In this podcast, we explore the intersection of modern philosophy and classical meditation, in the context of how best to act in the world. Each weekly episode includes a short guided meditation we do together.
Community is a feature of the religious life. A bond of membership around the common purpose of living well with meaning exists between its members. We discuss the benefits of such a community, including how interaction in one is different from interacting with friends and family.
According to Aristotle, the exercise of virtue or excellence is key to a fulfiling life. But what does virtue consist in? We discuss how it arises out of relationship, when we give and receive reasons for our actions from each other, and judge their merits, holding each other accountable via human-only sentiments such as praise and blame, resentment and gratitude. In guided meditation, we seek to experience the quality of admiration.
I speak with Ed Bendy, a Vice-President in charge of product at Semsee, a tech startup. Ed gives an overview of his grappling with what’s meaningful in life. He relates his relationship with insight meditation and with church-going, which is currently to the non-credoed Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York. We also discuss briefly the role of detachment in decision-making.
What does it mean to be an individual person? We discuss how our differentiated selves need relating to an other to gain definition, and how freedom is in dialectic with obligation. How do we know if we are a patient person until we have meetings with others and find out whether we tend to be on time? How might we know to form personal plans and intentions if we never had to explain them to someone? In guided meditation, we try and spot the transition from formlessness to form that occurs when we move from doing no work to being addressed and having intention.
I speak with Bruce Parker, a Senior Software Developer at Bloomberg LP and more pertinently, a long-time meditator, on his approach to meditation. In this episode’s guided meditation, we attempt to experience the effortlessness he speaks of, through the lens of transcendental awareness and freedom that we have been discussing in the podcast.
Where does creativity come from? We observe how new ideas occur to us in the guided meditation that opens this episode. We then discuss how the concept of transcendence can serve as an useful explanation here, with ‘I Conceive’ serving as a shorthand for this experience of transcendental creativity. I further offer a taxonomy of creative modes—ideation, understanding, and pattern-forming.
We explore the ‘I Am’-ness of consciousness, as another facet of ‘transcendence’, this time of ‘Being’. In guided meditation, we see for ourselves this subject of all experience, that precedes thoughts and perceptions. I then present some relevant classic Hindu philosophy called ‘advaita’, and discuss how upon grokking the ‘I Am’, one likely develops a new detachment to worldly objects as well as a new camaraderie with fellow human-beings.
What is ‘transcendence’ and why is it a useful concept? We start with a guided meditation that we then use to help answer this question. In this episode, we focus on the ‘Doing’ flavor of transcendence, a.k.a. transcendental freedom, for which I offer the shorthand ‘I Can’ as a slogan to keep in mind.
Among the possible actions that confront us, which provide us with meaning? We explore this question, first experientially and post facto via a guided meditation. Then, we discuss the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s work that is very relevant to this question, the categorical imperative, which places the welfare of all rational beings as sacrosanct. I offer my interpretation of it that then leads to meaning-making. We conclude with seeing how our meditations so far can make a practical difference in our daily activities.
We discuss the distinction between understanding what is, and figuring out what to do about it, and consider a taxonomy of the pressures we face when deciding on our actions. We then meditate together to examine the sources behind the work we do through our thinking. In conclusion, we address a question on what makes a successful meditation.