In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Yuval Noah Harari doesn’t have a smartphone. He’s basically written an algorithm that helps him get to the bottom of things rather than be Mr. On Top of Things. (How’re you doing with those algorithms?)
Today I want to talk about one of the things he actually does with all that spare time.
But first, a little more context…
At this stage of my life, I’ve read a few books. I can get a pretty good sense of the power of someone’s mind via the clarity of their thinking as expressed in the logical coherence of their arguments, the overall flow of their book(s), etc.
And, I’ve NEVER (!) read books that are more lucid than Professor Harari’s two books. (The only other person I can think of who elicited the same response is Seneca in On the Shortness of Life—you can literally *feel* the clarity of his mind as well.)
As I was reading Harari’s books, I was often ASTONISHED by the rhythm with which he made his points and how elegantly he tied such complex ideas together over 400+ pages.
What’s funny is that, as I was reading his books, I could almost feel how his mind works on what appears to be a very consistent basis. In fact, I actually had a flashback to the end of my 10-day silent S.N. Goenka-inspired Vipassana meditation
retreat bootcamp in which I was in complete silence (not even making eye contact with anyone and not speaking with anyone other than a teacher a couple times).
On the tenth day of the meditation bootcamp, I experienced a level of mental clarity that was astonishing. You know those movies about the future where the good guys have a huge wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling computer screen in front of them where they swipe different images in and out with a flick of their fingers?
Well, THAT’s how my mind was operating as I imagined my life on that final day of meditation.
And, THAT’s how I think Harari’s mind operates on a considerably more consistent basis than the average Homo sapien. (Laughing.)
So, when I read the dedication to his second book I had a clue as to HOW he cultivated that power.
Here’s his dedication to Homo Deus: “To my teacher, S. N. Goenka (1924-2013), who lovingly taught me important things.”
My internal dialogue when I read that went something like this: “Aha. Yep. THAT explains it! I bet He ACTUALLY (!) FOLLOWS Goenka’s advice and meditates for two hours a day.”
Then I proceeded to read the book and get my socks blown off (for the second time) by his mental ninja-fu.
Then, when I sat down to write the PhilosophersNote, I made a very rare exception and went online to do a quick Google search to confirm my intuition that he was a VERY serious meditator.
Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Harari says Vipassana meditation, which he began whilst in Oxford in 2000, has ‘transformed my life’. He practises for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day), every year undertakes a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media, and is an assistant meditation teacher. He dedicated Homo Deus to ‘my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things,’ and said ‘I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years.’ He also regards meditation as a way to research.”
THAT’s how you create a WORLD-CLASS mind that’s capable of going to the very bottom of the biggest issues and coming back with a crystal ball that can see into the future and share wisdom that can literally change the world.
No smartphone + Lots of meditation = E X T R A O R D I N A R Y lucidity.
All of which begs the question: How’s YOUR mind?
Are you deliberately PROTECTING it from the onslaught of papercut nonsense while deliberately CULTIVATING it via a rigorous meditation practice?
Again, we all have varying levels of ambition and constraints but how can you step up your game?
I’m officially re-committing to my PM meditation (again!) and I have even more clarity and confidence in my decision to not use my smartphone and to stay out of email while reducing online time even more.
btw: Check out our series of +1s featuring some the wisdom I gleaned from Goenka.
btw2: I just did the math. 15 years of 2 hours of meditation per day (not counting bonus hours for the 30-day retreats in which he’s meditating 10 hours a day) comes out to 10,000 (!) hours of meditation.
Yep. THIS is the most important gem we can possibly pick up from Harari: Let’s train our minds!!!