complaining, about how America this and America that. She didn’t somehow feel there was a way to get past that. But maybe she should have, or could have. If she had this book, and said, Let’s sit down and meditate on how to be happy. But he’s bent on, unless I own Ukraine, or unless we have the Soviet Union back, I can’t be happy.

[00:30:49] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, that’s attachment.

[00:30:51] Robert Thurman: But on the other hand, if you love him, then you think, Would that really make him happy? No, because Soviet Union only had Eastern Europe, they didn’t have West Germany, they didn’t have the rest of Europe. He would want that then, once they had the Eastern Europe.

[00:31:04] Scott Snibbe: This is a big misunderstanding, right? We think loving our enemy means thinking our enemy is a great person, right? But that’s not it. Loving your enemy means wanting them to be genuinely happy. Just really wishing for that, because they would be a much better person if they were happy.

[00:31:24] Robert Thurman: Well, the key point about that makes it practical advice. Everybody thinks Jesus was crazy saying that, and so is Buddha, that that’s hopeless. But actually the key point is your enemy is your enemy because he thinks you’re in his way. If you have many enemies, only one of them can destroy you. Then the other ones won’t be happy. There must be another method, but wishing them to be happy.

I think even if you oppose your enemy, but you do it lovingly, in the sense of as a way of helping them find satisfaction in something, they might sense that you weren’t opposing them out of hatred.

[00:32:04] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, that’s what the Buddha said, right? Hatred is never ceased by hatred. Hatred is only ceased by love.

Hatred is never ceased by hatred. Hatred is only ceased by love.

[00:32:10] Robert Thurman: The Buddha and Jesus and a lot of people.

[00:32:12] Scott Snibbe: This is an eternal law, and we’re forgetting that right now on all sides. But it’s because we don’t know the definition of love. We think love means liking our enemy. It’s actually just wanting them to have a clearer mind, a better sense of the causes of happiness and suffering and have happiness themselves so they’ll stop bothering everyone else.

[00:32:37] Robert Thurman: Although, on the other hand, they say that when you really meditate on love about beings, if you sit and meditate about love, and imagine someone you know as being really happy, they will look beautiful to you. Meditatively, they’ll look agreeable and pleasant to you.

I think the transition from the love to the compassion is where then you are fantasizing the beings as being really happy and you meditate, but then compassion is when you notice they’re not that happy. Karuna has an etymology—the ni is a negation, and taro means like a well-being in your heart.

You lose your own well-being because you notice someone else is miserable. It blocks your own agreeability, because you empathize with them. That’s why you then need to add joy to the mix. Find something good about them.

Does anybody have questions?

Getting ghosted by the Dalai Lama

dalai lama

[00:33:54] Audience member: How did you get in touch with or come to the attention of the Dalai Lama, when you were making the book?

[00:34:05] Scott Snibbe: My editor sent a final version of the book to His Holiness, to a specific email you’re supposed to send it to. We waited and waited, and six months went by. But I guess we got ghosted by the Dalai Lama, we didn’t hear anything. We were about to go, we were two days from going to press.

Then we got an email back from Geshe Nawang Sonam, one of the translators for His Holiness. He said, His Holiness would like to write a foreword. He thinks this book is beneficial. And we have a few corrections for you, which was great. They had corrections to very, very subtle aspects of the last topic on the ultimate nature of reality. They really wanted me to use the Madhyamaka view of emptiness and meditation on emptiness, so I corrected that part.

[00:34:56] Robert Thurman: Some of the corrections had to do with the Yogacara?

[00:34:59] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, and for each of them I had, I gave a reference back. They wanted to see the corrections too, before writing the forward. I made all the corrections and sent it back. They said, Okay, and His Holiness wrote it. The forward is nice because His Holiness says, Tibet offers not just religion, but also science and philosophy, that the book helps to round out the picture of what ancient Tibetan culture has to offer Western civilization.

[00:35:34] Robert Thurman: Any other questions?

Transcendent awakenings

[00:35:37] Audience: Thanks so much for this and for the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I underlined so much of it and read it to myself. To continue the Matrix analogy a little bit, because you have a quote by Keanu Reeves—which in case you forgot that Matrix bit, there’s actually a Keanu Reeves quote in there.

I feel like a lot of people would take the red pill if it were just a pill. Being a cynic, pragmatist, skeptic, whatever best word we’re using, I feel like a lot of the prescriptions, which make so much sense and are so logical, are often these like regimens of pills where you’re like, take this pill in the morning every day for 30 days or 60 days, and then you’ll have these realizations that what you’re describing.

I think the thing that’s so attractive to the Western mind, perhaps in this kind of push-button world and there’s a pill for everything and with this whole new culture of psychedelic everything where you’ll trip out and you have this insight or these moments of stark awakenings, these epiphanic kind of moments. I’m just wondering, if anyone’s ever compiled all these exercises for these transcendent awakenings.

[00:36:58] Scott Snibbe: There’s no instant—well, for some people it does happen instantly. There are stories of that. In general, like His Holiness says, I see my mind change over the course of five years, but there really are immediate benefits with meditation.

Let me tell you something practical. My teacher, Venerable Robina, she once said, No one has ever come to me and said, I can’t stop thinking happy thoughts. That’s what these exercises are, a way to gradually steer your mind to constructive ways of thinking. It’s not Pollyanna-ish, everything’s great, the wars will end tomorrow. It’s time-tested thoughts that you can have as you’re walking down the street, when you wake up in the morning, that actually steer your mind.

Happiness is not the best word toward, let’s say toward satisfaction, to feeling like your life is meaningful and satisfying and purposeful. We all want to feel that way. It is some effort to think these things. But the thing is, if you make them tasty, like I try to make the ideas in here tasty, the way that my teachers made them for me, then you naturally think about them all the time.

It is work. It does take work, but if you can find a way that the ones that resonate with your mind and culture, in your own ways—sometimes recording them in your own voice, read it to yourself, and listen to it on your headphones. It’s worthwhile and it has worked for many, no guarantee obviously and definitely no guarantee of any instant epiphany, but ask anybody who’s followed this path for 10, 20, 30 years and in general, they’ve had some beneficial result.

[00:38:54] Robert Thurman: Yes, I do think you could, in another edition, put a picture of your own smiling face on there. I think it would be very good. It would definitely help your mind. Thank you so much. You made me happy by coming and writing this book and having this happy conversation.


Hosted by Scott Snibbe

Produced by Annie Ngyen

Marketing by Isabela Acebal


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