I was just listening to the Brian Koppelman interview on Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors podcast, when one of Koppelman’s answers struck me. The Tribe of Mentors podcast is billed as “short life advice from the best of the best,” and in it Ferriss asks his guests a series of standard questions, in a much shorter format than on his more well-known The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. One of the standard questions (a really good one) is:
In the last five years what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Here is Brian Koppelman’s answer (beginning at 10:52 in the podcast):
“I know many of Tim’s guests say this, and the answer is: meditation. For me, I do transcendental meditation, and I do it every day for twenty minutes, two times…first when I wake up in the morning, and then around 3, or 4, or 5, or 6 in the afternoon. And what I have found is that doing this mediation–taking this time–has drastically decreased the physical manifestations of anxiety and it has given me far more clarity and far more peace.”
Some quick thoughts:
- He’s right: many of Tim Ferriss’s guests on this podcast and on the Tim Ferriss Show talk about meditation. These folks often tend to be Silicon Valley/Hollywood/Venture Capitalist types, and they often mention how meditation has been a helpful practice to them.
- Because these folks are Silicon Valley/Hollywood/Venture Capitalist types–“California” in mindset, if not location–their practice of mediation tends to be “spiritual and not religious” in a New Age vein.
- It shouldn’t be surprising that spending time quieting the mind and the soul brings helpful benefits. This shouldn’t surprise us because people have known this for literally thousands of years, in every culture that I know of.
- It’s almost as if we were created a certain way, and certain practices–independent of time and place, across all cultures and centuries–just produce good things in people’s lives….
- Maybe human nature isn’t plastic; maybe wisdom is not making yourself what you want to be, but rather making yourself fit the world.
- If the same folks on Tim Ferriss’s podcasts had kept saying “prayer” instead of “meditation,” they wouldn’t seem nearly as cool, would they? Prayer is boring; meditation is cool.
- We’re a culture that’s forgotten what we used to know, and so we grab various life-giving practices out of the heap, but because we’ve forgotten what we used to know (like the folks in the Foundation in the Isaac Asimov novels), we’re not able to use them to their full benefit.
- I recently heard Robert Barron say something interesting about prayer:
“Please don’t think of prayer as something that God needs: God doesn’t need your prayer, doesn’t need my prayer. It’s not like we’re in this sort of pagan thing, where ‘unless I get this much done, God’s not going to do something’–don’t think of it that way; he’s not a ‘pasha’ that we’re trying to impress with our supplications–prayer is for you, prayer’s good for you, it’s not good for God. God loves it because it makes you better and happier. It’s not for God’s sake, it’s for your sake.”
- The difference between Christian prayer and meditation seems to me to lie primarily in what you believe about ultimate reality: meditation is about quieting your heart and mind so you can experience the inner peace that comes from becoming more in tune with Reality, whereas prayer in the way and name of Jesus is about a relationship with the Person behind all reality. In the Christian tradition (and Jewish tradition, for that matter), Reality is not impersonal at all.
- The unique insight of the gospel is that Reality is a Person, and he’s made himself known to us in the manger.
- Christians believe that God is Love. That beautiful idea is popular, but think about it: love requires personhood–love cannot be impersonal. Meditation is a good thing, but I don’t think it can lead to love in the same way that prayer can, because prayer is about coming to know the source of Love itself, and his name is the LORD.
Anyway, it just struck me that many of the world-class performers that Tim Ferriss has interviewed have mentioned mediation. (Though I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single one of them mention prayer.)