Making Sense — Stephen Fry

On: Stephen Fry

Episode: 147

Date: February 2019

Key Subjects:

  • Comedian, author, actor, etc.
  • Investigation of empirical evidence and specificity of meditation benefits.
    • Meditation dulls “vices” (anger, greed, insecurity), which are needed as a source of drive and ambition.
      • Defense: Vices are more often unhelpful and even if they are beneficial at times, meditation improves your ability to control them.
    • The results of physical training can be tested and result in observably better skills. Meditation shows no outward signs of testable increased mental skills.
      • Defense: The results may not be visible to others, but are apparent to yourself.
    • The need for physical fitness is an evolutionary adaptation. There is no similar evolutionary benefit for meditation.
      • Defense: Doesn’t seem to be directly addressed.
    • It is selfish to focus on your own mind during meditation as opposed to trying to improve by observing the minds of others.
      • Defense: Meditation is not a focus on your own mind but it is training your own mind to function better (which will allow for better appreciation of other minds).
    • If some people are “calmer” from meditation than others, is it because they were innately predisposed to being more receptive to meditation or is it learned, replicable behavior.
      • Defense: Doesn’t seem to be directly addressed.
  • The objective of meditation is an increased awareness of in the moment emotions and associated behavorial traps (primarily, getting bogged down in emotions).
    • Meditation is training your ability to recognize those moments and snap out of them faster.
    • Interrupt emotion-led brain chatter by engaging a different part of the brain.
    • [Benefits or claims beyond that may not be necessary and may be distracting (negation of self, etc.)?] 

Key Takeaways:

  • Objective of meditation: a tool to train your mind to recognize and snap out of in-the-moment unproductive emotions.

Worth Listening:

Freewheeling discussion on mindfulness and meditating. Loose, amiable and surprisingly effective challenges by Fry of the tangible, testable benefits of meditation.


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